Another unrealized Archie Comics proposal (I got a million of ’em!), this one from 2014 for a Red Circle Line revival of the Golden Age MLJ hero, the Hangman.

The Hangman (Red Circle Series Proposal)


Robert Dickering was a thief and a scoundrel in Dutch New Amsterdam. Often accused but never proved guilty, he started to believe he led a charmed life, which emboldened him to commit more and more audacious crimes, eventually including murder. Like many of his time, Dickering, superstition was as much a part of his life as religion, and he believed he was protected by a charm given him by an old Indian shaman whose life he had once saved (but only because the guy threatening the old man was Dickering’s enemy and it was an excuse to kill him). But mostly he was a clever and charming scoundrel and knew he could always count on the testimony of the barmaids, lowlifes, and easily bribed officials he had wrapped around his finger to provide alibis. Of course, the problem with counting on the likes of those is that their loyalty goes only as far as their self-interest and Dickering is set up for a murder he did not commit by some of his erstwhile cronies looking to take over from him.

Dickering is tried, found guilty, and sentenced to hang. The Old Indian he had saved comes to see him before the hanging, saying that Dickering saving his life showed the old man that he wasn’t all evil and offers the condemned man a chance at redemption. Not help in escaping, as Dickering first thinks, but a chance at a do-over in life. Dickering will still hang…but he will return to life exactly one year later–fully grown and with his memories intact–and be given another lifetime to live, over and over again, until he gets it right and lives in harmony with the natural laws of man. Dickering thinks the old man is nuts, saying that even if such a thing were possible, the only law he will ever live by is his own.

Two days later, Robert Dickering is hanged.

One year after that, he awakens in his shallow, unmarked grave in the pauper’s graveyard. He digs his way out and finds the old man waiting for him. The noose and length of rope with which he was hanged is still around Dickering’s neck. Let the noose bind him to his past sins and to this island (Manhattan) where those sins were committed so that he must carry it with him until he’s cleansed of evil. Only after he’s earned it will he be allowed to cut himself free of this world and find his rest.

Dickering doesn’t know what’s going on, just that he’s alive and happy for this second chance…to resume his old ways! And, as one supposedly “back from the dead,” he figures his reputation will be made and he can scare the hell out of his enemies. The “Hanged Man” quickly becomes a figure of fear in New Amsterdam as he takes revenge against the men who framed him and consolidates his power over the criminal element. But sooner or later, his life catches up with him and he’s assassinated by a rival and dumped into the harbor.

One year later, he pops to the surface, alive anew and again finds the old Indian waiting for him on the shore. And the cycle begins anew, beginning the legend of the “Hanged Man” persists through the decades and centuries to follow. Dickering’s dark soul is a stain that isn’t easily scrubbed of sin or from Manhattan’s psyche, even with the ancestors of the Old Indian following across the ages, always try to guide him to that time when Dickering can finally throw off the noose and find peace.


Robert Dickering awakens, digging himself out from a coal bin in an a tenement building, the current ancestor of the Old Indian waiting for him. During this last year long hiatus, the world has erupted in war, and the streets have been overrun by costumed adventurers and villains. It’s been early 300 years since Dickering was accursed but, while he’s mellowed somewhat with the times and isn’t as quick on the trigger as he once was, he hasn’t learned his lesson or grown tired of his seemingly endless life. But he has learned to adapt to whatever time he’s in, and he sees an angle he can play in this new heroic age, adapting the ID of the Hangman, a new costumed hero on the scene. In reality, he’s just using the Hangman persona to remove his rivals in crime from the scene, either sending them to prison or eliminating them altogether.

Dickering thinks it’s hilarious that Hangman is honored as a hero for committing the same acts plain old Robert Dickering had been pilloried for over the past centuries. If anything, it’s a step back on the road to redemption…until he falls in love, for the first time in his life. The woman is Lt. Leslie McBain, an Army Intelligence officer with whom the Hangman has worked to take down black marketers (so Dickering could step in and take over their rackets).

Dickering resists his feelings. The Hangman racket is the best thing he’s ever had and he’s not about to give it up for some dame, no matter how beautiful and smart she is. He intends to avoid another “death” as long as he can in this incarnation to milk his sure thing. But then along comes John Wilson, aka The Artist, a madman criminal with enchanted paints (his back story to come, but he was a renowned portrait artist until he came into possession of the enchanted paints which were the catalyst for his madness) that enables him to control those whose portraits he paints or to entirely “repaint reality” and draw his victims into his canvas with the addition of even a drop of their blood added to his paints. When Leslie is so painted into a Bosch-like hellish landscape of his, Dickering performs the first unselfish act of his 300-year existence and allows himself to be drawn into one of the paintings as well in the hopes of rescuing her.

And that’s the last anyone hears of the Hangman. Until…


The discovery of a stash of The Artist/John Wilson’s paintings in the attic of a condemned building in NYC brings about a renaissance of interest in the long-deceased artist’s life. The fact that he was also a criminal mastermind adds a certain cachet to his work (like with the paintings of John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, or George W. Bush), and his grandson, Norman, also an artist with a budding career in portraiture, takes advantage of the newfound popularity of the family name in artistic circles and mounts a show of paintings by his grandfather (stowed away and almost forgotten long ago by the family, ashamed of his criminal past) along with his own works.

Also stowed there is John Wilson’s paint box, untouched since his death; Norman is surprised to find the pigments are still viable after almost 70 years in storage. He decides to use them in homage to his grandfather…and finds that he has no control over the work produced using them. It’s as if the paints give the brush a mind of its own, and Norman is gradually consumed by the same madness that overtook his grandfather.

And, 70 years later, no one puts two and two together and links the crimes being committed by usually law-abiding citizens (all of whom had sat for Norman) to the Artist’s crime spree of the 1940s.

One of the visitors to the trendy Manhattan gallery where John and Norman Wilson’s paintings are on exhibit is a middle-aged Indian. He seems particularly taken with a hellish Bosch-like landscape which he buys, outbidding several other interested parties with an outlandish price. He takes the painting home and, with great ceremony in the ancient tongue of his people, sets fire to it.

The next day, the Hangman is back, prowling the streets, on the trail of the Artist…and the painting into which Leslie McBain was pulled all those decades ago, hoping that, like him, she was able to survive the surrealistic hell that had been his world all those years.

But the Artist has yet to paint the masterpiece that will give him power beyond anything his grandfather had ever dreamed…!

1 Comment on The Hangman

  1. Lewis Malin says:

    An intriguing proposal that, unintentionally, shows that Archie has absolutely no idea what to do with their superheroes.
    This problem is manifestly evident by their current, horrid, re-imagining of Bob Phantom.

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