One of the most clear inspirations for Batman was the pulp novel hero the Shadow. Both characters are antihero vigilantes who use the darkness that usually hides evil to fight crime. Both use gadgets and training to overcome their foes without a slew of superhuman powers, and most importantly, both look good in black.
Unsurprisingly, both of these dark knights who know the evil that lurks in the hearts of men eventually crossed over in the world of comics. While the pair crossed over once when DC was publishing The Shadow in the 1970s, they've also had two more recent crossovers, co-published by DC and Dynamite Entertainment. Although the two dark crusaders share many similarities, the differences between the two make for an interesting team-up between two legends.
THE SHADOW AND THE BAT
In 1973's Batman #253, written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, Bruce Wayne is hot on the trail of a counterfeiting gang. The crooks peddle their wares in Gotham, but the investigation takes Batman out of his comfort zone and into the desert. However, there’s another dark hero on the case, who's operating completely in the shadows.
Throughout the story, Batman just misses seeing The Shadow, only witnessing the aftermath of his handiwork, whether that be finding a crook who’s just been hypnotized or hearing his trademark laughter. The laughter is particularly interesting, as typically such a thing would signal that the Joker is around, but in this story it’s a sign that The Shadow has yet again struck a blow against evil. Another point of interest is that The Shadow uses guns against his enemies, albeit bloodlessly in this particular issue.
There’s a certain edge to The Shadow that makes the normally intense and brooding Batman seem a little softer by comparison. The issue ends with the two shaking hands, a warm moment of respect between the older guard and the one who has taken inspiration from it.
DARK KNIGHT MEETS DARK SHADOW
Scott Snyder’s 2017 Batman/The Shadow miniseries, drawn by Riley Rossmo offers much more than a handshake between the two heroes. It's a tale that intertwines the lore of both characters together as they face off with two of their greatest foes. Investigating a murder, Batman stumbles upon The Stag, a seemingly immortal killer who has battled The Shadow in a never-ending war.
While investigating the same crime, The Shadow and Batman cross paths and swords. Claiming that he has secretly watched and taught Bruce for years, The Shadow claims that the Caped Crusader must take his place and become the new Shadow. In a journey that stretches from the streets of Gotham to mystical planes, the caped crusader finds himself in a mortal battle when The Stag joins forces with the Joker.
THE CROSSOVER CONTINUES
Later that year, The Shadow/Batman miniseries, written by Steve Orlando and drawn by Giovanni Timpano, continues the crossover with another perilous pairing of villains from Batman and The Shadow’s respective rogues galleries. After taking down Professor Pyg, Batman discovers a vast conspiracy lead by the Secret Seven, old foes of The Shadow who are so powerful that they control the entirety of the world from behind the scenes. At the top of the Secret Seven are Batman’s nemesis Ra’s Al Ghul and Shiwan Khan, the Shadow's enemy who wields of incredible mental powers. It’s a desperate battle that sees both Bruce Wayne and Lamont Cranston face insurmountable odds to defeat foes who always seem to come out on top.
Even though these stories are miniseries, The Shadow/Batman crossover stories feels like they have weight to them, and they are not afraid to get down and dirty. In stark contrast to the handshake from Batman #253, The DC/Dynamite stories have The Shadow and Batman working through a more tenuous alliance and even throwing down a few times.
At one point, Batman even briefly dies in the first miniseries. Another particularly memorable scene occurs in the second series when Khan attacks both heroes at Wayne’s manor and briefly mind controls Batman to hold a gun on The Shadow, an image that will certainly stick with readers long after the story is over. Fans of either Batman or The Shadow would be well rewarded to track down any of these three encounters between serial adventure legends.