The Hangman is the latest Dark Circle comic to come from Archie, reinventing their traditional Red Circle superhero line with a gritty, often violent twist.
From writer Frank Tieri and artist Felix Ruiz, the story follows a character who was dangerous even before he became an urban legend.
Tieri joined ComicBook.com to talk about the new series, which launches on November 4. You can see read on below, and check out the solicitation information and the covers from #1 at the bottom of the story.
What drew you to Dark Circle and, in particular, to this book?
It’s all because of Alex Segura... and Marvel, believe it or not.
Long story short, me and Alex were on line together for one of the Marvel movie screenings and he brings up that he was doing something with the Dark Circle line and asked if I’d be interested in pitching for one of the characters. Now, I’ll be perfectly honest, I knew jack shit about anything Dark Circle prior to that conversation—but when he was telling me about the line, there was one character that instantly stood out to me… and that was Hangman. I knew that would be the character I could have the most fun with, the character that most fit with what I do. I pitched the book, the Archie guys were crazy enough to go for it and here we are.
Did you have a take that you brought to them, or did Archie more or less know where they wanted the book to be and you just found a way to make it sing?
They wanted a completely original take on the character and that’s what I gave them. Which basically means I took a great deal that existed before, threw it out the window and started from scratch. In fact, they didn’t even want Hangman to be Robert Dickering. They wanted a new guy… hence, Mike Minetta.
So Mike Minetta will be our main character… and eventually, our Hangman. When we first meet him, he’s one of the most prolific hitmen the mob has ever seen and we’ll be seeing everything through his eyes. He is not a nice guy to say the least—and that’s when he runs into Hangman, who’s job it is to collect the souls of guys like Minetta.
And by the way, I do actually give a nod to Dickering in that he’s the Hangman we begin with. The one who comes after Minetta. Of course, he’s not necessarily the Hangman we end up with…
What do you think is the most important thing Felix Ruiz brings to the table?
The one good thing about doing this book with Felix is I’ve worked with the guy before (SAVAGE WOLVERINE and ARKHAM MANOR: ENDGAME) – so I’m well aware of what he brings to the table, as you say. I’ve previously asked him to do some fairly dark shit—whether it was with Sabretooth and Wolverine or if it was with Batman’s Rogues Gallery—so I know he can handle it. We’ve created a pretty f---ed up world here in HANGMAN… and his scratchy, gritty style should fit right in quite nicely.
When you're reinventing something so dramatically, what do you do to ensure that it evokes the original in ways that the audience can connect with?
Well, here’s the thing… other than the Hangman name, the hood, the noose and the acknowledgement that Robert Dickering was the Hangman, there is not much else that evokes the original. Pretty much everything is new. New mission, new situation, new supporting cast, new tone… new Hangman.
New f---ing Hangman, I should even say. Because, yes… there’s cursing. And violence like you can’t believe. And demons and the devil and mobsters and serial killers and some really sick shit.
When people say “This isn’t your daddy’s (insert name here)”, we really mean it. This really is a Hangman unlike any you’ve seen before.
When you're one of the last ones out of the gate on something like this, the bar has been set pretty high. How much attention have you been paying to the other Dark Circle books?
Again, perfectly honest, if not for the quality of the other Dark Circle books, I would’ve never come onboard. Dark Circle—hell, Archie Comics in general—have been doing some new and different things, if you haven’t noticed. Afterlife with Archie, Black Hood, the Fox… books like that were taking some chances, getting some buzz. So when they gave me the chance to be a part of it, I was more than happy to come onboard. And I must say, I don’t regret it for a minute.
Given that there are no plans to cross the books over, do you feel obliged to write like it's a "shared universe" and have some sensibilities in common?
It’s definitely a shared universe but I think for now we’re all just doing our own thing, working in our own corners. But as far as crossing over at some point, Black hood is the obvious choice, right? That I could see us doing something down the line, pairing those two books up. I mean, both our books have a lot of shared sensibilities, so to speak.
Plus, we’ve both got the whole “scary bastards in hoods” thing going on, so there’s that.
What's your elevator pitch for Hangman?
Stephen King meets Quentin Tarantino.
Wish I could say I came up with that but credit where credit is due, it was that damned Alex Segura again. And it really does fit because we’re as much supernatural and horror as we are crime noir.
At any point in your process did you think, "You know, I might have a more traditional take on this in me?"
Nope. If they wanted traditional, I wouldn’t have been the guy they hired.
Looking at the variants for #1, there's a ton of top-tier art talent there. Is there anybody you'd really like to see provide a variant for upcoming issues?
Actually I’ve got to commend Alex and the Dark Circle crew for the guys we’ve gotten. Tim Bradstreet, for example… I mean, he’s one of the top cover guys in the biz. But he’s an old buddy of mine and I’m the one responsible for bringing him in. But the rest? Francavilla, Huddleston, Hack... all brought in by Dark Circle. All top notch guys. So really, I'm very content with who we have already.
Is there some humor in your Hangman?
Yeah, there is what you’d call some black humor to be sure. The kind of humor you almost hate yourself for laughing at…
For example, there’s a Three’s Company scenario in the first issue where Minetta’s daughter has left her stuffed animal in the trunk of his car …and let’s just say he’s got something in there that he’d rather she didn’t see. A laugh riot, if that’s your sort of thing…
Books like this tend to work best when they're really character-driven. How does your supporting cast operate? Do you have people who know Minetta inside and out? Or is it very much setting up the way the world bounces off his mythology?
I would say we probably will have the most interesting supporting cast in all of comics.
First off, you have Minetta’s family. Now, yeah, he’s a ruthless hitman and all that… but his family doesn’t know that. They think he works in an office somewhere, not driving around with dead bodies in his trunk. So they’re in for a rather rude awakening, wouldn’t you say?
Other than that, the Hangman won’t exactly interact with too many people (Well, without… ya know, hanging them) But reporter Jack Tenet is the one exception. For years, he’s been serving as the Hangman’s scribe—meaning he’s someone who must chronicle the experiences of the Hangman, much like the writers of the books of the Bible. He’s also a raging alcoholic and a bit of a dick, so you can imagine him and Minetta will be getting along wonderfully.
Then finally, there’s the devil. Yeah, good ol’ Satan himself. See, the Hangman works for the devil—or HangMEN, I should say as there’s been more than a few throughout time. But our devil… well, we have a bit of a different take on him. Yeah, he’s got it in for man and all that but there are rules he follows. Think of him more like the devil from the Book of Job… he’s sort of more like a district attorney, if you will. And so if the Hangman collects souls for the devil, in a way, he’s actually collecting them for God, in a way. Which may be even more f---ed up when you think about it but hey, that’s our book.
THE HANGMAN #1
NEW ONGOING SERIES FROM DARK CIRCLE! They say the Hangman is nothing more than an urban legend. A spook story told to scare criminals straight. But those who encounter him—like hitman "Mad Dog" Mike Minetta—know different. They know that when he comes for you… you're dead already. Join fan-favorite writer Frank Tieri (WOLVERINE, BATMAN) and artist extraordinaire Felix Ruiz (WOLVERINE MAX, HALO) for an ongoing tale of horror, the supernatural and violence... and learn why some men may never be redeemed.
Script: Frank Tieri
Art: Felix Ruiz
The Hangman #1 CVR A Reg: Timothy Bradstreet
The Hangman #1 CVR B Variant: Felix Ruiz
The Hangman #1 CVR C Variant: Francesco Francavilla
The Hangman #1 CVR D Variant: Robert Hack
On Sale Date: 11/4
32-page, full color comic