light and the shadow

Jesse Marinoff Reyes:

Windsor-Smith’s Conan, Wrightson’s Swamp Thing, and Kaluta’s The Shadow made the biggest impression on me however, and the excitement they provided me as a young comic reader could not be underestimated, and contributed to my own journey into the graphic arts and have influenced my thinking as an art director.

Kaluta’s work on The Shadow was a thrilling experience. Unlike many of his peers, Kaluta’s artistic influences leant themselves marvelously to recreating the 1930s-in-print that The Shadow was, so no mere superhero artist slumming on a gothic mystery. Kaluta’s work was a throwback to a past that never existed in the comics but should have—it was too sophisticated and meticulous compared to much actual Golden Age work. As a reader, I thrilled at this pulp revivalism informed by an art deco-inspired stylistic legerdemain. I had enjoyed his contribution to DC’s adaptations of the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories (in addition to Tarzan, they published Korak, Son of Tarzan, and Burroughs sci-fi adventure titles, John Carter of Mars and Carson of Venus, which Kaluta illustrated as a support feature), but The Shadow was his throughout, even if for only five issues of its original run of 12 issues. Thanks to Kaluta’s work, I also “discovered” The Shadow “himself,” which lead to seeking out the paperback reprints of the pulp stories with marvelous Jim Steranko-painted covers available at the time, LPs of the old radio program (the character debuted in 1930 narrating the Street & Smith “Detective Story Hour,” which led to the pulp magazine in 1931, which in turn led to the character’s own radio series in 1938), and a fascination with the character ever since as a cultural icon. Who sez you can’t learn anything from comic books?

Michael Wm Kaluta

The Shadow, No. 3
DC Comics, March 1974
Illustration: Michael Wm. Kaluta

Interior art by Kaluta (pencils) and Bernie Wrightson (inks). Wrightson, in 1974, was starring as the artist for DC’s Swamp Thing and his inks were superb on Kaluta’s pencils—adding an analogous mystery-horror feel (Wrightson also inked parts of issue #4). The pair were to be reunited on the graphic novel, The Shadow 1941 (Marvel, 1988), but it was not to be. Russ Heath substituted in Wrightson’s place, but the disappointment of fans (like me!) was palpable and remarked upon in the comics press at the time.

Michael Wm Kaluta

The Shadow, No. 4
DC Comics, May 1974
Illustration: Michael Wm. Kaluta

Interior art by Kaluta (pencils); and himself, Bernie Wrightson, Steve Hickman, and Howard Chaykin (inks). Although the potpourri approach to the inks for this issue sounds horrible, each participant remained faithful to Kaluta’s pencils and it actually worked quite well.

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