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Pulp comics: DC’s ’70s ‘The Shadow’

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, December 5, 2014 in Comics, Review, The Avenger, The Shadow
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Pulp comics:  DC’s ’70s ‘The Shadow’

After the horrid Archie Comics version of The Shadow, the character would next appear in comics at DC Comics in the 1970s in what is felt to be the best comic version of the character so far, in no small part due to the artwork of Mike Kaluta, who more than any other comic-book artist is identified with The Shadow.

And almost all those issues were written by Denny O’Neil, who did an excellent work in bringing The Shadow into the comics world. I think this was my first introduction to The Shadow, before I had even read any of the paperback reprints of the stories.

At the time, DC was working to compete against Marvel Comics, and as part of that was expanding the type of titles they had beyond just superheroes, into fantasy, adventure and the like. In 1972, DC had gotten the license for the Edgar Rice Burroughs characters from Western/Gold Key and did new Tarzan, Korak, and John Carter stories. Marvel had snagged the rights to Doc Savage in 1972, and DC got the rights to The Shadow around the same time with the new title coming out in October/November of 1973.

There is material out that shows that Jim Steranko had tried to get the job of doing The Shadow title, but he wanted to write it as well. But DC wanted O’Neil to write it. So instead the art job went to Kaluta, who had recently done an great adaptation of “Carson of Venus” in DC’s “Korak, Son of Tarzan” title.

Set in the 1930s, DC’s “The Shadow” was very faithful to the character. We have some of The Shadow’s agents, including Margo, Shrevvy, Harry Vincent, and even Burbank. I thought I had seen that a couple of the stories were based on certain pulp stories, but I couldn’t find proof of that when I did this posting.

DC's "The Shadow" No. 1Kaluta wasn’t able to do artwork on all the issues, doing the covers for issues #1-4, 6, 10-12 and the interiors of #1-4, 6. Apparently, this is because he had problems meeting the deadlines, getting help from Bernie Wrightson on issue 3, and from Wrightson, Steve Hickman and Howard Chaykin on issue #4. Frank Robbins did the interior artwork on #5, 7-9, and E.R. Cruz did #10-12.

Issue #11, one of two issues not written by Denny O’Neil, but instead written by Michael Uslan (the other was #9), had a crossover with The Avenger, to help promote the new “Justice, Inc.” comic DC started. The Shadow also crossed over into a couple of issues of “Batman,” written by O’Neil, again to help promote The Shadow title in issues #253 (November 1973) and #259 (November/December 1974. Unfortunately, I have not found these two issues. But sadly, “The Shadow” title was canceled with #12, the August/September 1975 issue.

In 1989, DC did reprint the Kaluta stories from “The Shadow” in a hardback collection, “The Private Files of The Shadow,” that included a new Shadow comic story. It’s out of print. As Dynamite has reprinted some of the later Shadow material from DC, maybe we will see this reprinted again. Kaluta has also gone on to do more Shadow material, especially with Dark Horse Comics. More on that in a future posting.

For those who don’t have access to the comics, the Diversions of the Groovy Kind blog has scans of several of the issues. They have a pretty good intro posting with issue #1.

The scans are: