|Parent company||Archie Comics Publications, Inc.|
|Founded||1978 (first incarnation)|
2015 (current incarnation)
|Country of origin||United States|
|Headquarters location||Pelham, New York|
|Key people||Alex Segura (Senior Vice President of Publicity and Marketing)|
|Fiction genres||Superhero fiction|
Dark Circle Comics is an imprint of Archie Comics Publications, Inc. Under its previous name, Red Circle Comics, it published non-humor characters, particularly superheroes in the 1970s and 1980s, and was a digital imprint from 2012 to 2014. In 2015, it was converted back to a print imprint and was completely revamped as Dark Circle Comics, featuring darker and more mature content than previous incarnations of Archie's superhero line.
The term "Red Circle characters" is also used to refer to Archie Comics' superheroes, including such characters as the Black Hood, The Shield, the Wizard, the Hangman, The Fly, Flygirl, The Comet, The Web, Jaguar, and the Fox.
These characters were previously published when Archie Comics was MLJ Magazines, then published under various Archie imprints: Archie Adventure Series, Radio Comics/Mighty Comics Group, Red Circle Comics and the Red Circle Comics digital imprint (2012).
Archie licensed their Red Circle characters to DC Comics in the early 1990s under the DC imprint Impact Comics, and then again from 2007 to 2011, when DC attempted to integrate them into the DC Universe. When this failed, the characters reverted to Archie Comics, which launched the imprint digitally. The company retired this in late 2014; the line was relaunched as the Dark Circle Comics imprint in 2015.
MLJ's first comic book published in November 1939 was Blue Ribbon Comics, with the first half of the magazine in full color and the second half in red and white tints.
In January 1940, Pep Comics debuted with the Shield, created by writer and managing editor Harry Shorten and artist Irv Novick. The Shield was one of the first superheroes with a costume based upon United States patriotic iconography, first appearing 14 months earlier than Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Captain America.
MLJ's Golden Age heroes also included the Black Hood, who also appeared in pulp magazines and a radio show; and The Wizard, who shared a title with the Shield. Top-Notch Comics (featuring, among others, The Wizard, Black Hood, and The Firefly) was launched in December 1941.
The Archie character soon dominated MLJ publications, pushing out the superheroes. For instance, at first, the cover feature of Pep Comics was The Shield; he and The Hangman shared the cover with Archie in Pep Comics #36 (February, 1943). Archie increasingly was given the cover until issue #51 (August, 1944), when he took over the cover permanently. The company was later (in 1946) renamed after the character.
MLJ superhero titles
- Blue Ribbon Comics (November 1939 – March 1942) – 22 issues; also known as Blue Ribbon Mystery Comics
- Hangman (Spring 1942 – Fall 1943) – 7 issues
- Pep Comics (Jan. 1940 – Oct. 1947) – 64 issues; becomes all-humor after issue #65
- Shield-Wizard Comics (Summer 1940 – Spring 1944) – 13 issues
- Top Notch Comics (December 1939 – May 1942) – 27 issues
- Zip Comics (February 1940 – Summer 1944) – 47 issues; became mostly humor after issue #35
Archie Adventure Series
Archie's Silver Age relaunch of its superheroes under the Archie Adventure Series line featured two new characters, The Jaguar and The Fly, as well as a new version of the Shield, inspired by DC's revivals of their 1940s characters. The Archie Adventure Series line debuted with the June 1959 release of The Double Life of Private Strong #1, by creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, which also introduced The Fly, also by Simon and Kirby. DC Comics' lawyers, citing similarity to Superman, forced Archie Comics to stop publishing Private Strong after two issues. Adventures of The Fly appeared two months after Private Strong #1 and ran for 30 issues under that title, until October, 1964. The Adventures of the Jaguar began in September 1961 and ran for 15 issues until November 1963. During this time, Archie Comics licensed the 1930s pulp character The Shadow, whom they portrayed first as a spy in a James Bond mode, before turning him into a costumed superhero. Archie's version of The Shadow ran for eight issues (Aug. 1964 – Sept. 1965). In addition, the Jaguar, The Fly, and his partner Flygirl appeared in issues of Pep Comics and Laugh Comics between 1961 and 1963. Much of the output during the Adventure Series period after the departure of Simon and Kirby was by writer Robert Bernstein and artists John Rosenberger and John Giunta.
