Friday, November 21, 2008

Famous First Fridays: Cheap Detectives Week Concludes with...the Shadow

The Shadow. Sherlock Holmes with guns and an attitude. The Shadow started out as the host for Street and Smith's Detective Story Hour waaay back on July 31, 1930, forever capturing his own unique place in pop culture. Less than a year later, in April, 1931, to be exact, the Shadow was awarded his own pulp magazine. Between it and the radio show (which he took completely over, going from narrator to full-fledged star), the Shadow became one of the most popular and influential characters in American pop-culture. The Shadow inspired many comicbook characters (from Batman to the original Sandman and tons in between), so of course he'd eventually conquer comics, as well. By the late 40s/early 50s, the Shadow became just another memory.

In the mid-60s, probably due to Batmania, there was a short-lived Shadow revival with new paperback printings and an Archie Comic series (check out my pal Jon Gilbert's E-Dispatches from the Great White North post for the story on THAT fiasco).

The nostalgia fad was hitting a fever pitch in the early 1970s. Movies, TV, music, and yes, comics were digging out and sprucing up old favorites or creating new homages to the "good old days". DC Comics decided the time had come to do the Shadow right in comics. They hired Jim Steranko as artist, but Steranko wanted to write the mag, too. DC wanted Denny O'Neil as writer, so they passed on Steranko (who went on to do all those magnificent covers for the Shadow paperbacks) and gave the art chores to Bernie Wrightson, who was turning fandom on its ear with his Swamp Thing art. Wrightson quickly realized he couldn't handle two ongoing comicbooks, so the art chores were passed to Michael Wm. Kaluta.

For months, the ads in DC comics promised us the arrival of the Shadow. When the first issue hit the stands in August, 1973, I don't think anyone was disappointed...


The Shadow ran for 12 far-out issues (ending in June, 1975). Kaluta provided the art for five issues (1-4, and 6), Frank Robbins did issues 5, 7-9, and E.R. Cruz handled the art for the final three issues. Denny O'Neil wrote the majority of the comics (issues 1-8, 10, 12), while Michael Uslan wrote issues 9 and 11 (which guest-starred another pulp hero, the Avenger). The Shadow also made two appearances with the Batman in Batman #s 253 (August, 1973) and 259 (September, 1974). Each of those were written by O'Neil with art by Irv Novick.

It was a great, if far too short run for the one "who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men". But you can't keep the Shadow down for long. He made comebacks in both the 1980s and the 1990s (complete with a movie). And as sure as "the weed of crime bears bitter fruit", you can bet he'll be back again!

4 comments:

  1. I know I am dating myself but I was 16 when the anticipated arrival of The Shadow came out in 1973. My brothers and almost got into a fight over who got to read it first.Thanks for the memory.

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  2. You're welcome! Now, contact your brothers and tell 'em they can read the Shadow #1 again--but you read it first!

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  3. ah, yes! I've been waiting for this fellow all the week long. come on, man, where else could a Cheap Detectives Week be leading me, other than to this place? & well worth the wait, it was, too. I was ten when this came out, I can remember it like it was yesterday, and it kicked off a life-long love for both the Shadow and the God-like genious that is Mike Kaluta. a truly, truly shining moment in the comic reading life of Joe. thanks for posting this, Groove. I knew you wouldn't let me down. Cheers!

    HA-HA-HA-HA-HA. . .

    ReplyDelete
  4. With a laugh like that, I wouldn't DARE let ya down, Joe!

    ReplyDelete

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