Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Power to Cloud Men's Minds!

The Shadow character in Shadow Comics is able to make himself invisible by using hypnotic powers.  In Shadow Comics #11, we have the first instance of The Shadow becoming invisible.  Then, it Shadow Comics #12, it's revealed that he learned this "trick" in Tibet!   

However, in Shadow Comics #71 (published December 27, 1946*) in the story "The Black Pagoda" we are given more details on The Shadow's invisibility powers.  In the opening page of that story we are told, "Bound on his first post-war trip to Tibet, where, under the tutelage of The Great Lama, he learned the secret of clouding men's minds..."  Now we know that after the War (this must be referring to World War 1), Lamont Cranston traveled to Tibet and was taught the mesmeric trick of invisibility from The Great Lama.

In Nostalgia Ventures Shadow #4, there is a reprint of an an article that originally appeared in Shadow Comics volume 2, number 7, October 1942 (This would be Shadow Comics #19, published on August 28, 1942*).  The article was entitled, "A Plea" and gave more detailed information on The Shadow of the comic books and how he gained the power of invisibility.  The article begins, "In the unending, daily, deadly war which The Shadow wages on the underworld, he has three weapons.  They are his brains, cool, clear and unique in its ability to extract information from the tiniest bit of evidence.  His miraculous ability with guns is the result of a naturally good eye, a strong pair of wrists and constant practice.  The third is his ability to cloud men's minds so that, to all intents and purposes, he becomes invisible."

The article tells us that, for reasons that cannot be shared, The Shadow traveled to the forbidden city of Lhassa in Tibet.  It is there that he encountered a great power - a collection of 10 minds that projected themselves in the image of a young boy.  This great power presented The Shadow with the ability to become invisible.  The Shadow is told, "Because your life is clear, and devoted to the good of mankind, we endow you with the power to cloud men's minds.  Men will think you are invisible.  It is a potent weapon, and one that you must use with care."**

In the comic books, The Shadow learned his powers of invisibility in the forbidden city of Lhassa in Tibet!  There is a bit of a continuity issue between Shadow Comics #19 and #71.  According to issue #19, a collection of 10 minds gave him the power but in #71 it is The Great Lama who gives him the power.  Maybe this can be resolved by thinking that The Great Lama is the same as the 10 minds!?!

From a historical background, Tibet was the focus of pop culture in the early 1940s as a man by the name of Theos Bernard had returned to the United States in the late 1930s after spending time in India and Tibet.  Theos Bernard claimed he was the first white lama (teacher) and published books and articles on his experiences in Tibet.  It could be due to Bernard's popularity The Shadow comics decided Lamont Cranston had also made a trip to Tibet!!

In the 1994 The Shadow movie, Lamont Cranston had fought in World War I and after the war had gone missing for 7 years.  Those missing seven years were spent traveling the world and eventually settling in Tibet as an opium dealer.  Lamont Cranston is kidnapped by a Tibetan holy man, a Tulku, who taught him to cloud men's minds, to fog their vision through the force of concentration, leaving visible the only thing he can never hide..his Shadow.  

This is interesting in that both in the comic and the movie, Lamont Cranston learns how to make himself invisible from a spiritual leader in Tibet.  

*Mike's Amazing World of Comics
**Gibson, Walter B., Tollin, Anthony, Murray, Will, 2007, "The Murder Master" and "The Hydra" Two Classic Adventures of The Shadow, pp 68-69, Nostalgia Ventures, Inc.

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