Mighty Comics / Radio Comics
The Mighty Comics Group imprint (alternately known as Radio Comics) took over the Adventure titles in the mid-1960s as general imitation of Marvel Comics and the Batman TV show camp; Superman creator Jerry Siegel was brought in to be the imprint's main writer, along with Marvel Comics artist Paul Reinman. The shift to the Mighty imprint (which first appeared on covers dated January 1966) included changing the title Adventures of The Fly into Fly Man.
The first issue of Fly Man, #31, brought the company its first super hero team (similar to Marvel's Avengers), The Mighty Crusaders, made up of Fly Man, a newly revived version of The Shield, The Black Hood (who had appeared occasionally in Adventures of The Fly), and a newly revived version of The Comet (who had appeared a few months before in the final issue of Adventures of The Fly). The Mighty Crusaders spun off into their own title after three Fly Man appearances. The Wizard and the Hangman, who had been heroes during their MLJ publication, became recurring villains. In The Mighty Crusaders #4, many of the old MLJ heroes made cameo appearances. In November 1966, with issue 40, Fly Man changed its name again to Mighty Comics, which featured various Mighty super-heroes (The Shield, The Web, The Hangman, Steel Sterling, Mister Justice) in rotating solo adventures until its cancellation ten issues later. Similarly, the final issue of Mighty Crusaders was taken over by a solo adventure of Steel Sterling. The Mighty Comics Group line was cancelled in late 1967. Several stories from this period were published in the mass-market paperback High Camp Super-Heroes by Belmont Books in 1966 (Belmont was owned by the same company that owned Archie), which featured an introduction by Siegel, as well as in a 1966 deluxe special, Super Heroes Versus Super Villains.
Red Circle Comics
Red Circle Comics was launched in the late 1970s as a fantasy/horror imprint, but switched over to superheroes in the 1980s.
The line was first used to publish Chilling Adventures in Sorcery in October 1973, which for its first two issues was called Chilling Adventures in Sorcery as Told by Sabrina. With the third issue, the title was renamed and published under Red Circle Comics. The name "Red Circle" was based on the previous business that Michael Silberkleit's father had with Martin Goodman, with Gray Morrow as editor. With issue number 6 Chilling Adventures was renamed Red Circle Sorcery and lasted until issue number 11 (Feb. 1975). Red Circle published one issue of The Super Cops (based on the movie of the same name) in July 1974. Shortly thereafter, Mad House (a re-title of Mad House Glads) was published under the Red Circle Comics line starting with issue number 95 (Sept. 1974). This ended after number 97 (January 1975), when the title reverted to being a standard Archie humor title.
In 1978 and 1979, Archie published two digests collecting their superhero materials from the 1960s. The first was titled Archie's Super Hero Special. The second issue was titled Archie's Super Hero Comic Digest Magazine, and is notable for publishing the previously unpublished revamp of the Black Hood done by Gray Morrow and Neal Adams. There was nothing on their covers to indicate they were Red Circle titles; only the interior indicia indicated the publisher.
In the 1980s, Archie made a concerted effort to reuse its superheroes. The first appearance was in JC Comics's JCP Features #1 (Dec. 1981), which reprinted the new Black Hood materials that appeared in Archie Super Hero Comic Digest Magazine #2. In March 1983, the Red Circle brand was resurrected with first issue of a new volume of Mighty Crusaders. That title lasted 13 issues and led to many new titles under the Red Circle Comics banner, including The Fly (nine issues, May 1983-October, 1984), Black Hood (three issues, June–October, 1983), Lancelot Strong, The Shield (two issues, June–August, 1983, before becoming Shield – Steel Sterling for issue #3 [Dec. 1983] and finally Steel Sterling for issues #4–7 [Jan.-July, 1984]), The Original Shield (four issues, April–Oct., 1984), Blue Ribbon (14 issues, including new material and reprints of older material; Nov. 1983-Dec. 1984), and The Comet (two issues of a three-issue miniseries, October–December, 1983). Though this 1980s incarnation featured Rich Buckler's work prominently, it also featured contributions from others, including artists Jim Steranko, Alex Toth, Steve Ditko, Rudy Nebres, Alan Weiss, Carmine Infantino, Dick Ayers, John Severin, and Pat Boyette.
