Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tales From The 50 Cent Bin! - The Shadow Strikes #1

Today’s character is a bit different from the lot. Instead of an homage/analogue, this character is one of heroes that actually influenced Bob Kane and Bill Finger in creating Batman. The two actually pulled a lot of ideas from then-pulp heroes for Batman mythos and look. I said I had some surprises for this month and this is one of them. That’s kind of why it’s a weird Batman month. I’m looking at characters that may have been influenced by him and characters that helped mold him in what he became.

The first hero I want to talk about today is The Shadow. He was one of the characters that Kane and Finger pulled some ideas from. They even used a Shadow story (“Partners of Peril”) to serve as the basis for Batman’s first story in Detective Comics #27. He first debuted on radio in 1930. The Shadow’s real name is Kent Allard but he does go by different aliases. The one I know of is Lamont Cranston, a rich socialite, and that one was used in the 1994 movie. While I really only know him through the movie, I’ve always liked the look. He has been in the entire entertainment medium like radio, books, comic books, comic strips, TV and film. DC Comics had a few series that featured the character.  Batman even met the Shadow in one issue.

After his stint in World War I, he traveled around Asia for years. He later returned to the US to start a war on the crime in New York City. He has the power to cloud men’s minds and essentially make himself invisible to them. He’s all decked out in a black suit with a cape and fedora. He wears a red scarf and he’s usually armed with guns. Today, I’ll be looking at an issue from DC’s fourth series on the character. The Shadow Strikes #1 was released in 1989.  Gerard Jones is the writer. The art is provided by the late Eduardo Barreto.

The Shadow Strikes #1
Writer: Gerard Jones
Artist: Eduardo Barreto
Colors: Anthony Tomlin
Letters: David Cody Weiss
Editor: Brian Augustyn

“Death's Head”
The year is 1935 and the place is New York City. The story starts out in the Cobalt Club, a club for rich white dudes. An order for a drink is delivered to Lamont Cranston. When the waiter reaches his chair (he couldn’t actually see him), the man is shocked to find a beheaded man! Luckily, it isn’t Mr. Cranston who had only stepped away for a while. Lamont checks for any identification and it’s revealed that the man was Algis Moncrief, a federal agent. While most of the patrons freak out, Lamont goes to a phone and calls Inspector Cardona using his Shadow voice.
Yeah, he's dead.

Later, Inspector Cardona shows up and tries to get to the bottom of the murder. They even can’t find the guy’s head. Meanwhile, Lamont talks to a man named Nichols about Moncrief who was apparently involved with the Soviet Union. Before Lamont can learn more, a distraught woman named Lucille Chevot comes looking for Moncrief. She finds out about him being beheaded and asks for the head in a pretty crazy way. Before Cardona can question her, Lamont tells him to leave her be for now. Afterwards, he looks for Nichols who had just left the club. Lamont then gets to work by calling his contacts, Margo Lane and Harry Vincent, to do some work. He tells Margo to trail Lucille and Harry to trail Nichols.

Margo follows Lucille via cab. Lucille heads into a church called the “Metaphysical Church of The Reborn Light.” Margo follows her in and runs into one of its gypsies. The gypsy lets Margo in and also unknowingly pricks her with her ring that had some drug in it. While Margo is wondering what’s wrong with her, the leader of the church (which is looking more like a cult) comes out. We then find out that Lucille has suffered the same fate as Moncrief has as she has now been beheaded. Meanwhile, Harry trails Nichols and finds him at a car dealership meeting with gypsies. Before he can see what Nichols is doing, he gets caught by someone.
Hmm... yep, he's the bad guy. He has a hood, leads a cult, and looks cuckoo.

Meanwhile, The Shadow sneaks into the Consulate for the USSR. He finds some information about a project Moncrief was working on. He also listens in on a conversation between two  USSR officers, Zherkov and Alex Vasileich. They talk about putting on a good show for the Americans. They head off in a car and The Shadow notices a familiar woman following them. Later on, he changes back into his civilian identity and heads to the Empire Room and he see the woman there. She notices him and leaves the building. He chases after her, changes into costume, and saves her from being killed by someone. The issue ends with her running away and realizing she is someone named Anastasia.
Yakkin' it up, I see?


Even though it was pretty light on action, I thought that this was a nice start for this series. It’s a mystery story, pure and simple. We get an interesting mystery about a beheaded man. It also looks like it’s leading to something bigger involving a cult and the Russians. Lamont even gets something that ties to his past with Anastasia. I also liked the Shadow, his contacts, and Inspector Cardona. The artwork was good for the most part. The Shadow looked cool as ever. It fit the era well and was overall nice to look at.

I don’t have really any negative stuff about it. It could have been a bit more action-packed. This is more of a nitpick though since the story was good. While the artwork is good, it did have a couple of wonky spots. Other than those little nitpicks. This was nice. It actually made me want to see how the story continued.  I went out to find the next issue and it does get better.

The Shadow is still around in the comics these days. Dynamite Comics has been churning out stuff on old-school heroes like The Shadow, the Green Hornet, and others. There was talk of another movie that Sam Raimi was supposed to direct, but it never came about. I’d still like to see another movie featuring the character. I do like the 1994 movie but it isn’t that good. Well, I’m done for tonight. Next time, I’ll check out another character.


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