Monday, February 7, 2011

5 Questions with Anthony Tollin

When I was a child, I had to settle for second-hand adventures of The Shadow.

My father introduced me to the character when I was very young, telling me about the invisible crimefighter who taunted his enemies from the darkness. Later, I heard a few of these adventures for myself as I came across an audio cassette of two radio dramas starring Orson Welles (this was in the days before the Internet made the entire history of popular culture instantaneously available.)

At the time, I thought that was pretty much it for The Shadow. The character, as I understood him, only existed within the confines of his radio program. A few years later I'd learn that the radio show, despite it's massive mainstream popularity, was only the tip of the iceberg. There were hundreds of novels in circulation depicting a very different (and much more violent) version of The Shadow.

For a lot of people my age, Anthony Tollin has been the guiding light of Shadow fans. In addition to co-authoring The Shadow Scrapbook with the character's creator Walter Gibson, Tollin was also a colorist for DC Comics and loaned his expertise to the backpages of The Shadow's four-color adventures. In fact, the first time I remember seeing his name was in Howard Chaykin's 1986 Shadow miniseries, penning a multi-part history of the character for new readers. He's the Fan's Fan and regarded as a leading expert on The Shadow.

Tollin is currently publishing reprints of The Shadow's pulp adventures, as well as Doc Savage, The Avenger and The Whisperer. You can find them for sale at June, Sanctum Books will publish of Volume 50 of The Shadow, which features books 99-101 of the reprint series.

Tollin kindly agreed to answer some of my questions about the Sanctum Books like, as well as a few general questions about The Shadow.The questions, and Tollin's answers, are below. Enjoy!

5 Questions with Anthony Tollin

Anthony Tollin and Walter B. Gibson
pose with "The Shadow Scrapbook."

1: Sanctum Books has avoided some of the problems of previous reprint efforts by avoiding the traditional method of publishing the stories in chronological order. Considering how long the original series ran, even the most successful efforts folded before reaching some of The Shadow's most popular adventures. How do you decide on the publishing order for the Sanctum Books series?
 "When I first licensed the rights for these reprints, my initial contract was for several years, and I didn't want to go through that time by only reprinting the same Shadow novels previously reprinted by Bantam Books and Pyramid/Jove (and easily available on eBay). I thought it would be a huge disservice to Walter Gibson's literary legacy if all I accomplished was publishing the same novels previously reprinted in the 1960s and 1970s. Also, art was a major concern. The first two issues of THE SHADOW MAGAZINE featured reprint covers from 1919, and George Rozen didn't begin his tenure as cover artist until the eighth issue, and the earliest Shadow novels featured only a single illustration. I wanted to give my reprints the best chance of succeeding, which I felt included publishing novels that had not previously been reprinted, and novels that featured dynamite cover art by George Rozen and fabulous interior illustrations by Tom Lovell and Edd Cartier.

"Another consideration was that Edd Cartier, a friend of mine, was over ninety years old when I began my reprints. I wanted to reprint some of his novels while he was still alive to enjoy the books ... and was also still available to write a foreword (which appeared in THE SHADOW Volume 16). I thought it would be poor form to ask Edd to write a foreword for a volume that didn't feature his wonderful illustrations. And the same applied to my friend, Margot Stevenson, who voiced "the lovely Margo Lane" opposite Orson Welles. I wanted to feature a foreword by Margot, and the character of Margo Lane didn't appear in the first 200 novels.

"Also, THE SHADOW had been far more successful in radio rebroadcasts and recordings than in previous paperback reprints, so I wanted to occasionally reprint some of the novels that featured radio characters like Margo Lane, Shrevvie and Commissioner Weston, and contained elements that were recognizable to fans of the radio series."

2: Speaking of The Shadow's most popular stories, when do you anticipate the Shiwan Khan and Benedict Stark books will become available?
"I expect to reprint the first of the Benedict Stark novels fairly soon. I'm still trying to figure out how I'll handle the Shiwan Khan novels, since the first two were reprinted back in the 1980s in a Mysterious Press hardcover. I'll probably reprint the first two Shiwan Khan novels in separate volumes, and then pair the final two in a single volume."

3: Besides Walter Gibson, you're probably the man most often associated by fandom with The Shadow. What's your favorite story from the original pulps?
"First off, I think Edd Cartier, George Rozen and SHADOW MAGAZINE-editor John Nanovic were strongly associated with The Shadow by fandom ... especially John Nanovic who lived until 2001 and attended a number of Pulpcons.

"I don't think I could limit my favorites to a single novel. CRIME, INSURED is really good, which is why I selected it to lead off my first volume (backed by Lester Dent's THE GOLDEN VULTURE in a deliberate attempt to bring Doc Savage fans aboard). ZEMBA (previously reprinted by Jove) is also exceptional, as are SHADOW OVER ALCATRAZ, ATOMS OF DEATH (which I just reprinted in #44) and THE LIVING SHADOW and THE BLACK HUSH (coming up in #47, our extra-length 80th anniversary special). As of this month, I've reprinted 90 Shadow novels, and Will Murray and I haven't exhausted all our favorites by a long shot."

4: What's your favorite comicbook interpretation of The Shadow?
"THE SHADOW STRIKES by Gerard Jones and Eduardo Barreto is definitely my favorite ... but of course I'm somewhat prejudiced since I was the color artist on that DC Comics series. I'm also fond of the Denny O'Neil/Michael Kaluta/Frank Robbins/E. R. Cruz series DC published back in 1973-35 ... including the often ignored issues illustrated by Robbins and Cruz. And I also like the latter issues of Street & Smith's SHADOW COMICS that were illustrated by the Bob Powell studio."

5: Kent Allard: The Shadow's true identity or another fa├žade?
"Kent Allard was definitely The Shadow's TRUE identity, and Walter Gibson was very clear on that point. Some later writers (like Dennis Lynds who wrote the 1960s Belmont novels) mistakenly clouded the subject."


  1. Just read this, and yes I'll be digging out some of my shadow comics to re-read in the morning!


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