The Short History of Archie’s Dark Circle Comics
The recent mention by Diamond Comics that Archie’s The Hangman and The Shield comics were “cancelled by publisher” (with issue #4 and #3, respectively) made me wonder about the history and short life of Dark Circle Comics, the most recent take on an Archie Comics superhero imprint.
Two years ago, in July 2014, USA Today had the news that the imprint was planned to launch in 2015, edited by Alex Segura (Archie’s senior vice president for marketing and publicity). The plan was for “five-issue arcs and breaks for trade collections” and fresh starts for classic names. The first three books in the line were announced to be
- The Black Hood, a dark urban vigilante, by Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos
- The Shield, reinventing the superhero as a woman, by Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig
- The Fox by Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel, which previously had a successful miniseries run from 2013-2014 with the same team
The Fox ran monthly from April 15, 2015, to August 8, 2015, never with fewer than three variant covers an issue. (A hallmark of Archie’s publication approach these days, variant covers are ways to get more shelf space visibility and encourage fans to spend more on the same issues by buying multiple copies.) Although promoted as a “new ongoing series”, that second miniseries is the last we’ve seen. And it hasn’t been collected.
The Black Hood, a mature readers title, launched February 25, 2015, and similarly ran monthly in its first five issues, through June 24, with the same variant cover strategy. Then the line apparently ran into trouble. A Black Hood collection (remember that earlier quote?) was solicited in August for December release but never came out.
The Shield, although originally planned to launch in April, didn’t appear until October 21. First, it was replanned to June, then got a new artist, Drew Johnson, before release. A second issue came out this February.
In March, a fourth title was announced. The Hangman by Frank Tieri and Felix Ruiz got more promotion on Free Comic Book Day in May, but it didn’t appear until November. A second issue followed this January, with a third in March.
The Black Hood continued with a #6 and a guest artist in October. The same was true of the November (#7) and January (#8) issues before a new series artist, Greg Scott, joined in February with #9. Issue #10 came out in May of this year, with #11 in June completing the run.
Sam Hill came out digitally only last October.
A “second season” of The Black Hood is planned for this coming fall. That article also promises that The Hangman and The Shield will continue in October. (In which case, did Archie or Diamond mess up in not labeling the cancellations “will resolicit” instead of “cancelled by publisher”?)
I haven’t been reading these books because I am pretty tired of superhero comics, particularly “mature” ones. They’re a glut on the market, but thankfully, there are plenty of other options out there. The hero brand relaunches that are succeeding these days among comic readers are modernized revamps of better-known properties. It seems to me that these dark, mature titles also have an uphill marketing battle, since the content doesn’t fit the public impression of the publisher.
Update: The Shield #3 is offered in the July Previews catalog for arrival October 12, with four variant covers. Also solicited is Black Hood #1 for September 21.