Dynamite relaunches The Shadow

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Venerable pulp hero The Shadow is back in the comics from Dynamite Entertainment. Thus far, the only talent announced is cover artists: John Cassaday, Alex Ross, Ryan Sook, and Jae Lee. Dynamite promises a big name writer and a huge artist, but details are being withheld for now.

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The Shadow has a long history in the comics, with several very distinguished runs at DC Comics in the ’80s from Kyle Baker, Andy Helfer, and Howard Chaykin. He was more recently recently seen at Dark Horse and Eternity, but has been gone from the racks in recent years. It seems like high time for a revival.

Dynamite Entertainment has signed a comprehensive licensing agreement with Conde Nast for comic books based on one of the most popular cultural icons in comics – The Shadow! Arguably the most famous pulp hero of the 20th century, The Shadow has been featured in comic books, comic strips, television, video games, and at least five motion pictures!

“We are pleased and excited to entrust The Shadow to the capable, creative hands of Dynamite Entertainment,” said Jerry Birenz, licensing attorney for Conde Nast.  “We look forward to a continuation of the long tradition of The Shadow in comic books, and the enjoying of the new adventures and experiences Dynamite Entertainment will bring us.”

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Introduced as a mysterious radio narrator by David Chrisman, William Sweets, and Harry Engman Charlot for Street and Smith Publications, The Shadow was fully developed and transformed into a pop culture icon by pulp writer Walter B. Gibson.

The Shadow debuted on July 31, 1930, as the mysterious narrator of the Street and Smith radio program Detective Story Hour.  After gaining popularity among the show’s listeners, the narrator became the star of The Shadow Magazine on April 1, 1931, a pulp series created and primarily written by the prolific Gibson.

“Pursuing The Shadow has been a life time quest,” says Dynamite Entertainment President and Publisher Nick Barrucci.  “Dynamite is working to launch the Shadow with some of the comic industries leading talent including John Cassaday, Alex Ross, Ryan Sook and Jae Lee, with more to be announced – creators who will bring justice to The Shadow.  We will be releasing more exciting news about The Shadow series soon!”

Comments

  1. …and Bill Sienkiewicz! I can’t believe you forgot Bill Sienkiewicz! :)

  2. Who knows what evil…very exciting news. I’m feeling excited that this will be a solid series.

  3. I liked the many Shadow incarnations, except the movie in the 90s.

    Before the pulp, tho, didn’t he have a radio show beyond the narrator gig? Didn’t that come first?

    Either way, good stuff. Great character for comics.

  4. I just hope it’s limited to 1 or 2 titles at the max unlike Green Hornet.

  5. Who is the target audience for this comic? (Hint: existing comics readers don’t count!)

    How will Dynamite reach that audience?
    (Hint: Newsarama and CBR don’t count!)

    What will make this line do any better than the pulp revivals from Moonstone or DC?
    (Hint: If any of the other questions can’t be answered immediately by Dynamite, the answer to this one is “It won’t.”)

    Why should I order any more than a token couple of copies for the rack?
    (Hint: I have 1 sub left for Green Hornet, and he had a movie THIS YEAR.)

    These comics could be the best written and best drawn books on the rack, but unless Dynamite can create or find a new audience for this series (or line), it’s only going to draw a handful of sales after the first 2 issues. Even then, most of those sales will come at the cost of other titles already in the market, possibly from publishers that retailers get a better profit margin on.

    How about, instead of publishing the Shadow, Dynamite instead pays to put ads for their Red Sonja comics before the Conan movie? Maybe we’ll get some new faces looking at their books, instead of cannibalizing the existing base some more.

  6. I agree with Brian Jacoby who is this book for other than old lonely fanboys who enjoy living in the past?
    Kids? Puh-lease.
    Women? Don’t make me laugh.
    The pulps died out in the early ’60, and any comic revival never lasted beyond 2 years, tops.

    How about instead of diving into the past, you world-build with new characters for today’s audience, y’know, like Harry Potter, Bone, Amulet, Wimpy Kid, etc. Those characters sell in the millions, not in the tens of thousands.

    Great business model, Dynamite!

  7. Is it just me or is the Shadow just too old timey? I’m not anti-Shadow by any means, and the books looks to be chock full of A list talent, but he seems to fall into a category of once great heroes like Flash Gordon, Dick Tracy, The Phantom, The Spirit, and Tarzan, that just don’t seem to appeal to today’s audiences and readers.

