The 1930’s era of organized crime has a long-standing place of honour in pop culture mythology.
Whether it be Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Raynor’s award-winning graphic novel-turned-film, Road to Perdition or the fictionalized investigation, arrest and court judgement of Al Capone in Brian De Palma’s brilliant film, The Untouchables, bootlegging, the mob, death and “beatin’ the rap” have been perennially in the minds of comic book readers and film viewers.
And why not? It’s a dark time of the human history, the post-Great Depression era, that intrigues us, that haunts us, to this day.
Maybe it’s cannabis instead of booze. Maybe it’s COVID-19 related job loss instead of a stock market crash. We can look to what’s happened before to understand what’s happening in our lives now.
But the dirty and altogether riveting trick that the 1930’s organized crime age gives us, is that there’s always some new dark tale of human morality that we just need to know. With February being Black History Month, now’s as good as time as any to learn that fascinating story – and that’s where Shadow Doctor takes a place of honour.
Written by Peter Calloway (television’s Legion, American Gods, Marvel’s Cloak and Dagger, and comicdom’s Gotham City Sirens) and lavishly illustrated with a feel of historical accuracy by Georges Jeanty (The American Way, Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season Eight, Weapon X), Shadow Doctor is the story of the real-life exploits and experiences of Calloway’s grandfather, Nathaniel Calloway, during prohibition-era Chicago.
Nathaniel is a med-school graduate of the University of Illinois, a man on a mission to fix himself a piece of the American Dream; a man with the right credentials, the right demeanor and the proper enthusiasm.
Nathaniel’s only problem is that he’s a black man.
And in 1930’s America, that means no hospital will employ a well-schooled doctor, no bank will back a doctor’s practice, no matter how well planned…and no one even particularly cares. It’s not personal, after all. It’s just the human condition.
In the 1930’s, that condition makes for strange bedfellows as Calloway, in his desperation, finds another source of money: working alongside Al Capone himself!
Shadow Doctor is a side of American history you haven’t heard about before and it’s one that demands to be listened to. Not only is the first issue a delight to read, but its impossible to put down. It shows the best of men untangling their own morality amidst the worst that society offers.
And that story is just as relevant today, just as American, as it was one hundred years ago.
Make the run to your local comic book shop and pick up Shadow Doctor #1. Learn a little about the America that was, and maybe a lot about the America that is.