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The Shadow

The mysterious Shadow blazed onto the newsstands in 1931 and for 18 years, battle evil with the aid of a team of agents. The Shadow was one of the most popular pulp heroes.


The ShadowThe Shadow
Publisher: Street and Smith
Publication range: April 1931-Summer 1949
Street and Smith was in an enviable, but awkward position in the early 1930s. Readers were clamoring for the magazine featuring The Shadow, but the publisher didn't have such a magazine.

As a means of promoting its Detective Story Magazine, the publishing house had sponsored a radio program that dramatized stories from the magazine. The program was hosted by a mysterious announcer with a haunting laugh. The announcer went by the name of The Shadow.

Street and Smith scrambled to satisfy the readers' appetites, hiring writer and magician Walter B. Gibson to flush out The Shadow character. A quarterly magazine titled The Shadow hit the stands with an April 1931 date. Its instant success prompted Street and Smith to increase its publication rate to monthly.

By giving the magazine the same name as its featured character, Street and Smith unknowingly started a genre that would prove to be a goldmine over the next decade: the character pulp.

Gibson's Shadow was a cunning master of the night, able to melt into the shadows and strike fear into the hearts of criminals with his whispered, mocking laugh. When not cloaked in black slouch hat and coat, The Shadow posed in a variety of identities, including that of wealthy playboy Lamont Cranston. The Shadow was helped by a cadre of agents, all of whom owed their lives and their allegiance to him.

Together they battled a range of evildoers — from common swindlers and jewel thieves to the band of The Hand and the voodoo master Rodil Mocquino — for 18 years, until the summer of 1949, and for 325 novels.

Readers knew little about The Shadow at first, but as the series progressed readers were given hints about his past. In 1937, the story "The Shadow Unmasks" revealed just who The Shadow really was. He was Kent Allard, a famed aviator who had disappeared years before in Central America. Allard had been a flying ace and spy during World War I, before starting his war against crime.

The Shadow was an immediate hit on the newsstands. By the October 1931 issue, it began appearing monthly; within a year, it would be publishing twice a month. It continued at that rate until paper shortages in World War II forced it to return to monthly publication. The Shadow folded with the Summer 1949 number, when Street and Smith canceled its remaining four pulps.

The authors

Walter B. Gibson, under the house name Maxwell Grant, penned a majority of the 325 lead novels that appeared in The Shadow pulp magazine. Other writers who used the Grant penname included Theodore Tinsley and Bruce Elliott.

In the 1960s, Gibson wrote “The Return of The Shadow” for a paperback revival series, but the remaining stories were written by Dennis Lynds. The 1994 movie adaptation was written by James Luceno.

Other media

Despite an 18-year pulp run, The Shadow is best remembered today for the longer-running radio program The Shadow. In 1937, six years after The Shadow first appeared in print, he returned to the airwaves with a drama of his own. But unlike the print Shadow who relied on darkness and his stealthy abilities to conceal him from others, the radio's Shadow used an hypnotic power he learned in the Far East. One thing that the print Shadow did pick up from the radio program was a female agent named Margo Lane.

The Shadow also appeared in several short features, full-length movies and a serial, as well as a failed 1950s TV pilot. The Shadow returned to the silver screen in 1994 in a film starring Alec Baldwin as The Shadow/Lamont Cranston.

There have been reports that Sony is working to return the Night Master to theaters, but nothing definite has developed.



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