A Tribute to the of

Well, I did it again. I couldn’t resist picking up another Super Pac that came available on eBay. Granted, they come up more often than I’d expected, but sometimes, the sellers are awfully high in their valuations. I mean, really, $270.00 for one? With free shipping! Not from this guy. This particular one is #B-11 which contains Korak, Son of Tarzan #55 (December 1973/January 1974), Kamandi #12 (December 1973) and The Shadow #2 (December 1973/January 1974). Back in the day, I probably wouldn’t have picked up any of those individual issues or the Super Pac, but as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been kind of fascinated with them since my rediscovery and so if one comes up in my price range, I’ll try to nab it.

In honor of this little score, I think I’ll do a short review of The Shadow. Lamont Cranston hasn’t been featured here much, other than maybe the review I did of Batman #253 (Sage #370) when he shows up there and it gives a tip of the hat (fedora) to the inspiration for the Dark Knight.

Now The Shadow, of course, has a very long history beginning with the pulps and he’s been on radio and other media. His comic career has been kind of tangled, if you will. As best I can tell, his first time as a four-color feature was in Archie Comics back in 1964 and ran a scant 8 issues. He’s also appeared in DC comics (obviously) and Dynamite and Dark Horse, but usually it was one shots or pretty brief runs. The 1973 series for DC, for example only went 12 issues. It seems like the poor guy can’t find a permanent home, but they keep trying and why not? He’s a pretty cool and certainly enduring character.

So, let’s take a peek at the issue at hand, with a cover by Mike Kaluta. The Grand Comic Book Database was uncertain if the great Gaspar Saladino did the lettering, so I went to the ultimate Shadow expert, Anthony Tollin, to inquire. He confirmed that Gaspar was indeed the man, after also checking in with Carl Gafford , though for all the love I hold for Mr. Saladino, that logo isn’t the most inspired. Possibly he was sticking closely to the old original one and therefore it would be a bit pedestrian. “The Freak Show Murders” is actually an adaptation by Denny O’Neil of a Maxwell Grant story from Shadow Magazine, (May 1944) and Denny is also editor while Mike Kaluta covered interior art. Colorists were Jack Adler on the cover and Jerry Serpe on the story.

The setting is, of course, a carnival or circus and the splash page shows a pretty interesting cast of characters and therefore suspects for murder. First, though, we meet Steve Kilroy, who has just driven up to a mansion in South Carolina to rendezvous with Milton Treft to conduct a strange transaction. Kilroy is ponying up a cool million dollars for a full-sized sculpture made of Alumite, an incredibly light material that allows Kilroy to heft the life-sized figure without any difficulty. While the formula for the material is not recorded, Steven plans to turn it over to his chemists to reverse engineer it and make a fortune, but before the transaction can be completed, a figure wielding a pistol arrives on the scene, demanding the statue. Dressed in motley, he calls himself the Harlequin.

The interloper shoots Treft while Kilroy escapes by bursting down a hallway and through a plate glass window. Continuing to run at breakneck speed, Steven fails to notice a dark figure on the grounds, who suddenly cuts loose with a familiar and eerie laugh. The chilling laugh of The Shadow.

The Harlequin and his henchmen are preparing to load the statue up in a waiting pickup, but then they hear the wicked laughter and after firing wildly at the grim Shadow, one is soon on the receiving end of a Cranston delivered right cross. He then melts into the night with the unnerving laugh accompanying him. [Page 4]

Meanwhile another dapper figure is making a phone call with instructions for Margo Lane to join the Sorber Carnival in Titusville. Soon she is meeting up with the owner, Pop Sorber and asking for a job. He conveys his needs for a member of the freak show, explaining she simply has to put her head through a hole in the back of a booth to pretend to be Spidora, the human spider. An agreement is reached and Sorber escorts her around to meet the other members of the carnival, including Panchini, the tattooed man, Alhambra, snake queen, Benzare the knife thrower, Ajax the Wild Man, Nicco, described as the cigarette fiend and finally the feature freaks, Damon and Pythias, the Siamese twins.

Later, after the final act and the closing of the carnival, Margo spots Ajax and confronts him, ultimately subduing him with judo and calling him out as Steve Kilroy. Kilroy acknowledges his identity, but professes his innocence in the death of Milton Treft to the policewoman. She says she isn’t with the police and that he is no murderer, but she has been sent to help him. When he asks by whom, the familiar laughter rolls over them and The Shadow arrives, explaining that Margo Lane is his associate and that he had deduced Kilroy had sought refuge by hiding in the carnival. The Shadow also believes the Harequin has joined up at Sorber’s, but before any further discussion can take place, a shot rings out.

