The Shadow 1941: Hitler’s Astrologer


By Dennis O’Neil, Michael William Kaluta, Russ Heath & various (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-60690-429-9

In the early 1930s, The Shadow gave thrill-starved Americans their measured doses of extraordinary excitement via cheaply produced pulp periodical novels, and over the mood-drenched airwaves through his own radio show.

“Pulps” were published in every style and genre in their hundreds every month, ranging from the truly excellent to the pitifully dire, but for exotic or esoteric adventure-lovers there were two stars who outshone all others. The Superman of his day was Doc Savage, whilst the premier dark, relentless creature of the night dispensing terrifying grim justice was the putative hero featured here.

Radio series Detective Story Hour – based on stand-alone yarns from the Street & Smith publication Detective Story Magazine – used a spooky-toned narrator (variously Orson Welles, James LaCurto or Frank Readick Jr.) to introduce each tale. He was dubbed “the Shadow” and from the very start on July 31st 1930, he was more popular than the stories he related.

The Shadow evolved into a proactive hero solving instead of narrating mysteries and, on April 1st 1931, began starring in his own printed adventures, written by the astonishingly prolific Walter Gibson under house pseudonym Maxwell Grant. On September 26th 1937 the radio show officially became The Shadow with the eerie motto “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Men? The Shadow knows!” ringing out unforgettably over the nation’s airwaves.

Over the next eighteen years 325 novels were published, usually at the rate of two a month. The uncanny crusader spawned comicbooks, seven movies, a newspaper strip and all the merchandising paraphernalia you’d expect of a smash-hit superstar brand.

The pulp series officially ended in 1949 although Gibson and others added to the canon during the 1960s when a pulp/fantasy revival gripped the world, generating reprinted classic yarns and a run of new stories as paperback novels.

In graphic terms The Shadow was a major player. His national newspaper strip – by Vernon Greene – launched on June 17th 1940 and when comicbooks really took off the Man of Mystery had his own four-colour title; running from March 1940 to September 1949.

Archie Comics published a controversial contemporary reworking in 1964-1965 under their Radio/Mighty Comics imprint, by Robert Bernstein, Jerry Siegel, John Rosenberger and Paul Reinman. In 1973 DC acquired the rights to produce a captivating, brief and definitive series of classic comic sagas unlike any other superhero title then on the stands.

DC periodically revived the venerable vigilante. After the runaway success of Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchman, Howard Chaykin was allowed to utterly overhaul the vintage feature for an audience at last acknowledged as grown-up enough to handle more sophisticated fare.

This led to further, adult-oriented iterations and one cracking outing from Marvel before Dark Horse assumed the license of the quintessential grim avenger for the latter half of the 1990s and beyond.

Dynamite Entertainment secured the option in 2011 and, whilst reissuing much of those other publishers’ earlier efforts, began a series of new monthly Shadow comics.

A year after Howard Chaykin and DC catapulted The Shadow into the grim ‘n’ grungy contemporary arena the dream-team that had first returned him to comic-book prominence reunited for a larger-than-life grand romp, ably abetted by the inking skills of master artist Russ Heath.

Denny O’Neil and Michael Kaluta had produced a stand-out series of adventures in the early 1970s (collected as The Private Files of the Shadow), set in the mad scientist/spy/gangster-ridden ‘thirties, and when they reunited to produce a Marvel Graphic novel expectations were high. As it turned out, in many ways that complex and devious yarn was the final chapter in that astounding graphic procession. In 2013 Dynamite re-released Hitler’s Astrologer with the entire affair re-mastered by Mike Kelleher, finally doing justice to the colouring of Mark Chiarello, Nick Jainschigg and John Wellington – as well as letterer Phil Felix – which had nor fared well under the production processes of the time…

On Easter Sunday 1941 a beautiful woman is pursued through the teeming crowds of Times Square theatre-goers by sinister thugs until rescued in the nick of time by agents of The Shadow.

She is Gretchen Baur, personally despatched to America by Josef Goebbels to gather astrological data for the Reich’s Ministry of Propaganda. However, now the confused fräulein cannot understand why agents of her own government have tried to abduct her…

The Shadow reveals that she is an unwitting pawn in a deadly battle for supremacy within the Nazi Party that revolves around her father, Der Führer’s personal astrologer…

And thus begins a tense and intricate conspiracy thriller that ranges from the bloody streets of New York through the killer skies of Europe to the very steps of Hitler’s palace in Berlin as a desperate plan to subvert the course of the war comes up hard against a twisted, thwarted love and a decades-long hunt for vengeance.

Deliciously and suitably Wagnerian in style, this action-packed mystery drama exudes period charm; nobody has ever realised The Shadow and his cohorts as well as Kaluta, whilst Russ Heath’s sleek inks add weight and volume to the cataclysmic proceedings.

This sinister saga of the man in the black slouch hat with the girasol ring is another superb addition to the annals of the original Dark Knight, and one no one addicted to action and mystery should miss.
The Shadow ® & © 2013 Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. d/b/a Conde Nast. All Rights Reserved.

The Shadow volume 3: The Light of the World


By Chris Roberson, Giovanni Timpano & various (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-60690-461-9

In the early 1930s, The Shadow gave thrill-starved Americans their measured doses of extraordinary excitement via cheaply produced pulp periodical novels, and over the mood-drenched airwaves through his own radio show.