    I’ve got to believe if the Shadow were so successful, it wouldn’t have bounced from one publisher to another like an aging ballplayer who doesn’t quite have it anymore, but is definitely hall of fame material.

    Then I look at a character like Sherlock Holmes, who is older than all of them, and he’s enjoying success as a re-imagined, modern young man on PBS, as well as a popular, albeit over the top series of films by Guy Ritchie starring Robert Downey,Jr.

    So I hope The Shadow does well and I look forward to all the talent assembled to bring him back. But I wouldn’t be surprised if his return is short lived. Until then… Only The Shadow knows.

  8. I would be so happy if someone did the 80s Shadow today.

  9. Kid Kyoto says:

    @Brian Jacoby – you sir are a wise man and all would do well to listen to you and ask these questions.

    I love the Shadow a lot and will be sure to pick up these TPBs but yeah, how long are we going to keep dredging up 70+ year old characters hoping that revival #16 will work this time?

  10. Joe S. Walker says:

    There’s a big audience for period detective stories – but it’s largely middle-aged and watching TV, not reading comics.

  11. Travis says:

    I put the over under on total covers for the first issue at 8.5

    Oh and great points by Brian Jacoby.

  12. Maybe if we ask enough “hard” questions (that can be asked of any comic, btw) we can kill the interest in this book before it starts. Then we can all sit around and pat ourselves on the back for forecasting the failure of the franchise before a single issue came out.

    On another note, glad to hear about this — love the character, and always have. Don’t care how long it lasts, just glad to get some new Shadow stories. Would love to see Dynamite release some trades or hardcovers of earlier material … there’s a lot of great stories that need collecting.

    @BradyDale — he was an anonymous narrator for a detective radio show before he was finally given his name. Then, he got his own show, although he remained only the narrator for a while. The pulps started appearing in the meantime, which eventually led the radio show to start telling his adventures on the air.

  13. Synsidar says:

    Maybe if we ask enough “hard” questions (that can be asked of any comic, btw) we can kill the interest in this book before it starts. Then we can all sit around and pat ourselves on the back for forecasting the failure of the franchise before a single issue came out.

    Jacoby has a valid point. If the major reason for using The Shadow again is name recognition — he’s an existing property — but few comics readers recognize the name, then why use him? The Gold Key heroes, the Red Circle heroes — they were revived on the basis of name recognition. And flopped.

    With book publishing, authors might be well-known, and if they do series of novels, their characters might be well known, and the publishers will actively market the books in any case. Success doesn’t depend on readers knowing the name of the hero.

    SRS

  14. Jeff P. says:

    Will a new comics incarnation of The Shadow succeed? Time will tell.

    Personally, at 52, I think the characters listed by Mr. Jacoby blow most characters created post-1970 out of the water. I guess that just makes me a crusty old curmudgeon.

    The only reason I have MY doubts about the series is it’s not being drawn by Michael Kaluta.

    And there’s still a great Shadow movie waiting to be made.

  15. Brian Jacoby: “How about, instead of publishing the Shadow, Dynamite instead pays to put ads for their Red Sonja comics before the Conan movie? Maybe we’ll get some new faces looking at their books, instead of cannibalizing the existing base some more.”

    Wrong.

    Prior to the revival at Dynamite, people were probably asking the same questions. “Why Red Sonja? Who is the audiance?” Now that she’s popular again, everyone conveniently forgets that.

    Heidi: “…very distinguished runs at DC Comics in the ’80s from Kyle Baker, Andy Helfer, and Howard Chaykin.”

    Wrong.

    Denny O’Neil and Michael Kaluta had one of the most beloved runs. Too bad they weren’t on the series after a handful of issues. I know that Kyle Baker is popular in these parts, but his SHADOW run with Andy Helfer was celebrated by no one except a few Kyle Baker fans.

  16. Brooklyn Comics & More:
    “I agree with Brian Jacoby who is this book for other than old lonely fanboys who enjoy living in the past?”

    Maybe people who like The Shadow?

    We can’t through a single thread on the Beat without trotting out this yawn-inducing stereotype. Yet we wonder why we can’t get new people interested in comics …

  17. “Then, he got his own show, although he remained only the narrator for a while. The pulps started appearing in the meantime, which …”

    The DETECTIVE STORY MAGAZINE HOUR began in 1930 … The pulp magazine debuted in 1931 … The Shadow didn’t get his own adventure series on radio until 1937 …

  18. @Rich — I think that’s conveyed in what I said. He was the narrator of another show … then got his own. In the meantime his magazine appeared.

