The Shadow Magazine #80 – The Condor

shadow_magazine_vol_1_80 The Shadow really came into his own during the mid 1930s, volumes #65-99ish. Before that he and the author were still feeling out their niche; after that, well, even primordial heroes start to eventually feel their age and the effects of all those concussions. But that run is really superb. The Shadow is at the peak of his mental and physical prowess; and his organization as well as the scope of his operations expands, while–and this is important–still staying reasonable.

At his core, The Shadow is a hero who avenges crime.  Sometimes those crimes are murder; more often they are gang violence; and even more often, it’s theft, either outright or white-collar variants such as fraud or embezzlement. (One of the great differences between The Shadow and current-day heroes is that theft is a crime seen as a crime and deserving of a harsh punishment no matter who the intended victims are. Even cigar-smoking businessmen in suits are assumed to have a right to their property, to defend it, and to seek its legal, reasonable increase. Nowadays every single one of would be considered a villain by default, unworthy of protection or recompense. Anyhow.)

Now, quite often the thieves and/or murderers have delusions of grandeur (and sometimes they aren’t quite delusions) and Step 4 is “take over the world” / “reign of terror” and these are usually more colorful, and somewhat harder to stop than your ordinary crop of gangsters. At least the gangsters tend to either drop dead or surrender when the cops arrive. The megalomaniacs fight it out to the end, or crawl away aided by their faithful minions, hissing banefully.

This book manages to combine both types, and very satisfactory it is to see.

So. Cliff Marsland–who once did a stint in Sing Sing for a crime he did not commit, who is now known in gangdom as a man-killer, a tough torpedo, and a mortal enemy of The Shadow and whom none suspect is actually an agent of The Shadow–meets up with and receives a mission from his once-pal, Luffer Cadley. Cadley himself received a tip-off from the now deceased Cuckoo Gruzen: that a big payoff awaits one who can present the Blue Pearl to The Condor at Mountview Lodge. Cadley is bringing Cliff into it, because he has enemies still itching to rub him out and needs the help. Cliff accepts, because he and his chief know that by following the small crime, a much larger one can be uncovered and greater damage prevented.

So. There’s the plot: acquire the Blue Pearl, bring to The Condor, and then find out what the heck his deal is. Simple, sure. But the path that leads from A to B to C is filled with perplexities, difficulties, and dynamite. This is one of those stories where to summarize what happens is to simply state the entire plot, and then where’s the fun in that? But there are mysteries involved (that are actually mysterious and have importance, and whose solution proves the solver to be that much more intelligent and observant than other individuals–without making those others out to immediately be idiots); there are thrills (such as, Henry Arnaud deciding that he really doesn’t want a visit from the local police right at that moment, and having to devise a quick escape via a third-story window); there’s plenty of action, strategy, double-crosses, intrigue, secret identities, and also a couple of random Singhalese giants, because no pulp action story is actually complete without giants. No, really. Doc Savage and Tarzan provide their own; Tom Swift has Koko; Barsoom has the Green Martians….

Huh. Giants, and crocodiles. Make a note of it.

Anyhow. Several of The Shadow’s agents are involved in this one, including the usual mention-only of Miles Crofton (poor guy never gets a chance to shine). Most prominently, these are Cliff Marsland and (siiiiiiiigh) Harry Vincent, but Clyde Burke pops up here and there, and there’s mention of Hawkeye and Moe. The Shadow himself gets to use the lesser-known Henry Arnaud persona as well as his favored guise of Lamont Cranston. The latter persona also gets to support and advise his friend Commissioner Barth after the theft of the Blue Pearl by a masked thug, right under their very noses….

Vic Marquette (still of the Secret Service, and therefore a hero to be lauded, rather than the FBI stooge he later becomes), also pops up.

So, villains. The Condor is a cross between the megalomaniac and the professor. He’s an independently wealthy retiree who decided some time ago that crime might be more risky, but it’s also a hell of a lot more fun and rewarding than doing things the slow, steady, legal way. Physically, he is of a birdlike (guess which kind) mould, especially as far as his voice, and his weirdly strong, thin-fingered hands go. He’s intelligent and cunning; but mostly his success lies in the way he has planned for it. Rather than just recruiting thugs off the street–and then having them ruin things directly–he allows them to self-select, ensuring that only those capable enough can reach him in the first place; and then also by including a time element, ensures that he also gets patient, disciplined crooks, too. As a result, his organization is effective, competent, and cohesive–and it’s not a one-man job taking it down.

What’s more, The Condor is more of a nickname, and less of a straightforward gimick, the way The Cobra, or The Gray Fist, or The Python (snigger) was, because as dangerous as those guys admittedly were…they were really frikkin’ goofy, come on. He’s a dude who screeches occasionally and gathers plunder that others have killed/acquired, and he’s very serious about it, and so is the author.

Talking about the cover: it’s always awesome to see covers and titles that directly reference something, a scene or idea in the story; something that’s intriguing and easy on the eyes just on the surface, but that gains incredible depths of meaning once you’ve read the book. It means a lot more once you read the book, but even just on it’s own, it’s pretty darned intriguing nevertheless. (Also doesn’t add a gigantic proboscis to the silhouette. Those are annoying. CANNONICALLY all you can see of The Shadow in Shadow getup is his blazing eyes, and that’s IF he’s not hiding his face anyway. Artistic license, ugh.)

PS: I am not going to review the final Shiwan Khan story, he dies, THE END, good riddance, YOU BELONG DEAD.

Rated: Youse mugs keep them dukes up! I said up!


The old man sighed. “I will not live til your brother–the renegade–come here. If I stretch out my hand and make you Princess, as I make your brother my heir–it is no help, and it is nothing but danger to you. I cannot protect you when I am gone. Jalra will surely take you for his own. I cannot protect you.”

“I have no fear of Jalra.”

The old king said: “So be it. I am a dying man. I have been a cruel man, and an evil one. I have broken oaths and shed blood. I have in uttermost wretchedness turned against my own son. But, by God, even now, I am not a coward.

“Fetch me paper and ink. Fetch me the signet and purple wax. Find me three men–” he named them, in a husky whisper, and she nodded, “–who will witness. And–my princess–your eyes dazzle. Find water and wash your face. It is not good that men should see you weep.”