“Pulps” were published in every style and genre in their hundreds every month, ranging from the truly excellent to the pitifully dire, but for exotic or esoteric adventure-lovers there were two stars who outshone all others. The Superman of his day was Doc Savage, whilst the premier dark, relentless creature of the night dispensing terrifying grim justice was the putative hero under discussion here.

Radio series Detective Story Hour – based on stand-alone yarns from the Street & Smith publication Detective Story Magazine – used a spooky-toned narrator (variously Orson Welles, James LaCurto or Frank Readick Jr.) to introduce each tale. He was dubbed “the Shadow” and from the very start on July 31st 1930, he was more popular than the stories he highlighted.

The Shadow evolved into a proactive hero solving instead of narrating mysteries and, on April 1st 1931, began starring in his own printed adventures, written by the incredibly prolific Walter Gibson under the house pseudonym Maxwell Grant. On September 26th 1937 the radio show officially became The Shadow with the eerie motto “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Men? The Shadow knows!” ringing out unforgettably over the nation’s airwaves.

Over the next eighteen years 325 novels were published, usually at the rate of two a month. The uncanny crusader spawned comicbooks, seven movies, a newspaper strip and all the merchandising paraphernalia you’d expect of a superstar brand.

The pulp series officially ended in 1949 although Gibson and others added to the canon during the 1960s when a pulp/fantasy revival gripped the world, generating reprinted classic yarns and a run of new stories as paperback novels.

In graphic terms The Shadow was a major player. His national newspaper strip – by Vernon Greene – launched on June 17th 1940 and when comicbooks really took off the Man of Mystery had his own four-colour title; running from March 1940 to September 1949.

Archie Comics published a controversial contemporary reworking in 1964-1965 under their Radio/Mighty Comics imprint, by Robert Bernstein, Jerry Siegel, John Rosenberger and Paul Reinman. In 1973 DC acquired the rights to produce a captivating, brief and definitive series of classic comic sagas unlike any other superhero title then on the stands.

DC periodically revived the venerable vigilante. After the runaway success of Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchman, Howard Chaykin was allowed to utterly overhaul the vintage feature for an audience at last acknowledged as grown-up enough to handle more sophisticated fare.

This led to further, adult-oriented iterations (and even one cracking outing – Hitler’s Astrologer – from Marvel) before Dark Horse assumed the license of the quintessential grim avenger for the latter half of the 1990s and beyond.

Dynamite Entertainment secured the option in 2011 and, whilst reissuing much of those other publishers’ earlier efforts, began a series of new monthly Shadow comics.

Set in the turbulent 1930s and war years that followed, these were crafted by some of the top writers in the industry, each taking their shot at the immortal legend, and all winningly depicted by a succession of extremely gifted illustrators.

This third volume – collecting #13-18 of the monthly comicbook from 2013 – comes courtesy of author Chris Roberson (House of Mystery, iZombie, Cinderella: From Fabletown with Love, Superman/Batman) and illustrator Giovanni Timpano, ably abetted by colourist Fabrício Guerra and letterer Rob Steen. This time the Master of the Dark prowls the bloody streets of New York in search of a fantastic vigilante as deadly and remorseless as himself…

The drama begins as yet another rich, powerful man is butchered whilst secretly indulging in sordid pleasures of the flesh. The perpetrator is rumoured to be a ghostly, sword-wielding “lady phantom”…

Very few know that the black-cloaked fist of final retribution known as The Shadow masquerades by day as abrasive, indolent playboy Lamont Cranston. Most are agents in his employ: all aware of his semi-mystical abilities to detect thoughts and cloud the minds of men. They are about to learn that there are other beings blessed with uncanny abilities, relentless determination and unshakeable agendas…

Cranston and his paramour/top operative Margo Lane begin their investigations at the prestigious Cobalt Club: pumping the wealthy patrons and Police Commissioner Weston in the guise of idle gossip-mongering and scandal-seeking…

The authorities, it seems, give little credence to the testimony of prostitutes – the only survivors of the attacks – and have dismissed reports of a vengeful woman as sole perpetrator. The Shadow’s operatives are far more astute and less prejudiced: information is gathered and soon after the Dispenser of Vengeance is on hand when the woman in white confronts her next victim…

As the first of a series of poignant flashbacks begins to reveal the secret of the bizarrely radiant swordswoman, in the modern moment of her confrontation with The Shadow, the Master of Men quickly realises this seeming angel of death is every inch his equal in the arts of combat. In fact, her ability to cast a blinding glow might well give her the edge…

After a brutal duel he manages to drive her off before she can finish off her latest victim, but, before he or the police can get any useful information from the survivor, the maimed man is silently butchered in his locked and guarded hospital room…

And thus the war between light and darkness progresses with The Shadow losing battles but gradually winning the war: inexorably closing in on The Light by pitting all his resources and risking his greatest assets to trap his glowing antithesis who works for the most pure, if misguided, of causes…

Dynamite publishes periodicals with a vast array of cover variants and here that gallery features a wealth of iconic alternate visions by Alex Ross, Francesco Francavilla, Tim Bradstreet, Paolo Rivera and Jason Shawn Alexander to delight any art lover’s eyes and heart.

