Every other week, Jason Shayer will highlight an issue or a run of issues pulled from the horde of comic book long boxes that occupy more room in his house than his wife can tolerate. Each of these reviews will delve into what made that issue or run significant as well as discuss the creative personalities behind the work. “Long Box” refers to the lengthy, white cardboard boxes most comics find themselves stored within – bagged, alphabetized and numerically ordered.
I have fond memories of listening to old recordings of The Shadow radio program. “Who Knows What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Men… The Shadow Knows!” I picked up issue #1 of the series when I was 15 years old and I was hooked. It was like nothing else on the comic book shelves at the time. I was a little too young to “get” Chaykin’s critically acclaimed American Flagg, but I really enjoyed this series. It was a labelled a Mature Title, so being a fifteen year old, there was a bit of a forbidden and taboo feeling about the book.
Chaykin cleverly took The Shadow out of his familiar venue of the 1930s and plunged the pulp hero into 1980s. I was a bit hesitant to revisit this story, worried that it wouldn’t stand up 26 years later, but it held up quite well. Sex. Murder. Revenge. All Chaykin trademarks. Add a dash of an identity crisis, intrigue, and possibly the coolest water cooler killing ever!
The Shadow’s associates were an indispensable arsenal of tools in his war on crime. However, The Shadow’s arrogance and narrow-minded focus made him oblivious to the feelings of these operatives that he treated like pawns. One of the more interesting sources of conflict in this series didn’t come from the antagonist, but rather from one of his operatives that he had been romantically linked to in the 1930s. Margo Lane is a bitter old woman in her 70s who spent the better part of her life waiting for The Shadow to return. And when he does 40 years later, The Shadow still looks to be in his 30s. Similar in many ways to Captain America, The Shadow, despite being in the 1980s, behaved liked he was still in the 1930s, with his prejudices and social morals.
The Shadow made the Punisher of the 1980s look like Kitty Pryde. Seriously. The Shadow evolved into more than a pulp hero, he was one of the first vigilantes to make a statement in the 1980s. And Chaykin took full advantage of the book’s billing as a “For Mature Readers” title and didn’t hold back! However, his approach didn’t really go over well with a lot of long time Shadow fans, who didn’t appreciate what Chaykin did. I can see why as he made a clean start of the new series, cutting out the history of this character, to appeal to a new audience. And I can also understand the resentment of the older fans.
This ground-breaking miniseries spawned an ongoing series that would run 19 issues, a spinoff series, The Shadow Strikes!, set back in the 1930s, and encouraged DC Comics to launch several other pulp series, like Doc Savage and Justice. If you didn’t catch this miniseries on the first go-around, you’re in luck. Dynamite Entertainment is reprinting The Shadow – Blood and Judgement to tie in with the launch of their new ongoing The Shadow series written by Garth Ennis.
Here’s the blurb from Dynamite Comics promoting the trade paperback:
“The laugh had vanished… the mocking, sinister laugh that signaled doom for the petty souls whose wrongdoing stained the world. It was gone, lost in the night that echoed it. Now, one by one, his friends and operatives are being ruthlessly murdered. Someone is trying to draw him out. Thirty-five years later, it is time for him to return. The laugh is here again. The Shadow is back! God help the guilty! Written and illustrated by legendary, award-winning comic book creator Howard Chaykin, The Shadow: Blood & Judgment is collected for the first time since 1991! Chaykin’s dynamic, visceral style adds a new dimension to The Shadow of the 1980’s!”
Jason Shayer has recently joined the Biff Bam Pop! writing team. He’s been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.