The Shadow Knows!



Here is a personal favorite of mine… The Shadow!

Usually while I’m working, I’m listening to old radio shows from the Golden Age of Radio. Its a medium I discovered early in my career and its been a favorite ever since. Radio really is a perfect medium for an artist. You don’t have to watch it. You can draw while you’re listening to it and get totally lost in the story while getting work done. The Shadow is among the better shows. I’m only familiar with the Shadow from his long-lasting radio series and from the Howard Chaykin comic book series of the 80’s. My friend, Alex Simmons, a colleague and collaborator from my Archie days, is a real fan of and expert on the Shadow and he tells me the radio version of the character is quite different from the character’s origins in pulp magazines. My understanding is the original Shadow was a much grittier, more mysterious character than the squeaky-clean version I’m acquainted with. Still, I enjoy his show. It might be heresy among hard core Shadow fans to say this but my favorite Shadow actor is Bill Johnstone. Orson Welles, most people’s preferred Shadow, comes across too foppish to me. He makes the Shadow sound like a bored dilettante.

This piece was done as another commission request from the 2015 DIE KITTY DIE Kickstarter campaign. I’m getting together the last few sketches that have to go out so please keep checking back here to see what else I’ve drawn. Dan Parent and I have already started dropping some very big hints about our next Die Kitty Die campaign which will launch very soon!

Stay tuned!




17 comments on “The Shadow Knows!”

  1. Mike Mitchell

    I will have to join you as a heretic. Johnstone is my preferred actor in the Shadow series. Orson Wells was obviously good, and he did originate the radio version of the character that is the basis for most people’s understanding of the character, but Johnstone was more relatable.

    BTW, Andrew Pepoy recommended a show called, “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar,” and I’m really enjoying it (especially the later seasons).

    • fernando

      “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar” is one of my absolute favorite radio shows. My preferred episodes are those that ran in five parts for fifteen minutes night for five consecutive nights. Radio Classics on XM runs these five parters together in one block as an hour and fifteen minute Johnny Dollar marathon. According to Greg Bell, the channel’s host, those marathons are the most popular shows the channel airs. Bell has also mentioned that the show ran in that format for only a single year in 1955 or ’56. I guess it was unpopular at the time but listening to those shows in a single block make for some very good, very compelling and well-produced stories. Bob Bailey, the actor playing Dollar during that year, is by far my favorite Dollar. The half-hour Johnny Dollar episodes are alright too… so long as its Bailey playing Dollar… but those marathons are really where Johnny has room to shine! It’s absolutely one of my favorite shows to listen to while I work. I always love when Johnny is on because I know I’m going to get a lot of work done.

      Incidentally, my other favorite radio shows include Gunsmoke (William Conrad has one of the best voices I’ve ever heard!), The Phil Harris & Alice Faye Show, The Whistler, and my absolute favorite, The Great Gildersleeve!

  2. Dennis

    That’s funny. I like Welles’ Shadow (actually, more for the writing of those early episodes than the acting, per se), but if I had to pick just one of the actors who portrayed The Shadow on radio, I’d have to go with Bret Morrison. I’d agree with the assessment that sometimes Welles could seem a little too foppish, but on the whole, I thought Bill Johnstone came across as too mature, verging on elderly sometimes. Bret Morrison seemed like the perfect balance between the two extremes.

    • fernando

      Ha! I do agree that sometimes Bill Johnstone does come across as being of advanced years. A big part of why I tend to favor him may stem from familiarity. I haven’t counted exactly, but it seems like Radio Classics on XM, my primary source for old radio shows, seems to play Bill Johnstone episodes of The Shadow more than any other. I may have been subconsciously programmed to accept Johnstone as my preferred Shadow! I’ll have to give Brett Morrison more of a chance.