Moody and brooding, The Light of the World is a solid pulp thriller with an intriguing history and premise for its “player on the other side” scenario, plenty of action and a spectacular cinematic climax at the top of New York’s steel-&-concrete canyons…

This is another superb addition to the annals of the original Dark Knight, and one no one addicted to action and mystery should miss.
The Shadow ® & © 2013 Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. d/b/a Conde Nast. All Rights Reserved.

The Shadow volume 2: Revolution


By Victor Gischler, Jack Herbert, Aaron Campbell, Giovanni Timpano & various (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-60690-361-2

In the early 1930s, The Shadow gave thrill-starved readers their measured doses of extraordinary excitement via cheaply produced pulp periodical novels, and over the mood-drenched airwaves, through his own radio show.

“Pulps” were published in every style and genre in their hundreds every month, ranging from the truly excellent to the pitifully dire, but for exotic or esoteric adventure-lovers there were two star who outshone all others. The Superman of his day was Doc Savage, whilst the premier dark, relentless creature of the night dispensing terrifying grim justice was the putative hero under discussion here.

Radio series Detective Story Hour – based on stand-alone yarns from the Street & Smith publication Detective Story Magazine – used a spooky voiced narrator (variously Orson Welles, James LaCurto or Frank Readick Jr.) to introduce each tale. He was dubbed “the Shadow” and from the very start on July 31st 1930, he was more popular than the stories he highlighted.

The Shadow evolved into a proactive hero solving instead of narrating mysteries and, on April 1st 1931, began starring in his own printed pulp series, written by the incredibly prolific Walter Gibson under the house pseudonym Maxwell Grant. On September 26th 1937 the radio show officially became The Shadow with the eerie motto “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Men? The Shadow knows!” ringing out unforgettably over the nation’s airwaves.

Over the next eighteen years 325 novels were published, usually at the rate of two a month. The uncanny crusader spawned comicbooks, seven movies, a newspaper strip and all the merchandising paraphernalia you’d expect of a superstar brand.

The pulp series officially ended in 1949 although Gibson and others added to the canon during the 1960s when a pulp/fantasy revival gripped America, generating reprinted classic stories and a run of new adventures as paperback novels.

In graphic terms The Shadow was a major player. His national newspaper strip – by Vernon Greene – launched on June 17th 1940 and when comicbooks really took off the Man of Mystery had his own four-colour title; running from March 1940 to September 1949.

Archie Comics published a controversial contemporary comicbook in 1964-1965 under their Radio/Mighty Comics imprint, by Robert Bernstein, Jerry Siegel, John Rosenberger and latterly Paul Reinman; and in 1973 DC acquired the rights to produce a captivating, brief and definitive series of classic comic adventures unlike any other superhero title then on the stands.

DC periodically revived the venerable vigilante. After the runaway success of Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchman, Howard Chaykin was allowed to utterly overhaul the vintage feature. This led to further, adult-oriented iterations (and even one cracking outing from Marvel) before Dark Horse assumed the license of the quintessential grim avenger for the latter half of the 1990s and beyond.

Dynamite Entertainment picked up the option in 2011 and, whilst republishing many of those other publisher’s earlier efforts, began a series of new monthly Shadow comics.

Set in the turbulent 1930s and war years that followed, these were crafted by some of the top writers in the industry, each taking their shot at the immortal legend, and all winningly depicted by a succession of extremely gifted illustrators.

This second volume – collecting #7-12 of the monthly comicbook from 2013 – comes courtesy of Victor Gischler (Gun Monkeys, Deadpool: Merc with a Mouth, Kiss Me Satan), again throwing a spotlight on the increasing deadly geopolitics of a civilisation sliding inexorably into another World War….

His scripts were variously realised by Jack Herbert, Aaron Campbell, Giovanni Timpano, Ivan Nunes & Carlos Lopez, and the action opens with a self-contained prelude that begins with the Master of the Macabre suffering from uncharacteristic bad dreams…

Very few people know that the black-cloaked fist of final retribution known as The Shadow masquerades by day as abrasive, indolent playboy Lamont Cranston. Most are agents in his employ and they are all aware of his semi-mystical abilities to detect thoughts and cloud the minds of men, but not that in the past few days those abilities have seemingly waned and led to the death of an innocent…

Engaging veteran Great War pilot Miles Crofton, Cranston embarks on a journey to the Himalayan region where he long ago studied under august adepts of the arcane. However, his voyage is interrupted in Nepal when he encounters a brutal bandit leader dubbed Red Raja. This thuggish crimelord seems to have powers and abilities similar and equal to his own…

Eschewing immediate confrontation, Cranston delves deep into the past and eventually learns the Raja also studied with the esoteric “Masters”. Tragically, when his innate evil nature forced them to expel him, the student returned with men and guns; wiping out the entire enclave of puissant accumulated knowledge…

Armed with information and fuelled by righteous fury, The Shadow then assaults Red Raja’s fortress, single-handedly eradicating his army of rogues before enacting final judgement…

Weeks later, vacationing in Paris whilst Miles has their plane repaired, the restless Shadow passes his time hunting down human predators and becomes emotionally embroiled in a missing persons case.

The trail leads to a grand soiree at the Spanish Embassy where Cranston makes a particular splash with the assorted dignitaries and persons of wealth and high station, particularly after loudly declaring that he is an arms dealer with product to sell.

