red circles

by Jesse Marinoff Reyes ( Jesse Marinoff Reyes Design ):

Black Hood
Red Circle Comics, August 1983 issue, #2
Illustration: Alex Toth (1928-2006)

---Aha! I rest my case. Red Circle always had great taste in art talent, and the like of Spiegle, Toth, Gray Morrow and Neal Adams. Kinda wish they had been better displayed back in the day.---

Red Circle was a beard, so to speak, for Archie Comics (or an imprint, in book publishing parlance) to showcase non-Archie titles, especially superhero books or horror/mystery (sorcery) titles. Little known is that “Archie” was originally MLJ Comics (for the first names of co-founders Maurice Coyne, Louis Silberkleit and John L. Goldwater), and had in the 1940s published hero titles—notably, The Shield (with teenage sidekick, Dusty), a patriotic hero that had been an influence on youngsters Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s later creation, Captain America (and teenage sidekick, Bucky), The Black Hood, The Fox, and The Web (among others). The Shield had been the headliner of the title Pep Comics, until a certain non-superpowered highschooler named “Archibald ‘Chick’ Andrews” took over the title in 1941, and eventually, the comics company itself. However, MLJ/Archie would experiment off-and-on with a superhero-adventure line (including some titles that played with the idea of Archie being a superhero).

In the 1950s to early-1960s, Simon & Kirby contributed their own creation, The Double Life of Private Strong, and also The Adventures of the Fly. Writer Robert Bernstein and artist John Rosenberger added The Jaguar to the lineup. In 1965-67, influenced by the overwhelming popularity of Marvel Comics, Archie spun-off the imprint Mighty Comics (alternately Radio Comics) to showcase superhero stories with the titles Mighty Comics Presents and The Mighty Crusaders (a la DC’s Justice League or Marvel’s The Avengers) which teamed their roster of heroes together. The Mighty Crusaders comprised The Fly, The Shield, Jaguar, Steel Sterling, Captain Flag, The Comet, Fly Girl, Firefly and The Fox. Other hero books included The Inferno, The Shadow (originally based on the Radio and Pulp vigilante, but later bowdlerized into a garishly costumed crimefighter and is not considered canon), The Web (son of the original Web), Pow Girl, and others.

Red Circle was an opportunity yet again to revitalize Archie’s superhero adventure titles after having had some success with the horror title, Chilling Adventures in Sorcery in the 1970s, by launching or rebooting a number of hero titles in the 1980s, including the Black Hood (nephew of the original Black Hood) and The Fox (son of the original Fox), featured here in this issue with Black Hood stories illustrated by Dan Spiegle and The Fox as a backup feature done by the great Alex Toth. Unfortunately, as with their previous attempts, this too was short-lived (1981-85). However, since the 1990s, the MLJ/Archie/Red Circle hero roster has since been folded into the DC Comics universe.

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