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  Shadow Volume 13 [Pulp Reprint] #5033



 
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The Shadow
Volume 13

The Master of Darkness combats bizarre menaces in two of Walter Gibson's strangest thrillers. A torturous Aztec transformation gives "Six Men of Evil" an unexpected advantage in their criminal pursuits. Then, Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane encounter their most infamous foe, master of menace Monstodamous, in "The Devil Monsters." This classic collection also showcases George Rozen's breathtaking pulp cover, all the original interior art by illustrators Tom Lovell and Paul Orban, historical commentary by Will Murray, and an article on the Golden Age Shadow comics by Anthony Tollin.
Special Feature:
John Olsen Reviews the Stories in The Shadow #13
Review written and copyrighted by John Olsen; used with permission

"Six Men of Evil" was originally published in the February 15, 1933 issue of The Shadow Magazine. Six men with a bizarre secret, exploit that secret in order to begin a crime wave that covers the entire United States. The Shadow will travel from New York to Mexico to San Francisco's Chinatown before he will be able to conquer the evil of those six men.

The early years of The Shadow Magazine are universally recognized to contain the best of The Shadow's pulp adventures. And this story is definitely one of the best. Plenty of action. Plenty of mystery. Visits to far-flung places. And the exciting power of The Shadow at its most concentrated. It all goes to make this story a must-read.

As our story opens, six men are on horseback, crossing the border from Mexico into Texas. They discuss their unique situation before they plan to split up and go their own separate ways. They have only recently been released by ancestors of the ancient Aztecs, where they had been held captive as punishment for crimes against the lost tribe.

It seems that these six men originally had been enlisted in the US Army, trying to hide from their previous criminal lives. When they heard of a treasure in northern Mexico, they deserted and headed south. In deep in one of the hidden gorges of a high mountain range, they discovered the lost city of Zeltapec with its descendants of the ancient Aztecs. And in an inner shrine of the secret temple at Zeltapec, a huge emerald lay upon a pedestal. A jewel of unmatched beauty known to the natives at "Chicquatil." It was this sacred stone that they attempted to steal.

The six men were caught by the Aztecs, during their attempted robbery. And they were sentenced to a most strange and unusual punishment. Since the exact nature of that punishment isn't spelled out until later in the pulp novel, explaining it here will be a bit of a spoiler. But since the secret is pasted clearly on the cover of the pulp magazine, it's not much of a spoiler. So read the next four paragraphs at your own risk...

The punishment was that each man was forced to wear a metal mask strapped tightly to his face. This was the mask of Colpoc, the god of evil. For eight long months, these six men wore the metal masks, kept there under pressure. And at the end of that time period, when the masks were removed, each man's features had taken on those of Colpoc himself. Each man was an exact duplicate of the other. All had immobile features; broad nose; thick, heavy lips; cheeks, chin and forehead that slope away uniformly. Only their mouths and eyes could move.

The Aztecs released their prisoners and banned them from the valley. They would be doomed to go through the rest of their lives bearing the visage of evil. The identical faces that would mark them, wherever they went, as criminals. The Aztecs let them keep the gold they stole; they were only interested in maintaining custody of their sacred emerald.

But the six men, now that they sit on horseback anticipating going their own ways, decide to take advantage of the fact that they all look alike. They will spread over the country and make preparations for a crime spree unheard of in the annals of crime.

Each man will adopt a new name and enter a new community as a respectable citizen. They will plan crime. After six months to a year, when they are a trusted member of their own communities, they will execute their long-planned crimes. Regardless of whether they murder or steal, they will do it openly and allow witnesses to see them. Because, they will have an iron-clad alibi. One of their duplicates will actually commit the crime, while each man, himself, spends the entire time of the crime with a sheriff, mayor or some other local notable whose word can't be questioned. The perfect crime!

Their plans made, the six men split up and ride off in different directions. After a planning period of at least six months, the crimes will begin. And so they do. The first is in Tilson, Illinois. A quarter million stolen from a bank. But the man accused of the crime had an iron-clad alibi - he had been with the chief of police the whole time. The next crime is in Barmouth, Maryland. Followed by Daltona, Georgia - murder and two million dollars. This is a job for The Shadow!

But before The Shadow can begin to combat this crime, he must take a trip to Mexico and find the lost city of Zeltapec. And this is where the story, which is already a corker, gets even better. The Shadow lands in the lost city in his autogyro. He's taken to be a messenger of the sun god. He receives the giant emerald - the green Chicquatil - as a gift. He tries to refuse, but the natives press it upon him.

And then, as if a trip to a lost civilization isn't enough, we get a rousing climax when The Shadow visits San Francisco and it's famed Chinatown. There, he makes his way through death traps to reach the inner recesses of Tam Sook's domain. There we learn another secret about The Shadow's girasol ring.