It is 1937 and the civil war in Spain has all but stalled, with both sides afflicted by attrition and exhaustion…

Horrified Ambassador Ramirez is only too happy to fob off the tiresome Cranston on his military attaché. As soon as he sees the devastating Major Esmeralda Aguilar, the Shadow knows she is no ordinary woman…

The swaggering millionaire is only too eager to ditch the stuffy party with the exotic spy, but their intimate drive through the City of Lights is almost ended by a machine gun attack. Then Cranston discovers just how dangerous his companion truly is…

The next day Miles resurfaces with news on a freighter full of munitions headed for Spain and the final clue to the disappearances the Shadow has been investigating. Even with mental faculties and powers diminished and compromised, the Dark Avenger is clear on where his next destination lies…

Intercepting the gunrunners as they seek to offload their illicit cargo at a Spanish port, the Shadow dispenses his brand of justice before vanishing, and twelve hours later Lamont Cranston arrives in Barcelona, unsure of what trick of fate or his own subconscious has brought him there.

His mystically-attuned senses go into overdrive once he meets an inoffensive British volunteer in the Socialist Brigade calling himself “George Orwell”…

After befriending the oddly magnetic militiaman, Cranston excuses himself and resumes his trail of guns whilst Orwell returns to his unit in Aragon. Diligent hunting takes the Shadow to a warehouse where a gang led by a masked woman named Black Sparrow are attempting to sell the munitions to representatives of the underworld.

When the crooks try a double-cross they are savagely wiped out by the Sparrow as her men stand idly by, and from his hidden vantage point the Shadow realises just how extraordinary Major Aguilar truly is…

Soon the Avenger is risking spectacular airborne death; chasing her back to an ancient castle in the Aragon Region where he uncovers a bold scheme by an international cabal to place a third ruler on the throne of Spain. Of course, when he blazes in to end the conspiracy, Cranston finds more than he bargained for.

“El Rey” is far from the dominating despot he appears, and the true mastermind behind the plot is far more of a match for the Shadow than the grim guardian could possibly have anticipated.

And that’s when fate reveals the potential value of a certain nondescript British soldier of ideology and fortune…

This historically-flavoured jaunt then concludes with one last hurrah as Miles and Cranston belatedly return to New York just in time for the Shadow to fixate on a gang of ruthless bank robbers terrorising the city with their bold and lethal raids.

Broaching his contacts on the police force and rampaging through the ranks of the underworld, the Shadow turns the city upside down until at last a grudging tip takes him to a certain Chinatown whorehouse where a most exotic creature provides all the details he need to exact his vengeance on the guilty.

Now all that remains is to trigger the bloody end…

Dynamite publish periodicals with a vast array of cover variants and here a vast gallery features dozens of iconic alternate visions from Alex Ross, John Cassaday, Darwyn Cooke, Francesco Francavilla, Tim Bradstreet, Mike Mayhew, Michael Golden, Jack Herbert and Sean Chen to delight any art lover’s eyes and heart.

Sardonic, uncompromising and packed with subtle nuance, Revolution is a superb addition to the annals of the quintessential Dark Knight, and one no one addicted to action and mystery should be without.
The Shadow ® & © 2013 Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. d/b/a Conde Nast. All Rights Reserved.

The Shadow volume 1: The Fire of Creation


By Garth Ennis, Aaron Campbell, Carlos Lopez & various (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-60690-361-2

In the early 1930s, The Shadow gave thrill-starved readers their measured doses of extraordinary excitement via cheaply produced periodical novels dubbed – because of the low-grade paper they were printed on – “pulps” and, over the mood-drenched airwaves, through his own radio show.

Pulp titles were published in their hundreds every month, ranging from the truly excellent to the pitifully dire, in every style and genre, but for exotic adventure lovers there were two star characters who outshone all others. The Superman of his day was Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, whilst the premier dark, relentless creature of the night dispensing terrifying grim justice was the mysterious slouch-hatted hero under discussion here.

Originally, the radio series Detective Story Hour – based on stand-alone yarns from the Street & Smith publication Detective Story Magazine – used a spooky voiced narrator (variously Orson Welles, James LaCurto and Frank Readick Jr.) to introduce each tale. He was dubbed “the Shadow” and from the very start on July 31st 1930, he was more popular than the stories he introduced.

The Shadow evolved into a proactive hero solving instead of narrating mysteries and, on April 1st 1931, starred in his own pulp series written by the incredibly prolific Walter Gibson under the house pseudonym Maxwell Grant. On September 26th 1937 the radio show officially became The Shadow with the eerie motto “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Men? The Shadow knows!” ringing out unforgettably over the nation’s airwaves.

Over the next eighteen years 325 novels were published, usually at the rate of two a month. The uncanny crusader spawned comic books, seven movies, a newspaper strip and all the merchandising paraphernalia you’d expect of a superstar brand.

The pulp series officially ended in 1949 although Gibson and others added to the canon during the 1960s when a pulp/fantasy revival gripped America, generating reprinted classic stories and a run of new adventures as paperback novels.

As hinted above, in graphic terms The Shadow was a major player. His national newspaper strip – by Vernon Greene – launched on June 17th 1940 and when comicbooks really took off the Man of Mystery had his own four-colour title; running from March 1940 to September 1949.

