One of the most iconic characters in American fiction, the Shadow has influenced many subsequent heroes such as Batman. For eighteen years since 1931, the Shadow was printed twice monthly and fought crime through for over 325 issues and additional comic strips and young reader installments through the 40’s. The cover art of each installment by Jerome Rosen still has impact today. Walter Gibson wrote close to a million and a half words documenting the adventures of his creation which also ruled the airwaves, voiced at one time by the great Orson Welles.
The Shadow has a somewhat muddied origin due to being adapted into various mediums, including movie serials, several comic book revivals and the feature film in 1994. Personally, I knew of the character from his radio reputation and am one of the few people who enjoyed the the DC Comics series by Andrew Helfer and Kyle Baker which ended with the decapitated Shadow obtaining a robot body. Much like the Frankencaste series by Rick Remender and Tony Moore, I loved the joke, but classic fans were rightly outraged. But the Shadow is such a long-lasting creation that investigating his origins and influences is a herculean task that grants the interested parties greater insight into the popular crime fighter idiom and pulp entertainment.
An expansive documentary, ‘The Shadow Knows,’ explores the rich history of the Shadow and is available from Amazon.
Here’s a clip:
In 1994, the Shadow almost joined Batman in animated form as seen in this brief clip from Savage Broadcast (who also uploaded an excellent documentary on the character). Not much is known about this series and even the video is hazy, much like the elusive Shadow himself!
(sadly the video has been taken down)
The Shadow is still in print today from Dynamite (the same publisher behind the popular Lone Ranger, Black Beetle and Masks which unites all of the pulp heroes including the Green Hornet and Zorro). There have been rumors of a Shadow feature film directed by Sam Raimi for years (which is odd since his Darkman film pretty well serves as an homage to the Shadow), but nothing has come of it yet.
Interested in finding out more? I can recommend the following resources: