Sunday, March 6, 2011



The Shadow's 80th Anniversary

Eighty years ago, on March 6, 1931, the famous cloaked avenger of crime made his debut on newsstands across America. The first of 325 pulp novels, The Living Shadow, written by newspaperman/magician Walter B. Gibson under the house name of Maxwell Grant, brought the mysterious crime fighter to life on a bridge in New York, saving the life of a young suicidal man named Harry Vincent, who would become The Shadow's first aide in his never-ending fight against crime. Based on a the voice of an eerie radio announcer for Detective Story Magazine Hour, The Shadow quickly took on a life of his own under Gibson's often ingenious plots. The Shadow novels, published bi-weekly, ran the gamut from mystery to horror and he soon became the most popular "dark" hero of the 1930s. And unlike many other characters, he transcended his media to become an enormously popular radio show running from 1937 to 1954, embedding the phase, The Shadow knows! into the public lexicon. In the radio version, The Shadow was millionaire man-about-town Lamont Cranston with the "mysterious ability to cloud men's minds so they cannot see him," but in the novels his identify was not quite so concrete, and in fact later was revealed to be somebody other than Cranston, plus he did not become invisible, but blended with the shadows. And carried a brace of .45s and a chilling laugh that sent terror into the heart of the underworld.

The Shadow pretty much rescued the hero pulp genre from obscurity, soon spawning a slew of imitators such as The Spider and Phantom Detective, as well as paving the way for Doc Savage and The Avenger and every other pulp hero. Sanctum Books, who are currently reprinting the entire run of Shadow novels in double novel volumes each month is issuing a special restored version of The Living Shadow this month, #47, teaming it with one of his best adventures, The Black Hush, and its iconic original cover.

So remember, the weed of crime bears bitter fruit...crime does not pay...The Shadow knows...