Archie Comics published a controversial contemporary comicbook in 1964-1965 under their Radio/Mighty Comics imprint, by Robert Bernstein, Jerry Siegel, John Rosenberger and latterly Paul Reinman; and in 1973 DC acquired the rights to produce a captivating, brief and definitive series of classic comic adventures unlike any other superhero title then on the stands.

DC periodically revived the venerable vigilante. After the runaway success of Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchman, Chaykin was allowed to utterly overhaul the vintage feature. This led to further, adult-oriented iterations (and even one cracking outing from Marvel) before Dark Horse assumed the license of the quintessential grim avenger for the latter half of the 1990s and beyond.

Dynamite Entertainment picked up the option in 2011 and, as well as republishing many of those other publisher’s earlier versions, began a series of new monthly Shadow comics. Set in the turbulent 1930s and 1940s these yarns were designed as self-contained story arcs, crafted by some of the top writers in the industry, each taking their shot at the immortal legend, and all winningly depicted by a succession of extremely gifted illustrators. First to fire was the incomparable Garth Ennis who muted his signature black humour for this tale screaming of unrequited injustice…

It begins with a précis of Japan’s official invasion of China in 1937 and the appalling atrocities inflicted by their forces as they began building their “Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere”, jumping a few years and to the docks of New York City, where a dark angel dispenses bloody judgement to a murderous band of crooked dockworkers.

A little later abrasive, indolent playboy Lamont Cranston joins Washington insider Mr. Landers and his gung-ho young protégé Pat Finnegan at the Algonquin Hotel. They are meeting to discuss an imminent crisis amidst the worsening situation in the East, and how the massacre at the pier was connected to it. Specifically, two of the bodies dropped at the scene were high-ranking Japanese agents…

Despite Finnegan’s outspoken distaste at involving a civilian dilettante, a tale is shared of a rare mineral that both America and Japan will do anything to obtain. Cranston agrees to lead a small party into China to secure the samples (originally dug up by prospecting American geologists before they vanished) for the Land of the Free.

Of great concern is the unspecified part played by Taro Kondo: a formidable and ruthless Major in the Japanese intelligence service that Cranston had some unsavoury dealings with during his younger, less salubrious years in the East…

As Cranston prepares his paramour and assistant Margo Lane for the rigours that lie ahead, she has no conception of how much true horror and mass slaughter the Shadow has foreseen for the years to come…

Whilst Finnegan travels by spartan military plane transport, Cranston and Margo escape his juvenile jingoistic fervour by taking a Pacific Clipper. However their luxurious voyage is abruptly ended when they are attacked by Nazi agents masquerading as rich, indolent vacationers. The bloodbath that results brings down the plane and our heroes barely survive, but they have far greater things to worry about…

Ahead of them Kondo leads ambitious Emperor-lover and sexual deviant General Akamatsu on a tawdry trek to meet Chinese bandit Lord Wong Pang-Yan, descriptively and accurately known to all as “the Buffalo”.

The grotesque and greedy barbarian is their only means of acquiring the mineral they crave, and Kondo is eager to placate his haughty, nauseated superior. After all, they know the Shadow is coming and have other plans in place to deal with him. To soothe the General’s nerves Kondo promises he can behead the double-dealing Buffalo; as soon as they have the enigmatic matter poetically described as the Spirit-Weapon or Fire of Creation…

Since Buffalo Wong originally offered his treasure to many nations, there are a number of expeditions converging on the region. As a Japanese fighter plane removes the Soviet military force from the game, Kondo gloats at another problem solved and returns to placating his aggravating, arrogant superior.

It’s only a minor inconvenience to him that Cranston has survived his German allies’ attack and rendezvoused with the American agent Finnegan in Shanghai…

As the Yankees’ arrangements to use a British Navy vessel to reach Wong’s stronghold are finalised, Kondo’s assassins strike but once again are no match for the mesmerism and gunplay of the Shadow.

To make a point, the Dark Avenger not only eliminates his attackers but weeds out and ends every Japanese and German agent in the city…

At least the delay gives Kondo’s party a good head start. As their sailing boat (an unpowered Junk) navigates the great river, the former smuggler and crimelord passes the time by sharing all he knows about the human monster Kent Allard who was his criminal rival fifteen years previously. He doesn’t know how that despicable rogue became the man now known as Cranston, but is certain he is still the most implacable and remorseless killer on Earth…

Behind them Finnegan, determined to prove his manhood and authority, pushes the British Commander and crew. Resolved to catch Kondo’s military detachment before they reach their ultimate destination, he sees first hand the atrocities the Japanese soldiers casually inflict on “lesser” races, and in his disgust and inexperience leads the gunboat into a lethal trap.

Only he, Margo and the insufferable Cranston survive…

Far ahead of them Kondo and Akamatsu make their final trade with Wong – miracle mineral for gold – and the inevitable double-crossing and bloodletting begins.

What none of the treacherous villains realize is that the vengeful Shadow is already amongst them, cutting down soldiers and bandits like chaff as he patiently, determinedly makes his way to the true cause of all the terror…

At last Kondo realises he has only one card left to play…

Dynamite publish periodicals with a vast array of cover variants and here a vast collected gallery highlights dozens of iconic visions from Alex Ross, Chaykin, John Cassaday, Stephen Segovia, Ryan Sook, Sean Chen, Francesco Francavilla & Jae Lee. Adding to the Bonus Material is Ennis’s script for the first issue, and gloriously gilding the lily is a mountain of powerful pencil studies by Ross and Lee.

