These days, you can’t swing a cat without seeing some sort of comic-book adaptation, be it live-action, cartoon or just that weird dude in the Spider-Man costume on the corner of Sunset.  I’ve often said that I don’t always trust and adaptation, and today we have Exhibit A in my case for why…  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of The Shadow #3 awaits!

Shadow3CoverTHE SHADOW #3
Writer: Robert Bernstein/Jerry Siegel
Penciler: Paul Reinman
Inker: Paul Reinman
Colorist: Uncredited
Letterer: Sam Rosen
Editor: Richard Goldwater
Publisher: Archie Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $20.00

Previously in The Shadow: A heroic aviator of the first World War, Kent Allard decided that he needed to engage in a war against the criminal element.  Faking his death, he returned to New York City, adopting a number of alternate identities, including that of Lamont Cranston (a real, separate person in the pulp stories, who resembles Allard enough that the two men impersonate one another as necessary.)  One of his other identities is the cloaked man known as The Shadow, who uses his skills and/or hypnotic abilities, depending on the story and the writer, to engage in battle with the weed of crime and its vulgar fruit.

‘Course, this is a comic-book of the 1960s we’re talking about, so things might be a teensy bit different from what you remember…


In many ways, this could be a standard Shadow pulp adventure, albeit one with heavy overtones of comic-book storytelling.  Still, it seems less like the mastermind Shadow, playing chess with the forces of the criminal underworld than a Bruce Wayne-style bon vivant/playboy type, fighting crime for the thrill of it.  Rushing downstairs, Lamont Cranston encounters a group of thugs kidnapping his executive assistant…


The Shadow makes short work of the gunsels, launching into them with the frenzy reminiscent of another Caped Crusader, then quickly assesses the situation for clues…


Cranston realizes that Margo has left him an important clue, then discovers that his driver Moe Shrevnitz (known as “Shrevvy” and consistently misspelled “Shrevy” in this issue”) hasn’t been abducted after all.



Yeah, it turns out he has, and that the nefarious Shiwan Khan has brainwashed his faithful chauffeur into performing a final mission: Wipe out himself AND Cranston, taking out The Shadow’s major lieutenants in one swell foop.

What he didn’t count on was that Cranston and The Shadow are, in fact, both the same man!


Aaand here’s where the weirdness kicks in.  In the first two issues of Archie’s Shadow, Cranston hasn’t worn the traditional slouch hat/scarf/cloak combo, instead wearing what appears to be an opera cape over a standard three-piece suit while Shadowing his Shadowy ways.  In this issue, all of a sudden (literally, as the art shift takes place between panels) The Shadow wears a generic blue-and-green super suit with a cowl mask.  It’s a really weird choice on a number of levels, not the least of which being it’s a REALLY boring costume…


Also, I’m quite certain that it was drawn over finished art with Cranston in the same suit/cape thing he’d been wearing for the first couple of issues.  The Shadow stashes Shrevvy, then skulks into Chinatown, where he puts on a giant carnival mask and passes unnoticed (another reason why I think the artwork was altered after the fact), sneaking his way through the streets to find Margo Lane.


Entering a mysterious import/export business, The Shadow shakes down the locals, once again feeling a lot more like mediocre Batman than the way-cool Shadow of old…


Still, even this watered-down Cranston has enough on the metaphorical ball to get the location of Shiwan Khan out of his prey: An abandoned pavilion on the grounds of the World’s Fair!

Sadly, the whole thing turns out to be a trap…



The…  Wh…

Okay.  The Shadow faces down a tank full of sharks, a man-eating lion and enemy agents in armored vehicles, using only his wits, his handy revolver and a little hypnosis to cloud the minds of weak-minded men.  You hardly find your suspension of disbelief shattered at all.  (Did I mention this issue is reputedly written by Jerry Siegel, the creator of Superman?)  Shiwan Khan is injured, and flees the scene, allowing The Shadow to send Khan’s own armored cars after the assassins sent to kill the Senator…


The backup story once again doesn’t feel very much like a Shadow tale, disposing of Shrevvy and Margo in a few moments with a plot contrivance, and setting Lamont Cranston against The Princess Of Death!


Finding these comics in a back-issue bin some years ago (The Archie Shadow had an 8-issue run, which indicates that sales were, at least initially, okay, as it usually took 3-4 months for publishers to get detailed information on how many books were purchased), I was at first intrigued, and then a little bit appalled by the whole thing.  Seeing a character as strong as Cranston turned into (you should excuse the expression) a shadow of his former self is kind of disheartening, especially given how routine the stories actually turned out to be.  Had there been any explanation of why he gave up his vigilante ways to become a garden-variety Batman imitator, it might have worked, but, alas…  All in all, The Shadow #3 takes the character that inspired The Batman and makes him into a cheap knockoff of his philosophical offspring, and features below-average story and uninspired art, earning a mostly-only-interesting-as-a-curiosity 2 out of 5 stars overall.  I don’t know if I’d recommend buying them (especially since they tend to be spendy), but they’re really only worth reading in “What were they thinking?” kind of way…



A really weird artifact of a wacky time in comics, mostly notable for what it's NOT than for what it is...

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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