The Shadow’s first pulp cover

Thrill Book (Oct. 1, 1919) and The Shadow (April 1931)

The cover of the first issue of The Shadow pulp may have looked familiar to some longtime pulp readers in 1931.

In the introduction to Dover’s 1975 reprint of “The Crime Oracle” and “The Teeth of the Dragon,” author Walter Gibson recalls:

“Within the week, I took all that (the first six chapters) to Street and Smith, where the early chapters were okayed after an immediate reading, but with one proviso. Among the early pages, I was to introduce a Chinese angle, to carry the story into Manhattan’s Chinatown, where The Shadow would play an active part. For purposes of economy, the firm had decided to use an old cover painting for the new magazine and the only one that tied in with The Shadow was a man in Chinese costume, clutching an upraised hand that cast a huge shadow on the wall behind him.

“Instead of causing complications, this proved helpful. It introduced an intriguing setting that gave The Shadow opportunity for a new disguise. …”

The “old cover painting” first appeared on the Oct. 1, 1919, issue of The Thrill Book, illustrating the lead story, “Mr. Shen of Shensi” by H. Bedford-Jones. It was slightly modified for its appearance on the first issue of The Shadow magazine, April 1931.

In The Shadow Scrapbook (1979), Gibson says the cover artist was unknown, but pulp historian Robert Sampson in The Night Master, his 1982 study of The Shadow magazine, identifies the artist as Modest Stein.

Whether known or unknown, the artist helped introduce a popular setting for numerous of The Shadow adventures to come: Chinatown.