Sardonic, brutal and deviously convoluted, The Fire of Creation is a splendid addition to the annals of the ultimate and original Dark Knight, and one no lover of action and mystery can afford to miss.
The Shadow ® & © 2012 Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. d/b/a Conde Nast. All Rights Reserved.

The Shadow: Blood and Judgement


By Howard Chaykin with Ken Bruzenak & Alex Wald (Dynamite Entertainment)
ISBN: 978-1-60690-327-8

I’ve been a fan of The Shadow ever since I picked up a couple of paperbacks as a kid in my local Woolworth’s in the 1960s. Over many decades I’ve followed the various comic and movie interpretations with mixed feelings and general acceptance. However, when Howard Chaykin had a crack at the venerable crime-crusher at the height of the turbulent game-changing 1980’s, I nearly blew a gasket. I was appalled.

And that was the point.

Chaykin has for his entire career lovingly cultivated a reputation as an iconoclast and bombast over many years and the four issue miniseries collected here certainly ruffled a few feathers – those of severe traditionalist me included.

As originally disseminated in the days before comic-books, The Shadow gave thrill-hungry readers their measured doses of extraordinary excitement via cheaply produced periodical novels dubbed “pulps” (because of the low-grade paper they were printed on) and over the mood-drenched airwaves through his own radio show.

Pulps were published in their hundreds every month, ranging from the truly excellent to the pitifully dire, in every style and genre, but for exotic adventure lovers there were two star characters that outshone all others. The Superman of his day was Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, whilst the premiere dark, relentless creature of the night dispensing terrifying grim justice was our mysterious slouch-hatted hero.

Originally the radio series Detective Story Hour – based on stand-alone yarns from the Street & Smith publication Detective Story Magazine – used a spooky voiced narrator (most famously Orson Welles, although he was preceded by James LaCurto and Frank Readick Jr.) to introduce each tale. He was dubbed “the Shadow”, and from the start on July 31st 1930, he was more popular than the stories he introduced.

The Shadow evolved into a proactive hero solving mysteries and, on April 1st 1931, debuted in his own pulp series written by the incredibly prolific Walter Gibson under the house pseudonym Maxwell Grant. On September 26th 1937 the radio show officially became The Shadow with the eerie tag-line “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Men? The Shadow knows!”

From June 17th 1940 he starred in a newspaper strip by Vernon Greene and when comic books took off he had his own four-colour title which ran for 101 issues (March 1940 – September 1949). Years later Archie Comics published a controversial contemporary version in 1964-5 under their Radio/Mighty Comics imprint, written by Robert Bernstein and Jerry Siegel, illustrated by John Rosenberger and latterly Paul Reinman.

In 1973 DC acquired the comic rights and produced a captivating if brief series of classic tales unlike any other superhero title then on the stands.

Grant wrote 282 of 325 novels over the next two decades, which were published twice a month. The series spawned comic books, seven movies, a newspaper strip and all the merchandising paraphernalia you’d expect of a superstar brand. The pulp series also ended in 1949, although many novels have been written (both by Gibson and others) since 1963 when a pulp and fantasy revival gripped America generating reprinted classic stories and a run of new adventures as paperback novels.

Then he was gone again but the mesmerising master of menace always seemed to be lurking in the background…

DC periodically revived their comicbook iterations of the venerable vigilante and in the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Dark Knight Returns and Watchman tasked one of the comics industry’s most controversial creators with reviving the pre-eminent mystery men of all time…

Fresh from an awe-inspiring, inspirational and transformative run on his creation American Flagg, Howard Chaykin returned to DC to shake up everything with an interpretation which offended fans, purists (still including me) and franchise-owners Conde Nast but which ultimately proved to be just the medicine the property needed to become relevant again.

That crucial year 1949 is the embarkation point for this flashy, savage, witty and completely captivating updating. This is not a reboot. Chaykin was extremely careful to accept and utilise the decades of established canon; deftly accommodating old material whilst infilling information gaps by scrutinising world history and tacitly accepting that a do-gooder who exploited and expended his own agents whilst kidnapping, brainwashing and slaughtering the bad guys wasn’t what most people would consider a hero…

Devised and delivered as a glittering, frenetic avalanche of graphic and text material – spectacularly made comprehensible by the calligraphic skill of lettering wizard Ken Bruzenak and the understated colour-palette of Alex Wald – the story opens with a series of increasingly brutal murders. It doesn’t take long to connect the victims: old people from all walks of life rumoured to have worked with an old urban legend known as The Shadow

That mystery manhunter vanished in 1949, abandoning his grim crusade to destroy criminals and now (for which read 1986) some hidden mastermind is eliminating every surviving member of his organization. Before long a figure comes out of the closeted east: easily slipping past China’s Bamboo Curtain and returning to blighted, benighted America…

Suddenly amidst a broiling sea of perversion, sex and violent death, The Shadow is back and dealing bloody justice to petty thugs. In a desperate race against time, the impossibly young and still vital Lamont Cranston reunites with his elderly surviving agents to track down his oldest enemy and thwart a deadly plan to bring about nuclear annihilation.

