The Shadow

The Shadow
The Shadow (character).jpg
Publication information
First appearance
Created byWalter B. Gibson
In-story information
Alter ego
  • Kent Allard (print)
  • Lamont Cranston (radio, film and television)
Notable aliases
  • Lamont Cranston (print)
  • Henry Arnaud (print)
  • Isaac Twambley (print)
  • Fritz the Janitor (print)
AbilitiesIn print, radio, and film:
  • Expert detective
  • Skilled marksman and hand-to-hand combatant
  • Master of disguise and stealth

In radio and film only:

  • Ability to make himself nearly invisible to others
  • Hypnotic/Telepathic mental-clouding abilities altering and reading a person's thoughts and perceptions
  • Low-level Telekinesis

The Shadow is the name of a collection of serialized dramas, originally in 1930s pulp novels, and then in a wide variety of Shadow media.[2] One of the most famous adventure heroes of 20th century North America, the Shadow has been featured on the radio, in a long-running pulp magazine series, in American comic books, comic strips, television, serials, video games, and at least five feature films. The radio drama included episodes voiced by Orson Welles.

Originally a mysterious radio show narrator, The Shadow was developed into a distinctive literary character in 1931, later to become a pop culture icon, by writer Walter B. Gibson. The character has been cited as a major influence on the subsequent evolution of comic book superheroes, particularly Batman.[3]

The Shadow debuted on July 31, 1930, as the mysterious narrator of the radio program Detective Story Hour, which was developed to boost sales of Street and Smith's monthly pulp Detective Story Magazine.[4] When listeners of the program began asking at newsstands for copies of "That Shadow detective magazine", Street & Smith decided to create a magazine based on The Shadow and hired Gibson to create a character concept to fit the name and voice and write a story featuring him. The first issue of The Shadow Magazine went on sale on April 1, 1931, a pulp series.

On September 26, 1937, The Shadow radio drama, a new radio series based on the character as created by Gibson for the pulp magazine, premiered with the story "The Death House Rescue", in which The Shadow was characterized as having "the power to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him". As in the magazine stories, The Shadow was not given the literal ability to become invisible.

The introduction from The Shadow radio program "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!", spoken by actor Frank Readick, has earned a place in the American idiom. These words were accompanied by an ominous laugh and a musical theme, Camille Saint-Saëns' Le Rouet d'Omphale ("Omphale's Spinning Wheel", composed in 1872). At the end of each episode, The Shadow reminded listeners that, "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit! Crime does not pay... The Shadow knows!" (Some early episodes, however, used the alternate statement, "As you sow evil, so shall you reap evil! Crime does not pay... The Shadow knows!")

Publication history

Origin of the character's name

In order to boost the sales of their Detective Story Magazine, Street and Smith Publications hired David Chrisman of the Ruthrauff & Ryan advertising agency and writer-director William Sweets to adapt the magazine's stories into a radio series. Chrisman and Sweets felt the upcoming series should be narrated by a mysterious storyteller with a sinister voice, and began searching for a suitable name. One of their scriptwriters, Harry Engman Charlot, suggested various possibilities, such as "The Inspector" or "The Sleuth".[5] Charlot then proposed the ideal name for the phantom announcer: "The Shadow".[5]

Thus, beginning on July 31, 1930,[1][6] "The Shadow" was the name given to the mysterious narrator of the Detective Story Hour. The narrator was initially voiced by James LaCurto,[6] who was replaced after four months by prolific character actor Frank Readick Jr. The episodes were drawn from the Detective Story Magazine issued by Street and Smith, "the nation's oldest and largest publisher of pulp magazines".[6] Although the latter company had hoped the radio broadcasts would boost the declining sales of Detective Story Magazine, the result was quite different. Listeners found the sinister announcer much more compelling than the unrelated stories. They soon began asking newsdealers for copies of "that Shadow detective magazine", even though it did not exist.[6]

Creation as a distinctive literary character

"Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" The Shadow as depicted on the cover of the July 15, 1939, issue of The Shadow Magazine. The story, "Death from Nowhere", was one of the magazine plots adapted for the legendary radio drama.

Recognizing the demand and responding promptly, circulation manager Henry William Ralston of Street & Smith commissioned Walter B. Gibson to begin writing stories about "The Shadow". Using the pen name of Maxwell Grant and claiming the stories were "from The Shadow's private annals as told to" him, Gibson wrote 282 out of 325 tales over the next 20 years: a novel-length story twice a month (1st and 15th). The first story produced was "The Living Shadow", published April 1, 1931.[6]

Gibson's characterization of The Shadow laid the foundations for the archetype of the superhero, including stylized imagery and title, sidekicks, supervillains, and a secret identity. Clad in black, The Shadow operated mainly after dark as a vigilante in the name of justice, and terrifying criminals into vulnerability. Gibson himself claimed the literary inspirations upon which he had drawn were Bram Stoker's Dracula and Edward Bulwer-Lytton's "The House and the Brain".[5] Another possible inspiration for The Shadow is the French character Judex; the first episode of the original Judex film serial was released in the United States as The Mysterious Shadow, and Judex's costume is rather similar to The Shadow's. French comics historian Xavier Fournier notes other similarities with another silent serial, The Shielding Shadow, whose protagonist had a power of invisibility, and considers The Shadow to be a mix between the two characters. In the 1940s, some Shadow comic strips were translated in France as adventures of Judex.[7]

Because of the great effort involved in writing two full-length novels every month, several guest writers were hired to write occasional installments in order to lighten Gibson's workload. These guest writers included Lester Dent, who also wrote the Doc Savage stories, and Theodore Tinsley. In the late 1940s, mystery novelist Bruce Elliott (also a magician) would temporarily replace Gibson as the primary author of the pulp series.[8] Richard Wormser, a reader for Street & Smith, wrote two Shadow stories.[9]

The Shadow Magazine ceased publication with the Summer 1949 issue, but Walter B. Gibson wrote three new "official" stories between 1963 and 1980. The first began a new series of nine updated Shadow novels from Belmont Books, starting with Return of The Shadow under his own name. The remaining eight – The Shadow Strikes, Beware Shadow, Cry Shadow, The Shadow's Revenge, Mark of The Shadow, Shadow Go Mad, Night of The Shadow, and The Shadow, Destination: Moon – were written by Dennis Lynds, not Gibson, under the pseudonym Maxwell Grant. In these novels, The Shadow is given psychic powers, including the radio character's ability "to cloud men's minds", so that he effectively became invisible; he is more of a spymaster than crime fighter in these updated eight novels.

The Shadow returned in 2015 in the authorized novel The Sinister Shadow, an entry in the Wild Adventures of Doc Savage series from Altus Press. The novel, written by Will Murray, used unpublished material originally written in 1932 by Doc Savage originator Lester Dent and published under the pen name "Kenneth Robeson". Set in 1933, the story details the conflict between the two pulp magazine icons.

A sequel, Empire of Doom, was published in 2016 and takes place seven years later in 1940. The Shadow's old enemy, Shiwan Khan, attacks his hated adversary. Doc Savage joins forces with The Shadow to vanquish Khan in a Doc Savage novel written by Will Murray, from a concept by Lester Dent.

Other Languages
Deutsch: The Shadow
français: The Shadow
italiano: The Shadow
português: O Sombra
русский: The Shadow
Simple English: The Shadow
suomi: The Shadow
中文: 魅影奇俠