Matthew Richter: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Creating Art Space

Matthew Richter is one of the great champions of the arts in Seattle. When I first moved to Seattle, back in 1993, I quickly went about getting a foothold, any kind of foothold, into the art scene. Over time, I ran a gallery space in the coveted arts district of Capitol Hill. It was, in fact, nothing more than a diner–but it had walls to showcase art upon. I did this for a number of years. Some of the artists, who I provided with their very first art show, went on to bigger and better things. I did a number of other things too, including my ongoing freelance journalism and getting picked up by a publisher. I have a book out next year which you’ll hear more about soon enough. There were plenty of ups and downs over the years. I never ever stopped creating art of one kind or another. I never expected anyone to step in and advance my efforts. In fact, I preferred to develop on my own, as I saw fit. But I did crave community. And I did value walls upon which to present one’s work.

Consolidated Works ( 500 Boren Avenue North location, 2002 – 2006)

I kept up with various art people and Matthew was one of them. I’d read his work in our local alt-weekly, The Stranger. Later, I’d attend shows at his outrageously wonderful multi-disciplinary art center, Consolidated Works, where it seemed that anything could happen. Con Works was a veritable convention space/circus arena collecting various spaces that focused on one art form or another. It began as a brash semi-temporary entity, one of the original pop-ups but on a grand scale; established itself in the South Lake Union area, home to a bubbling stew of creative activity; and then, one day, it was gone, it was no more. Fast forward to the present, Matthew has been developing this concept of art spaces into “cultural spaces,” a means of supporting emerging artists, particularly BIPOC individuals who may not find an opportunity to gather and show art in a real estate market that has priced out the traditional art spaces of yesteryear.

Cultural Space Agency

The Cultural Space Agency is born. Matthew Richter developed his concept of cultural spaces during his time working for the City of Seattle’s arts department. This activity led to the city chartering Cultural Space Agency as a real estate development company, its goal being to seek out, purchase, and establish “cultural spaces.” Will cultural spaces help Seattle to flourish and withstand the headwinds of out-of-control growth? Ah, now all this seemed to me to add up to an interesting conversation. That is my goal with this interview: to explore the urban landscape. That requires looking at things from as many angles as possible, the good and the bad; asking tough questions, and allowing room for fumbling about for answers.

The main thing here is to support the goodwill out there to make any community a better place. That is what Cultural Space Agency is all about and it appears to be off to a good start with Matthew Richter having laid out the foundation. As he has made clear, he is only interim Executive Director for a little bit longer and then he will pass on the baton. There are also other positions to fill and numerous opportunities within this new organization. If you would like to help in any way or get involved, be sure to visit them.

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Help Fund KITCHEN TABLE: Ends 25 Sept. 2022!

Kitchen Table #5. Cover art by Dorothy Siemens.

AFTER FOUR ISSUES, KITCHEN TABLE MAGAZINE is leveling up—more pages, more stories, and more gorgeous art and photography—with #5: THE ROOTS ISSUE. And dig this groovy cover by the super talented artist and illustrator, Dorothy Siemens!

KITCHEN TABLE MAGAZINE: THE ROOTS ISSUE!

“Root Hog or Die!” Farmers down on their luck would yell that, along with a hope and prayer, confident that their pigs would find a way to survive. That’s the indie spirit! And so it is with this one tenacious publication, Kitchen Table magazine. Now, right now, is the time to lend a hand and keep this unique voice alive and well. Go to the campaign on Crowdfundr, ending on September 25th, and pitch in whatever you can.

From the campaign:

INSIDE THE ROOTS ISSUE

INSIDE THESE PAGES you’ll find stories, art, and ideas that explore the beautiful, flawed, and interconnected web of our food system, including:

  • A Black-owned BBQ enterprise that binds multiple generations
  • Reflections on the bittersweet nostalgia of Jell-O salads
  • Kitschy vintage cookies and red velvet skull cupcakes
  • A Mother’s Day gone awkwardly wrong
  • Sauce-makers answer Life’s mysterious questions
  • A Navajo food podcaster
  • Agriculture’s modern wave of intrepid and creative female farmers.

WHY WE NEED YOU

PRINT PUBLISHING HAS NEVER BEEN CHEAP. With the paradigm-shifting chaos that the covid has brought down upon us all—the disrupted supply chains; and everything from printing to shipping to bank fees costing more, plus 40 more pages [from 80 pages to 120 pages] for you to nosh on—we’ve had to raise the price of the magazine. We see no way to continue without doing so.

WHEN YOU BACK THE ROOTS ISSUE, you are joining the larger food community and helping us pay world-class creators, without whom KITCHEN TABLE doesn’t exist. And you’re also helping us shine a luminous light on the small farmers and independent producers, and the movers and shakers and doers and makers who make the food world turn—real people doing righteous things, in a time when we need more real people doing righteous things. People like Josh Winegarner, who produced our bitchin’ campaign video, and Kendl Winter who provided the music. (Thanks, Josh and Kendl.)