Archie Adventure Series revival
With the February 1984 issues, the Red Circle line was renamed the Archie Adventure Series, reviving the name from the company's superhero line of the early 1960s. During this period, the company published, as either Red Circle or Archie Adventure, a comic-book tie-in to Remco's ManTech Robot Warriors toy line (two issues, Sept.-Dec. 1984), a Katy Keene Special (Sept. 1983), and an issue of Thunder Bunny (Jan. 1984). By September 1985, the entire line that originated with Red Circle had been cancelled.
In 1988, however, with Archie's acquisition of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license, the Archie Adventure Series returned as the imprint behind Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures, which ran 72 issues until October 1995. In the late 1980s, Archie Adventure Series published The Adventures of Bayou Billy, based on a popular video game, and in the early 1990s the imprint published Mighty Mutanimals, a superhero team comic spun off from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Archie planned to begin publishing superheroes again in the late 1980s with an imprint called Spectrum Comics, featuring a number of high-profile talents, including Steve Englehart, Jim Valentino, Marv Wolfman, Michael Bair, Kelley Jones, and Rob Liefeld. Planned Spectrum titles included The Fly, The Fox, Hangman, Jaguar, Mister Justice, and The Shield. Ultimately, Archie cancelled Spectrum Comics before publishing a single issue.
DC Comics licensing
DC Comics licensed the Red Circle characters and revamped them for publishing under the Impact Comics imprint from 1991 to 1992. This attempt also included a super team, called simply "The Crusaders". The stories in the line were set their own shared universe, unrelated to previous incarnations of the characters or to DC's own fictional universe.
Red Circle line
DC was granted the license to the Red Circle characters in 2008. DC planned to inject the characters into the DC Universe and tapped writer J. Michael Straczynski. The line folded in late 2010. In July 2011, it was revealed that DC no longer had the rights to them.
Red Circle digital imprint
Archie Comics announced at the New York Comic Con in October 2011 that its superhero line will return as an all-digital line under a subscription model with back issues archive access. This was announced as the Red Circle line starting with the New Crusader comic in 2012. The Red Circle Comics app provides readers access to a new chapter of the New Crusaders comic, as well as the Red Circle library of comics from the previous 70 years for a 99 cent weekly subscription price.
In 2012, New Crusaders was followed up with Lost Crusade: Prelude, a free one-shot focusing on the lives of the original Mighty Crusaders which debuted on August 29 through the Red Circle Comics app at RedCircleComics.com. Ian Flynn had pitched the idea as "I was really excited by all the prospective stories to be told between the end of the '80s series and our relaunch... There were so many open endings when the '80s era series wrapped up that it's hard to choose. What happened to Darkling? Who was the traitor? Did Black Hood figure it out, or just make things worse? Did anyone mourn Doc Reeves?" The first arc of New Crusaders was also printed.
Dark Circle Comics
This article needs to be updated.May 2018)(
In July 2014, Archie Comics announced that the Red Circle Comics imprint would be relaunched as Dark Circle Comics in early 2015 with the past continuity removed. Tales will be self-contained, five-issue story arcs in ongoing series Black Hood debuted in February 2015, followed by The Fox, continuing from the digital Red Circle line in April 2015, with The Shield debuting in September 2015 after being delayed. A digital exclusive, Sam Hill: In The Crosshairs, was released in October 2015 featuring former NYPD detective Sam Hill. A fourth series, The Hangman, is set to debut in November 2015. In July 2015, the publisher announced a revamped version of its 1940s character the Web would debut the following year.
As of 2016
- Black Hood (Greg Hettinger)
- The Fox (Paul Patton Jr.)
- Shield (Victoria Adams)
- The Hangman
- The Web (Jane Raymond)
- Black Hood (Matthew Burland)
- Black Jack
- Captain Commando
- The Comet
- The Fly/Fly-Man
- The Fox
- The Jaguar
- Mighty Crusaders
- Mister Justice
- Sam Hill
- Shield (Joe Higgins)
- Shield (Lancelot Strong)
- Steel Sterling
- The Web (John Raymond)
Titles in publication as of 2016
- Arrant, Chris (April 29, 2009). "Completing the Red Circle: Talking to JMS". Newsarama. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
- Offenberger, Rik (March 1, 2003). "Publisher Profile: Archie Comics". Borderline (19). Archived from the original on October 28, 2016. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
- "The Shield". An International Catalogue of Superheroes. internationalhero.co.uk. Retrieved April 19, 2013.