    Don’t shoot an ally ‘cos it looks like we’re on the same side.

  19. Synsidar says:

    Now that she’s popular again, everyone conveniently forgets that.

    If sales (since June 2010) of fewer than 10,000 copies per month is “popular,” comics are definitely in trouble.

    There is no easy solution for improving comics sales, but revivals of old characters isn’t a satisfactory one.

    SRS

  20. Travis says:

    “Denny O’Neil and Michael Kaluta had one of the most beloved runs. Too bad they weren’t on the series after a handful of issues.”

    Most beloved? I guess so, but it must not have set the sales charts on fire as the series only lasted 12 issues. That was nearly 40 years ago.

    How many of these type of properties are left for Dynamite to trot out?

  21. Synsidar says:

    At least part of the trouble associated with reviving old characters is that the publishers of series sell the characters more than they sell the stories. They think that reviving _____ and _____ will guarantee at least some sales due to name recognition, and if they can get enough readers hooked on the characters. . . But that strategy has failed so many times that it might not be worth trying again. How many people are going to identify with characters that faded from the scene decades ago?

    Best-selling novelists in the action, romance, and other genres might have their faults, but at least they provide readers with complete stories. When Nora Roberts, Iris Johansen, or Patricia Cornwell puts out a new book, readers buy her stories, not the character that’s being handled by _______.

    SRS

  22. Jeff P. says:

    ‘Beloved’ doesn’t necessarily equal ‘top selling’. “The Wizard of Oz” sank without a trace when it was released in 1939.

  23. Travis: “Most beloved? I guess so, but it must not have set the sales charts on fire as the series only lasted 12 issues. That was nearly 40 years ago.”

    That’s what I meant. Kaluta only drew five issues. can’t remember how many were written by O’neil. I don’t feel like looking it up on Wikipedia, and the back issues are somewhere close by, but I don’t feel like digging them up.

  24. Jeff P. says:

    @Synsidar: Dynamite did a fine job w/ The Lone Ranger, and I’m speaking as someone who’s followed the character for more than 40 years. I don’t know the sales figures for Dynamite’s run, but the stories were solid and well told.

    I understand comics shop owners want to make money. But I miss the days before comics were required to sell like X number of copies to even warrant space on the new releases stand.

    Kind of like what happened with movies and books. Seen most of the major movie releases these days? I can barely sit through them for their lack of story and characterization. Read a best-selling book lately? Now they’re ghost-written for authors (I’m looking at you, James Patterson)coasting on their early work, and talented mid-list authors are out of luck.

    Making money is nice, and necessary. But when it becomes the be all, end all, folks deserve whatever they get. And that’s mostly crap.

  25. Jeff P. says:

    Oh, and if everyone’s tired of old characters being revamped and brought back, get Marvel to cut it’s X-men and Spider-Man books, and Dc it’s Batman, to two titles a month. That’ll open the way for new stuff far more than pissing on Dynamite for bringing back a classic character.

  26. Synsidar: “Best-selling novelists in the action, romance, and other genres might have their faults, but at least they provide readers with complete stories.”

    I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t THE SHADOW provide a complete story? I’m not certain I understand what you’re referring to.

  27. Synsidar says:

    I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t THE SHADOW provide a complete story? I’m not certain I understand what you’re referring to.

    That touches on my comment on Trexler’s latest post here. Normally, characters aren’t copyrightable separately from the stories they’re in, because they don’t exist separately from the stories. Comics characters do exist separately from their stories, to some extent, though. Fans might have warm feelings about them and be willing to pay to see them in new stories, but putting them in new stories that are genuinely good is harder than starting out with a blank slate. Readers might have preconceptions about what a good story starring _____ is, the character concept might have problems, all the good stories about _____ might have been done already. In any case, most readers will be primarily interested in seeing ____ again, not in experiencing the writer’s and artists’ skills and craftsmanship.

    With novelists, the readers are paying to experience what the author does, whatever that is. She’s not limited by the strengths and weaknesses of the character she’s been assigned to handle. Whether she’s praised or criticized, the comments are directed at her work.

    SRS

  28. “If sales (since June 2010) of fewer than 10,000 copies per month is “popular,” comics are definitely in trouble.”

