Showing posts with label The Shadow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Shadow. Show all posts

Monday, October 07, 2013

Dynamite Announces Shadow and Grendel Crossover Series by Matt Wagner

October 7th, 2013, Mt. Laurel, NJ - New York Comic-Con Announcement:  Days before the doors open on one of the year's largest events in pop culture, Dark Horse Comics and Dynamite Entertainment announce the first in a series of upcoming crossovers.  Matt Wagner will write and draw an all-new Grendel story steeped in the pulp-noir world of The Shadow!

The Shadow is one of the most renowned and enduring pop-culture creations of all time, a multi-media character that established the original archetype of the modern super-hero.  Grendel, Matt Wagner's epic saga of dark aggression, has been a trailblazing powerhouse of independent comics for over thirty years and, for many fans, the elegant and deadly Hunter Rose is the quintessential version of the character.  Combined, these legendary and iconic characters represent over a century of publishing history!

Best-selling author Hunter Rose is secretly the masked assassin and criminal overlord known only as Grendel. When an arcane artifact comes into his possession, Grendel finds himself thrust into a world for which he seems destined, where style and violence intersect to form a dazzling golden age.  He will soon discover that this New York also has a fearsome protector-a dark and mysterious avenger whose name is spoken in hushed whispers, The Shadow!

"Ever since the smash success of my two previous crossover events (with Batman), I've had many offers over the years to see Grendel cross blades with a varied host of other characters," comments Grendel creator, Matt Wagner. "But none of those opportunities ever excited me as much as this possibility.  I've been a huge fan of The Shadow for many, many years and my love of the character finally saw fruition when I got the chance to literally re-define his origins by writing The Shadow: Year One for Dynamite. To have the chance to both write and draw The Shadow facing my own creation is something of a dream come true! It's also adds yet another instant classic to my long legacy of Grendel projects with Dark Horse Comics."

"I'm looking forward to this project for many reasons, not the least of which is Matt Wagner's return as both writer and artist of Grendel," said Dark Horse president and publisher, Mike Richardson. "The fact that I share Matt's enthusiasm for one of the greatest fictional characters of all time, The Shadow, makes it all the more exciting. Dark Horse and Dynamite are proud to announce this great comic series from one of comics' premier creators."

"I've known and been a fan of Matt's since Grendel first appeared in the early ‘80's, and one of the first prestige comics I bought was The Terminator by Matt with James Robinson.  Matt's an incredible story teller and has written three series for Dynamite, including The Shadow: Year One," said Dynamite CEO and Publisher, Nick Barrucci. "When the idea for a Grendel / Shadow cross-over was suggested, and Matt stated that he would write it and illustrate the series in a Prestige format, let's just say that you can't quantify the excitement in our offices.  This is such an incredible series, and the first of more projects that Dynamite and Dark Horse are announcing."

This exciting new three issue series will be released in three 48 page prestige format issues in 2014! Look for more details in the months to come.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dynamite's Shadow 2013 Annual

There are two things that I like: Las Vegas and good, old-fashioned pulps. Admittedly, those aren't the only things that I like, but both of them are relevant to the comic at hand. Dynamite has had the license for the Shadow for a while now, and some great talents have been attached to the character while Dynamite has had the rights: Alex Ross, Chris Roberson and Matt Wagner have all been involved in the character in some way. In this one-shot story, set in Las Vegas in 1947, writer Ande Parks takes his turn with the character. Parks has long been in comics as an inker, working with such artists as Phil Hester, Jack Kirby and others. He has written for a while, doing books like The Lone Ranger for Dynamite and the excellent mini-series Capote in Kansas (which was inspired by the research and writing of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood).

Let's talk about the Shadow 2013 Annual put out by Dynamite Comics.

This story is very connected with Las Vegas and it's criminal founders, most importantly Ben "Bugsy" Siegel. The feel of that era was captured ably by Parks' writing. His Shadow was faithful to the character. Parks' work in writing historical fiction meant that he understood the significance of the difference between now and a historical period, and how to keep characters from just being modern characters in period costumes. This isn't a skill that is easy to acquire or use, but Parks uses it wonderfully.

Now, more this a pulp story? Is this faithful to the character of the Shadow and his tales? Parks pulls off an exciting page turner of a pulp story. The banter between The Shadow and Margo is authentic, to both the period and to the pulp sources. I would have liked to have seen this antagonist more fully developed, over a story arc rather than a single tale, but that is a strength of the story if I feel that I want more of the villain of the piece.

A weakness to this was that the transition to the flashback was a bit jarring. In one panel The Shadow is jumping into the backseat of a car, and then on the next page we are in the "Great" War. The transition back to the present of the story was just as abrupt. With two characters who have not aged dramatically between the time periods of the two stories, this could have been handled better I think. Overall, the art was the weakest element of this story. While professional, it comes across as sketchy and rushed throughout the comic, which also did not help with the transitions between the flashbacks and the present of the story. The transition to the "origin story" of the antagonist was better done, and a similar method would have made the transition to the first flashback make much more sense.

Much like with Dynamite's Masks series, the Shadow 2013 Annual has an excellent story, from a writer who understands the pulp conventions, marred by art that just does not live up to that story. I find myself wishing that this had been done "pulp style," as an illustrated prose piece than as a comic.

