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Red Circle Comics
Dark Circle Comics logo 2015.jpg
Parent company Archie Comics Publications, Inc.
Founded 2015 (current incarnation)
Country of origin United States
Headquarters location Pelham, New York
Key people Alex Segura (Senior Vice President of Publicity and Marketing)
Publication types Comics
Fiction genres Superhero fiction
Official website [1]

Dark Circle Comics is an imprint of Archie Comics Publications, Inc.. Under its previous name, Red Circle Comics, it published non-Archie 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, aimed at an adult readership 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.[1] These characters were previously published when Archie Comics was MLJ Magazines then published under various Archie imprints: Archie Adventure Series, Mighty Comics Group, Red Circle Comics and Red Circle Comics digital imprint (2012). After a first attempt with the Red Circle characters in the 1990s under Impact Comics, DC Comics also called their Archie/MLJ superheroes line Red Circle, in their attempt to integrate them into the DC Universe from 2007 to 2011. When this failed, the characters reverted back to Archie Comics who launched the imprint digitally. They retired this in late 2014 and was relaunched as Dark Circle Comics imprint in 2015.

Publication history

MLJ Magazines

MLJ's first comic book published in November 1939 was Blue Ribbon Comics with the first half full color and the last half in red and white tints. In January 1940, Pep Comics debuted with the Shield, the first USA patriotic comic book hero, created by writer and managing editor Harry Shorten and artist Irv Novick. Top-Notch Comics was launched in December 1941. The cover feature of Pep was the Shield until March 1944, when Archie took over the cover. The Shield was a forerunner of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Captain America, debuting 14 months earlier.[2][3] MLJ's Golden Age heroes also included the Black Hood, who also appeared in pulp magazines[4][5] and a radio show;[5][6] and The Wizard, who shared a title with the Shield.[7]

The Shield and The Hangman shared the cover with Archie with Pep Comics issue 36 (February, 1943). Archie increasingly was given the cover until issue #51 (August, 1944), when he took over the cover permanently.[8] The Archie character soon dominated MLJ publications, pushing out the superheroes. The company was later renamed after the character.[2]

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.[9][10] 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.[10] Adventures of The Fly appeared two months after Private Strong #1 and ran for 30 issues under that title, until October, 1964.[11] The Adventures of the Jaguar began in September 1961 and ran for 15 issues until November 1963.[11] 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).[11] In addition, the Jaguar, The Fly, and his partner Flygirl appeared in issues of Pep Comics and Laugh Comics between 1961 and 1963.[11] 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.[11]

Mighty Comics

The Mighty Comics Group imprint took over the Adventure titles in the mid-1960s as general imitation of Marvel 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.[11] 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 a newly-revived version of The Shield, The Fly (re-dubbed Fly-Man), 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).[11] 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.[11] 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.[9][12] Several stories from this period were published in the mass-market paperback High Camp Super-Heroes by Belmont in 1966, which featured an introduction by Siegel, as well as in a 1966 deluxe special, Super Heroes Versus Super Villians.[11]

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.[9]

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.[13] The name was based on the previous business that Michael Silberkleit’s father had with Martin Goodman, with Gray Morrow as editor. With issue number 6 it 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) would also be published under the Red Circle Comics line starting with issue number 95 (Sept. 1974). This would end after number 97 (January 1975), when the title reverted to being a standard Archie humor title.[14]

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.[14] 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.[15] In March 1983, the Red Circle brand was resurrected with first issue of a new volume of Mighty Crusaders. That title lasted 10 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).[14][16] With the February 1984 issues, this line had been renamed the Archie Adventure Series.[16] During this period, published as either Red Circle or Archie Adventure, was 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).[16] By September 1985, the entire line had been cancelled.[12] 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.

Spectrum Comics

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.[17]

DC Comics licensing

Impact Comics

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".[1][9] The stories in the line were part of their own shared universe.[18]

Red Circle line

Ian Flynn, Alitha Martinez and Ryan Jampole at a September 8, 2012 signing for New Crusaders No. 1 at Midtown Comics in Manhattan.

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.[19] The line folded in late 2010.[20] In July 2011, it was revealed that DC no longer had the rights to them.[21]

Digital imprint Red Circle

Logo from 2012 to 2014

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.[22] This was announced as the Red Circle line starting with the New Crusader comic in 2012.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25]

Chuck Dixon was announced as writing the second story arc of Lost Crusade[26] and New Crusaders: Dark Tomorrow was announced for May 2013,[27] but neither would come out.

A five-issue The Fox miniseries by Mark Waid and Dean Haspiel ran in autumn 2013, with The Shield back-up strips by J.M. DeMatteis[28] (who'd co-write Fox #5 instead of Waid).