However, as arrogant and officious as ever, the master manipulator is probably in more danger from the colleagues he abandoned than the gun-toting punks and maniacs dogging his smartly-shod heels…

Chaykin even had the chutzpah to provide the eternal Man of Mystery with a Real Origin, something he never really had before…

Bonus features include a cover gallery, Marc Guggenheim’s Foreword ‘Looking Back on the Shadow’ plus ‘The Light Behind The Shadow’: an interview with Chaykin and Joe Orlando which first appeared in the 1987 trade paperback collection.

I don’t know why I used to dislike this book so much: Although I still feel the proper milieu for the character is the iconic era of mobsters, militarists and madmen (by which I mean the 1930s and 1940s) I can see what Chaykin’s getting at. Those threats and motivations were common enough in the Eighties and even more so nowadays.

Perhaps the author’s trademark trick of confronting misogyny, racism and suppressed sexuality by seemingly advocating them just wore a bit thin when applied to such a treasured old friend. There’s certainly a disquieting amount of adult themes, kinky sex and graphic violence on offer…

With sufficient distance however I now find this tale a terrific thrill-ride; stylish and compelling – if a little “in your face” and “on the nose”. Somebody must have liked it back then: Blood and Judgment spawned a fascinating follow-up series (by Andy Helfer, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kyle Baker and others) before DC reverted to The Shadow Strikes: a series safely restored to its natural pre-war time period.

Out of print since 1991 until Dynamite picked up the option in 2011, this is a vital and vigorous read which inspired some of today’s very best creators, and acts as a perfect introduction to the character. You could even complement the experience by tracking down DC’s first experiment with the character – partially collected as The Private Files of the Shadow – and Dynamite’s new edition of The Shadow: Hitler’s Astrologer, before moving on to the new tales currently being published.

After all, a crime fighter this durable has to have something to him…
The Shadow ® & © 2012 Advance Magazine Publishers Inc. d/b/a Conde Nast. All Rights Reserved.

The Shadow 1941: Hitler’s Astrologer – A Marvel Graphic Novel


By Denny O’Neil, Michael W. Kaluta & Russ Heath (Marvel)
ISBN: 0-87135-341-5

A year after Howard Chaykin and DC catapulted The Shadow into the grim’n’grungy contemporary arena (see Blood and Judgment, ISBN: 978-0-93028-916-4) the dream-team that had first returned him to comic-book prominence reunited for this larger-than-life grand romp, ably abetted by the inking skills of master artist Russ Heath.

Denny O’Neil and Michael Kaluta had produced a stand-out series of adventures in the early 1970s (collected as The Private Files of the Shadow ISBN: 0-930289-37-7), set in the spy and gangster-ridden ‘thirties, and in many ways this complex yarn is a final chapter in that astounding graphic procession.

On Easter Sunday 1941 a beautiful woman is pursued through the teeming crowds of Times Square theatre-goers by sinister thugs until rescued in the nick of time by agents of The Shadow. She is Gretchen Baur, sent to America by Josef Goebbels himself to gather astrological data for the Reich’s Ministry of Propaganda, and the confused young thing cannot understand why agents of her own government have tried to abduct her.

The Shadow reveals that she is an unwitting pawn in a deadly battle for supremacy within the Nazi Party that revolves around her father, Der Führer’s personal astrologer…

And thus begins a tense and intricate mystery conspiracy thriller that ranges from the bloody streets of New York through the killer skies to the very steps of Hitler’s palace in Berlin as a desperate plan to subvert the course of the war comes up hard against a twisted, thwarted love and a decades-long hunt for vengeance.

Positively Wagnerian in style, this action-packed drama exudes period charm and nobody has ever realised The Shadow and his cohorts as well as Kaluta, although I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sub-par colouring from the usually sound Mark Chiarello, Nick Jainschigg and John Wellington. Perhaps a slight case of too many cooks…?

Once again I’m not holding my breath for a definitive, corrected new edition but if anything ever needed to be gathered into an “Absolute Edition” it’s the disparate adventures of man in the black slouch hat with the girasol ring…
© 1988 The Condé Nast Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The Shadow – the Film Adaptation


By Michael Wm Kaluta, Joel Goss & James Sinclair (Boxtree)
ISBN-13: 978-0-75220-856-5

Here’s an interesting but not uncommon paradox: a wonderful graphic adaptation of a rather so-so movie. The Shadow has been a world-class fantasy super-star since the 1930s, periodically revived and revised by successive generations of creators since his debut as an eerie voice on the radio.

Originally the American radio series Detective Story Hour was based on unconnected yarns from the Street & Smith publication Detective Story Magazine, with a spooky voiced narrator (most famously Orson Welles, although he was preceded by James LaCurto and Frank Readick Jr.) to introduce the tales. Code-named “the Shadow”, and beginning on July 31st 1930, the narrator became more popular than the stories he introduced.

The Shadow inevitably became a proactive hero solving mysteries himself and on April 1st 1931 debuted in his own pulp periodical series, written by the incredibly prolific Walter Gibson under the house pseudonym Maxwell Grant. On September 26th 1937 the radio show officially became The Shadow with the eerie line “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Men? The Shadow knows!”

There had been earlier movies but the 1994 release with Alec Baldwin had the biggest budget. That’s all I’m going to say about it.

