Shadow article - Page 1
Shadow article - Page 2
Shadow article - Page 2 (close-up shot)
Front and back covers
There are more images from the fanzine on my Flickr.com account, here.
I also typed out the text of the article, in case it is difficult to read. I've typed it up as close to the exact text as I can, mistakes and all.
Set aside from the multitude of tight-suited supermen that have been with us almost since the dawn of the comic book itself, are those heroes who do not wear a conventional costume. This group, though few in number, include such notables as the Sandman, The Face, The Green Hornet, Eisner's Spirit, and more recently, Steve Ditko's Brain Children, Mr. A. (of Witzend,) and The Question! But the honour of being the oldest member of this group, as well as that of being one of the most unique characters in comicdom must go to incredible creation of Street and Smith publications – The Shadow!!
The roots of the Shadow can be traced back as far as October 5th 1915. This date is significant because it ushered in the first issue of Street and Smith's pulp magazine, “Detective Story Magazine”. How does this link up with the Shadow? You may well ask.
In 1930, to boost the circulation of “Detective Story”, Street and Smith, (or 'S & S' as they were more widely known) branched out into radio with a crime show, and to add a touch of mystery to the whole thing, the announcer called himself...... wait for it....... the Shadow! As the Shadow he would introduce each programme, and it was here incidentally that “The Weed of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit”, and other Shadow sayings originated.
The character became immensely popular, and so, never the ones to miss a chance on cashing in on a good thing, S&S started to plan a Shadow magazine! With John Nanovic as editor and Walter B. Gibson to write how could they go wrong? How indeed! And so, slowly, the character began to develop into one of the most amazing heroes in the history of fantasy.
However, there were several obstacles to overcome before the first issue of the shadow could appear. Apparently Gibson (who, I might add was also a professional magician) had written the story, and all that was left was for S&S to find a suitable cover. The only one they could find however, with anything like a shadow featured on it showed an inscrutable oriental type cowering against a wall. The Shadow, it seems, was his own. (Damn clever these Chinese!) Unfortunately, Gibson's story didn't feature any orientals, so naturally rather than give S&S the trouble of finding a new cover, Gibson rewrote the whole thing. (Rumour has it that Gibson invented the Shadow at five o'clock while he was shaving).
Well, after many trials and tribulations 'The Shadow' Vol. I No. I, finally hit the stands as a quarterly publication in April, 1931. The first story, entitled 'The Living Shadow' introduced Harry Vincent who was to become a regular character in the exploits of the Shadow. 'the Shadow Laughs' and 'Gang Lands Doom' in quick succession.
In 1932 the Shadow changed from a quarterly to a monthly, and in the interchange of '32-'33 it became a fortnightly. It lasted in this format well into the '40's. (It has been estimated that Gibson wrote about 178 Shadow yarns, which incidentally I have found to be exactly half the number of days in a leap year!)
The appeal of the Shadow is hard to place. Certainly the mystery aspect that was everpresent in the Shadow is found to be lacking in the average modern hero. Never since the early days of Batman has the mystery of the Shadow been equalled. Hints of it were found in early Spiderman stories. Stronger traces were to be found in the Creeper, but non came near the Shadow. (Perhaps he was wearing the wrong deodorant!) In his garb – the flowing black cloak that blended with the darkness the black slouch hat and occasionally the fire opal girasol ring. Or perhaps it was to be found in his style of operating – striking fear into the hearts of men with his chilling, eerie laugh, or for more stubborn cases with his twin, blazing revolvers.
Possibly the Shadow's popularity can be found in something which I shall call (no doubt in very bad taste) a 'God complex' The Shadow was unbeatable, aloof, demonaic. For the Shadow to fail would be unthinkable. He was the Shadow, ergo, invincible anyone opposing the Shadow was predestined to failure since the Shadow was the Shadow. The Shadow knew what evel lay in the hearts of men. His vengeance was terrible (not to mention his dialogue!) He was immortal, invisible .......................
Anyway, to get back to the plot, with the publication of the Shadow magazine in 1931, the radio show became devoted entirely to the Shadow. The radio show was scripted by such people as Jerry McGill, Max Erlich, Alfred Bester, and Harry E. Charlot who, I am told, like horror writer Ambrose Bierce, died in circumstances similar to his own stories.