    Wow, did you misread those sales figures. Yeah, fewer than 10,000 copies a month isn’t exactly a lot, but Dynamite is a small company that works with a small amount of resources. And yet over 6 years into its run (!), Dynamite is able to sell more copies of Red Sonja than DC with Doc Savage or Dark Horse can with the similarly long-in-the-tooth Gold Key characters.

    “At least part of the trouble associated with reviving old characters is that the publishers of series sell the characters more than they sell the stories.”

    Dynamite doesn’t. Every time Dynamite has a new launch, they have a massive interview at Newsarama and a cover feature on Comic Shop News, and every one of those interviews stresses:
    1. Who the character is and why you should care even if you’ve never heard of them before.
    2. What their particular take is story-wise and why it’s cool.
    3. That the stories will be accessible whether you’re a fan or not.

    I’m not much of a Dynamite reader (the only title of theirs I’ve ever bought regularly is Red Sonja, and I’m not even getting that at the moment) but even just from observing them, it’s so obvious that so many of the comments ragging on them in this thread are totally ill-informed.

  29. I dunno, I’m definitely not old enough to remember the original pulp novels/radio show and yet I’m fairly interested in the character. Then again, if it weren’t for hours of clicking around TV Tropes (and spotting some reprints in the store I work at) I probably never would have heard of him.

    Are there any big blogs/communities/podcasts/whathaveyous for pulp novel or radio serial fans? If Dynamite isn’t already aiming promotions towards them, it might be a smart move.

  30. nWoJeffDW says:

    Now this is something I can be excited about. And since DC is screwing up its comics, I should have plenty of money to afford this new title.

  31. Louis Lane says:

    Fox reported paid one million dollars for the film rights, so somebody thinks the Shadow still has some legs. (Perhaps Dynamite knows something we don’t about the rumored Sam Raimi film.)

    http://collider.com/fox-picks-up-sam-raimi-the-shadow-david-slade-to-possibly-direct/18206/

    Personally, I’m looking forward to this title (except for the endless variant covers and spin-off series Dynamite is addicted to).

    LL

  32. Rich, I chose Red Sonja as an example because it’s a property that’s currently being published, and has a natural marketing tie-in to a major upcoming movie.

    DIGRESSION: If I had based it on sales, well, I sell exactly one copy of Queen Sonja when it comes out, and that’s it. It’s a sub-only title, because I haven’t had a single rack sale of any of her titles for 4 years.

    Removing something from the rack is not necessarily an easy decision. I LOVE Peter David’s work on Fallen Angel, but except for the mini that guest-starred Illyria from Angel, I haven’t been able to sell copies of the comic off the rack, EVER. I still carry, and occasionally sell, copies of the TPs, and suggest it to people, but I had to cut it from the new comics rack. It’s not about MAKING money on it, it’s about NOT LOSING money on it. I just this afternoon put 20 Fallen Angel comics from my back issue bins into my 3/$1 bins. I spent $2+ each on those, and that money is GONE. END DIGRESSION

    We NEED publishers to realize that they need to CREATE an audience for their comic, and it can’t be from among the same ever-shrinking crowd. We need new blood reading these things.

    I posed a similar question to the folks at Valiant (on Twitter) about who their intended market was, and they responded directly to me with (I’m paraphrasing from memory here) “I hate to give the cliche answer, but we are making these comics for people who like good comics.”

    Wrong. Answer.

    People who like good comics are ALREADY READING good comics. That makes Valiant’s answer akin to getting someone to drink Coke instead of Pepsi, when what both need are more drinkers.

    I have no attachment to (or bias against) the Shadow, I just don’t see how this series (or line) is going to anything but cost me money.

  33. I have no idea where Brian Jacoby’s Secret headquarters is in Tallahassee, Florida but it clearly rests atop a mountain “smart” with a very rich vein of valuable “honest”.

    I love THE SHADOW with the passion of any comicsfan my age (near 50) who first encountered through Steranko’s History of Comics like it was the primogenitor of superheroes, the true source of where cool came from. But that affection I and others like me may hold for the character is hardly a bankable asset for an industry that, unquestionably, has to look towards bringing in a new audience.

    Those covers shown above are wonderful; clearly made by artists who fully understand the character and couldn’t wait for the opportunity to play in THE SHADOW’s sandbox. But seriously, who other than Shadow fans and guys like me are ever going to see them and say, “hey, I should try this”?

