Sunday, 28 March 2021

The Shadow #7 - The Night of the Beast.

Thanks to Charlie Horse 47 and Killdumpster for their sponsorship of this post, via the magic of Patreon
***

The Shadow #7, Frank Robbins
I admit it. I've always wanted to live on the 51st floor of a skyscraper that, officially, has only 50 floors.

That's because I want to be like the Shadow, and that's the sort of thing the Shadow would do.

Sadly, there are no 50 storey buildings in my native city. So, I shall have to settle for living on the first and second floors of a building that only officially has two floors. Surely such a ruse cannot fail to fool the dregs of the criminal underworld.

But that brings me back to the Shadow's short-lived 1970s DC series.

As we all know, it started off being drawn, with great style, by Mike Kaluta. However, after less than half-dozen issues, Michael Wm left the strip and it was handed over, for three issues, to the ever-popular Frank Robbins before ER Cruz was set loose on it.

There's one thing we know about Frank Robbins and that's that his style always made everything look like it was set in the 1930s, even when a story was set in the 1970s. So, just how did that style cope with drawing the 1930s themselves?

The Shadow #7
Lamont Cranston and his lady friend Margo Lane are watching a play starring Broadway goddess Morag Mayne who bears no resemblance at all to Katharine Hepburn, when who should appear but a malformed simpleton called Pile?

Before anyone can react, Pile swings in on a rope and makes off with the lovely Morag.

But it's mere moments before Cranston's transformed himself into the Shadow and gives chase.

Sadly, Shads isn't the only one giving chase, because so are a couple of hoods who see-off Pile, in the street outside, before the Shadow shows up and sees them off.

The Shadow #7, Morag Mayne kisses the Shadow
That excitement over, the man of mystery sets about his investigations, discovering Morag was, until recently, the girlfriend of local mobster Joey Lyce. Now, it's clear Lyce wants her rubbed out before she can tell the feds all the dirt she has on him, while Pile was out to save her from the wrath of Joey.

Thus it is that, while the Shadow and Morag are snogging in her apartment, the still-living Pile reappears, sends the Shadow flying and, again, abducts Morag, this time heading for his former home in an abandoned brewery.

The Shadow #7, Morag Mayne shoots Pile
But the Shadow's not the only one in hot pursuit, as Joey and his men also descend upon the site.

Obviously, this results in plenty of shooting, punching and needless laughing and, at the end of it all, Joey's been decked by the Shadow, while Pile, already mortally wounded by Joey's men, is accidentally killed by Morag, using the gun Pile himself gave her. Oh, the bitter irony of it all.

Denny O'Neil's tale's not a complex one. In fact, it's basically a hodgepodge of 1930s cliches, with a large chunk of The Hunchback of Notre Dame flung in but it has an irresistible sense of style, keeps moving and is a painless read which allows Robbins to do what he does best, which is avoiding drawing things that look new.

The Shadow #7, Joey Lyce
The reality is that, when I first encountered the pair's take on the strip, in the summer of 1975, I was very taken with it, to the degree that I felt compelled to buy their other issues of it. From this, I can only conclude the duo must have got something right and I will still contend that that's a great cover by Frank.

So, yes, it's true. Under the right circumstances, even Frank Robbins' work can appeal to me.

But a thought's just re-entered my head. One which struck me, way back then. The Shadow wears a scarf and a hat and has a sidekick called Harry.

When he first appeared, Tom Baker's Doctor also wore a scarf and a hat and had a sidekick called Harry.

Was this pure coincidence or was there a long-unacknowledged influence going on?

I don't know.

But the Shadow probably does.

The Shadow #7, Morag Mayne

29 comments:

cerebus660 said...

I imagine this issue had decent distribution in the UK, unlike the previous ones, as it obviously made it to the two great cities of Sheffield and Gloucester. Yep, down here in the armpit of the West Country this was the first time I managed to pick up an issue of The Shadow after unfortunately missing out on Kaluta's run.
It's a fun story, isn't it? I wasn't too keen on Frank Robbins' superhero work ( although it kind of worked for The Invaders ) but he was obviously well suited to drawing dodgy gangsters and slinky femme fatales. I'll have to dig this comic out and give it a read...

Hope all's well with you, Steve?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

All hail SDC!

What a marvelous selection and review!

I had purchased the entire run of The Shadow off the spinner IIRC and frankly enjoyed Mr. Robbin's art on the shadow. (It is pointless to compare it to Kaluta's.)

This strip is where Frank's artwork shines and sets the mood of the 1930s perfectly, both in his depictions as well as his style exemplifying the artwork of the 1930s -40s, like Milt Caniff.

And dare I say that Frank's art is no more / less quirky than Eisner's? (I don't recall Eisner drawing superheroes? Had he so, might he have been seen as out of his genre like Frank was perceived?)

Steve - thank you for this trip down Memory Lane!

Charlie Horse 47 said...

As an aside, DC really gave us nostalgia freaks some real treats in the mid 1970s.

There was The Shadow.

They also published Justice Inc which featured The Avenger who appeared in Pulps starting in the late 1930s.

