Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Shadow Annuals

The Shadow had an impressive publishing run from 1931 to 1949.  One mystery to me is why there were only 3 Shadow annuals published over that stretch of time?  I don't have an answer yet but will keep digging.  Here's a brief look at the 3 Shadow annuals.

The first The Shadow Annual published in 1942.  It featured a cover of The Shadow in the guise of Lamont Cranston.  It featured the following Shadow stories:  The Living Shadow, The Ghost Makers, and The Black Hush.  It was 144 pages, and based on what I can find, Graves Gladney was the artist for the cover.

The second The Shadow Annual published in 1943.  The cover states, "A selection of the best Shadow novels."  It contained the following Shadow stories:  The Voodoo Master, Hidden Death, and The Gray Ghost.  I've not found a difinitive answer to who the cover artist was.  I've seen the artwork attributed to George Rozen, Modest Stein and Graves Gladney.

The third and final The Shadow Annual published in 1947.  The stories in this issue are:  No Time for Murder, Toll of Death, and Murder by Magic.

As I find more information on these three Annuals, I'll be sure to update this article!!!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Two Year Anniversary!

Today marks the second anniversary of this Shadow blog.  I say thank you to each person who takes time out of their day to stop by my blog and look around.  I sincerely hope you find it worth your time!

Things have been busy for me the past several months so my posts have been pretty sporadic.  I hope to be able to get to a more regular cadence of posting.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

A Shadow Comics Mystery - A Question of Character!

When Shadow Comics first began to be published, The Shadow character of the comics mirrored the character of the pulp magazine.  Many, if not all, of the first Shadow Comics were based on stories straight out of the pulps.  But then in the 11th edition of Shadow Comics (published April 25, 1941*) the editors let us know that The Shadow of the comics will now mirror the character from The Shadow radio show!

From Editors note in Shadow Comics 11 (sorry it's blurry!)

The editor tells the readers, "In this issue we show THE SHADOW in pictures for the first time doing the "invisible man" act.  THE SHADOW in the comics is now exactly the same as THE SHADOW over the radio.  You'll be thrilled by it!"  The story in Shadow Comics 11 is from the radio show as well - The Leopard Strikes (which aired on January 5, 1941.)!

This is a mystery to me!  The Shadow radio show was only in it's 4th season and while the radio show was very popular and successful, had it eclipsed the popularity of the pulp magazine?  Was The Shadow character of the radio show more popular than the character of the pulps?  Or could it be that The Shadow character of the radio show better lent itself to the pages of a comic book (and its intended audience) than did the character of the pulps?

I don't have an answer to this mystery but found it quite an interesting development in the history of The Shadow.

*Mike's Amazing World of Comics

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!