Welcome back to Absolute-ly, a feature that focuses on what comic should receive the “absolute” treatment: any story from any publisher. A look at material that deserves to be in a gigantic art loving format akin to DC’s Absolute, Dark Horse’s Library or IDW’s Artist Edition.
This time around I’m nominating The Shadow by Denny O’Neil and Michael Kaluta, or more accurately issues 1-4 and 6 done by that creative team. The title that made Kaluta known to fans, The Shadow didn’t last long but it burns brightly in the memory of many a comic fan.
Michael Kaluta’s style was completely off the 1970s mainstream path, and could have contributed to the books poor sales. All at once it captured the moody feel of the period and its dark material of moral corruption, suspense, and even death.
The Shadow is a classic anti-hero, using whatever means to accomplish his goal. A very one dimensional character, it’s his cast of minions and assistants that flesh out and provide a human foil to the Shadow’s darkness.
Going back over these comics brought some clarity to my memories, and while not as exciting as I remember them the art is stunning to experience. Panel layout, cuts and close ups like the page above heighten the experience of The Shadow’s presence and ability to “cloud men’s minds”. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Kaluta.
Like everyone in America, I’d hear about the Radio Show, though it was on the air way before I was born. The “Who Knows What Evil Lurks In The Hearts Of Men?” phrase is as much in the American psyche as “Hi-yo, Silver!”
The biggest surprise for me as a very young artist: as soon as I started drawing The Shadow, he and his world leapt from my pen… it was as if I’d spent years expecting to draw the 1930’s New York City. But I hadn’t: I’d been drawing Edgar Rice Burroughs material.
These issues have been collected previously in The Private Files Of The Shadow, a hardcover from DC in 1989 that featured recoloured pages by Lavern Kindzierski and a new story from Kaluta. It’s standard comic book size, but that means the recoloured pages are hanging around somewhere and could be effectively used for an Absolute edition…