7/12: Void Influences – The Shadow! (1970)
Welcome to the 7th installment of our look at characters who influenced the creation and development of my own dearly beloved Deacon Void. Today’s version looks at perhaps the greatest pulp fiction hero of them all, the mysterious Shadow!
By 1970. I was nearly 12-years old and I was discovering more and more that characters popular when my parents were my age resonated with me as well. No character fit that mold more than The Shadow. Readers of Void must see it in my writing and characterization. Several followers of Void have already commented to me that he very much reminds them of The Shadow. I can think of no greater compliment!
The Shadow was originally the name of the narrator who introduced Detective Story Hour on the radio beginning July, 1930. He became so popular that by 1937, he had his own show, simply called The Shadow. That version starred Orson Wells (the same voice that would shock and thrill listeners in 1938 in the previously discussed War of the Worlds segment).
My Mom and Dad both shared tales with me of how much they loved the old Shadow radio series (it ran for nearly 20-years, bowing out in 1954 to give way to television). In the meantime, the character starred in pulps to tremendous popularity and at least four different movie serials.
While numerous origins surround the character, he is most often remembered as Lamont Cranston, a handsome business tycoon who was a “man about town.” What made the Shadow cool was his uncanny ability to “cloud men’s minds.” He could make you see what he wanted you to see, roam in and out of crowds in complete invisibility, and his laugh would send chills down the spines of the crime bosses of the day. He was armed with a pair of .45 caliber pistols that he was more than willing to use. His catch phrase is classic pulp iconography:
Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow KNOWS!
I used to wonder, “How does he know? Does that phrase hint at some dastardly past? Does the Shadow know because his heart is tainted by evil also?” It was a scary concept to me, and I liked it!
The Shadow influenced the early years of comics as well. It is said that Bill Finger and Bob Kane were heavily influenced by him when they created Batman in 1940. And Shadow girlfriend Margo Lane? Wasn’t there a girl named Lane in the Superman mythos that began in 1938?
Like pulp heroes Doc Savage and The Avenger previously discussed, The Shadow emerged as a comic book hero in 1973, written by acclaimed Batman writer Denny O’Neill and drawn with critical applause by the ever-talented Mike Kaluta. In 1994, Alec Baldwin took the starring role in a major motion picture release of our daring anti-hero.
Of all the influences we’ve discussed so far, none carry more weight than The Shadow. The look, feel, and overall “attitude” of Deacon Void can be traced all the way back to this legendary radio, pulp, movie and comic star who clouded the minds of men and struck fear into the hearts of fear mongers. Just because you cannot see a shadow in the darkness does not mean that one is not there! (Hey, I think I can use that line!).
As Deacon Void slips in and out of the dark abyss we call the Void, he stops from time to time to tip his cap to the man who started it all, the man who knows the depth of evil that can exist and flourish within the hearts of man. Don’t stop to look behind you, for if you do, you may be shocked to see that the thing pursuing you is none other than … The Shadow!