Friday, February 20, 2009

Volume Three, Number Twenty-seven

Before we begin I just wanted everyone who does not follow this column at that the first Blog Exclusive E-Dispatches has been posted. So once you've finished reading this be sure to give blog a visit.


Historical Overview
of the
THE 1970S RED CIRCLE COMICS GROUP: In the early 1970s Archie Comic Publications once again branched out of its mainstay of humour comics. Under the Red Circle Comics Group imprint, the publishers of Archie and his pals released two horror comics (Red Circle Sorcery-initially called Chilling Adventures Into Sorcery-and Madhouse) and one issue of Super Cops, a comic based on a popular movie and book of that period. After achieving a level of success with the horror comics, Archie Comic Publications decided to branch out further and return to publishing superhero comics. As the story goes Gray Morrow, who was editing the Red Circle line as well as doing much of the artwork for its titles, went through some of his publisher's old superhero comics and after some consideration decided upon a new version of The Black Hood to be Red Circle Comics Group's first superhero title.

This version though of The Black Hood was vastly different from earlier versions in that he was the latest in a long line of crime fighters to use that name and rather than wearing a costume he wore street clothes, a leather jacket and a cloth black hood to cover his face. He also carried some rather sophisticated weaponry and drove a rather fancy motorcycle in his battle against evil and injustice. Add to this a sophisticated writing style filled with action and superb dialogue and some of the best artwork of the decade and Red Circle had what could have been one of the biggest selling comics of the 1970s. But it didn't as the comic was never published.

Ads were placed in Red Circle Sorcery #10 and Madhouse #97 announcing the upcoming release of the new Black Hood comic but before the comic hit the printing presses Archie pulled its Red Circle line.

Luckily for readers though the Black Hood material did eventually see print; not once but twice. One time was with major revisions in the June 1979 issue of Heavy Metal. Believing that Archie would never publish the Black Hood he had created for them Gray Morrow did a bit of rewriting of the material, changed the character's name to Stingeree and submitted it to Heavy Metal for consideration.

The other time the material saw print was in its original form in Archie Comics Superhero Digest magazine which was published in 1979. In actually there was a third time the material saw print but that wasn't until the 1980s which we will talk about in a future installment.

Basically, the Red Circle Comics Group lasted around 18-months with the last issues being published in early 1974. With its cancellation fans who had hoped that The Shield, The Comet, Flyman and other Archie superheroes would eventually returned had their hopes dashed by the line vanishing and Black Hood #1 not seeing print. But those characters actually did return but not, surprisingly, in comics published by Archie Comic Publications.

After the Red Circle Comics Group lined vanished, Marvel Comics Group began featuring its versions of Flyman (a villain called The Fly who battled Spider-Man), The Shield (calling himself The Blue Shield) and The Comet (appearing in a few issues of Nova) in its comics. To my knowledge there's never been any detailed explanation as to why Marvel decided to use these names in its comics, whether or not the folks at Archie raised a stink about the whole matter and what lead to them getting rid of the characters (they were all eventually killed off). Whatever happened behind the scenes may well be lost to the general public forever and while Marvel's Fly, Comet and Blue Shield were not the characters that fans of the MLJ/Archie heroes loved it was still none the less great seeing a version of them in print in the 1970s.


For a more detailed examination of the 1970s Red Circle line be sure to visit . Next time out we'll take a look at the 1980s version of the Red Circle Comics Group. And while you're waiting to read that why not visit the blog of my buddy, The Groovy Agent, to find out about all the other nifty comics that were published in the 1970s. It can be found at . See you next time.

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