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 arc in ongoing series[29][30] The Black Hood debuted in February 2015, followed by The Fox, continuing from the digital Red Circle line in April 2015, with The Shield to debut in September 2015 after being delayed.[31] A fourth series, The Hangman, is set to debut in November 2015.[32][33]


As of 2015



Titles in publication as of 2015

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Arrant, Chris (April 29, 2009). "Completing the Red Circle: Talking to JMS". Newsarama. http://www.newsarama.com/2773-completing-the-red-circle-talking-to-jms.html. Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Offenberger, Rik (March 1, 2003). "Publisher Profile: Archie Comics". Borderline (19). http://www.mightycrusaders.net/history.htm. Retrieved 19 April 2013. 
  3. "The Shield". An International Catalogue of Superheroes. internationalhero.co.uk. http://www.internationalhero.co.uk/s/shield.htm. Retrieved 19 April 2013. 
  4. Pulps. The Mighty Crusaders Network.
  5. 5.0 5.1 The Black Hood. International Catalogue of Superheroes
  6. Radio. The Mighty Crusaders Network.
  7. Shield-Wizard Comics. The Mighty Crusaders Network.
  8. Donald D. Markstein. The Shield — G-Man Extraordinary. Toonopedia. Retrieved on May 6, 2013.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Markstein, Don. "ARCHIE (MLJ) COMICS". Toonopedia.com. Don Markstein. Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:vzfkTHvJWnIJ:www.toonopedia.com/mlj_arch.htm+http://www.toonopedia.com/mlj_arch.htm&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 Donald D. Markstein. The Shield. Toonopedia.
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 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. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Donald D. Markstein. Mighty Crusaders. Toonopedia.
  13. Donald D. Markstein. Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Toonopedia.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Gilbert, Jonathan A. The Groovy Age: Mystery Days at Riverdale High. The Groovy Age. Reposted at Mighty Crusader Network. Accessed May 22, 2013.
  15. http://www.comics.org/issue/35872/#212275
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 See http://www.comics.org/brand/338/ and http://www.comics.org/brand/1407/
  17. "Archie Comics Scraps Spectrum Comics Imprint". 'The Comics Journal' (131): 5–7. September 1989. 
  18. Renaud, Jeffrey (March 26, 2009). "JMS Circles the DC Universe in Red". Comic Book Resources. http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=21346. Retrieved March 7, 2015. 
  19. Armitage, Hugh (August 25, 2009). "DC integrates 'Red Circle' heroes". Digital Spy. http://www.digitalspy.com/comics/news/a173602/dc-integrates-red-circle-heroes.html. Retrieved June 8, 2013. 
  20. Rogers, Vaneta (December 15, 2010). "Closing the RED CIRCLE: Bidding Adieu To MIGHTY CRUSADERS". Newsarama. http://www.newsarama.com/6678-closing-the-red-circle-bidding-adieu-to-mighty-crusaders.html. Retrieved June 11, 2013. 
  21. Langshaw, Mark (July 20, 2011). "'Red Circle' rights no longer held by DC". Digital Spy. http://www.digitalspy.com/comics/news/a330848/red-circle-rights-no-longer-held-by-dc.html. Retrieved August 15, 2011. 
  22. Gustines, George Gene (October 10, 2011). "For Archie Comics, a Return to Superheroes". New York Times: p. B5. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/10/business/media/for-archie-comics-a-return-to-superheroes.html?_r=3&src=tp&smid=fb-share. Retrieved October 10, 2011. 
  23. Phegley, Kiel (October 12, 2011). "Inside the Red Circle with Archie's "New Crusaders"". comicbookresources.com. http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=34874. Retrieved 18 April 2013. 
  24. Keily, Karl (July 25, 2012). "CCI: 'New Crusaders' Rule Archie's Red Circle Comics Panel". Comic Book Resources.
  25. Phegley, Kiel (August 29, 2012). "Ian Flynn Launches Red Circle's 'Lost Crusade'". Comic Book Resources.
  26. Comic Book Resources: "CCI EXCLUSIVE: Chuck Dixon Joins Red Circle's "Lost Crusade""
  27. Robot 6: "Jon Goldwater discusses 2012 and what lies ahead for Archie Comics"
  28. Comic Book Resources: "Waid & Haspiel Bring "The Fox" Into Archie's Red Circle"
  29. Truitt, Brian (July 10, 2014). "Archie to launch Dark Circle superhero line in 2015". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2014/07/10/archie-comics-dark-circle-superhero-exclusive/12483965/. Retrieved July 10, 2014. 
  30. Truitt, Brian (July 17, 2014). "Heroic trio powers new Dark Circle Comics lineup". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2014/07/17/dark-circle-comics-superheroes-exclusive/12778383/. Retrieved July 17, 2014. 
  31. http://comicbook.com/2015/07/09/adam-christopher-and-chuck-wendig-on-dark-circles-the-shield-com/
  32. http://www.comicvine.com/articles/archie-comics-october-2015-covers-and-solicitation/1100-152912/
  33. http://www.broadwayworld.com/bwwbooks/article/Dark-Circle-Comics-Presents-THE-HANGMAN-20150313

External links