“I really liked this first issue of The Shadow and I only hope that both Ennis and Campbell remain on this book long enough to tell a nice long story arch. I recommend The Shadow to anyone with an interest in pulp characters or period set stories.”
I had every intention of writing a weekly Comic Book of the Week post, but several things got in the way. One is that even though I consistently read two or three comics every single week, I don’t always read a comic on certain weeks that I enjoy enough to inspire me to write an entire post on it. Also, it is a simple matter of time. Because I promised myself that this year I would write a post of every single genre film that I watch this year – good or bad – I have a limited amount of time to write non-movie review posts. Still, I have always used Guardians of the Genre to promote things of many different mediums that get me excited and I will – time permitting – write a periodic Comic Book of the Week post.
The Shadow has a long and complex history, as both a character and as a multimedia property.
The Shadow initially appeared on July 31, 1930, as an enigmatic narrator of the Street and Smith radio program Detective Story Hour. The Shadow became so popular with listeners, that circulation manager Henry William Ralston of Street & Smith commissioned Walter B. Gibson to write stories for The Shadow Magazine, which debuted on April 1, 1931. The Shadow Magazine was published until 1949, and Gibson wrote 282 out of 325 stories: a novel-length story twice a month (1st and 15th). The mysterious narrator briefly disappeared from the airwaves in 1935, but was replaced in 1937 in a new series written by Gibson and scriptwriter Edward Hale Bierstadt, starring as Lamont Cranston, a "wealthy young man about town." This program did not leave the air until December 26, 1954.
The Shadow has been seen in comics many times. His first appearance was in 1940 as a syndicated daily newspaper comic strip, written by Walter B. Gibson and illustrated by Vernon Greene, but only lasted two years. The first comic book featuring The Shadow was published by Street & Smith and ran for 101 issues, from March 194 to September 1949. Archie Comics published an eight-issue series, The Shadow from August 1964 to September 1965. Probably the best known comics adaptation of the character was published by DC Comics in the mid-1970s, by writer Dennis O'Neil and artist Michael Kaluta in a 12-issue series. Artist and writer Howard Chaykin created a four issue mini-series for DC in 1986 that featured a modernized Shadow in New York. A similar take on The Shadow was continued the following year in 1987, as a monthly DC comics series by writer Andy Helfer and artists Bill Sienkiewicz and Kyle Baker. Marvel Comics published a beautiful graphic novel in 1988, reteaming O’Neil and Kaluta entitled: The Shadow 1941: Hitler's Astrologer. DC published a new Shadow series from 1989 to 1992 titled The Shadow Strikes. This series, which was set in the 1930s, was written by Gerard Jones and drawn by Eduardo Barreto and ran for 31 issues. During the early-to-mid-1990s, Dark Horse Comics published the Shadow 4-issue miniseries “In The Coils of Leviathan” and 3-issue miniseries Hell's Heat Wave. Both mini-series were written by Joel Goss and Michael Kaluta and drawn by Gary Gianni.
The Shadow has also appeared in films several times. The Shadow Strikes appeared in 1937 and a sequel, International Crime was released 1938 by Grand National Pictures. The Shadow was a 15-chapter serial produced by Columbia Studios and premiered in 1940. A trio of low-budget motion pictures produced by Monogram in 1946 were: The Shadow Returns, Behind the Mask and The Missing Lady. The Shadow didn’t return to the silver screen until 1994 in the form of the big budget The Shadow starring Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston and Penelope Ann Miller as Margo Lane.
Dynamite Entertainment has licensed the Shadow from Conde Nast and debuted The Shadow #1 on April 19, 2012. Dynamite Entertainment describes The Shadow thus:
1938: The Shadow returns in a tale of blazing action and deadly intrigue, as a night of carnage on the New York waterfront plunges the mysterious vigilante into a conspiracy involving the fate of the world itself. As storm clouds gather across the globe, American Military Intelligence meets with a certain Lamont Cranston, determined to beat a host of spies and assassins to the greatest prize of all... but what that might be, only the Shadow know.
The Shadow is written by Garth Ennis. Ennis is a Northern Irish comics writer, best known for the Vertigo series Preacher with artist Steve Dillon and his successful nine-year run on Marvel Comics' Punisher franchise. My only experience is with his writing is the 60 issues of the Vertigo series Transmetropolitan, which chronicles the battles of Spider Jerusalem, a notorious renegade journalist in a dystopian future.
The Shadow is penciled and inked by artist Aaron Campbell. I have only seen Campbell’s art on the 5-issue mini-series The Trial of Sherlock Holmes - also published by Dynamite Entertainment. I thought it was competently illustrative, but a trifle un-dynamic. I could see how his style would lend itself to a period story and it did give me hope for The Shadow.
The first issue of The Shadow nicely establishes the setting in pre-world war two by juxtaposing the atrocities of the Japanese army with the criminals of New York City. Within a few pages, The Shadow brutally murders nearly a dozen armed criminals; yet lets one man he deems “a mere hireling” go free. The artwork tells most of this scene with minimal dialogue and The Shadow’s command voice is nicely rendered in black word-balloons with white lettering.
The story cuts to a scene of Lamont Cranston – The Shadow’s alter ego – at a posh hotel, meeting with a Mister Landers, an associate of his with Washington connections. Lamont warns Landers of the Japanese involvement with gun shipping in New York and the dialogue implies that Cranston/Shadow may be working for the U. S. government.
The final scene of this issue is a nice rooftop exchange between Margo Lane and Lamont. With dialog and clever body language in the artwork, Ennis and Campbell imply that not only are Lamont and Margo sleeping together, but their long-term relationship is in turmoil, due in no small part of Margo’s knowledge of Lamont being The Shadow. This revelation so early in the series demonstrates that these adventures of The Shadow take place well into his long career as a crime fighter.
I really liked this first issue of The Shadow and I only hope that both Ennis and Campbell remain on this book long enough to tell a nice long story arch. I recommend The Shadow to anyone with an interest in pulp characters or period set stories. Dynamite has a great series here and I might just try their next pulp-inspired series: The Spider by writer David Liss with art by Colton Worley!