Debuting before a certain "dark knight", this guy knew what it was to strike terror into the hearts of criminals but preferred to go in strapped...you know...just in case....The Shadow!
Starting out on one of the earliest mediums of entertainment, The Shadow was a narrator on a detective radio show until he met Walter B. Gibson, famous pulp fiction writer who gave him form and a pair of nine millimeters with which to put bulletholes in the ass of crime. The Shadow returned to the radio but this time as the mysterious crime fighter with his best attempt at a mask being a red wool scarf he bought at the Woolworth's downtown. Between the radio, the comics and several subsequent movies, people were really digging one of the biggest precursors to a certain Caped Crusader. But who was this man of mystery and with his penchant for brutally beating and, in some cases murdering the criminals he's after...how the hell can he be considered a "hero"?
KENT ALLARD was a famous aviator in World War I who also worked as a spy and possibly beat the Devil in a match regarding a golden fiddle but as the war ended, Allard needed a new challenge and decided that fighting crime would give him that "death rush" as well as the opportunity to go new places and beat the crap out of the people that live there. Faking his own death in South America, he returned to the states and assumed a number of different false identities, a fairly illegal activity in itself but would you try to explain "crossing the line" with a guy like this?
She thought he should switch up his outfit for something lighter. He thought all nosey bitches could fly.
Arriving in the Big Apple, he adopts the identity of wealthy playboy Lamont Cranston, the Donald Trump of the 30's minus the Tribble hairpiece and when the real Cranston finds out about what Allard is doing, the real Cranston is informed that he will allow him to use his identity when he needs to OR he'll steal Cranston's identity with documents he forged. With the cast of "Law and Order" not to be born for a number of years, Cranston pussies out and lets Allard be him whenever he travels overseas to do whatever 30's playboys did. In order to be able to have his oversized schnoz in all acts of crime, he goes about "saving" different citizens from random acts of criminal violence, making them "agents" of his and expecting them to be available any time of the day if he needs them to do something for him.
*Get details on criminals he's chasing after
*Snoop around the police department or varying criminal underworld locales for tips, putting their lives in great danger
*Picking up his dry cleaning
*Getting his reblocked fedora from the habadasher
*Reassuring him that he'll find a woman he won't throw out of a window someday
But why was this champion against the forces of evil so....forcibly evil? Let us take a look at this from a later penning of the Shadow's story, adapted into a movie in the mid 90's and headlined by the only man that could don that hat and cloak.
Wrong hat and cloak...but that's him...
1994's The Shadow starred Hollywood heartthrob Alec Baldwin as the fun loving and promiscuous Lamont Cranston, playboy about town but with a dark secret that would come to light whenever some mobster threatened to drop petite Asian men off of a downtown bridge. Yes, he would become the Shadow, but was he the same untouchable blackguard like Kent Allard in the pulp comics?
The 90's Lamont Cranston was also a soldier in World War I but unlike his comic book self, he wasn't seeking bad guy ball busting adventure. He just got tired of things in the U.S. and opted to bum around Asia for awhile. He put the playboy title aside and picked up the much loftier "bloodthirsty drug lord of South East Asia" title, feeling greater satisfaction in murdering his competitors for their territory than sitting around and watching his interest rates rise. Renamed Ying Ko, he terrorized the lands and vowed to take control of everything until he was kidnapped by a little bald kid known as the Tulku. This kid with a voice turned up to 11 explains that Lamont's gonna give up his evil ways and fight crime because if he refuses, he's gonna have him star in the sequel to "The Marrying Man".
All right, no need to do that! I'll fight evil! Man, you play ROUGH!
So a man that was brutalizing others only a few months earlier is given the ability to "cloud" people's minds, making them see or NOT see things that are actually happening and allowing him to sucker punch them or gun them down in cold blood?
Kent Allard was a douche on a number of levels but this guy is boardering on a sociopath with a great color scheme in his crime figthting attire. But what of his "agents" and associates? Possibly his saving grace, a link to his humanity and the very thing to keep him from becoming the villains that he fights?
A socialite that didn't have to work a day in her life, the 30's answer to Paris Hilton's father worked for the old "war department" designing...well, he wasn't making three slot toasters. A very deadly implosion device is what he was making and when both him and the device go missing, she turns to the only man that can help her. A guy she just met 24 hours ago and believes she has some odd connection with. When he brushes her off as the mayor elect of Crazytown, she ends up getting caught by the bad guy who "clouds her mind" and sends her to put a bullet in the back of ol' Shad's fedora. Waking from her trance before he no doubt snapped her alabaster neck, she puts together that he's the Shadow and begs for his help. He chooses to NOT kill her AND to help her, stepping away from the evil that he used to do, so that's a plus on his side.
