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The Comic Book History of The Shadow

The Shadow first appeared in comic form from 1940 to 1949 following its success in pulp novels. The villains were mostly fantastic, out-of-this-world beings whom The Shadow fought every month. Most of the stories were written by The Shadow's author, Walter B. Gibson, while various artists from Vernon Greene to Charles Coll drew the characters. Gibson and Greene also teamed to produce the newspaper comic strip featuring The Shadow during that time. The strip lasted from 1940 to 1942, and was based on the pulp novels by Gibson.

After this series folded, Archie comics took over the adventure series in the 1960s. Their version disappointed many fans, as it depicted their favorite character in tights and brandishing gadgets such as air jet-powered boots and a "weakness gun"; a far cry from the original. Fortunately for the fans, the series was canceled after 8 issues.

In the 1970s, the series was resurrected by DC Comics. This version was true to The Shadow's form and surroundings of the 1940s. The series was written by Dennis O'Neil (with the exception of Michael Uslan in issues #9 and #11) and spawned one of The Shadow's most memorable artists: Mike Kaluta. The series ran for 12 issues and included a crossover with another comic book character, The Avenger. The Shadow also made a special appearance in two Batman comics (#253 and #259), with the storyline implicating him as the inspiration of Batman. (Speaking of The Shadow and Batman together, the 1989 Batman movie starred Kim Basinger, who eventually married - and divorced - Alec Baldwin, who wound up playing the role of The Shadow five years later in 1994!)

Over a decade later, in 1988, O'Neil and Kaluta would reunite to produce The Shadow's latest adventure in a graphic novel published by Marvel Comics: Hitler's Astrologer. A year after, they re-released the first five issues of the 1970s series in another graphic novel: The Private Files of The Shadow. It featured a new Shadow adventure drawn by Kaluta.

Howard Chaykin updated The Shadow myth in 1986 with his four-part series: Blood and Judgement. It explained The Shadow's past and allied him with new agents in the present day. Later, Andy Helfer continued this theme (1987-1989) with his series, culminating in the Master of Darkness becoming a cyborg. It is easy to theorize that the futuristic direction the series was taking ultimately became its undoing, thanks in part to purists. The last issue left readers with some loose ends as the "new and improved" Shadow was poised to take on his old nemesis, Shiwan Khan (now also a cyborg), and recover his real (flesh and blood) body. (Sorry about the spoilers, guys!)

In 1989, Gerard Jones retrieved the character from the future and put him back in his original settings of the 1940s. This stylish series was one of the best Shadow comics ever produced (according to some). For 31 issues, The Shadow fought crime with mobsters and madmen/women in New York, Chicago, and even China. It also did a crossover with the Doc Savage comic series in a 4-part adventured entitled The Conflagration Man. The last issue was published in 1992.

By 1993, Dark Horse Comics had taken over the character. Mike Kaluta and Joel Goss were hired to do a 3-part series entitled In the Coils of the Leviathan. The following year, the arrival of the movie starring Alec Baldwin caused a brief surge of comic book adventures written by Kaluta and Goss: a special "one-shot" comic featuring The Shadow in three mini-mysteries, and a 3-part series, Hell's Heat Wave. The Shadow even appeared in a crossover involving one of Dark Horse's most popular characters: Ghost.

The last series to be published by Dark Horse was in 1995. It pitted the Master of Darkness against his pulp novel contemporary, Doc Savage, for the second time in a two-part adventure called The Case of the Shrieking Skeletons. By then, the movie was out on video and the craze seemed to be dying out. No more Shadow comics were published by Dark Horse since then.

In 2000, ACG Comics re-released the 1940s newspaper comic strip of The Shadow. After that, it seemed that the Master of Darkness himself had gone into seclusion. It would not be until 2012 when he was resurrected once more in a new series by Dynamite Entertainment written by Garth Ennis. The Shadow would once again be discovered by a whole new generation.

For a more in-depth look at The Shadow in comics >>


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