Garth Ennis Knows "The Shadow"

This April, Dynamite Entertainment expands its library with an all-new adaptation of "The Shadow." Originally serialized in pulp magazines, "The Shadow" transitioned to radio drama in the 1930s and has since been the subject of comic books, video games, television shows and movies, most recently in 1994 with Alec Baldwin in the title role. Now, fan-favorite writer Garth Ennis and artist Aaron Campbell are bringing the Shadow back to comics with an all-new ongoing series.

By day, Lamont Cranston is a wealthy young man about town. By night, he is The Shadow -- a skilled marksman, martial artist and master of disguise and stealth with the power to cloud the minds of men. Joined by his lover, Margo Lane, and US Army Intelligence agent Pat Finnegan, the Shadow faces off against Major Taro Kondo of Japanese Army Intelligence and his associate, Chinese bandit warlord Buffalo Wong.

Ennis spoke briefly with CBR News about the upcoming series, how it sticks to its pulp roots, the Shadow's skills and powers and his affinity for the character.

CBR News: Garth, tell us about "The Shadow." How closely does it follow the story of the original pulp hero and how will you be adapting it for a modern audience?

Garth Ennis: I'm not really thinking too much about the notion of a modern audience, I'm writing a pulp character in the pulp era. I like writing historical fiction, so it's largely second nature to me.

Considering the vast number of origin stories for the Shadow, what do you plan to cover in your first arc? Will it be a direct origin story or something else?

I'm keeping it fairly mysterious at first. Then, about halfway through the story, you'll get one supporting character's take on the Shadow's origin -- the idea being, no one really knows for certain except the Shadow, and he's not doing much talking. He makes everyone too nervous to research his origins in depth.

What are The Shadow's powers, weapons and skills in this incarnation?

He's a damn good shot with those twin .45s, as well as pretty much any other weapon he picks up. Excellent tactical thinker. He has the power to cloud men's minds, which comes in handy if you will insist on taking on odds of twenty to one. I'm having a lot of fun with the mystical side of things, actually -- the first thing I thought was, I wonder if he could cloud the minds of dead men, too?

What about the supporting cast? Who shows up to join the Shadow and what are their relationships to him?

There's Margo Lane, lover of the Shadow's alter-ego, Lamont Cranston. There are a couple of US Army Intelligence agents, including one Pat Finnegan, who's more than a little suspicious of our hero's motives. And there are various other minor characters, amongst whom you'll probably notice a fairly high mortality rate.

Who are the main villains the Shadow goes up against? What kind of challenges are in store for The Shadow?

There are two main villains: Major Taro Kondo of Japanese Army Intelligence, and his rather smelly associate Buffalo Wong, a Chinese bandit warlord. Exactly what their plans are you'll have to read the story to find out. And there are, of course, numerous supporting scumbags and vermin -- including some suitably sinister German agents.

One of the more controversial moves for "The Shadow" as a franchise was the introduction of Margo Lane to the pulp novels after being introduced in the radio drama. She was also characterized as The Shadow's love interest in the last film. What are your plans for her?

I see Margo as a brave and resourceful young woman who rapidly finds herself out of her depth as the true nature of the Shadow's plans become clear to her. As he himself tells her, this time it's not about colorful villains and fiendishly cunning schemes, this time the stakes couldn't be higher -- they really are playing for keeps.

How do you plan to draw from both the original pulp novels and the radio drama for your adaptation?

Really only in the broadest sense. As with all the established characters I've enjoyed writing, I'm more interested in the potential I see in the concept rather than any specific prior adventures.

You've wanted to tackle the Shadow for some time now. What about the character of the Shadow appeals to you most as a writer?

He's a great looking character -- the coat, the hat, the scarf, the blazing eyes, the twin automatics. He's smart and dangerous as hell. He's an agent of Fate, always seeing the bigger picture, moving the pieces around the board. And his adventures are set in the 1930s, one of the most romantic and fascinating eras of all. We were bound to run into each other sooner or later.

Why do you feel the pulp genre, and specifically the Shadow's role in it, is a good fit for comics?

I don't believe there's a genre or subject that isn't a good fit for comics. When I started writing there was a notion abroad in the industry that comics could tackle any subject -- I think that's been lost to an extent as people focus more and more on superheroes, but it's not something I'm giving up on any time soon.

Most of your comics don't shy away from violence -- will "The Shadow" continue to follow this trend?

I'll give you three guesses, but you're only going to need one. Although, to be honest, I tend to leave a lot of that up to the artist -- I'll write something like, "The Shadow opens up point blank and blood flies," and then it's up to the artist how much blood we see and how many meaty bits are mixed in with it.

"The Shadow" debuts in April.

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