The Shadow


It is important to note that the information contained in this bio are reflective of the 'pulp' Shadow, and not the 'radio' Shadow. While the two are one in the same, they each have a slightly different history and identity.

It begins with a laugh... a cold, blood chilling laugh. The voice behind that laughter was the narrator of a Thursday night radio program sponsored by Street & Smith, pulp magazine giants. That laugh, that voice, became more popular than the show itself. The public was enthralled with the mysterious announcer known only as The Shadow. Acting quickly, Street & Smith hurried out The Shadow, A Detective Magazine.

The Shadow, pulp's most endeared character was born. Yet, he did not even exist. He was only a vague concept, with an unused Nick Carter manuscript as his first script and no writer to bring him to life.

That job was eventually given to Walter Gibson, a down-on-his-luck reporter and part time magician who happened to Street & Smith's offices looking for work. He was given The Shadow Magazine, but instructed to write under a pen name, as the character was not his, but the product of the publishing company. He was given the task of returning a 75,000 word story, but that was all. No plot, no real character defintion... Because these did not yet exist. Street & Smith were hoping for a writer to come along and fill-in these minor details. They lucked out.

Not a true fiction writer, Gibson went to work the only way he knew how, as a reporter. Under the pen name Maxwell Grant, he brought something to the Shadow that had hereto been missing in the pulps. Character development.

Over the course of the first three editions, The Shadow himself was only a minor character, hanging in the background, affecting the story only when called upon. This was intentional. A think tank had been set in place at Street & Smith to slowly develop the story and character. The Shadow was not only the first pulp character to have his own magazine, he was the first to break out of the 'formula'.

Impersonating millionare playboy Lamont Cranston (the real Lamont had left the country at the other's bidding), as well as a host of other alter-egos, The Shadow did not dispense justice, he became justice. His agents filled the city, passing him information, aiding him in his quest. There was Moe Shrevnitz, who drove a suped-up taxi, and shuttled the 'hero' from battle to battle. Burbank, who spent his life glued to the Shadow's switchboard, passing coded information along to other agents. "Hawkeye" and Cliff Marsland who posed as underworld criminals to gain information about The Shadow's rivals and enemies. Stanley, who was Lamont's driver, and was so thick that he did not realize he served both the true Lamont and his impersonator. Tapper the lockpick, Jericho the superhuman African giant...the list is endless.

Perhaps the only list longer than The Shadow's agents could be his alter-egos. He was at once: Lamont Cranston, Henry Arnaud, "Fritz" the dimwitted janitor of the police station, Phineas Twambley, Rajah of Lengore and even, Beaver Luke. The Shadow's true identity is later confirmed by Gibson to be, Kent Allard, an adventurer whose identity as The Shadow is known only by a pair of Xinca Indians sworn to eternal secrecy.

The Shadow's top agent is, however, Harry Vincent. Vincent, opens the first story, The Living Shadow, with an attempt to leap to his death from a bridge. The Shadow intervenes, saving Vincent's life. What happens next sets the pace for The Shadow's world until it ended.
"Your life is no longer your own", the cloaked stranger warns him. "I shall improve it...But I shall risk it, too. Perhaps I shall lose it, because I have lost lives, just as I have saved them. This is my promise: life, with enjoyment, with danger, with excitement...Life, above all, with honor. But, if I give it, I demand obedience. Absolute obedience."

Thus it begins. Armed with a pair of licorice colored .45s, The Shadow quickly becomes the most sought after pulp of all time. His tale goes from quarterly, to monthly, to twice a month in under a year. It continued to be so until 1946, when Gibson quit the series over a contract dispute. Street &Smith quickly replaced the writer with Bruce Elliot, who degraded The Shadow into little more than another detective tale. In 1949, Gibson returned to attempt to rebreathe life into magazine, pushing out a final three novels (one of which he made a guest appearance in), but to no avail. The time of the great pulps had passed.