Sunday, December 16, 2018

Gats Hackett - Greatest Shot in the Underworld

Gats Hackett is the leader of a minor New York gang in The Shadow's Shadow (February 1, 1933) story.  Even though he leads a minor gang, he plays a big part in the story!  Gats Hackett is working with Douglas Carleton and international crook Felix Zubian in a plot to steal diamonds.  The three know that they need to get rid of The Shadow.

The physical description of Gats is that he is a little chunky, but has a firm face with crude features that gave him a wolfish expression.  His mannerisms were crude as well.  Another telling description of this gangster is that he has an evil heart and fiendish spirit.  In the underworld, Gats was famous for his aim and was known as the greatest shot in the underworld.

Gats got his moniker because of the two gats he carried, sometimes in a briefcase but mostly in shoulder holsters.  His weapons of choice were described as huge .45 revolvers.  These two gats of Gats, along with his excellent aim, were his gangdom claim to fame.

Gats puts his revolvers to work several times in the story.  The first time is when he springs a trap on The Shadow and chases him down in a spectacular car chase.  Gats empties his guns into the car The Shadow was driving, only to learn The Shadow had escaped.  The next time he unleashes his twin smoke wagons are when he sets up a hit on Lamont Cranston in the Holland Tunnel.  Once again Gats unleashes his .45s only to find he's missed his prey.  The final time he uses his guns is at the end of the story when he faces off against The Shadow.  I'll tell about that in just a moment!

The trio of villains (Gats, Douglas Carleton, and Felix Zubian) had learned that Harry Vincent and Rutledge Mann were agents of The Shadow.  Gats and his gang kidnap Vincent and Mann so that Gats can make them talk and tell him who The Shadow is.  Gats has constructed a device to help persuade them to talk!  Rutledge Mann is laying down face-up on a guillotine like contraption while Harry Vincent is suspended above him and facing down towards Mann.  They have 12 minutes to talk or Mann's head will be cut off while Harry Vincent helplessly watches!  The Shadow saves Vincent and Mann and wipes out Gats' gang in the process.  Gats escapes to the taunting laugh of The Shadow.  Here's how the story describes it.  "Governed by mad fear, Gats Hackett turned and dashed away to safety...Terror had gripped his fiendish spirit.  Behind him came a new sound - a weird mockery that chilled the gang leader's veins.  The laugh of The Shadow!"

With his gang wiped out and a jewel heist still needing to be carried out, Gats recruits a new gang.  Unbeknownst to Gats, one of his new gang recruits is none other than Cliff Marsland, agent of The Shadow!

Gats faces off against The Shadow one final time.  Once again another gun battle between Gats' gang and The Shadow is on, and The Shadow is making an exit climbing down the side of the building.  Gats sees him and figures he has the drop on The Shadow.  Gats takes aim with his smoke wagons but one shot from The Shadow's automatic ends the life of Gats Hackett.

I did some research on .45 revolvers in the 1930s.  While I have no solid proof, I'd like to think that Gats Hackett's revolvers were the M1917 .45 revolvers made by either Smith and Wesson or Colt.  The M1917 was manufactured for our soldiers fighting in World War 1.  After the war, these revolvers became popular with both civilians and law enforcement agencies.  In the second picture below, you see the M1917 revolver next to the M1911 .45 automatic (which I believe is the weapon The Shadow carried.).  The revolver is a bit bigger than the automatic.  The M1917 was a large framed revolver and that is close to fitting the description of Gats' weapons. 

M1917 .45 revolver (L)  M1911 .45 automatic (R)

I really enjoyed reading about Gats Hackett.    He almost bumped off Lamont Cranston and two of The Shadow's agents.  He was a tough opponent for The Shadow and a compelling character in The Shadow's Shadow story.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Shadow: Historical Background 1929 - 1931

This past week I learned that the Dick Tracy comic strip was first published on October 4, 1931 - that's just 6 months after the first issue of The Shadow was published (April 1, 1931).  As I thought about these two fictional crime fighters, I started digging into what was happening in the US at this time that made The Shadow and Dick Tracy so popular.  In my opinion, part of their appeal and popularity can be attributed to real life crime stories that were ever present in the headlines.  Maybe the American public had enough of gangsters and wanted to read about crime fighters putting an end to them and their nefarious ways.

In this article I wanted to put a spotlight on what was happening in the years from 1929 through 1931.  I want to paint a background picture of what was going on when The Shadow pulp magazine began to be published in 1931.  What newsworthy events captured the headlines and the attention of Americans in those years?  Here are some of the events and facts!


  • Herbert Hoover is President, having beaten Alfred E. Smith in the election of 1928.
  • February 14, 1929:  The St Valentine's Day Massacre happens in Chicago when 7 members of the Northside gang are gunned down by henchmen of mobster Al Capone.
  • October 29, 1929:  The US stock market crashed and this marked the beginning of the Great Depression which lasted for 12 years.  Both the US and Europe were impacted.
  • The Broadway Melody was the top money-making movie in 1929 and also won the Academy Award for Best Picture.


  • The planet Pluto is discovered.
  • The Castellammarese War erupts in New York City to see who will control the Italian-American mafia
  • Mahatma Gandhi begins his campaign of civil disobedience in India.
  • Birds Eye frozen food products are introduced in 18 retail stores in Springfield, MA.
  • Gang wars continue in Chicago between rival factions including Al Capone's.
  • Cartoon character Betty Boop makes her debut.
  • All Quiet On The Western Front won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Betty Boop


  • US unemployment reaches over 16%.
  • Droughts, soil erosion and dust storms in the mid-west create the beginning of the Dust Bowl.
  • The Empire State Building is completed and opens for business.
  • The Star Spangled Banner becomes our national anthem.
  • Eliot Ness and his agents ("The Untouchables") begin raids against illegal breweries and stills (impacting the pockets of Al Capone!).
  • Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi and Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff premier in US theaters.
  • Dick Tracy comic strip begins.
  • April 1, 1931 - The Shadow magazine publishes its first issue!

These are just a few of the events that happened between 1929 and 1931.  Wow, what a time it was.  I hope this brief article helps you frame a backdrop of the world that The Shadow magazine entered in 1931.