      • Dennis

        I think a lot of that is just the luck of the draw. Orson Welles portrayed The Shadow on radio for the first season, and then a “summer season” (so effectively he had two seasons worth of episodes). Most of Welles episodes’ were preserved, as were most of the 5 years’s worth of his replacement, Bill Johnstone, in his tenure portraying the invisible avenger. Bret Morrison actually held the record for the most episodes in the starring role, racking up 10 years worth of episodes in two extended runs (with a short break between them) — BUT due to the vagaries of fate, beginning around 1947-48, the number of known-to-exist episodes begins to dwindle precipitously, until in the final five years of the show’s run, ALL of the recorded episodes from 1949 to 1954 are (as far as is currently known) completely gone. That leaves Johnstone the actor who has the most surviving episodes — even though Morrison recorded twice as many, the number that survive are somwhat shy of the extant number of Johnstone episodes.

    • fernando

      Thanks, Dennis. Yes. I’ve listened to those shows too and I enjoy them both… especially Dimension X which I regard as an early Twilight Zone.

  3. Zvi Szafran

    Hi Fernando,

    Like you, I also love old time radio, with my favorite being the Jack Benny Show. I’m sure you know this already, but there are two apps (at least for iPhone) that have tons of old time radio programs. One is OTR Streamer and the other is Dumb Old Radio Shows. The second has more programs, but the first is better organized, with the shows in date order.

    • fernando

      Wow! Thanks, Zvi. I didn’t know about those apps but it makes sense since there’s an app for everything! Fortunately, I do have an iPhone. I usually listen to Radio Classics on XM but their schedule gets frustrating sometimes. Too much Tales Of The Texas Rangers and Romance of The Rancheros for me and not enough of the comedies. From what I gather from the commentaries in between shows made by Greg Bell, the channel’s host, comedies aren’t as popular as the dramas. Sometimes I’ll go to a few on-line sources and listen to my favorite programs that way. I love Jack Benny, by the way, and can easily listen to him all day.

  4. Dennis

    Jack Benny is great. Probably my favorite of all the old time radio comedies. But then I grew up watching him on his TV series, which was pretty much the same as the radio version (i.e., also hilarious).

    One program I discovered by accident and found (unintentionally) over-the-top is Jack Webb in PAT NOVAK FOR HIRE. He’s a streetwise PI who lives on a houseboat, is typically hardbitten and cynical, but the snappy hard-boiled dialogue is totally outrageous! I can’t even describe it, you just have to hear it yourself. If it were prose fiction, it’d be called “purple prose”.

    • fernando

      Jack Benny was a master. He knew perfectly how to set up his supporting players and then get out of their way. He might be the funniest and most underrated straight man of all time… just because people aren’t used to thinking of him along those lines. Some of my favorite recurring bits and characters on the Benny show are Frank Nelson as anybody, Sheldon Leonard as the race track guy, Dennis Day’s mother, and Joseph Kearns as Ed, Jack’s security guard.

    • fernando

      I have caught some Pat Novak and the writing is good with very snappy dialogue. Webb, of course is gold in everything he does. He especially shines in the gritty detective genre. I particularly enjoy the exchanges between Novak and his boss, Lyons. I’m not confusing Novak with Webb’s other radio PI, Jeff Regan, am I?

  5. Dennis

    Novak was self-employed… “For Hire”. Considering his somewhat ‘gritty’ personality, things probably worked out better for him that way. On one case, a woman hires him for $300, and gives him an unloaded gun to “throw a scare” into a man named Dixie Gillian. Novak tells her “If anything goes wrong, I’ll dirty you up like a locker room towel.” Nominally, Novak was in the business of renting boats, but of course he was always hustling jobs to make ends meet. He apparently had a rep as a small-time guy who wasn’t a stickler for legality and would take on just about any job short of murder, so potential clients often came to him. Apart from paying his dock fees, it was probably cheaper for him living on a houseboat than paying rent for an apartment. I’ve never heard Jeff Regan, but I don’t remember any Lyons from Pat Novak.

    • fernando

      Jeff Regan was another hard-boiled radio PI that Jack Webb played. I’m not sure which role he played first and honestly, sometimes I have a hard time differentiating between the two shows. I definitely haven’t listened to enough of either show, but as I said, I did enjoy the back and forth between Webb and his boss, Lyons, which I’m guessing now must be on the Jeff Regan show.

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