Denny O’Neil & Michael Kaluta’s Lost ‘The Shadow’ Graphic Novel Available for the First Time in Two Decades [Preview]
A good number of of the old comics which continue to influence the aesthetic interests of this website were first discovered by me in 2001, during an epic quest into the deepest, darkest parts of the convention floor at San Diego Comic-Con. I’d pledged to identify and purchase as many hardcover collections, paperbacks, graphic novels or other comics-with-spines as I could, so long as they were things I’d never heard of before (this was very easy to do for a child of the ’90s, since Wizard was unlikely to devote any time to anything useful like that). I bought so many comics that year that even today, some remain in my “unread” pile.
One of the books I discovered was The Shadow: 1941, a hardcover graphic novel by the great Denny O’Neil and Michael Kaluta with Russ Heath and Mark Chiarello, published by Marvel. Despite the auspicious pedigree of its creators, I’d never heard of the book, had no idea Marvel ever published Shadow comics, and didn’t really know anything about the character anyway. As such, it was exactly the sort of forgotten, out-of-print gem I was looking for.
Subtitled Hitler’s Astrologer, this Shadow book is exactly the dark, globe-trotting adventure of war and mysticism that its title and cover suggest. It’s a gorgeous pleasure of a comic book, and more than two decades since it was originally released, Dynamite Entertainment are reissuing it this week.
For the uninitiated, as I was, Hitler’s Astrologer serves as an unforgettable introduction to the work of pulp illustration master Kaluta and expands one’s admiration for writer O’Neil, a hero to many (especially at ComicsAlliance) for his work with Batman, the Question and more. The story emanates from the real-life fact that Adolf Hitler consulted astrologists during his terrible reign (this idea has also been exploited to magnificent effect by Mike Mignola in Hellboy), and finds the mysterious vigilante the Shadow and a team of capable allies disrupting a Nazi conspiracy that involves the near-kidnapping of a young woman whose father is personal star-reader to Hitler himself. The adventure takes them all the way to into the heart of Hitler’s Third Reich — which is depicted with no lack of seriousness, by the way — and which the Shadow helps to tear apart from within.