Scott's Classic Comics Corner: The Shadow You May Not Know

Between the awesome pulpiness of Street & Smith’s Shadow of the 40s and the awesome pulpiness of the 70s version started by O’Neil and Kaluta was the version of the Shadow that you may never have seen: the awful, pulp-free Archie version of the 60s.

It all started with so much promise. The Shadow, the great character of radio and pulps, had been out of funny books for well over a decade. The time seemed ripe to reintroduce this character. For one reason or another, the license landed with Archie Comics. Do not let that first cover fool you; the series had none of that tone. It was pure bait and switch.

This Shadow wore a garish superhero costume, including mask. Lone gone were the guns and the entourage of people dedicated to the Shadow. Lamont Cranston was also transformed into a blonde haired, blue eyed Steve Rogers clone. The early stories were written by Robert Bernstein, but after a few issues the writing chores were handed over to Jerry Siegel (yes, that Jerry Siegel), and the tone of the series got even more ridiculous. Archie mainstay John Rosenberger provided some of the early art, but the vast majority was done by the solid, yet bland Paul Reinman.

The links to the source material were tenuous. Sure Margo was still around, but most of the villains were cookie cutter Silver Age super villains. Shiwan Kahn was reintroduced, but instead of the classic ‘Yellow Peril’ character he’d been in the pulps, he was now a ‘paint by numbers’ Asian communist. Other threats to the Shadow (well, to his reputation, mainly) included Attila the Hunter, Radiation Rogue and The Human Bomb. The 8 issue series ran from August, 1964 to September, 1966. I’d blame it all on the Batman TV show, but this actually predated it. If you’ve read any of the post-Simon and Kirby ‘Mighty Heroes’ comics from the 60s, you are already aware that they lack the imaginative stories and dynamic art that DC and Marvel were providing at that time. As an Archie superhero series, this really wasn’t all that bad, but as a version of The Shadow, it is best forgotten. Seriously, "Upsy-Daisy"?

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