DC also was just reprinting the heck of 1940s comics like Newsboy Legion to fill up the $.25 /52-page contents of books like Jimmy Olsen, Supes, etc.

So, if you were a curious lad like I was, about the first 2 decades of comics, DC did us right!

As an aside question, not sure if any of you have read Justice Inc, would Frank's art have worked there?

Or, when Marvel reincarnated Doc Savage would his art have worked there?

I tend to think the Shadow, with its non-super-human feats, lots of dames, lots of cars, lots of buildings, dark shadows and night time settings really were just the perfect genre for Frank?

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Cultural Question for Cerebrus 660 or anyone else...

What is meant by a city in the "armpit of the West Country?"

SDC: "Come for the comics, stay for the culture!"

Killdumpster said...

Hokey Smokes, Steve-winkle!

Steve, oh my brother, even with my buzz-saw damaged brain I can recall you featuring this particular issue of The Shadow numerous times.

There's usually a statemate about how "He I Try Not To Name", had a golden-age feel to his artwork. I've read a large amount of golden-age comics, and I don't recall artists portraying characters as having disjointing epilepsy and Dowe-syndrome eyes like Fr*** R******.

I only read a few Shadow comics in the 70's. Mostly from high school pals during study hall. Our brother Charlie hooked me up with a nice run of Shadow, which was great nostalgic reading, but reminded me of the agony of being a faithful Invaders reader.

Lord, that man's twitching, contorted joints & mongoloid eyeballs...

cerebus660-
No it didn't. I loved the characters, the theme of the stories, and the Kirby/Kane covers. The art in the guts? Arrrgh!

Steve W. said...

Hi, Cerebus. I'm fine. I hope you are as well.

I'm afraid I never saw an issue of The Shadow in Sheffield. All six of the issues I ever owned were bought in Blackpool.

Charlie, I couldn't imagine Robbins' pencils working on Doc Savage. Doc was like a model of physical perfection, and Frank's figures tended to be somewhat misshapen. He might have worked OK on Justice Inc.

Steve W. said...

KD, poor old Frank. I'm sure he was doing his best.

Killdumpster said...

I think he may have had "the tremors", and had an sight problem where he thought everyone's eyeballs were 3-4 inches apart.

Marvel used him because he was probably quick. Like Heck, Perlin, and "Our Pal Sal".

Anonymous said...

Apparently, I'm the only feller in these parts who dug Sal.
Yeah, the guy was a quick-draw artist, he was self-swiping a lot, but he was getting paid by the page. Gotta keep the phone on, y'know.
But give him a good inker, and he was great. Remember his stuff on the Avengers?
Or when Ernie Chan inked him on the Hulk?

M.P.

Steve W. said...

Don't worry, MP. I too dug Sal.

Anonymous said...

M.P. - I'm with you! Sal & Ernie Chan (Hulk). Sal & Pablo Marcos(Avengers). Both outstanding!

Phillip

dangermash aka The Artistic Actuary said...

Frank Rob🤮

Anonymous said...

I dig those Robbins Shadows a lot (well, three of ‘em — the one inked by Frank McLaughlin is just “okay”). I think #7 might well be the best of them, page for page, panel for panel, but I like the “Night of the Mummy” one a lot too. Like Charlie says, comparing his Shadow to Kaluta’s is mostly pointless, they’re so vastly different. I like them both pretty much equally, but if I were stuck on a desert island, I’d probably rather have a stack of Robbinses than Kalutas to while away the time.

Robbins’ “Weirdo Caniff” style is seen to best advantage when he inks his own pencils. Some of the shapes he gets out of his lightning-fast, ink-soaked brush are just amazing. But even with someone else doing the inks, his work has a wonky vitality that I find incredibly appealing. Frank Springer’s inks were the most like Robbins’ own and looked great — I’d put Vince Colletta at the other end of that spectrum.

Fan opinion on Robbins seems to fall into 4 broad categories:

1 - Love His Stuff.

2 - Hate Hate HATE His Stuff.

3 - He’s Okay, But Never On Super-heroes.

4 - He’s Okay, But Never On Super-heroes (Except The Invaders Because Golden Age Or Something).

My first exposure to his work was on the Morbius series in FEAR and CAPTAIN AMERICA (inked by Frank Giacoia on both books) and sure, I noticed the awkward, twisty poses, distorted anatomy and the “Everyone Looks Flipping Insane” facial expressions (how could I NOT?) — but liked his stuff instantly.

One good thing about him being the polar opposite of a “Fan Favorite” is that back issues with his work were dirt cheap for the longest time. I picked up complete runs of HUMAN FLY and MAN FROM ATLANTIS in Quarter Bins, and even THE INVADERS and THE SHADOW could be had for a buck or two each.

b.t.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

b.t.

As I scratch my head reading your well written reply, I realize that Frank did only draw 3 issues of the Shadow.

It's funny that Frank looms so disproportionately large in my head, regarding the Shadow.

Oddly it's the same way I process Don Heck on Daredevil. In my mind he replaced Colan but he really didn't draw that much... the cover maybe to #100 and a few innards?

I guess it's the comic-book version of "shock and awe?"

RickH said...