The comics adaptation however, co-written and illustrated by Michael Kaluta, who has been associated with the character for most of his glittering career (see The Private Files of the Shadow, ISBN: 0-930289-37-7), is an edgy gem of period malice with all the manic power of the original Gotham Gangbuster restored.

New York in the 1930s: Lamont Cranston plays the part of an idle wastrel socialite but he is driven by inner fires to hunt down and punish the lawless. A reformed criminal, he pursues justice as only a fevered convert can but he may have met his match in the monstrous Shiwan Khan, a fellow disciple of the Tibetan mystic who turned Cranston’s life around and the last blood-heir of Genghis Khan.

Now Khan has come to America in pursuit of a super-bomb that will facilitate his plans for world domination, and the Shadow will have to pit his telepathic abilities against a mind as cold and unrelenting as his own…

With the superb pacing, character design and sheer illustrative finesse of Kaluta, ably supplemented by colourist James Sinclair, this primal tale of suspense comes fully alive with a spark woefully absent from its celluloid counterpart. If you can find this slim tome it’s a work you’ll adore and won’t soon forget.
© 1994 The Condé Nast Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Text & illustrations © 1994 Condé Nast Publications, Inc. All other material © 1994 Dark Horse Comics, Inc.

The Shadow: Blood and Judgment


By Howard Chaykin (DC Comics)
ISBN-13: 978-0-93028-916-4

I’ve been a fan of The Shadow ever since I picked up a couple of paperbacks as a kid in my local Woolworths in the 1960s. I’ve followed the various comic interpretations with mixed feelings and general acceptance. But when Howard Chaykin had a crack at the venerable crime-crusher I nearly blew a gasket. I was appalled.

And that was the point.

Chaykin has lovingly cultivated his reputation as an iconoclast and bombast over many years and the four issue miniseries collected here certainly ruffled a few feathers – old fashioned me included.

As originally disseminated in the days before comic-books, The Shadow gave thrill-hungry readers their measured doses of extraordinary excitement via the cheaply produced periodical novels dubbed “pulps” (because of the low-grade paper they were printed on) and over the mood-drenched airwaves with his own radio show.

Pulps were published in their hundreds every month, ranging from the truly excellent to the pitifully dire, in every style and genre, but for exotic adventure lovers there were two star characters that outshone all others. The Superman of his day was Doc Savage, Man of Bronze, and the dark, relentless creature of the night dispensing his own terrifying justice was our mysterious slouch-hatted hero.

Originally the radio series Detective Story Hour, based on unconnected yarns from the Street & Smith publication Detective Story Magazine, used a spooky voiced narrator (most famously Orson Welles, although he was preceded by James LaCurto and Frank Readick Jr.) to introduce the tales. Code-named “the Shadow”, and beginning on July 31st 1930, he became more popular than the stories he introduced.

The Shadow became a proactive hero solving mysteries and on April 1st 1931 debuted in his own pulp series, written by the incredibly prolific Walter Gibson under the house pseudonym Maxwell Grant. On September 26th 1937 the radio show officially became The Shadow with the eerie line “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of Men? The Shadow knows!”

The Golden age comic book ran for 101 issues before cancellation in 1949 and Archie/Radio/Mighty Comics published a controversial modern-day version in 1964-5, written by Robert Bernstein with art from John Rosenberger and latterly Paul Reinman.

In 1973 DC acquired the comic rights and produced a captivating if brief series of classic tales that were unlike any other superhero title then on the stands.

Grant wrote 282 of 325 novels over the next two decades, which were published twice a month. The series spawned comic books, seven movies, a newspaper strip (by Vernon Greene) and all the merchandising paraphernalia you’d expect of a superstar brand. The pulp series ended in 1949 although many novels have been written (both by Gibson and others) since 1963 when a pulp and fantasy revival gripped America.

And 1949 is the embarkation point for this flashy, savage, witty and utterly captivating updating. The Shadow vanished in 1949, abandoning his crusade to destroy criminals and now (for which read 1986) some mastermind is eliminating every surviving member of his organization. Suddenly he is back dealing bloody justice to petty thugs as he tracks down his oldest enemy and thwarts a deadly plan to bring about nuclear annihilation. Chaykin even has the chutzpah to provide the eternal Man of Mystery with a Real Origin, something he never really had before!

I don’t know why I used to hate this book: Although I still feel the proper milieu for the character is the iconic era of mobsters, militarists and madmen (by which I mean the 1930s and 1940s) I can see what Chaykin’s getting at. Those threats were common enough in the Eighties and still are even nowadays.

Perhaps the author’s trademark trick of confronting misogyny, racism and sexuality by seemingly advocating them just wore a bit thin with such a treasured old friend as the vehicle. There’s certainly a disquieting amount of adult themes, kinky sex and graphic violence on offer, so kids, be prepared to show those fake ID’s…

With sufficient distance however I find this tale a terrific thrill-ride, stylish and compelling – if a little “in your face”. It spawned an intriguing follow-up series (by Andy Helfer and Bill Sienkiewicz if memory serves) before DC tried one final time with a series safely returned to the pre war period.

If you’ve never seen the original this would be a marvelous read, and you could always compliment the experience by tracking down DC’s first experiment with the character (mostly collected as The Private Files of the Shadow ISBN: 0-930289-37-7). After all a hero this durable has to have something to him…
© 1987 Conde Nast Publications, Inc. All Rights Reserved.