Sunday, July 5, 2015

THE SHADOW KNOWS... and now you do too...

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows...

In pulp novels, on the radio, in the theatres, there was a hero who could end the reign of evil.  He fought the villains of darkness with a power gained from esoteric studies, first said from parts unknown, later said to be while in the "Orient".  He could read a man's heart, and cloud a man's memory.  He could use his superior mind to change the perceptions of his enemies, and his bullets never failed to strike their targets.

In pulp novel and later mass market paper back form Walter Gibson took on the Herculean task of writing monthly or better amounts of work totally 100s of pages for readers, who hungered for the stories.  It was said that he could sleep for just four or so hours, fill himself full of coffee, and return to work.  He'd pump out as many as 10,000 words a work day/night with regularity, in his lifetime writing over 300 books about the Shadow, and more about other characters, and stories.  The pen name Maxwell Grant used by Walter Gibson was not unique to Gibson, it was shared by other writers when they took over writing the Shadow.  But no one came close to writing nearly so many tales of the Shadow.

While the character remained, in its way, recognizable and memorable in American culture, despite not having a continual presence in American media.  Radio and Movie serials ended by the 50s or so, which left the books, and the stray comic series.  The 1970s comic series at DC comics The Shadow written by Denny O'Neil and illustrated by Michael W. Kaluta did return the Shadow to popular culture, and while it was artistically successful, it did not keep the character in constant presence on newstand, bookshelf or television.

A very fine artist Michael Kaluta, sometimes with Dennis O'Neil, sometimes not, was accepted by the comic book industry and the readers as the artist who created the definitive look of the character.  The adventures of the character were in good hands.  But, for fans of the character, it wasn't enough.

In 1986 DC tried to reboot the character, first with somewhat controversial writer/artist Howard Chaykin, and from the heat that was created with that relaunch, DC set off to blaze new trails with Andy Helfer, Bill Sienkiewicz and Kyle Baker.  The new runs were wildly dark, with humor more akin to the then new British wave of comic writers (1987), many were angered, but some people, like me, really enjoyed the series.

And over the last couple years, Dynamite has run new stories of the character The Shadow.  They've collected them, and compiled them nicely with lovely covers.

The weed of crime bears bitter fruit.

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