I’ve written in several of my past articles about my lament over the current state of the two main superhero publishers. So I thought it was time I wrote about a publisher of superhero comics that I have become a fast and loyal fan of, Dark Circle Comics. Dark Circle is an imprint of the Archie Comics publisher, and are using their Red Circle line of characters, who have been around since the Golden age. The Red Circle characters have come and gone in a number of attempts to gain a foothold in the superhero market, even partnering up with DC comics in the 90s with the Impact line, and later they tried to integrate them into the main DC universe, an attempt which failed.
After the rights to the characters were safely back home at Archie, they launched a digital imprint in 2012. The success of this digital imprint I think gave them the confidence to try relaunching them again in print. This time they decided not to try and gear the books toward younger readers, instead aiming for a older, more mature audience. This was a change in focus that should have happened long ago. While I enjoyed the Impact line from the 90s, which was geared towards younger readers, it limits the potential of the characters.
The new line was kicked off with The Black Hood, by writer Duane Swierczynski, and artist Michael Gaydos. The first series was more than I had expected, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. I particularly enjoyed the fact that they built off of the original story, sort of, by acknowledging that there had been a previous Black Hood, even if it wasn’t chained to that original storyline. Which in my opinion was a very classy way of doing things. The story was gritty and well written, with gritty art that fit the feel of the book.
Next from Dark Circle was the second installment of The Fox, continuing the adventures that Dan Haspiel, and Mark Waid had started with their digital book. While The Fox is a more light-hearted book, and more campy than the direction the other Dark Circle books will take, it was still a continuation of putting out a great story with great art.
Soon to hit the shelves is The Shield, a revamp of the original Archie character from the golden age. Bringing us the new version of The Shield are writers Adam Christopher, Chuck Wending, and artist Drew Johnson. The teasers released so far are great, and proof that they are taking their time to put out quality books. I applaud the choices that Dark Circle has made so far in picking their talent.
In addition to September’s release of The Shield, the next chapter of The Black Hood is slated to come out in October, and will be followed by The Hangman in November, with The Web releasing shortly after that. Seeing all these upcoming books has me very excited. I hope they pick up enough momentum to release more of the iconic Red Circle characters.
So, what is it about these books that has me so excited? I mean, they are revamps of existing characters; they are changing them, something that I have not been terribly fond of when Marvel, and DC has done it recently. So what makes it so different here with the Dark Circle? Well, for one, they seem to be doing it for the right reason: to bring you a great story.
I’m sure there are a number of fans out there that will argue that Marvel and DC are doing the same thing, but I would beg to differ. The changes that I see coming from Marvel and DC seem simply to fill holes in the markets. Changing characters so that they can capture an unrepresented demographic, and then trying to mold the stories around them. I’m all for diversity in the market, but it should be done in a more organic way, not forced down your throat. With the Dark Circle characters there is a sense of history, yet so far creators have acknowledged it with a nod, only to then take the story in a different direction.
Another reason I’m enjoying them is the simple fact that they are crafting comics, not trying to mirror what is going on in their movies, using or, even worse, not using characters because they are locked up in corporate legalities. Simply put, they are just giving you good-old-fashioned superhero stories.
I also like the Dark Circle way of putting out their comics. I realize that the industry has gone away from continuous numbering system for a number of reasons (even if I think the reasons are lame). Dark Circle has come up with a clever way of handling this, using a system I think Marvel and DC might copy at some point. So far, it appears that the stories are told in five-part chapters, each chapter being a single issue. Then they pick up with a new story arc, and a new five-part story arc. This is a good way of doing it in my opinion, because it’s open and honest in how they are getting the story to you. I know I have gotten tired of seeing supposedly ongoing books canceled, just to relaunch them with a new number one. It’s a blatant attempt to get the uptick in sales that you receive from those early numbered issues.
As a fan of superheroes, I can’t say enough about how happy these books are making me. After being so put off by gimmicks, crossovers, and tricks from the big two, I’ve been hoping that another publisher would pick up the mantle of putting out good, story-driven superhero comics again, and it appears that Dark Circle might just be that company. I’m looking forward to seeing what the company has planned for these characters.