Kaluta was the reason I bought the Shadow. His style (and art in general) was perfect! Robbins made everything look blocky & chunky. It was a poor fit also for his work on Batman. Someone at the time made the comment that his inking style made Batman look like he just finished greasing the Batmobile, lol!

Anonymous said...

b.t., you made me laugh. I too once picked up a copy of The Human Fly outta the quarter bins. I never read the comic back in the day, but I remembered the hype in the Marvel Bullpen Bulletins, and I thought, "mildly interesting costume and concept" so I gambled a quarter plus taxes, bought it, went home and read it.
Then I asked myself "Why?"

Clearly I was not living my life in a productive manner.

M.P.

Steve W. said...

Rick, I must confess that I preferred it when Frank wrote Batman to when he drew him.

Anonymous said...

Another 'shadowy' figure, Mr.Fear (in one version), was named Cranston. Coincidence?

Phillip

Anonymous said...

Charlie:
Actually, Robbins drew a total of four issues of THE SHADOW : 5, 7, 8 and 9. He inked numbers 5,7 and 8 himself (and did the covers for ‘em), but Frank McLaughlin inked # 9. My reply above wasn’t so “well written” after all, I can see how my wordsmithing might be confusing ;)

Steve and RickH :
Robbins draws a weird-ass Batman, that’s for sure. His cape has a tendency to look like crinkly old vinyl tarp, instead of the usual gracefully prehensile umbrella a la Adams or Aparo. And as for his inks making Batman look like he “ just finished greasing the Batmobile”, HA! That is a perfectly apt description. His inks often have a smudgy, oily or greasy feel, ESPECIALLY on Batman himself. Also, he draws the most “70s looking” Bruce Wayne I’ve ever seen, with his big hair and Mod fashions. There’s one issue where he’s wearing Aviator-style glasses, and he looks just like movie mogul Robert Evans.

But I think they’re great! It’s just a shame he was drawing the comic at the tag-end of the period when they were limiting the use of the classic Rogues Gallery Villains — I would LOVE to have seen him drawing The Joker.

b.t.

Anonymous said...

Americans pay a quarter for back issues of the Human Fly?!?
Here you couldn't give 'em away.

I suppose its a fair point Frank Robbins was more suited to the Shadow than, say, the Invaders or - yikes! - Daredevil, but so what?
He was better suited to the Legion of Monsters too, and that issue of Marvel Premiere was still terrible.

-sean

Anonymous said...

sean, I’m sure you’ll be tickled to hear:
I just checked out the “Completed Listings” on eBay for “Human Fly Marvel”, and there TONS of “0 Bids”. There was a #9 with a Byrne/Austin cover for $1.99 with no takers and a #1 for ONE DOLLAR— also with no takers. So, apparently, they STILL can’t be given away ;)

b.t.

Anonymous said...

b.t. - My first 'Human Fly' was the one with that fantastic Byrne/Austin cover. The cover depicted a team up involving the Human Fly, Daredevil & the White Tiger - amazing. The interior art wasn't as good as the cover, although it was still a fairly good comic. Unfortunately, none of the other 'Human Fly' issues I acquired ever lived up to the promise of that first one I bought!

Phillip

Anonymous said...

Ok, I think we should change the subject now, before Steve gets it into his head to review an issue of the Human Fly next month.

So, on the Kaluta v Robbins debate, I go with... Howard Chaykin! He did a great Shadow comic for DC a while later. Or maybe Bill Sienkiewicz...

-sean

Anonymous said...

DO IT, STEVE!

b.t.

Charlie Horse 47 said...

Speaking of the new FF treasury addition by Adams (last week) does anyone ever get a sense that Sienkiewicz has a whiff of Neal about his work?

Steve W. said...

I think we can safely say that, Charlie,

Sean and b.t, but I've already reviewed an issue of The Human Fly. Can it be the world has already forgotten that legendary post? https://stevedoescomics.blogspot.com/2017/07/the-most-forgettable-comics-i-have-ever_31.html

Phillip, sadly the issue I read only had a bear in it. :(

Graham said...

I loved the first few issues of The Shadow, drawn by Kaluta, Wrightson, etc... I had seen Robbins' art on Batman a couple of times and was relieved when someone else was drawing the next issue. When he showed up on The Shadow, I was really upset.....then he showed up on Captain America about the same time. By the time he started working on Invaders, I actually liked his work (at least on that series) and I guess I began to appreciate his "eccentricities" by that time. It's odd, but I really enjoy looking at his work now.....I don't know, nostalgia maybe, but it's not nearly as aggravating as it was in the mid 70's.

Killdumpster said...

Ugh. I had the complete series of the Human Fly. Like I've said before, the magazine rack-jobbers usually put only one copy of any comics on the stands at mom-n-pop general/drug stores. By the time I'd make it into town the city kids grabbed all the good stuff.

You have to admit, the cover for Legion of Monsters was great. I grabbed that in a "hurry-up!" quick shop. Didn't even get a chance to leaf thru it. Was so excited to read it when I got home. Then reality smashed my mind...

Anonymous said...

Kd, a pro-tip for you: I find avoiding reality completely is the best way to make sure it doesn't smash my mind.
You're welcome.

-sean