Do I think that this is worth buying? I am going to have to give that a qualified yes. The writing on this story is solid, engaging and has fidelity to the pulp sources. The art, however, just does not live up to the potential of the story. This is a real shame because this is a really good story by a writer who really gets historical and pulp fiction, but mediocre art takes away some of that thrill. In another artist's hands, this comic could have been really incredible, but as a visual medium the art just has to be as good as the writing. If you can get past the art, and I could despite my harshness towards it in this review, you will be rewarded by a fun story from Parks.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Howard Chaykin and Shadowmania

1986 was a heady year for comics. Two stories that have since come to be regarded as modern classics were released by DC Comics: Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons Watchmen and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns. Both of these books have left their marks on comic books. Moore and Gibbons' Watchmen has become for many the highwater mark for comic book storytelling, while Miller's Dark Knight single-handedly altered the course of The Batman forever. Somewhere in the middle of all of this was released a four-issue miniseries that has every bit of the same right to be considered a masterpiece of comics as those other two series: Howard Chaykin's The Shadow.

Since Dynamite Comics is publishing a new trade edition of this mini-series, I will try to avoid spoilers in the story itself for those who have not yet experienced this masterful comic.

Howard Chaykin is a comic artist and writer, sometimes doing on or the other on a book and sometimes doing both. With The Shadow Chaykin wrote and drew the book, infusing it with his characteristic fusion of 1940s period dress with a modern sensibility. Previous to doing The Shadow, Chaykin was known most for having done some well-regarded fantasy series for DC Comics and the early run of the blockbuster Star Wars comic from Marvel Comics. Chaykin has the rare distinction of being one of the first people outside of Lucas' production company to create original material for the Star Wars Universe, helping to usher in what we now know as the Expanded Universe. Chaykin also adapted Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination and worked with British fantasist Michael Moorcock for Heavy Metal magazine. He also found the time to create one of the earliest independent comics in 1976 with Star Reach, and his seminal character Cody Starbuck.

Each of Chaykin's works informs the next, and it was with characters like Cody Starbuck, Dominic Fortune, and of course Han Solo that he became known for his roguish male lead characters. In The Shadow, this disposition towards the roguish lead was married to an old school social conservative to make his interpretation of Kent Allard/Lamont Cranston/The Shadow. Chaykin's Shadow is probably one of the more fleshed out interpretations of the character too, leagues away from the cipher of a character that plagued the radio shows and some of the more poorly-written instances of the pulp magazines.

In this mini-series Chaykin made a ballsy move that upset a lot of pulp purists...he moved The Shadow into the modern day of 1986. Before this pulp characters adapted to comics either existed still in their original eras or were "updated" to a hazy setting that could be the contemporary world, or it could still be the past. A lot of people did not like that Chaykin moved the story to a contemporary setting. However, the strength of this idea is that it pitted the character of The Shadow, who was still very much rooted in a pre-World War II social and psychological mindset, against the contemporary world of 1986. As with any Chaykin work, this play of the vintage against the contemporary is a method of showing that change is both good and bad, and the past should not always be viewed through rose-colored glasses. The Shadow's attitude towards women is compared to that of his contemporaries, like Harry Vincent (an important supporting character from the original pulp stories), who have been exposed to the changes for forty years and have been able to adapt to those changes. The Shadow is still very much the force of nature that he was in the pre-War days, and still he has to come to grips with the societal changes around him as well as the physical changes to New York City.

The plot of this mini-series is launched by having a number of The Shadow's operatives from his early exploits, now old, being targeted and killed by an unknown villain. This serves to bring The Shadow out of his lengthy retirement in the Himalayas. The Shadow himself is unchanged and unaged in the near forty years since he was last in New York City, and now establishes himself as the son of his original cover identity of Lamont Cranston. Assembling a team of his remaining operatives from the 1940s and new contemporary operatives (including two sons that he had while retired), The Shadow moves against this new villain. The balance of these issues deals with The Shadow and his operatives uncovering the villains of the piece and finally moving against him.

Despite the opinions of those who felt (and those who probably still feel this way) that the adventures of The Shadow should have remained in their original historical period, I think that a great deal of the success of this story came because Chaykin decided to update the time period to the contemporary. Much of the tension of the story comes from the interplay between The Shadow and his "unenlightened" (according to other characters in the story) attitudes. The Shadow as a man out of time is as much of a driving factor to the story as the actions of the villain of the piece. The story is an engaging one, although ironic because now the setting of 1986 is a historical one as well. For some current readers, the 1980s can be just as foreign as the 1930s of the original pulp stories.

I do think that the story holds up well, regardless. The characters (new and old) hold up well and Chaykin demonstrates that he can write a Shadow story in the vein of the original pulps and update it at the same time. This mini-series was the launching point for a long-running on-going series featuring the characters which would lead to some of The Shadow's strangest adventures. Fans of the pulps should enjoy this story because of the loyalty to the characters and concepts of the original pulp stories (despite the time period updating). Fans of Chaykin's current work should enjoy this story because of how it shows the development of some of his now standard storytelling tropes. If you would be bothered by a lot of people in 1930s-era clothing in the 1980s, this might not be the comic for you.

I am glad to see that this story is getting a new lease on life, and a printing up to modern standards. I never picked up the first trade collection of these comics and have had to rely on my original comics over the years. At least now I can get a good trade collection and I can put away the comics.