Sunday, July 7, 2019

Norgil the Magician



Did you know that Walter B. Gibson created another character named Norgil the Magician?  Not only did Gibson write the vast majority of The Shadow stories, he also created the character of Norgil the Magician and penned over 20 short-stories featuring Norgil.  

November 1937 edition of Crime Busters

The first Norgil story was published in November of 1937 in Street and Smith's Crime Buster pulp.  In all, 23 Norgil stories were published.  Just like The Shadow, Gibson wrote using the Maxwell Grant pen name.  Norgil the Magician has a supporting cast made up of Miriam, his assistant and Fritz his stage assistant.

The Mysterious Press reprint

In 1977 and 1979, a collection of the original Norgil stories were published by The Mysterious Press.  These books featured original cover art by Jim Steranko and introductions by Walter B. Gibson.  Only 16 of the 23 Norgil stories were collected in these two books.

Sanctum Books has republished some of the Norgil stories in their reprints of The Whisperer.

Sanctum Books reprint of The Whisperer

While I have not read a single Norgil story, I am looking forward to reading them and getting to know this character.  Based on what little I do know, he sounds like a bit of Mandrake the Magician and The Shadow mixed together!  I know Walter B. Gibson was a master magician himself so I'm sure his knowledge and craft was woven into the stories.  Hope you've enjoyed this brief look at another one of Gibson's great pulp characters!


Monday, July 1, 2019

25th Anniversary of The Shadow Movie!



July 1 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1994 The Shadow movie which starred Alec Baldwin as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow and Penelope Ann Miller as the lovely Margo Lane.

The movie debuted as the number 2 film, up against stiff competition from Disney's The Lion King.  Unfortunately, it didn't carry the momentum into the following weeks and didn't have a long run at the box office.  Because of its poor reception, plans for sequels were ended.

I personally love this movie.  It  has the right blend of The Shadow's attributes from the pulps and the radio show.  When Alec Baldwin is The Shadow, he looks like he's ripped from the cover of one of the pulp stories.  Yes, it is not a perfect film, but it is the best Shadow film ever made!

Here's a link to articles on my blog about the 1994 film:  1994 The Shadow Movie


Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Shadow Strikes


The Shadow Strikes is a Shadow movie that was released on October 29, 1937 and starred Rod La Rocque as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow.  The movie is based on the pulp story "Ghost of the Manor" that published on June 15, 1933 (it was the 32nd Shadow magazine published).  The Shadow Strikes was the very first Shadow movie made.


Rod La Rocque stars as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow.  In the film, Cranston is an attorney and amateur criminologist.  This Lamont Cranston has more in common with the radio version of The Shadow than the version from the pulps (Note:  The Shadow radio show first aired on September 26, 1937, approximately 4 weeks before the movie premiered.).  We only see Cranston sneaking about as The Shadow a few times in the movie, and each time he is wearing a black cloak and short brimmed fedora - nothing like the cloak and slouch hat from the pulps.  There are no agents, no sanctum and no disguises!  But this Shadow does pack an automatic.

The Shadow


Rod La Rocque

I don't want to write extensively about the film, so here is a brief summary from IMDb:  "Lamont Cranston assumes his secret identity as "The Shadow", to break up an attempted robbery at an attorney's office. When the police search the scene, Cranston must assume the identity of the attorney. Before he can leave, a phone call summons the attorney to the home of Delthern, a wealthy client, who wants a new will drawn up. As Cranston meets with him, Delthern is suddenly shot, and Cranston is quickly caught up in a new mystery."

Here are some of my observations and notes on the film:

  • Lamont Cranston's father was a famous attorney who was murdered and Cranston is working to find the murderer (although this storyline does not play a part in the film).
  • Cranston assumes the identify of attorney Chester Randall but there are no disguises, etc.
  • At the end of the movie, Cranston explains what happened to the real Chester Randall.
  • Cranston and his butler/chauffeur use some type of a radio device to listen in on the owner of a gambling joint.  


The first time I watched this movie, I couldn't stand it and turned it off after five or ten minutes.  I watched it again recently and found it was a bit more bearable.  I personally don't care for the movie and am curious how well it did at the box office and how well it was received by Shadow fans.

Another interesting note is how the movie makes the Lamont Cranston character more like the radio character than The Shadow of the pulps.  Although the movie came out a month after the radio show premiered, it may have been in production and may have been influenced by the radio show.  That's my conjecture but I have no solid proof of it!

The Shadow Strikes was followed up a year later with Rod La Rocque once again playing Lamont Cranston in the film, International Crime.  Fans of The Shadow may enjoy watching this film, but if you are looking for a movie that is like The Shadow of the pulps, then this isn't the movie for you.   I really tried hard to like this move, but I just couldn't.  If you haven't watched this movie you can find it on DVD and on streaming services such as Amazon.  While it's not a great Shadow movie (in my opinion) it is the first Shadow movie made and was an attempt to bring the character to the silver screen!




Saturday, May 4, 2019

Harry Vincent's Hometown

A few days ago I was reading The Shadow story, "The Crime Cult" (this story was originally published on July 1, 1932.  I was reading the Pyramid paperback edition.) and ran across one little sentence that got me started on an investigation into Harry Vincent's hometown!  

