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Shadow, The

Entry updated 11 March 2024. Tagged: Character, Comics, Film, Publication, Radio.

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This crime-fighting character made his debut in 1930 as narrator of the US Radio programme Detective Story. The opening lines soon became famous: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!" In 1937 the very popular programme became The Shadow and continued through well over 600 episodes until 1954, with Orson Welles in the star role 1937-1938; among its many scriptwriters were Alfred Bester and Max Ehrlich. Earlier in 1931, the programme's sponsors Street & Smith had launched the spinoff mystery/thriller Pulp magazine The Shadow, of which 325 issues appeared over 18 years (April 1931-Summer 1949); John L Nanovic was the editor from 1932 to 1943. Each contained a "complete novel" about the character, written – mostly by Walter B Gibson, though later by Dennis Lynds – under the House Name Maxwell Grant. Artists associated with The Shadow magazine included Edd Cartier and Paul Orban. In the pulps he is depicted wearing a broad-brimmed hat, a black cloak, and a red scarf. This version of the character had no supernatural powers.

The character has appeared in many media, including Comics (beginning with a 1938 newspaper strip), three Big Little Books as by Maxwell Grant, two 1950s Television series, and several films: The Shadow Strikes (1937), International Crime (1938), The Shadow (1940), The Shadow Returns (1946), Invisible Avenger (1958; vt The Invisible Avenger; vt Bourbon Street Shadows; vt Terror in the Night) and The Shadow (1994). Unlike the pulp and earlier film versions of the character, the later media incarnations, beginning with the radio show in 1937, and including the 1954 and 1958 unsold television pilots, give him the hypnotic ability to make himself invisible. The 1994 film, which attempts to reconcile the pulp and radio versions, shows the hero learning his mystic powers in a Tibetan lamasery, and pits him against a similarly gifted Villain; the novelization is The Shadow (1994) by James Luceno. The Shadow character was also an admitted influence on the early Batman comic.

Besides his occasional confrontations with Mad Scientist villains and other routine fantastic threats such as strange Inventions and inimical Robots, the sf interest of the Shadow lies in his mysterious, perhaps Hypnotism-based power to "cloud men's minds" and walk unseen (see Invisibility) – although when a light is shone on him, his shadow becomes visible. This small Superpower, not present in the Shadow's first Radio-narrator and Pulp incarnations, was introduced in the 1937 radio series The Shadow. [DRL]

see also: Bruce Elliott.

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