It's a rare day when Riverdale actually does a direct reference to the Archie comics. This is a show that prides itself of taking the source material and twisting it fun house mirror style, almost totally out of recognition. (They don't worry about book and comic purists apparently.) But every so often another Easter Egg rides into town, confusing everyone and delighting those of us who read the comics as kids. This week is The Red Circle. But what is The Red Circle on Riverdale? And why is this "deep cut" Easter Egg so important?
First of all, we should note that the the main focus this season on "The Black Hood" is in of itself an Easter Egg, referencing not Archie comics, but another series put out by the same publisher (MLJ Comics, now known as Archie Comics) over the last 75 years, featuring a vigilante of the same name.
The Black Hood was one of the Red Circle’s heroes — sort of anti-heroes. It’s just an homage, really, because that guy was really more like The Punisher, a real anti-hero, where I think our Black Hood is more malevolent, more like the Zodiac or something.
With Archie's determination to catch the would be killer it's not the biggest surprise that this week's episode “The Watcher in the Woods” saw a decision by the gang to form their own "anti-vigilante vigilante group" in response. But it was the group name they decided on that was the Easter Egg. They named themselves after another old school MLJ Comics/Archie Comic imprint line: The Red Circle.
The Red Circle isn't nearly as old as The Black Hood, which ran starting back in the 1940s, on and off over the last century. This comic started in the 1970s, as a fantasy/horror anthology. (No wonder Archie has copies. I wonder why he might be into fantasy and horror?)
In the 1980s, The Red Circle got more into the superhero genre, as Archie Comics began relaunching lines like The Black Hood and The Mighty Crusaders along side it. But by the 90s, the comics were losing steam, and the idea was shelved for a while. (Archie Comics actually licensed the characters out to other brands for a while, in hopes that could make money off of them in some manner or other.)
This century saw The Red Circle rebranded altogether as Dark Circle comics, which is why most Archie fans, especially ones who are only getting into the comics in the wake of Riverdale's success, probably wouldn't have recognized the reference at all.
But the success of Riverdale and the renewed interest in all things Archie this past year has been a boon for not only the comics series, but all their franchises. Sabrina The Teenage Witch, for example, has been greenlit as a put to pilot for next year, with the assumption the spin-off will be seeded in the back half of this season of Riverdale.
And with the superhero genre making bank at the box office, Dark Circle comics is currently looking at doing a reboot of The Mighty Crusaders, in hopes of perhaps one day giving the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Oh and by the way, "jingle jangle"? It's not just the silliest name for a drug ever devised in the history of television to get around Standards and Practice. It's named after song by "The Archies" from the late 1960s, with a very trippy (one might say "drugged out") video.
The choice to put in in pixie stix, though, that's all the production's idea. Some things are just a little too perverse to come from the comics.