In various Shadow stories, the origin of his famous girasol ring is occasionally mentioned. One story has it belonging to a czar of Russia and the other story has it as coming from South American Xinca Indians. You may be familiar with the history of the stone, but what of the metal ring itself? The silver setting that the stone is set into? This story sheds some light on that issue, indicating it came from China. Here's a segment of the story:


As The Shadow spoke, he made a motion with his hand. The iridescent girasol popped upward, on a hinge. A cavity was revealed beneath the precious stone. Within that cavity was visible a tiny, weird-scrawled figure.

Tam Sook's eyes bulged as he saw the figure. A gasp came from the Chinaman's lips.

"The sign of Chow Lee!" he exclaimed. "The sign of The Great One!"

"Yes," came the weirdly-whispered reply, "the gift of those of Chow Lee - those who are even more powerful than you! Only one man, other than your own, has this sacred symbol. I am that man!"


Who is Chow Lee? What is the strange figure engraved beneath the girasol? We can only guess, since author Walter Gibson doesn't explain further. Perhaps he intended to expand upon this in future Shadow stories. But, unfortunately, he never did. Much like The Shadow's "horror face," this aspect of The Shadow remains a mystery to faithful readers.

Yes, this is a slam bang story. We get to see The Shadow use the explosive paste known as the "Devil's Whisper" for the second time. (It was previously introduced in 1931's "The Red Menace.") He uses his special disappearing ink to write coded messages to his agents. We get to visit the blackened sanctum and see that row of massive volumes that make up the archives of The Shadow. We travel around the country with The Shadow: New York City; Tilson, Illinois; Barmouth, Maryland; Daltona, Georgia; Fargo, North Dakota; Riviere, Louisiana; San Francisco's Chinatown; the mountains of northern Mexico. What a ride!

We are reminded, in this tale, that wherever there is a city that harbors an underworld, The Shadow is feared:

[ITALICS]In London, in Berlin, in Madrid, crooks of all nationalities lowered their voices when they discussed The Shadow. In Paris, skulking crooks still mumbled tales of The Shadow's prowess - of that eerie night when an unknown being in black had battled single-handed against a horde of apaches. In Moscow, there were men who remembered the time when The Shadow had fought himself free from a regiment of Red troops.[CLOSE ITALICS]

This is definitely an early version of The Shadow. He is nearly all-powerful. He wields a hypnotic presence; his eyes contain a mesmeric glint that brooks no refusal. He shoots to kill, not to wound; and he shoots straight the first time. His mastery of even the esoteric languages of the ancient Zeltapec chief is demonstrated here.

The Shadow appears in his guise as millionaire, world-traveler Lamont Cranston in this story. He is accompanied by his agents Burbank, Harry Vincent, investment-broker Rutledge Mann and reporter Clyde Burke. There is no mention of Kent Allard; author Gibson hadn't invented him yet. And no mention of "Ying Ko" when The Shadow was in Chinatown. That part of The Shadow's back-story wouldn't be invented for another two years.

Another sure sign that this is an early tale in which Gibson's writing hadn't fully taken form, yet, would be the murder of a girl. In later stories, Walter Gibson studiously avoided allowing harm to females. They were never killed. Alternate author Theodore Tinsley had no such compunctions, as you are probably aware. He killed off women and men with equal aplomb. But to see one of our six men of evil shoot a girl straight through the heart was quite disconcerting. Very unlike the Walter Gibson stories we later came to know.

And what of the Chicquatil, itself? What did The Shadow do with the huge green stone that the Zeltapec chief presented to him? After The Shadow climbs into his autogyro and flies away from the lost Aztec city, nothing further is said of the fabulous emerald. We can only assume that it sat among other treasures in The Shadow's sanctum.

This is one of the all-time great classic Shadow pulp adventures. It's a rousing tale, one that I really enjoyed reading. I know you'll enjoy reading it, too. Treat yourself to one of the best of the best.
 


"The Devil Monsters" was published in the February 1, 1943 issue of The Shadow Magazine. This is the infamous Shadow tale that some call "the worst Shadow novel written by Walter Gibson." But I can't agree with that. It certainly stretches credulity in a way that no other Shadow mystery novel ever did. It takes on certain aspects of fantasy and science fiction. But I have to confess that I actually liked this story.

It's a story of dinosaurs. Real dinosaurs, not pretended or fantasized. And that's not giving anything away that wasn't already intended, because the original cover of the pulp magazine prominently featured an array of dinosaurs. These amazing creatures could possibly exist in some obscure corner of the earth, and someone has found them. Someone who plans on world domination. Someone who has unleashed them upon an unsuspecting public. Someone who is destined to meet... The Shadow!

