Cover Versions: The Black Hood

October 13th, 2011

Being an irregular series wherein I spotlight some particularly beautiful cover runs, from some comics you might have forgotten about, or never seen before. First up, Mark Wheatley and Rick Burchett’s idiosyncratic lost gem from the short lived !mpact Comics, The Black Hood.

The Black Hood was part of the !mpact comics imprint from DC in the early 90′s – one of many attempts to revive the Archie/Red Circle superhero line from the 60′s.

There was some pretty strong talent involved too – Mark Waid did some of his earliest writing here, and there were some pretty great comics produced. Len Strazewski and Mike Parobeck’s ‘The Fly’ was a good natured throwback to the early Spiderman comics, with a teenage protagonist who was thrilled to have superpowers and some lovely crisp art from Parobeck. The Web had a nifty central idea – a mysterious superhero that was in fact a conglomerate of deep cover agents a la SHIELD or Checkmate.

Best though was Mark Wheatley and Rick Burchett’s wild Black Hood series. It was pretty adventurous and ahead of it’s time; a genuinely quirky series that routinely bucked reader expectations (the main charcter was killed in the first issue, and the identity of the Black Hood switched from a gangland hitman to a suburban teen in the subsequent comics). Sadly the !mpact line was launched as a relatively kid-friendly line just as Image comics went nuclear, and  paed0-torturing super-sadists with knee-pads and chain guns became the order of the day. The line folded with a whimper and slunk off into the night. But those Black Hood comics are well worth checking out – it was an oddball comic which was way ahead of it’s time. The main draw though is Rick Burchett’s stellar artwork (ably abetted by guests like Tim Sale and Neil Vokes). Burchett is an artist who deserves way more props than he gets – his impeccable linework and design sense recall a more fluid Howard Chaykin, and the Black Hood is packed with page after page of lovely, confident storytelling. Best of all were the covers, a small gallery of which I’ve assembled for your pleasure.

Nice, iconic and strong. The Black Hood’s mask is awesome – kinda reminiscent of Grendel. In this image Burchett highlights the human eyes within the mask, but throughout the series, the big red eyeholes of the mask are used in a fantastically elastic, cartoony way. (Aside – I really dig the font and design of the Impact comics logo. At the time the retro stylings of the imprint was viewed as a bit ‘Dad’ when confronted with the foil-coated garishness of Liefield et al, but it actually seems quite prescient now).

This is just a totally gnarly, action image. You can’t go wrong wth a deranged looking guy with a shotgun, and Burchett’s jagged lines and unusual perspective really amp up the chaos. Rather typically of the title this scene doesn’t appear in the comic itself.

Pretty classic image – you can really see the Chaykin influence here. This cover has a real pulp novel quality. It’s impeccably structured and framed – check the money fluttering down the right hand side. Plus cheap hoods with Uzi’s = great.

This is just brilliant – it totally conveys the weirdness of the comic, and I love the expressiveness of the hooded faces. The jagged shadow and guns frame everything perfectly with that heavy late 80′s graphical quality, and the font is great – bold and cartoony. Everything about this cover zings.
There’s something vaguely reminiscent of Helfer & Baker’s wonderful, perverse Shadow series about the Black Hood.

I just love the chunky design of this. The different expressions of the floating heads and the goofy pose of the Black Hood – I’d pick this up on sight if it was published today.

Finally, back to the image from the top of the post, my absolute favourite of the series. I love everything about this -the confidence of the line, the masterful use of shadow and light, the two blazing Uzi’s, and most of all the Seuss homage. The juxtaposition of the simple storybook background with the menacing figure …it’s just so dynamic, striking and utterly cool. Add the bold use of the font, the cheeky little headshot up by the logo, and the !mpact ‘!’ in the bottom right corner…it’s just about perfect.

I heartily recommend tracking down the back issues of the Black Hood if you can – you should be able to pick them up for pennies and they’re a good, strange read.

11 Responses to “Cover Versions: The Black Hood”

  1. Lanmao, the Blue Cat Says:

    And here I thought that I was the only one reading the Impact line when it came out! At the time the Fly was my favorite (I loved Parobeck’s clean lines), but the Black Hood is the one that holds up the best. It’s a shame that the line didn’t last longer. Didn’t the Comet at one point discover that he was actually a non-humanoid alien?

  2. Zom Says:

    I wanted my heroes waaay more serious in the early 90s so I’m not surprised I didn’t pick this up, but now I’m sad that I didn’t. Lovely covers.

  3. Harvey Jerkwater Says:

    Ye gods, I loved this series. It screwed with expectations constantly, veering from damn-near-standard-Spider-Man knockoff one issue to mob-boss-on-the-rise the next, and yeah, the Dr. Seuss issue was the highlight.

    You could see the outlines of a standard comic beneath it, so it never went off the rails, but man, it played around within the genre confines hard. Plus, great art.

    The Hood was introduced in a misleading way, too. The first guy to wear the hood, a bog-standard Punisher clone, crossed over into every single Impact comic one month before his launch. He wasn’t interesting at all; just “mysterious dude with a gun.” Then in issue one, we meet him and find out he’s a complete dick and more than a little unhinged. At the end of the issue, he’s shot in the face and dies.

    WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK? said young Harv. MUST GET ISSUE TWO!

    Of the other Impact books, “The Comet” was the other one that I loved. “Who is this ‘Mark Waid’ guy?” I wondered. “Need to keep an eye out for him…”

  4. Mark Wheatley Says:

    Rick and I were having a lot of fun on the BLACK HOOD. And the title was selling great – growing from issue to issue. BUT – the rest of the line was not doing so well. When they decided to revamp the other titles – they threw out the “baby” with the bath water.

  5. Colin Smith Says:

    Ah, the Black Hood was a great series which appeared in a time when there really weren’t so many enjoyable books around.

    If I may, I also had a considerable respect for the Jaguar, as written by William Messner-Loebs David Antoine Williams. I retain a great deal of fondness for that good-hearted comicbook.

  6. The Beast Must Die Says:

    Holy shit! Hi Mark! I’d just like to take this opportunity to say that I think Breathtaker is one of the finest and most overlooked comics of the last 30 years.

  7. Mark Wheatley Says:

    BREATHTAKER is one of my two most favorite books. EZ STREET is the other. You can read EZ STREET and several other of my recent graphic novels for free at http://www.comicmix.com/comic/ez-street/

  8. Comics A.M. | The once and future Extreme Studios; Colleen Doran’s digital success | Robot 6 @ Comic Book Resources – Covering Comic Book News and Entertainment Says:

    [...] Comics | The Beast Must Die at the Mindless Ones blog looks back at Mark Wheatley and Rick Burchett’s covers for Black Hood, from DC’s early 1990s !mpact line [Mindless Ones] [...]

  9. Matt Rower Says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the Seuss issue come out right after he passed away? (I always kind of wondered if it was coincidental or planned.)

  10. Mark Wheatley Says:

    Matt – I’m not aware of any such timing on the death of Seuss. If it happened that way – it was not by intent. Getting to that issue was a several year process, as the idea had been part of my original pitch for the series. But I didn’t know at the time of the pitch which ish it would end up in – or even when publication would get started. BTW – it was Mark Waid who suggested I make the name of the man who was to become the Seuss HOOD, Horton. And I think it was a great idea.

  11. Mindless Ones » Blog Archive » Cover Versions: BLACKHAWK Says:

    [...] with each project – I’ve talked about him a bit in an earlier Cover Versions on the Black Hood and his work was most recently seen on the rather wonderful Batman: Brave & The Bold [...]

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