On the bottom of page 25 I read the following:  "Matters had been quiet during the past month, and Harry had been considering a short trip to his Michigan home in the little town of Colon."  When I first read that, I thought Colon, Michigan must be a made up town.  Then I thought, if it is a real town in Michigan, why would Walter B. Gibson (Maxwell Grant) use it as Harry's hometown?  With Harry's hometown clew, I began to investigate if it was a real town or not!

To my surprise, Colon, Michigan is in fact a real town - more accurately, it is a village!  It is in southern Michigan and was incorporated as a village in 1904.  The village of Colon takes up only 1.75 square miles and according to the 2010 census has a population of 1,173 people.  That answered my first question as to whether or not Colon, Michigan was a real place.  


Undated photo - but I'm guessing from the 1930s.
This must be what it looked like when Harry Vincent lived there!

Now I had to press on to answer my next question - why would Walter B. Gibson use a small village in Michigan as Harry Vincent's hometown?  My investigation revealed that Colon, Michigan is known as "The Magic Capital of the World!"  In 1925, the magician Harry Blackstone, Sr moved to the little village and it became the base of operations for him and his crew.  Colon is also the home of the Abbott Magic Company and several other magic companies.  Blackstone is buried in the Colon cemetery.

Magician Harry Blackstone, Sr was a personal friend of Walter B. Gibson and Gibson himself was a magician of renown!  Gibson was Blackstone's ghost writer on several books and Gibson himself wrote many books on magic and even invented several magic tricks.  I believe it is that magical connection that led Gibson to pick Colon, Michigan as Harry Vincent's hometown.  It makes me wonder if Gibson and Blackstone had a good chuckle together when this story published and if any of The Shadow's readers made the connection between Colon, Michigan and Gibson!

With that one clew of Colon, Michigan I was able to unravel the mystery behind Harry Vincent's hometown!




Sunday, April 21, 2019

Shadow Comics - A Plea From The Shadow!

In a previous post, I shared from several Shadow Comics how they detailed The Shadow's power to cloud men's minds.  I referenced in particular Shadow Comics #19 (published August 28, 1942) and an article in that comic that gave full detail of how The Shadow gained this power.  

I have finally found a copy of that article and was able to read it in its entirety.  Below are screen captures of the article!



According to the article, it is a plea from The Shadow to stop asking him to share his knowledge on how to cloud men's minds.  That power was won by The Shadow on his own merits and he cannot share that knowledge with anyone.  That power and ability is The Shadow's and his alone!



Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Shadow and the Golden Master


The Shadow and the Golden Master is a hardback book which published in 1984 by The Mysterious Press.  It was written by Walter B. Gibson, who wrote The Shadow stories using the pen-name Maxwell Grant.  

The book itself collects The Shadow's first encounters with the master villain Shiwan Khan as originally published in the September 15, 1939 (The Golden Master) and December 1, 1939 (Shiwan Khan Returns) issues of The Shadow magazine.  As it states on the inside flyleaf, "Reproduced in facsimile from their original pulp magazine publication, these two full-length novels are for all who recall the thrilling adventures of The Shadow, and for all those who love tales of non-stop excitement."

Graves Gladney's artwork for the September 15, 1939 issue of The Shadow is used as the cover for the book.  On the back of the book is a picture of Walter B. Gibson.


Here are a few examples of pages inside the 114 page book.







The story The Golden Master was used as a basis for the 1994 The Shadow movie!  This is a great hardback collection of two stories that pit The Shadow against a master villain.  If you get an opportunity to add this book to your Shadow collection, I highly recommend you do so!!




Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Shadow, Jr


In Shadow Comics #69 (on newsstands October 25, 1946*) a new character is introduced - The Shadow Jr.!  The Shadow Jr. is even announced on the comic cover where it proclaims "Shadow Jr. a new Shadow for youth!" (look towards the bottom of the cover)

The Shadow story, "The Winged Dagger!" is where we first meet The Shadow Jr.  The story begins with Lamont Cranston receiving a telegram from Donald Jordan.  Donald is the son of Lamont's friend, Harry Jordan.  Donald's telegram states Lamont is Harry's only living friend and he asks him to help as Harry has been murdered.


Lamont flies to Tibet, where he learned the secret of clouding men's minds.  At the lamastery, Lamont meets young Donald Jordan and one of the Lamas.  Cranston learns more details behind his friend Harry's murder and then goes on the hunt for more clews.  He ultimately finds a small Axis base of operations where evil men are using a cyclotron to try and make their own atomic bomb!  Cranston, as The Shadow, encounters another person that has his same powers of invisibility - it is young Donald Jordan!


Both The Shadow and Donald destroy the cyclotron and the evil Axis members along with it.  Donald asks if he can leave Tibet with Lamont.  He tells him, "I would like to devote my life to your fight!  Against evil and evil doers!"  Cranston allows Donald to come with him and tells him, "I don't want you to think I'm doing you a favor.  By coming with me..you'll earn your way.  Now at last...I'll be able to be in two places at once...you and I working together."


Donald Jordan only appeared in two other Shadow Comics (#74 and #77).  In Shadow Comics #74 his name is Donnie Dart.  


I'm not sure why they changed it from Donald Jordan!  It appears The Shadow Jr. experiment in the comics didn't catch on or fans didn't like the character.  Either way, he only appeared in a total of three Shadow Comics.  


*Mike's Amazing World of Comics