Greetings Crusaders! Let’s play one of Pee Wee Herman’s favorite games – SECRET WORD! You remember what to do when you see the secret word, right? Yes! That’s correct – SCREAM! Scream really, really loud! So, what is today’s secret word sponsored by Comic Crusaders? CONSCIENCE. Remember, whenever you see the secret word, scream really, really loud! Ok? Excellent!
What does conscience (remember, scream!) mean? Well, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, conscience signifies “the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong” or “a feeling that something you have done is morally wrong”. Quite often, conscience is referred to as that inner voice, or built-in sense that helps you distinguish principles. I’d like to believe that a substantial portion of our society today, listens to their conscience more often than not, particularly before acting upon an important decision that could impact lives. However, history has taught us all about individuals who seem to excel in suppressing their conscience, at will.
A few months ago, Archie Comics’ imprint, Dark Circle Comics, reintroduced a character who first appeared way back in 1941, during the Golden Age of Comics – Hangman. Back then, Archie Comics was known as MLJ Comics. Hangman (a.k.a. Robert Dickering) enjoyed a 30 issue run in MLJ’s Pep Comics title until 1944. After World War II, appearances of Hangman were infrequent, and in some cases, the Hangman mantle was worn by different individuals. Hangman for a time, was even published by DC Comics, and eventually fell under DC’s very short-lived 90’s era comic book imprint, Impact Comics.
As I mentioned earlier, Dark Circle Comics brought back the Hangman in late 2015. The original Rob Dickering Hangman returned once more, and this time, it was for what would turn out to be, one final task – the elimination of lethal mob hitman, Michael “Mikey Ice” Minetta. Minetta, a loving father and devoted family man, possessed an astonishing level of willpower and was highly capable of suppressing his conscience at a moment’s notice. The unrelenting Minetta enjoyed dishing out pain and took extreme pleasure in the suffering of his mob-targeted victims. In issue #1, the Hangman comes after the ruthless Minetta to make him pay for his countless crimes. Minetta finally reaches the end of his rope (ok, poor choice of words) and is subsequently executed by Hangman. As a result of Minetta’s demise, Rob Dickering was deemed worthy of ascending into Heaven, and his days as the Hangman finally came to an end (who knew killing one of society’s worse, such as Minetta, would earn Dickering enough credit to be able to enter Heaven under their points rewards program).
The second Hangman issue was one hell of a book; both literally and figuratively. While the first issue ended with a dramatic cliffhanger, issue two gave readers a better perspective of just how sinister this series was going to get. The story continues strictly focusing on the destiny of Minetta, who wakes up inside of a murky, creepy and desolate jail cell. He’s unable to recall exactly how he arrived there…all he could remember, was his encounter with the Hangman. Shortly thereafter, Minetta meets the rest of his fellow inmates; however, each convict turns out to be Minetta’s victims who he had viciously murdered during his infamous criminal career. One by one they appeared before him, with each casualty displaying the brutal wounds Minetta had inflicted upon them at the time of their downfall. Minetta’s destiny becomes clearer when Satan himself emerges and attempts to intimidate him. However, Minetta didn’t earn his “Mikey Ice” nickname for nothing. He wasn’t frightened one bit by Satan and his fire and brimstone theatrics, for Minetta had always bypassed his conscience. He always knew he was destined to wind up in Hell, and he was more than willing to accept his fate. Satan on the other hand, had other plans in store for Minetta. Satan presented Minetta with a chance to redeem himself for his hideous behavior by becoming the next Hangman, an executioner of lost souls deemed unworthy to ever approach the gates of Heaven. In exchange for frequently sending wayward souls Hell’s way, Minetta would be granted an opportunity to save his own soul and ascend into Heaven. At first, Minetta was defiant and resisted Satan’s offer…until the Leader of the Fallen Angels played the family card. He showed Minetta that his family was in imminent danger because of his mob ties. The only thing Minetta ever cared about in life, was his family. He accepted the deal for the sake of his loved ones, and a new Hangman was born.
Issue #3 welcomes the Earth’s newest Hangman, “Mickey Ice” Minetta, among the living, whose sole desire is to keep his family out of harms way. Also within this issue, the demon Asmodeus is established. Asmodeus, a known rival to Satan, occupies the physical form of a young schoolboy and learns that a new Hangman roams the Earth and seeks to make his acquaintance. Hangman quickly learns that his new identity will attract unwanted attention, realizing he may have bit off more than he can chew by accepting the terms of his deal with Satan.
Frank Tieri’s adaptation of Hangman is simply extraordinary. He set up a world where a criminal who committed an incalculable amount of heinous and unspeakable crimes could keep on thriving by performing atrocities for all of the right reasons. As a long time comic book fan and collector, I have always been fascinated by Golden and Silver Age characters, but not once was I able to take the Hangman character seriously…not until this most recent Hangman series by Dark Circle Comics came along. The artwork for each Hangman book supplied by Felix Ruiz, perfectly personifies violence and represents malice in its purest form. Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colors augment the intensity each panel portrays seamlessly.
So, in order for me to live on without having a guilty conscience, I have to admit than I’m eagerly awaiting the release of issue four. Thank you for playing Secret Word!
Until next time Crusaders!
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artist: Felix Ruiz
Colorist: Kelly Fitzpatrick
Published by Archie Comic Publications, Inc.