Except that there's a scene they never filmed where he strangles her when she arrives at his bedside, fighting with the evils inside of himself as he sleeps and cutting off her air supply in reality. Hard to defend this guy.
Saved at some point in his life by our anti good guy, Moe is a New York City cab driver and a pretty damned bad one as it would appear. If you need to escape a bunch of underworld hoods, he's a skilled wheelman beyond compare but getting a pair of tourists to Greenwich Village without suffering whiplash and other auto related trauma? That's a toughy. But he treats Moe well, never truly putting him in danger but for the occasional Mongol Warrior crashing down from above. The worst he had Moe do was wear a gigantic fire opal ring that clashed with most of Moe's outfits and made him the laughingstock among the cabbies in Manhattan.
But it is evil that he's squaring off with here and with that evil within him, clawing its way out, maybe the villains that he's squaring off against are SO evil, it's hard to keep focused on being good?
Being the last descendant of any well known individual is tough but when it's the guy that almost conquered one half of the planet back in the day, the definition of "hard road ahead" doesn't quite cut it. So Shiwan decides to pick up where his great great great grandpa Gengis left off and conquer the rest of the world as well. He ends up chilling with the loud ass little kid Tulku but instead of learning to help mankind with his mental abilities, he ganks the bald headed little guy and heads out to eliminate his only competition: the warlord Ying Ko. Much to his surprise, The Artist Formerly Known As Ying Ko is now the Shadow, a cape wearing vigilante with a beef for criminal types and jaywalkers. Khan figures it'd be easier to avoid the climax battle and have Cranston join him, cut him in on the action and spend time beating the crap out of everyone without mental abilities, but they agree to disagree and the battle is on. But how can Khan beat the Shadow AND conquer the world at large? With an army of five Asian dudes in rented costumes? His mental power to make you forget that he didn't tip 10% and only tipped 2%? Nah, he's got a bomb. A very powerful bomb. But who'd be stupid enough to give this nut a bomb?
Wasn't Margo's dad a bomb builder?
It's friggin' Magneto! How could no one not know this would happen?!
So Khan's plan to take over the world is unconvered by Mr. Kim Basinger and that leggy chick from Carlito's Way, which involves blowing up New York City unless Khan gets some money like quick. Did I mention that he was directing this diabolical scheme from inside of a building that he was hiding with his mind? The guy has the power to hypnotize an entire city and he opts to go the "blow it all up" route? Why not just march up to the President, have him make Khan the new President and REALLY rub The Shadow's nose in it? Ah, well doing it the destructive way, he plants a bomb in the center of the hotel that no one can see and hopes all goes to plan.
That's the entrance of a man who plans to kick some ass and foil some plans.
But Khan is ready for his adversary and after a run in with The Shadow and some swift kills, he sends out his now three paid by the hour followers and a man that he is banking on to help not just overthrow several world governments but also beat a man that can make you believe he's a shadow.
No longer a sweet transvestite. Now he's a money grubbing sycophant. He was more entertaining before.
But in the end, Khan paid for dealing with not calling through to his employee's references and squared off with The Shadow, in a mental battle to prove once and for all who's mind was the strongest. Of course being a villain, he used this thing:
The Phurba, a sentient flying dagger to gut check ol' Shad, but our hero won out as it was mind over matter and Lamont's mind was that much stronger than Khan's. And being of a greater mind as well as a more developed consciousness, you would figure that they would settle their battle with a hearty handshake as the better man had won...
Or at 4:09 in the video, using telekinesis, he could imbed a 7 inch shard of mirror in the guy's skull. Works just as well, I guess.
He was where the "brooding hero" started, a man searching for a purpose in life and whether it was pretending to be Frankie Lipshitz so he could spy on a criminally funded softball league or fighting an inner demon that would pop out and ruin a fancy dressed dinner party by having him rip off the piano player's arms and assaulting the other guests with them, he was a hero.
Take into account the time that The Shadow lived in. Despite law being prevalent, it was usually corrupt and the citizens that suffered under the thumb of a powerful criminal underworld turned to the police only to be patted on the head and sent on their way, probably getting mugged outside of the station. In a wild time, the city needed a hero to step up to protect them and if that hero walked the same path of the villains, he'd have an edge into understanding them...and beating them.
Who knew what evil lurked in the hearts of men?
The Shadow knows....