Orson Welles played radios Shadow in 1937 thru to Spring 1939. Bill Johnstone handled it from '39-'44 and Bret Morrison from '44-'54. The show, all in all, lasted 5 years longer than the magazine.
In the early 40's the Shadow mag reverted to a monthly. Then, as deterioration set it was reduced to digest form and became a bi-monthly. In 1948 a frantic revamping by returning it to pulp size failed, and in summer, 1949, the last issue of the Shadow appeared as a quarterly, with a story entitled 'The Whispering Eyes'.
Also disappearing in 1949 was the monthly Street and Smith Shadow comic which had started in 1941. The artists included Frank Birder and Bob Powell, best remembered for Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (and the Human Torch, best forgotten).
There was a Shadow comic strip, distributed by the Ledger Syndicate which had art by Vernon Green. There were Shadow toys, Big Little Books and so on, in fact, the Shadow enjoyed(?) all the publicity that Batman was to receive so long after, with such disasterous results.
The Shadow on radio was invisible. In the pulps he was semi-invisible, blending with the darkness, but on film he was plainly in view at all times.
Kane Richmond (Republic's 'Syp Smasher' and Columbia's 'Brick Bradford') did a trilogy of Shadow movies for Monogram. Namely 'The Missing Lady', 'The Shadow Returns' and 'Behind the Mask!' There was a Columbia serial starring Victory Jory and an early feature starring Rod la Rosque. The Shadow was an obvious Saturday matinee attraction.
Echoes of the Shadow still remain. Radio comics brought out a Shadow comic in 1964. For the first issue or so I though it might turn out to be a serious attempt at recapturing the atmosphere of the original Shadow but soon, as with all the unfortunate radio line it became the usual Camp superhero rubbish with such unlikely villains as Shiwan Kan, Attila the Hunter and Dr. Demon. In the immortal words of the Boston Strangler 'Choke!' needless to say it didn't last long. A mercy indeed.
Further echoes appeared with with the issue of a line of Belmont paperbacks. These were written by Maxwell Grant which was a pseudonym for Dennis Lynds and Walter B. Gibson himself.
These books took all the Shadow lore and combined it into a new, concrete foundation for their plots. They features the Shadow in the guises of Lamont Cranston and Kent Allard. (who the real Shadow was no-one knew, but he had a host of other identities – surely one up on the Kent/Superman identity thing!)
They featured Harry Vincent and Margo Lane, the Shadow's female assistant from the early days of the Shadow radio program. They featured the Clandestine Global Network of Evil – C.Y.P.H.E.R., an organisation owing more to Thrush and Spectre and so on than to the original Shadow. Still, it was a fairly good foe for the unbeatable Shadow. The titles were as follows – 'The Shadows' Revenge', 'Cry Shadow', 'Mark of the Shadow', 'Shadow-Go Mad', 'Night of the Shadow', 'The Shadow, Destination Moon'. 'The Shadow Strikes' and 'Return of the Shadow' !
The covers were copies from Illo's on the covers of the original pulps and I have no idea who drew them, since they were prepared for Belmont by an outside art agency.
Echoes of the Shadow appeared in England with an old amalgamated press title, 'Thriller Library' or something, which reprinted original Shadow pulp stories, and much later Fleetways' 'Hurricane' comic ran a strip on a Victorian Shadow, who was very similar to the original in many ways. Of course, Odhams handled Mike Higg's very clever 'Cloak' strip a Shadow based humourstrip, and may I say, sadly missed.
I wonder if there's still a market for the Shadow, perhaps he could reach former heights under Alex Toth or Wally Wood. Anyway, it couldn't be worse than the mighty comics' effort, in which our hero was only a Shadow of his former self (groan!).
Perhaps one day the Shadow will be back. I live in hope.
My thanks for help in this article go to Miss Gail Wendroff and Steve Moore who in typical fashion referred me to the marvelous Mike Higgs, who practically wrote this article himself. Once again, thanks a lot Mike for all the info' without which this article would not be possible, and an undying thanks to my parents, without whom I would not be possible.
Edited 20th February 2012 to add: You should also go look at Phil Bledsoe's The Shadow and Alan Moore, for a more detailed overview of Moore's interaction with the character.
[And my own thanks go to ewan_b, who was selling this on eBay recently, and kindly sent me photographs of the fanzine, even though my bid didn't win!]