NYCC EXCLUSIVE: Archie Unveils the Look of Dark Circle Comics

by  in Comic News Comment
NYCC EXCLUSIVE: Archie Unveils the Look of Dark Circle Comics

With New York Comic Con looming, Archie comics’ reborn Dark Circle Comics imprint is ready to roll out as well.

The publisher told CBR News that their plans for the convention weekend include sharing more details and more art from the 2015 launch with readers, starting with two exclusive reveals right here. First comes a new promotional image featuring the superhero world’s three main stars — the Shield, the Black Hood and the Fox — as drawn by “Afterlife With Archie” artist Francesco Francavilla. In addition, the line’s editor Alex Segura announced that artist David Williams will be covering interiors for “The Shield” when it arrives from writers Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig.

RELATED: Segura Unpacks The Future of Archie’s Creator-Driven Dark Circle Comics

After showing off both new art styles, Segura (with an assist from “Fox” editor Paul Kaminski) told CBR about how Dark Circle has been shaping up and what fans can expect to see in the days ahead. He also shares new information on Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos’ “The Black Hood,” discusses Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid’s continued evolution in “Fox Hunt” and looks at the role of the brand new Shield in a universe that stretches back to the very beginning of superhero comics.

CBR News: Alex, since the last time we spoke, I’m sure you’ve gotten much deeper into the actual process of building the new Dark Circle line. As stories come in from creators, what’s been the biggest thing you’ve noticed about the direction and feel of these books?

Alex Segura: They’re very different tonally, but overall, the creators we’ve assembled are a great group of people to work with — across the board. “The Black Hood” is a dark, dark book, but Duane and Michael couldn’t be more easygoing and professional. Chuck and Adam are overflowing with ideas on a regular basis, and Dean and Mark are always a pleasure. It’s really made getting the books rolling easy, at least in the sense that I know the work will be great and often better than expected. I’d be remiss if I didn’t give props to Rachel Deering and John Workman, doing the letters on “The Black Hood” and “Shield” and “Fox,” respectively, and Kelly Fitzpatrick handling colors on “Hood” and “Shield.” Class acts, all around. I also have to give a big high five to the entire team at Archie. Our Publisher/Co-CEO Jon Goldwater has been extremely supportive, and I’ve had the pleasure of bouncing ideas off our CCO Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who happens to write a little book titled “Afterlife With Archie.” Never hurts to have his input. Our President Mike Pellerito’s also been a great resource. And I doubt I would be able to make the transition from publicist to editor without the help of Editor Paul Kaminski, who’s been a huge resource when it comes to navigating the wild waters of comic book editing, while also line editing “The Fox” series.

The books themselves have become more “real,” for lack of a better term. We’ve got scripts in, pencils and inks and more already in the pipeline, and each book has started to develop its own personality. “The Black Hood” is really an intense, dark crime book with a completely flawed narrator — a superhero noir that’s heavy on the latter and light on the traditional superheroics. “The Shield” has really gained depth and a wider scope in terms of showing where our country is and how it would benefit from a hero like The Shield appearing now, in arguably our greatest time of need. And while I loved the first “Fox” mini, Dean and Mark have really pushed the story forward with Fox Hunt — now paired with new colorist Jose Villarubia! 

So, yes, the books are moving along. The general “concepts” have become more fully formed and textured. I can almost hold the comics in my hand, and I really feel like fans will be happy when they read these first issues.

The big debut for how the universe is looking comes in a new piece by “Afterlife With Archie’s” Francesco Francavilla. What about his distinctive style did you think was indicative of the line, and what does the final image say about this all fits together?

I’ve said it here and there, but the over-arching concept for Dark Circle is basically bringing the Afterlife “model” — for lack of a better term — to the Archie heroes. So having Francesco draw the NYCC poster, which shows the three heroes together for the first time, seemed like a no-brainer. Francesco’s a wonderful stylist, an expert in light and dark and, most importantly, an amazing storyteller. With just one pinup image you have layers of personality to the characters — he’s almost creating new stories to explore with just one poster. We saw FF doing this as a way to bridge the aesthetic of Afterlife and the new Dark Circle books, without being too overt about it. I’m also excited to announce Francesco will be handling covers for “The Black Hood,” at least for the first arc, in tandem with regular cover artist David Mack and an all-star cast of variant artists.

Also in the news is word that “The Shield” will now feature interior art from David Williams. I’m sure a lot of our readers aren’t familiar with David’s work. Where did you discover him, and what does he bring to the series here that builds on the initial designs we saw from Wilfredo Torres?

