Monday, May 28, 2018

New Blog - The Shadow Radio!

I was able to obtain the domain and decided I would create a blog with that domain that would be based entirely on The Shadow radio show.  Today I started building that blog and posted one article on it just to get it started.  My plan is to take any posts related to The Shadow radio show on this blog and put it on The Shadow Radio blog.  Going forward, anything related to The Shadow radio show will be posted on the new blog.  I hope you take some time to check in on the new blog as I continue to build it and post new content to it!

The History Behind the Mystery: The Red Menace and The Romanoff Jewels

This year I read "The Red Menace" and "The Romanoff Jewels."  Both of these stories are fantastic Shadow adventures!  But when I finished reading them, I felt like I was missing something in my understanding of the stories.  That led me to start digging into the background of both adventures and a study of Russian history.  The more I studied and learned, the more I began to appreciate these two Shadow stories.  Let me share some of that background with you!  Please note that some of what I share is in general terms to try and simplify some of the complexities I discovered.

Up until 1917, Russia was ruled by powerful Tsars from the Romanoff (Romanov) dynasty.  The last Tsar of Russia was Tsar Nicholas II who began to reign on November 1, 1894.  In the early 1900s there was a lot of unrest in Russia and missteps by Tsar Nicholas didn't help endear him to the people.  For example, his handling of Russian involvement in World War I was a fiasco leading to the deaths of approximately 2 million ill-equipped Russian soldiers.  

Tsar Nicholas II

In February of 1917, the first of two revolutions began.  The February revolution began when workers refused to work and started rioting.  Troops were sent in to suppress the riots, but many soldiers refused and much of the army eventually turned against the Tsar.  As a result, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated his monarchy on March 15, 1917.  Shortly after his abdication, Nicholas and his family were imprisoned.  Two factions began to run the Russian government; the Petrograd Soviet (also known as Bolsheviks - which represented workers, soldiers) and the Provisional Government (which supported the Tsar and the monarchy).   In October of 1917, the second revolution began as the Petrograd Soviet led an armed insurrection that deposed the Provisional Government and assumed all command and authority in Russia.  Shortly after the October revolution, a civil war broke out in Russian between Red armies (Bolsheviks, socialists, communists) and the White armies (Russians who supported the Tsar and the monarchy).  The Red army defeated the White army and in 1922 Russia officially became the Union of Soviet Socialists of Russia (USSR).

On July 17, 1918, Tsar Nicholas II and his entire family were murdered by Bolshevik soldiers in the basement of a home in Yekaterinburg, Russia.  

Here's a brief summary to try and sum all of this up:

  • The Romanoff dynasty ruled over Russia as a monarchy for over 300 years
  • Tsar Nicholas II was the last Tsar of Russia and was killed on July 17, 1918
  • Russians that supported Tsar Nicholas and the monarchy were called "Tsarists" or "White" Russians
  • Russians that opposed the Tsar/monarchy were called "Bolsheviks" or "Red" Russians
  • Tsarists who remained in Russia had their wealth confiscated by the Reds, this led to many Russians of nobility fleeing Russia (with their wealth) for other nations, including the United States

Now let me try and fold all this background into The Shadow stories!  In "The Red Menace" we learn that The Shadow was inducted into a secret society of Royalist (Tsarist) Russia called the Seventh Star.  The Shadow tells us, "I was in Russia during the first months of the War.  As an agent of another government, I became a member of the Seventh Star."  Under the stone of The Shadow's girasol ring is engraved a seven pointed star, which is the symbol of this elite organization!

In "The Romanoff Jewels" we learn a little more about The Shadow's connection with Russia.  The Shadow shows his girasol ring and tells us that the fire opal was given to him as a gift from the Tsar and it is one of the jewels of the Romanoffs.  "Gaze upon the stone that gleams from my finger.  That priceless girasol was once owned by the Tsars of Russia...The girasol was a gift, which I accepted as a memento of friendship from the man who owned it..."

From these two stories we learn that The Shadow had known and assisted in some way Tsar Nicholas II.  For his actions, he became a member of the Seventh Star and was given a priceless girasol ring.  If you go on to read these stories, try to keep in mind the different factions in Russia (Reds, Whites) as it leads to the intrigue and plotting that happens in these stories.

It was exciting and educational to do this investigation and research on the background of these two Shadow adventures.  I hope you've enjoyed the history behind the mystery!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

The Collected Shadow Comic Strip

The Shadow began to appear in newspaper comic strips (through the Ledger Syndicate) on June 17, 1942.  The stories were written by Shadow creator Walter B. Gibson and the artwork was provided by Vernon Green.  Unfortunately the comic strip was ended after only two years of publication.  According to one account, it was ended due to the impact of World War II on newspapers - needing more room for war news and printing fewer papers due to the paper shortage.

In 1988, Eternity Comics began publishing The Shadow comic strips in a collection entitled, Crime Classics.  There are 13 issues, with the final issue publishing in November of 1989.

I was able to find a copy of Crime Classics #1, here are a few pictures from the comic.

Front Cover

Inside Front Cover

I like that the stories are written by Walter B. Gibson and the artwork is pretty good.  I can imagine the difficulty in taking a book-length Shadow novel and trying to make it appealing in comic strip form.  However, some of the depictions of The Shadow aren't that great - like in the photo above where The Shadow says, "My own automatic!"  I'm trying to figure out what that is covering his face!  But the picture below it is awesome - classic Shadow!

If you want to read all The Shadow comic strips, I recommend you get your copies of these Crime Classics!

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Shadow Radio: The Tenor With The Broken Voice

Here's a brief synopsis and notes of The Shadow radio episode, "The Tenor With The Broken Voice" that originally aired on June 5, 1938.  (Note:  I've seen other dates listed as the original air date, but the June 5 date is based on what I found at a vintage radio log.)

Margo Lane and Lamont Cranston attend a night at the opera to watch the opera "Pagliacci."  They both comment on their anticipation to hear the star, Hagen Radcoffe, as he sings the aria "Vesti la giubba" which closes out the first act.  As Radcoffe sings the aria, the audience is shocked as Radcoffe's voice cracks and he is led off the stage.  

Replacement singers are brought in for other performances and death and tragedy strike them as they sing the "Vesi la giubba" aria.  Cranston, as The Shadow, investigates and foils the villain before he can set off an explosion in the crowded opera house!

It's interesting to see the conflict between Commissioner Weston and The Shadow as they both work to solve the crime and keep the public safe.  I also enjoyed hearing Detective Joe Cardona and The Shadow's agent, Clyde Burke, in this adventure.

Lamont Cranston/The Shadow:  Orson Wells
Margo Lane:  Margot Stevenson

Announcer:  Ken Roberts (some have noted that Roberts may have played the part of one of the tenors in this episode!)

Sponsor:  B. F. Goodrich