Monday, April 27, 2009

Random Reads: The Shadow #5

Many times here on the Diversions blog, Ol' Groove has waxed eloquent (yeah, that's what I'm callin' it!) on Denny O'Neil and Mike Kaluta's work on DC's version of the Shadow. Of course, there were times when perfectionist Kaluta couldn't make his deadlines, and on those occasions, DC dared to hand the artistic reins over to the incomparable Frank Robbins. Robbins' style was so different from Kaluta's that many fans didn't know what to make of it. I know Frank's stylings threw Young Groove for a loop! As I got older, though, I came to realize the genius behind Robbins' cartooning. His ability to evoke mood and emotion more than makes up for what he lacks in his posing and storytelling abilities. Now, with his Milton Caniff-school style, he looks like a breath of fresh air, but then? Well, even DC wasn't sure. Dig what they ran at the top the letters page of Robbins' Shadow debut issue:

"I think he's done a fine--and very interesting--job. Agree? Or disagree? Let us have your opinion."

And at the end of the L.O.C. page...

"And we really are interested in your opinion of the Frank Robbins Shadow."

Dollars to doughnut holes that Robbins' Shadow artistry still mystifies and divides fandom! Decide for yourself, Groove-ophiles! Here from The Shadow #5 (March/April 1974) is "Night of Neptune's Death!" by Denny O'Neil and Frank Robbins.


  1. I love Robbins' SHADOW more than Kaluta's, and I love Kaluta's a lot. But of that run, I've every issue Robbins did, and only a few of the Kaluta issues. That said, the Robbins issues are way cheaper. Anyway, Robbins=undervalued. Love his BATMAN and INVADERS, too. Howzabout more Robbins work, for comparison?

  2. Oh Man! This is the best! I wouldn't say that I like Robbins better than Kaluta, but his work is unmistakably beautiful, while still remaining gritty and mean. Awesome comic!

  3. I have to say, as old school as I normally am, I have never cottoned to Robbins' work. John Romita Sr. showed everyone how to use the Milton Caniff influence best — But Robbins was another matter. He took the Caniff influence into a very different and wacky direction.

    I didn't care for his work on The Invaders either, but I loved Roy Thomas' stories, so that made up for it. And I just felt he was all wrong for Captain America and Ghost Rider......two very strange assignments for him.

    I respect his cartooning experience, but just felt he was all wrong for most of the comics he was assigned to in the 70s. Perhaps another genre would've suited his style better.....That said, I like the idea of analyzing his work, Groove! There's no denying that, love his work or hate it, Robbins has a place in any 70s retrospective!

  4. Frank Robbins is one of the greatest daily strip's comic authors with Johnny Hazzard. I think his work in The Shadow is the best he did in comic Books. Great post!

  5. Poor old Frank! He's right at the top of the list of artists we all hated who we now love. He was wrong for superheroes, but I think where he really worked was in House of Mystery & Plop. There his weird anatomy fitted.
    Must tell the Gil Kane story for the 2 or 3 people who've never heard it. Back in the '70's, Gil was at a con doing signings. He'd just started to sign a book for a fan, when said fan made the mistake of dissing Robbins' work on Cap.
    Gil was furious, and said something along the lines of: " I'm not signing comics for someone who cannot appreciate Frank Robbins!!"
    So somewhere out there is a fan with an ultra rare book signed by Gil Ka!

  6. Great story, Pete. I'm not surprised......Gil Kane was all class. I heard him speak at a Mega Con in Orlando a couple of years before he passed (I was sitting right across from him as it was, sadly, a very small audience). He was amazing.....He reminded me of my college American Literature professor.

    But...yikes. I guess he would've scolded me! LOL. I do understand Robbins' roots and where his style originates (and I love Milton Caniff!), but still, his approach was a little too loose for my tastes. But I agree Robbins would've been more effective on a title like House of Mystery...

  7. Yeah, it wasn't Robbin's influences, but his wacky anatomy that made it so that I just couldn't go along with the work. Somehow, the Invaders work, set in the 1940's worked better... Frank was just not made for superheroes. The Human Fly anyone?

    I do underatnd who Frank was influenced by, and like Caniff's work, but we were a long time from Johnny hazard by the 1970's. Having all this women look like they were still in the 1950's didn't fly in the era of Farrah Fawcett.

    That being said, seeing the whole book scanned in like that certainly points out the very structured nature of Franks storytelling. Not a lot of closeups, no extreme close ups and a lot of interesting panel to panel progressions. Very few artists today would be that structured.

  8. If this makes your head spin, I have a Robbins-drawn Batman strip to spring on ya in the near future!

  9. Robbins and Don Heck were the Rodney Dangerfields of comics. I always thought Robbins' style was well suited to a strip with a 1930's pulp feel, like the Shadow and sometimes Batman. Also the Invaders, since his style gave it a sort of Golden Age atmosphere.



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