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.

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