- Pulps Archived May 22, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. The Mighty Crusaders Network.
- The Black Hood. International Catalogue of Superheroes
- Radio Archived May 18, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. The Mighty Crusaders Network.
- Shield-Wizard Comics Archived June 13, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. The Mighty Crusaders Network.
- Donald D. Markstein. The Shield — G-Man Extraordinary. Toonopedia. Retrieved on May 6, 2013.
- "Archie Comics Publications, Inc. History," Funding Universe. Accessed March 4, 2018.
- Blue Ribbon Comics entry, Grand Comics Database. Accessed March 3, 2018.
- Markstein, Don. "ARCHIE (MLJ) COMICS". Toonopedia.com. Don Markstein. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
- Donald D. Markstein. The Shield. Toonopedia.
- Mougin, Lou (April 1982). "The Back-Seat Super Heroes, Pt. IV: The Mighty Heroes, or Send Your Super-Hero to Camp!". The Comic Reader (200): 32–49.
- Fagan, Bryan D. and Jody Condit Fagan. Comic Book Collections for Libraries (ABC-CLIO, 2011), p. 43.
- Wells, John (2014). American Comic Book Chronicles: 1965-1969. TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 63. ISBN 978-1605490557.
- Donald D. Markstein. Mighty Crusaders. Toonopedia.
- Hyfler, Richard. "Books For Bus Terminals: Whatever Happened to Belmont Productions?" Forbes.com (SEP 15, 2010).
- Donald D. Markstein. Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Toonopedia.
- Gilbert, Jonathan A. The Groovy Age: Mystery Days at Riverdale High. The Groovy Age. Reposted at Mighty Crusader Network. Accessed May 22, 2013.
- "GCD :: Issue :: JCP Features [JCP Features the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents] #1". www.comics.org. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
- See  and 
- "Archie Comics Scraps Spectrum Comics Imprint". The Comics Journal (131): 5–7. September 1989.
- Renaud, Jeffrey (March 26, 2009). "JMS Circles the DC Universe in Red". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved March 7, 2015.
- Armitage, Hugh (August 25, 2009). "DC integrates 'Red Circle' heroes". Digital Spy. Retrieved June 8, 2013.
- Rogers, Vaneta (December 15, 2010). "Closing the RED CIRCLE: Bidding Adieu To MIGHTY CRUSADERS". Newsarama. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- Langshaw, Mark (July 20, 2011). "'Red Circle' rights no longer held by DC". Digital Spy. Retrieved August 15, 2011.
- Gustines, George Gene (October 10, 2011). "For Archie Comics, a Return to Superheroes". New York Times. p. B5. Retrieved October 10, 2011.
- Phegley, Kiel (October 12, 2011). "Inside the Red Circle with Archie's "New Crusaders"". comicbookresources.com. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
- Keily, Karl (July 25, 2012). "CCI: 'New Crusaders' Rule Archie's Red Circle Comics Panel". Comic Book Resources.
- Phegley, Kiel (August 29, 2012). "Ian Flynn Launches Red Circle's 'Lost Crusade'". Comic Book Resources.
- Comic Book Resources: "CCI EXCLUSIVE: Chuck Dixon Joins Red Circle's "Lost Crusade""
- Robot 6: "Jon Goldwater discusses 2012 and what lies ahead for Archie Comics"
- Comic Book Resources: "Waid & Haspiel Bring "The Fox" Into Archie's Red Circle"
- Truitt, Brian (July 10, 2014). "Archie to launch Dark Circle superhero line in 2015". USA Today. Retrieved July 10, 2014.
- Truitt, Brian (July 17, 2014). "Heroic trio powers new Dark Circle Comics lineup". USA Today. Retrieved July 17, 2014.
- "Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig on Dark Circle's The Shield, Coming September 16". Comicbook.com. Retrieved September 7, 2015.
- "Archie Comics October 2015 Covers and Solicitations". Retrieved September 7, 2015.
- "Dark Circle Comics Presents THE HANGMAN". Retrieved September 7, 2015.
- Phegley, Kiel (July 2, 2015). "Archie's Dark Circle Introduced Teen Hero in The Web". Comic Book Resources. Archived from the original on August 14, 2015. Retrieved August 31, 2015.
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