  34. The creators named for their involvement on the project seem to all just be cover artists. Of those Ryan Sook and Jae Lee are the only two of interest. The others will just do their usual thing for Dynamic with no heart or soul.

    I disagree with some here that The Shadow can’t reach a new audience, but I think we all agree it won’t be with DF.

  35. “Personally, I’m looking forward to this title (except for the endless variant covers and spin-off series Dynamite is addicted to).”

    Yeah, like the guy at my LCS said, too bad Dynamite doesn’t publish as many actual issues as they publish covers.

  36. “But seriously, who other than Shadow fans and guys like me are ever going to see them and say, “hey, I should try this”?”

    Well, if the artwork is good and the stories look interesting …everybody …

  37. Synsidar says:

    Yeah, fewer than 10,000 copies a month isn’t exactly a lot, but Dynamite is a small company that works with a small amount of resources.

    And if someone was putting out comics from his garage, he’d be thrilled with 1,000 copies sold. Fewer than 10,000 copies per issue is terrible for a commercial publisher, regardless of its size.

    Dynamite doesn’t. Every time Dynamite has a new launch. . .

    Red Sonja is a genre fiction, sword-and-sorcery character. That limits the audience to readers who like the sword and sorcery genre and people who have very eclectic tastes.

    SRS

  38. Alex Ross is sort of hit-or-miss with me but those are definitely HIT. I am excited for this.

  39. Jerry Smith says:

    Love the Shadow and definitely looking forward to this. Four dollar books are an extremely though sell to me, so it’s rare that I pick up a book from Dynamite or IDW. But after seeing the art above, as long as the writer isn’t awful, I’m in.

  40. Kid Kyoto says:

    The reason people like Brian have to ask these hard questions is because retailers have to put money down to buy books from distributors. If the books don’t sell they lose money and if they lose too much they disappear.

    it makes no difference to me if the Shadow is a hit or not, if it’s a good idea or not, if it’s promoted or not, if it sells or not.

    It makes a world of difference for retailers.

    So I’d love to have Comics Beat follow up with Dynamite and ask the hard questions.

  41. Kid Kyoto: I would ask Dynamite some questions — I interview publisher Nick Barrucci about once a year for PW Comics World and he’s always refreshingly blunt and candid. However, I think Dynamite has shown their marketing approach pretty thoroughly in the past — and I’d assume it has some success for them, or else they wouldn’t be around.

  42. Yes, as much as retailers say no more variant covers, DF proves they seem to want just the opposite.

  43. “Are there any big blogs/communities/podcasts/whathaveyous for pulp novel or radio serial fans? If Dynamite isn’t already aiming promotions towards them, it might be a smart move.”

    There’s a couple I can point you to:

    NEW PULP: http://www.newpulpfiction.com/2011/04/welcome-to-new-pulp-fiction.html?spref=fb

    ALL PULP: http://allpulp.blogspot.com/

    and here’s a couple of pulp podcasts to check out:

    THE BOOK CAVE: http://thebookcave.libsyn.com/

    PULPED!: http://pulped.libsyn.com/

  44. Louis Lane says:

    >as much as retailers say no more variant covers, DF proves they seem to want just the opposite.

    Dynamite does not give retailers the choice to order covers individually. Thus, Dynamite’s marketing strategy proves only that they belive variant covers are more profitable for Dynamite.

    LL

  45. There are some stores that enjoy and do very well making money off of variant covers.

    There are stores that don’t care for them but accept them.

    There are stores that hate them.

    There is no one “right” philosophy.

    Dynamite’s variant cover practices are geared towards satisfying the first group.

  46. James says:

    So the argument that only old people will love the shadow is bs, im 23, love the shadow, and am constantly showing all my friends the Gerard Jones run of the shadow strikes.

    As long as dynamite knows how to write him im in. And if they don’t im here to lend a hand.

  47. Good to see the Gerard Jones work on The Shadow Strikes finally mentioned – easily the definitive comics take on the character from a storytelling point of view and the fact that it’s also the single longest running comic starring the character since the 1950s speaks volumes.

    I’m extremely pleased that there are going to be new The Shadow comics but I do share concerns other have expressed above about too many titles or mini-series released simultaneously and about only cover artists attached so far when the really worry is always the quality of the writing and interior art.

    I’d like to say that if Dynamite can run things so that they’re still publishing the character if and when a new film is made, The Shadow could have a healthy future in comics, but sadly, the Dark Horse run would seem to disprove this.

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