Riverdale’s camp, riveting noir-drama is usually quite a step removed from the humble comic book roots of its characters—which is why when they embrace those roots, it’s often to hilarious effect. But last night’s episode managed to make a key connection to some deep-cut Archie lore in a very sneaky manner.
The opening of Riverdale’s sophomore season has been focused on the shadow the mysterious masked gunman terrorizing the town—itself a darker-toned reference to The Black Hood, a vigilante comic series that’s been published by Archie Comics (in its former identity as MLJ Comics) on and off since the ‘40s. But in last night’s episode, “The Watcher in the Woods,” Archie and his friends decided to form their own group to catch the Hood and gave it a very special name for diehard Archie Comics fans: The Red Circle.
So what is the Red Circle? It’s the name of a publishing imprint at Archie that started out in Fantasy and Horror anthology comics in the 1970s, but pivoted a decade later to superheroes, relaunching many of the old superhero series the company formerly published as MLJ Comics, like the Black Hood and the Mighty Crusaders, a book that inspired Archie to use the name in the first place. In the years since the characters of Red Circle have faded in and out of obscurity at Archie—in the ‘90s, they were even licensed out to DC Comics for a brief period. Today, they exist as part of Red Circle’s rebranding as Dark Circle comics, and a Mighty Crusaders reboot is actually currently underway.
It’s a reference that likely went right over the heads of most Riverdale viewers, but for die-hard Archie fans, it’s lovely hint to some of the weirder aspects of Archie Comics’ long and varied history.