THE DETAILS

  • 120 full-color pages, 7.5″ x 9.5″
  • Perfect bound
  • Printed on luxurious matte paper stock
  • A coffee table keepsake

REWARDS: ALL YOU CAN EAT

WE HAVE SOME SERIOUSLY TASTY REWARDS. Read more on each Reward page.

  • KITCHEN TABLE #5: THE ROOTS ISSUE. The most coolest food magazine in the world. (Bold, right?!)
  • THE DIGITAL EDITION. For those who prefer to dine digitally.
  • FINE ART PRINTS. We have three of our favorite pieces of art from the issue available.
  • THE FULL MEAL DEAL. The first four issues, two of which are almost out of print.
  • THE SAUCE CLUB. Gift-packs of Portland’s tastiest sauces, in six Collections.
  • FOOD & LIBATIONS. Two stellar Portland-based spots offering an exceptional dining experience.
  • RETAILERS MATTER TOO. We’re offering a sweet package for our retail friends.

A CELEBRATION OF FOOD AND COMMUNITY

KITCHEN TABLE CONNECTS INQUISITIVE COOKS, enthusiastic eaters, and imaginative creators in a fresh and tasty publication that investigates not only the how-tos but the whys of eating. Through a mix of personal storytelling and delectable illustration and photography, our magazine endeavors to be an inclusive celebration of food and community.

WE ARE A VOICE FOR INCLUSIVE FOOD CULTURE, sustainability, our relationship with place, and our ability to be present in a world of digital distraction. Our contributors, our feature subjects, and our readers represent a wide range of age, race, nationality, and genders. Our contributors are overwhelmingly female, by a two-to-one margin, and we actively work with and fully support our BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities.

THANK YOU! Your generosity is most appreciated. Visit it us!

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Small Press Expo 2022: Ignatz Award Winners

Outstanding Artist Reimena Yee

2022 Ignatz Awards Nominees & Winners

Follow the link and you can see all the nominees for this year’s Small Press Expo, along with links to purchase. I believe this is the first time that links have been provided for direct purchase! Scroll below for a list of this year’s winners.

2022 Ignatz Awards Nominees

SPX Ignatz Award Winners for 2022:

I See a Knight

Outstanding Comic:I See A Knight” by Xulia Vicente (Shortbox). Since childhood, Olivia has been able to see a headless knight invisible to everyone else- is it an omen, a ghost, or something much more real?

Good Boy! magazine

Outstanding Anthology:Good Boy Magazine” #1, edited by Michael Sweater and Benji Nate (Silver Sprocket). This 112-page collection features the tagline “Read comics or go to hell.” That says it all!

Outstanding Artist: Reimena Yee for “Alexander, The Servant, & The Water of Life,” a retelling of the life/legend of Alexander the Great. Yee is also the creator of numerous other comics, including the Eisner & McDuffie-nominated “The Carpet Merchant of Konstantiniyya,” “Séance Tea Party,” and the upcoming “My Aunt is a Monster.”

Mr. Boop

Outstanding Collection:Mr. Boop” by Alec Robbins (Silver Sprocket). This is the complete collection of the absurdist and romantic tale of author Alec Robbins being in love with his wife Betty Boop, the 1930s cartoon superstar, presented in a beautiful, deluxe package.

No One Else

Outstanding Graphic Novel:No One Else” by R. Kikuo Johnson (Fantagraphics). Johnson’s long-awaited second graphic novel follows Charlene, Brandon, and Robbie as they learn to navigate life day to day with their plans, fears, and desires after a death throws their life into turmoil.

Pee Pee Poo Poo #69

Outstanding Minicomic: “Pee Pee Poo Poo” #69 by Caroline Cash (self-published). A throwback to ’60s underground comics with a zesty title to boot.

Ride or Die

Outstanding Online Comic:Ride or Die” by Mars Heyward features demon cars, street racing, fumbling romance and revenge, and is described as “Christine meets Ghost Rider meets Fast and Furious but gayer!”

The Many Deaths of Laila Starr

Outstanding Series: “The Many Deaths of Laila Starr” by Ram V & Filipe Andrade with Inês Amaro and AndWorld Design (BOOM! Studios), a five-issue mini-series exploring the fine line between living and dying through the lens of magical realism.

The Lover of Everyone in the World

Outstanding Story: ‘The Lover of Everyone in the World’ by Beatrix Urkowitz (Parsifal Press). Originally drawn for Popula, ‘The Lover’ joins three other stories about being loved by everyone, and no one, in Urkowitz’s first graphic novella of the same name. The collection was possible thanks to a generous grant from Koyama Provides.