I’ve wanted to work with David for a long time. He’s done a lot of work at IDW and some “Nova” issues for Marvel, and I’m not ashamed to say I was trolling his deviantArt page. He’s just got chops, man. He knows how to draw in a variety of styles and settings. Still, it just seemed like we were ships passing in the night. We talked a lot but for whatever reason couldn’t nail anything down. Then he did that great Black Hood variant cover for us, and let it be known that The Shield was his favorite character. Once we knew Wilfredo wasn’t going to be the regular artist, David was the obvious choice. Wilfredo’s designs for Shield are really perfect, and show the character to be more soldier and warrior than costumed avenger, which is exactly the story Chuck and Adam are trying to tell. Having David step in to put his own spin on her and design the ever-growing cast of villains and supporting characters is really perfect. He has a dynamic style that suits the action of the book but is also really adept at the quiet moments. He’s also synced into the madcap brain trust of Chuck and Adam almost too perfectly. 

Speaking of “The Shield,” I think it’s the book that on the surface is the biggest departure from anything we’ve seen of these heroes before. How have Adam Christopher and Chuck Wendig been approaching the woman who is taking on the mantle of the Shield and building a new world around her?

It’s interesting, because on paper, The Shield does seem like the biggest departure — but because it deals with such an iconic concept and storied character, it is in many ways the book most tied to the Dark Circle universe. I think fans of past books looking for links to the future should keep their eyes on this book.

That being said, Chuck and Adam are very mindful that this story is about a new Shield and pushes the idea of a patriotic hero forward. They don’t dwell on continuity or the past. This is a new hero that has strong ties to the nation and its lineage, and she has a very strong reason for being. It’s not a situation where she finds the old Shield’s costume and decides to take over. Readers will discover after an issue that she has much, if not more, of a claim to the name. 

“The Shield” is going to be an action book – high-octane and intense, but with the weight of the modern world and closer to a conspiracy thriller than a capes and tights book. The Shield is searching for something that’s corrupted our very country, and she may not like what she discovers.

Of course, the first book out of the gate for Dark Circle is “The Black Hood” from Duane Swierczynski and Michael Gaydos. Both of those guys have such a strong background in crime stories, how have you worked with them to make this title stand out even from their past work?

We just told Duane and Michael to cut loose and not feel constrained by any preconceived notions of what a Dark Circle book is. “The Black Hood” is a crime book first, a dark tale of a man who’s lost his way and the one thing that drags him out of the dirt. It’s a closer cousin to books like “Stray Bullets” and “Fatale” than vigilante titles like “Daredevil” or “Batman.” Michael’s also an expert in tone and vibe, so the nuance and mood he brings to this book is essential and a key component to the series — which is exactly what we want. This is a story about a man who’s had everything taken away from him and we get to see him react and try to pull himself up again. Whether he makes it or not remains to be told, but I can’t think of two better storytellers to walk us through it than Duane and Michael.

And “The Fox” is slated for its comeback “Fox Hunt” series from Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid. As the forerunners of Dark Circle, what’s it been like to see them continue to expand their corner of this universe?

Segura: It’s been a blast. Dean brings this great, DIY indie ethic to everything he does that you can’t help but feel energized by it. “The Fox” was such a critical success for us, we had to bring it back and make it part of this bigger initiative. It shows that these characters are working in a larger universe and gives readers a sense that Dark Circle Comics aren’t grim and gritty for the sake of it, but actually a wide spectrum of books that appeal to pretty much any kind of fan looking for great comic books. 

Paul Kaminski: Nowhere else in comics do you get a combo like Dean Haspiel and Mark Waid — two forces from drastically different corners of the comic book spectrum smashed together and mixed in new and interesting ways. We’re also really excited to welcome Jose Villarubia to the team because Jose brings yet another perspective into the mix. All you have to do is check out the award winning “Cuba: My Revolution” book that Dean and Jose collaborated on to see what an insanely awesome combo these two artists make.

Overall, what is your plan for getting these books in the minds of fans at a crowded NYCC and beyond into a crowded marketplace?

Segura: Story, first and foremost. The story and execution — from script to art to colors to letters — have to be top quality. We also have to tell stories in a unique way. I think that means presenting these core concepts as individual adventures, not just cogs in a bigger universe. It’ll be clear that all these books are happening in the same world, but that’s not going to be the main concern or thrust for the story. Each book will be unique, look different and feel different. If you like ’em all — great! If you only like one of the three, that’s fine, too. The idea is to give readers options — like a cable TV network. We’re trying to put out thoughtfully crafted, standalone series that have the same seal of quality, as opposed to 15 books that feature the same character from different angles. That’s just not what we’re looking to do.

The only way a new line is going to survive is by putting talented people together to tell the best stories they can. We have the benefit of iconic, recognizable brands and characters, but that will only get you one chance with new readers — and you have to deliver. We have a pretty robust marketing and incentive campaign planned out, but it all goes back to the content, and if the books don’t deliver, the rest doesn’t matter. I’m confident we’ve pulled together some great talents and they’re working on the definitive stories for these characters. I hope fans feel the same way. I’ll also tease one more thing: stay tuned for news on a fourth Dark Circle book in the coming months, too. 

Stay tuned for more with the creators of Dark Circle Comics on CBR as New York Comic Con arrives.