THE BLACK HOODMedium: Comic Books
Published by: MLJ/Archie Comics
First Appeared: 1940
Creators: Harry Shorten (writer) and Al Camy (artist)
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assumed the Black Hood role in MLJ's Top-Notch Comics #9 (October, 1940), when he was framed for burglary by a villain called The Skull, and needed a cover to use while proving himself innocent. After clearing his name (which took several issues), he continued to use it because it enabled him to avoid all those entangling legal restrictions imposed on policemen in the pursuit of justice.
From his very first appearance, The Black Hood started upstaging The Wizard, Top-Notch's first star — in fact, his logo actually appeared above that of the comic itself. He was also an early star of Jackpot Comics, which ran the most popular features from MLJ's other titles, such as Steel Sterling and Sgt. Boyle. Starting with a Winter, 1943 issue, he had a comic book of his own. He was also one of the few comic book characters ever to star in his own pulp magazine — Black Hood Detective began recounting his adventures in non-comics form in 1941, and lasted no less than three issues (tho the title was changed to Hooded Detective with the second). For a few months in 1943, he even had his own radio show.
But already, the superhero dominance of comics was starting to fade. With its 28th issue (July, 1942), Top-Notch Comics was renamed Top-Notch Laugh, and The Hood found himself sharing covers with Pokey Oakie and Suzie. He continued to appear at least in the back pages until #44 (April, 1944), when the funny stuff took over completely). In 1943, Jackpot Comics changed its title to Jolly Jingles and the covers featured Super Duck.
For a couple more years, his adventures continued in the back pages of Pep Comics, where The Shield was the star, and Black Hood Comics, which had replaced Hangman Comics on MLJ's schedule. But sales were apparently slipping, because in #19 (Summer, 1946), he was given a complete change of direction. A villain named Needlenoodle (no doubt inspired by the success of such grotesqueries in Chester Gould's Dick Tracy) unmasked him. He then opened a detective agency named Black Hood, and began operating without a costume. But he didn't even stick around long enough to appear that way on the cover. With #20, the Fall issue, Black Hood became Laugh Comics, and its new star was Archie.
He disappeared from Pep shortly after (replaced by Li'l Jinx) and wasn't seen again until 1960, when (the unmasking incident apparently having slipped his mind) he made a guest appearance with The Fly. He turned up a few more times with either The Fly or The Jaguar during the early 1960s. In 1965, the publisher, which had long since changed its name to Archie Comics, brought back most of its costumed characters as part of the self-parodying "Mighty Comics Group" imprint. The Hood became a charter member of The Mighty Crusaders, a team that has, over the years, come to include most of the Archie-owned superheroes. He made frequent appearances in Mighty Comics, until 1967, when the plug was pulled on the entire "Mighty" line.
Variations on the Black Hood character have been done twice. During a mid-1980s superhero revival, Archie Comics did a revised version, in which Kip Burland was carrying on a family tradition of fighting crime as The Black Hood (in addition to running a few adventures of the older model). And in the early 1990s, DC Comics licensed the Archie superheroes for its "!mpact Comics" imprint, and published a third version for a dozen or so issues.
Today, like all of the publisher's long-underwear characters, The Black Hood (original version) can sometimes be found in a corner of the Archie Comics Web site, and is occasionally spotted in actual comic books. But only often enough to keep his trademark from lapsing.