My former work-mate Anthony Tollin has been publishing these Shadow pulp magazine stories in handsome trade paperbacks for some years under his Sanctum Productions imprint, and he gave me this one a few years ago. I’ve just gotten around to it.
I’ve read quite a few pulp magazine stories and novels, but nearly all of them in the fantasy and science fiction genres. I’d read some Shadow comics, even lettered a few, but never read any of the original pulp stories by Maxwell Grant from the 1930s and 40s until now. While I did enjoy them, I have to say they certainly are “pulpy,” with mounds of purple prose, melodrama, and unlikely plots.
In the first story from 1933, a group of six men with the same exact face are able to commit crimes that the law doesn’t even notice, but The Shadow does, and he moves against them. The writing in this story dwells on The Shadow’s every move and idiosyncrasy with almost fetishistic fervor, but once he gets into the action, it does have action aplenty. The build-up is rather slow, though.
The second story from 1942 features monsters of a supernatural type, or are they something else nearly as unlikely? Lots of spooky thrills in this one, and the addition of Margo Lane and other Shadow assistants to the plot, as well as The Shadow’s alter ego Lamont Cranston taking a larger role, makes The Shadow more real and less of a cypher. That’s good, because the intricate plot and over-the-top villains and monsters become harder to believe as the story moves on.
This issue also has an excellent feature on The Shadow in comics by Tollin, which I learned a lot from. Very well done, and nicely filled out with art and photos of creators.
This was interesting from a historical perspective, and generally fun, but I don’t see myself searching out more. I do have one other similar book from Tony that I will get to in time. If The Shadow appeals to you in any form, it’s worth giving these original stories a try.