May 01, 2017
The Shadow of the Moon!
It's the Shadow vs. UFOs, what more do you need?
Collectors of all sorts, not just those obsessed by
four-colored tomes, know what it's like to come across something that you just
have to have. In some cases it's something that's just always out of reach -
usually due to price or scarcity. But other times, in those rare instances
where the stars are in alignment, you can instantly get your grubby hands on
that item you never knew you wanted or needed right until that moment. For me,
one of those moments came with the Shadow Volume 7, number 10, published all
the way back in 1947. Yes, I know the cover says January 1948, but it was on
the stands before then.
Granted my copy of the issue is a little worse for wear, but
it is over 70 years old and all there. And just look at that cover image. Have
you ever seen something so simple, yet bizarrely absurd and magnificent at the
same time? It's a giant image of the Shadow (well, just his head and arms)
punching a flying saucer, with many, many more just leaving Earth, with a giant
image of the moon thrown in for good measure. It's an abstract image, for sure,
and instantly catches the eye because it just doesn't make sense.
A little back story. The famous Roswell, New Mexico UFO
incident happened in the summer of 1947, which seemed to kick off the UFO craze
that dominated popular culture in the 1950s and 1960s and still exists even
today. Think of how zombies are just, well, everywhere today. UFOs and aliens
were the equivalent 60+ years ago, and this is one of the first comic books to
try and capitalize on the trend - and it made no sense.
The Shadow, you see, is a crime fighter and an inspiration
for Batman. Sure there were tinges of science fiction or fantasy in some of his
stories, his power of invisibility or to "cloud men's minds" for
instance, bits of super science/secret formulas, and so on, but for the most
part they were relatively grounded tales of crime noir. Having him travel to
outer space seemed like a stretch. For another character like, say, the
Shadow's Street and Smith publications pal Doc Savage, it would make more
sense. Doc Savage was an adventurer in the truest sense of the word. Sure he'd
battle super criminals, but he also had deep roots in science fiction. Yet for
some reason the Shadow was chosen to fly into space. It's likely this had more
to do with popularity than logistics.
And it did prove popular, as evidenced by the scores of
imitators shortly after in the comics world. Most notably Batman, the Shadow's
spiritual kin, would find his world turned upside down. Where before he would
do battle with madmen and outlaws, now Batman would find himself routinely
traveling the cosmos and battling alien threats for the next 17 years!!
That is a tale for another day. Today our focus is on the
Shadow (Lamont Cranston) and his investigation on strange UFO sightings across
Things to note when reading the Shadow comics. Many of them
were adapted from the pulp novels, but pared down to fit the length of a comic
story - about 12 pages here. As such many crucial elements get lost in
translation, including characterization. Here we see that the Shadow's main
character trait has been deftly narrowed to being a dick, and his stalwart girlfriend
Margo Lane is now a whiny diva. Look at Lamont, he's got the same smirk on his
face in each panel.
Although to the best of my knowledge this UFO tale was not
adapted from the pulps, it's nice to know the writer still kept the
characterizations so on the nose. Good job!
So, unperturbed, Lamont gets an airplane and flies to the
mountain for a closer look...
Did I mention that the Shadow is a dick? Not just for
calling Margo an idiot for not packing a parachute (he never actually let her
in on his plans, so how that makes her an idiot I don't know). I'm pretty sure Margo
wouldn't have worn a short skirt and heeled sandals if she knew she might have
to jump from a plane, she probably would've picked something more sensible. The
Shadow is also a dick for donning his "cloak of invisibility" while
leaving Margo with no such accoutrements. They are clearly entering hostile
territory and Lamont believes Margo won't need to conceal herself because...
T&A? Honestly that's the best I can come up with.
Oddly enough that seems to work out as Margo promptly gets
It took Margo an hour to get dressed in that outfit. I'd
imagine the tricky part was getting her boobs to stay in place each time she
tried putting on that ridiculous top. And, did I mention the Shadow is a dick?
So the UFOs aren't alien, just some crooks launching them to
the moon using volcanic fire. Look, I didn't write this, I'm just relaying the
So they need Margo to play the Moon Queen because the
workers are Moon Cultists who believe a Moon Queen summoned them? Sounds about
as plausible as anything else so far - that is to say, not at all.
Of course the commander immediately knows the Shadow is
involved, what with him being invisible and all. It couldn't be his men
succumbing to volcanic fumes or something less crazy than an invisible man?
Come to think of it, how did the commander move so fast - in one panel he's in
front of Margo being held by 2 guards, next panel the guards are down but he's
already got Margo, third panel she's in the UFO and he's turning on the gas.
So the Shadow hops on board and he and Margo go to the
It's usually at this point that the story completely loses
it for me. I always find myself getting blocked by a few points...
Moonitex. Okay, I guess that can be a thing?
And they are breathing what, exactly? Not oxygen, that's for
And how do they manage to survive a hard landing on the moon
inside a metal ball? They don't even have helmets!
And why is the sky red in one panel?
And how is the one guy talking without a mouth in the
And the cultist workers are so thrilled by the arrival of
their queen - their MOON Queen who came from Earth instead of, you know, the
MOON - they all just shrug and go back to work.
Ah, screw it. Whatever, they're on the moon. I'm going to
try and enjoy this.
So they need compressed air to work in the moon mines, to
launch spheres back to Earth, but to breathe on the surface of the moon...
Atmosphere factory? Seriously? The unguarded source of
breathable air is just left wide open, and the Moon Master just lets a complete
stranger in Margo roam wherever she likes unsupervised?
I know you'll think I've cut this off prematurely but no,
seriously, this is how the story ends. No explanation of what happens to the
moon colony. No aftermath of the people on Earth being, like, Holy Shit We Can
Travel To The Moon! Nothing. They're on the moon for a couple of pages and
escape almost immediately without a hitch because a man who has developed space
travel couldn't bother to place guards around sensitive equipment.
Look, this isn't what you call a great story, even by 1947
standards. The art is fairly decent for 1947, but it's clear that the writing
is lacking. The writer did try to turn it into a crime story, so it could fit
into the Shadow's world a bit better, but you could tell they were struggling
to make this all work, and focused on action and... other "stars" to
cover the short comings.
It's not so much the subject matter or simplistic/goofy
story - most of the Golden Age was just as Bat-shit insane. What it boils down
to is it just doesn't live up to the cover. Granted the cover had a giant
Shadow punching UFOs, that's a pretty hard image to live up to.
Ultimately this story is unfulfilling. Sure, it has those
campy, zany moments that make it interesting, and I think it fits the insanity
that is the Golden Age of comics well, but the lack of a clear resolution makes
it feel like you're only getting part of the story and in the end, in spite of
the fantastical material, it just ends up feeling like a curiosity instead of a
Still love that cover though.