The Shadow swiftly makes his way to the trailer of Alhambra the snake queen only to find her dying. She says it was a man in a clown suit. He removed his mask and…she breathes her last. Kilroy arrives at the trailer door to report he saw the figure headed toward the place where the stuffed whale is kept and Cranston is again on the move.

Upon reaching his destination, The Shadow is spotted by the Harlequin, who fires a round from his pistol. Puzzled, he looks about for a moment, only to hear the commanding voice of The Shadow from behind him, ordering him to drop the weapon and remove his mask. Doing as bidden, doubtless encouraged by the .45 automatic pointed at him by the cloaked figure, he is interrupted when Kilroy arrives, promptly tripping over a tent rope, enshrouding the stuffed whale and The Shadow and allowing the Harlequin to escape.

Perhaps in a bit of comedy relief, Benzare and the others are in Alhambra’s trailer and he is putting the moves on Margo. That is, until she suggests he let go of her and punctuates it with a well-placed elbow. Enraged, he pulls a knife, which is swiftly snapped by a .45 caliber bullet. The Shadow warns him that he is treading thin ice, then orders the company to meet in the main tent in 5 minutes. The train that will transport the carnival to the next destination awaits while they shuffle forth to assemble.

As they wait, the members speculate about the identity of the Harlequin. Sorber’s money is on Benzare and it is suggested the rest had alibi’s except for Nicco. Just then, the “cigarette fiend” shows his face and declares his innocence, illustrating his point by quickly changing into The Shadow.

Lamont Cranston then dramatically reveals that he saw the Harlequin escape from Treft’s and followed him, becoming Nicco in order to do surveillance in the carnival. He then reveals that the murderer is none other than Damon and Pythias, the Siamese twins. Sorber objects that they were performing at the time and by the way, they’re twins. The Shadow agrees they are twins, but argues they are not joined and promptly fires an automatic at them which shatters a mirror creating the illusion.

Kilroy runs up to the twin and is immediately taken hostage at gunpoint. The twin and his hostage slip away, but The Shadow knows the whereabouts of the other twin and informs Margo and the others that they’re foreign agents, sent to get a sample of the Alumite. Since the statue is sizeable, it can be only one place.

Soon, The Shadow looks on from the darkness while the Harlequin removes the Alumite statue from the mouth of the stuffed whale that’s already been lashed to a railcar. Using his trademark laughter to full effect, Lamont Cranston demands the surrender of the Harlequin. Then, a voice from behind The Shadow lets him know a gun is leveled at him, too. He tells his brother that with their nemesis between them, on the count of three, they’ll simultaneously fire their weapons.

The brother behind The Shadow, after twin pistols blaze, notes that the dark figure has disappeared and he’s been hit. The cold laughter of The Shadow reverberates while he slumps forward in death.

The Harlequin is more determined than ever to make his escape with the Alumite statue and his hostage and he loads both onto the train and sets the locomotive in motion. He informs Kliroy that in 20 miles they’ll reach a seaport and he will be on his way.

Never bet against The Shadow, though, who reveals himself, but the Harlequin merely aims his pistol at the torso of the bound Kilroy and demands that the .45’s be dropped. Cranston obliges, then Kilroy swings into action, kicking the Harlequin while The Shadow springs forward to tackle the murderer.

A fierce struggle ensues and in the midst of the mayhem, the statue falls out of the locomotive. The Harlequin leaps after it in desperation, but the train is now over a bridge and the criminal falls to his doom while The Shadow’s laughter floats out into the darkness, ending this tale of intrigue.

Following is the lettercol where some advance copies of The Shadow #1 had been distributed and feedback is offered from Alan Kupperberg, Michael Uslan and someone I’ve never heard of named Jean Mark Gowran, an author.

And that, friends, is the summation of the second issue of The Shadow, once again fated to run a mere dozen issues, but not for lack of effort from Denny O’Neil and the moody drawing board of Michael W. Kaluta. I may not have appreciated this as much back in the day, but this was a pretty engaging little piece of work and a classic “whodunnit” that carries the reputation of The Shadow in fine fashion, though I suppose it should since the story originated back in the 40s magazine.

I’m kinda glad this particular Super Pac survived and that I got to explore the world of The Shadow.

Stay tuned for another trip into the way back machine on the 15th of March when we take a peek at another offering from the DC Comics vault.

Remember to share any thoughts, questions or other commentary at my handy e-mail: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you again and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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