Yes, the "devil monsters" of the title are in reality dinosaurs. Dinosaurs and other strange creatures long thought to be myths, but in reality still in existence. It is these creatures that have been seen in and around the small community of Glendale several hours out of New York. And it is to Glendale that The Shadow has come to investigate.

There have been several strange deaths in Glendale attributed to the devil monsters. The Shadow, guised as Lamont Cranston, has driven to Glendale in the company of Margo Lane. He intends to pay a visit to his friend from the Cobalt Club, James Farman. Farman has a large estate in Glendale, and is right in the center of the hotbed of controversy surrounding the mysterious deaths.

Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane arrive at the Farman estate in the middle of a raging storm. A flare of strange greenish light appears above the Farman mansion in the pouring rain. In the night, a strange giant creature of darkness appears seemingly from nowhere. It rips away the top of the roadster, grabs Margo Lane in its talons, and carries her off into the air. The Shadow jabs gunshots at the vague flying shape, but to no avail! And that's how our story opens. What a great start to a story!

Calm your mind. Margo is safe. She's found in the top branches of a downed tree, where the mystery monster apparently dropped her. She and Lamont join the extended house party at James Farman's, telling a convincing story of an uprooted tree demolishing their car. They are welcomed as house guests, and proceed to settle in and begin their investigation.

The following day, they attend the coroner's inquest on the death of the two mangled men found several days previously. From the inquest, they acquire a variety of leads. Clues that may help them track down the source of the mystery.

Who is behind it all? Could it be old Dariel Grebb, the retired banker who owns the estate to the east? Or Roscoe Althrop the big shipping man, whose estate lies to the west? Perhaps sinister Leonard Thrull who rents the mansion on the far hill? Perhaps Jed Guphrey, the village half-wit? Maybe Paracelsus Chandos, who lives in the strange old castle in the valley? Or could it be James Farman, their genial host at Glenwood?

And what is behind the mystery? Could the dinosaurs possibly be real? From whence did they come? Where do they currently hide? Why have they been collected and brought here? Is someone faking the "devil monster" attacks? Is someone creating more monsters? What's it all about?

The Shadow is aided in this story by his lovely friend and companion Margo Lane, and his long-time agent Harry Vincent, who poses as a student of mineralogy. Clyde Burke of the New York Classic briefly appears as well. But that's all of the familiar characters in this story. No other agents appear, nor do any familiar faces from the law show up. It's this small band of crime fighters who must pierce the mystery and solve the strange case.

A few final points of interest. This story acknowledges the legend that The Shadow has the power of invisibility. It doesn't say he really can become invisible, but that there is a legend that claims it is so. This, in an obvious nod to the radio characterization of The Shadow. It's also mentioned that The Shadow has been long versed in the study of hypnotism. But no connection is claimed between the two.

In several previous Shadow novels, it was acknowledged that The Shadow has mastery over dogs, notably in "Crime At Seven Oaks." He has apparently lost the power in this story. There are two mammoth mastiffs in this story, and they neither fear nor obey The Shadow. Quite the opposite. They attack him upon several occasions, when it's most inopportune. The only way he can control them is to shoot them!

In this story, The Shadow takes to changing from Lamont Cranston into The Shadow in Margo Lane's presence. In full view, he draws on the cape and slouch hat, something that he never did in earlier years.

The Shadow's autogiro appears in this story. It's described as a new model, a "wingless" autogiro. Since all the pictures I've seen of an autogiro have had wings, I can only assume the wingless model must have been much like a helicopter. But unfortunately, the autogiro meets an untimely end in a battle with a pterodactyl. The autogiro is destroyed in the crash. It reappeared briefly in the following month's pulp story, "Wizard of Crime," and then never appeared in the magazine stories again.

It has been claimed that this is the worst Shadow story that Walter Gibson ever wrote. But I must disagree. Yes, it's more fantastic that the other "standard" Shadow mysteries, but I found it wonderfully moody and exciting. I liked it.
 


John Olsen was first introduced to The Shadow in the early 1960's, tuning in to rebroadcasts of his adventures on KEX radio in Portland, Oregon. Several years later, John was drawn to a hardback book entitled "The Weird Adventures of The Shadow," containing three Shadow novels reprinted from the old pulp magazines. The pulp Shadow was a far different character from the beloved radio version, but the stories drew him in and opened his eyes to a richer version of the hero. Today, John is retired in Sherwood, Oregon. He has read all 325 of the old Shadow pulp mysteries and enjoys them so much that, as of this writing, he is well over half way through reading them all again for a second time.


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