Djeliya by Juni Ba

Promising New Talent: Juni Ba. A cartoonist from Senegal and France, Ba’s recent work includes the anthology series “Monkey Meat” (Image Comics) and “Djeliya” (TKO Studios), which tells the tale of Prince Mansour and his royal storyteller Awa, as they journey to reach the mysterious Wizard Soumaoro, who guards a fearsome power that he once used to destroy the world.

Krazy Kat’s Ignatz, namesake for the SPX Ignatz Award

Small Press Expo returns next year during the weekend of September 9 and 10, 2023.

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Comic Art: ANGELS by Hurricane Nancy

ANGELS by Hurricane Nancy. Color by Henry Chamberlain.

Hurricane Nancy offers us a meditation on the angels in our lives. I asked Nancy what she meant and she said: “There are wonderful people in life who help and encourage, when one is down. They love to see one creating and expanding their ideas and viewpoints. I call these dear people ANGELS.”

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☀️ NOAH VAN SCIVER | Cartoonist Interview 💬

Noah Van Sciver is one of our great cartoonists. He’s been at his drawing table for as long as he can remember–and that has resulted in some very impressive work. It takes a lot to gain any traction in the world of comics and illustration. Van Sciver is one of the brave and persistent souls.

It is my pleasure to share this interview with Noah Van Sciver. We chat about his two new books, Joseph Smith and the Mormons (see Comics Grinder review here) and As a Cartoonist (see Comics Grinder review here). I think some applause and cheers are in order every chance we can get. Along the way, we end up talking about a great deal of Van Sciver’s career as a cartoonist. A lot of dots get connected. So, I hope you’ll tune in and feel free to leave a comment or like over at ye ole YouTubes.

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☀️ NOAH VAN SCIVER | As a Cartoonist review 💬

As a Cartoonist. Noah Van Sciver. Fantagraphics. 2022. 104 pp. $19.99

One thing you need to get straight is that a bona fide cartoonist, in the truest sense of the word, is someone with a certain way of moving about in the world. I’m a cartoonist, so I should know. Just about every word I write is somehow connected to the fact that I’m one of those people. Word choice is everything. Well, maybe it’s more like every line of thought but it can get right down to the granular level. It’s absolutely a way of life, and that’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing. It is what it is–and those among us who are part of this tribe, made up of so many groups and subgroups, understand that this unique ability to write and draw comes at a price. No one is born with this ability, although some people are definitely more predisposed to creating  comics than others. Sorry, but it’s a skill that demands a number of factors to fall into place if you intend to reach a certain level of excellence. You don’t see a short person agonizing over the fact that they will never be an all-star basketball player. And, yes, I know about Spud Webb, but he’s the exception to the rule. Anyway, most people don’t give a hoot about whether or not they will ever create comics of any form, let alone win awards and accolades for their effort. This is the story about someone who really cares about all those things having to do with becoming a masterful cartoonist. We’re talking about Noah Van Sciver. And he’d be the first to tell you that being a cartoonist is no walk in the park–and yet, there isn’t anything he’d rather be more.

This book is about all the peculiar things about being a cartoonist. That’s really what it all boils down to. Being a cartoonist is peculiar. That, in and of itself, is a burden and yet it is also alluring. Essentially, it’s something special that envelopes the person seeking to master it. Just like any other creative endeavor, like starting up a band. Noah Van Sciver’s story is one of struggle, persistence, and ultimate accomplishment. This book, a collection of short works in comics, adds up to a portrait of the artist, perhaps his best set of portrait pieces to date. This is, you could say, an anthology all by one creator. In the world of indie comics, cartoonists are always scrambling to jump on board and join the latest collective effort, a way to promote each other and get one’s work out into the world. It’s all about getting people to read your work. A lot of Van Sciver’s auto-bio comics are about this ongoing pursuit of readers: courting them, wanting them, wondering where they are. For all the anti-social behavior that a cartoonist may engage in, at the end of the day, it’s all about the readers. Maybe the cartoonist isn’t exactly looking to spend too much time with any particular reader, but it’s nice to know that they’re still around.

Van Sciver wins over his readers without playing up to them. Far from it. In fact, he’s more than happy to speak the unvarnished truth byway of his social satire. He has a way of evoking authenticity. A real cartoonist, especially someone like Van Sciver who uses his own life for material, is always striving to be real and avoid any false notes. So, Van Sciver’s best work comes across as totally unfiltered. Of course, it’s a balance of artifice and reality. But a reader still ends up getting caught up in the moment as when Van Sciver is juggling an interview with a prominent reporter and his uncouth brother who has just crashed upon the scene. In this specific moment, a big event at an art museum featuring Van Sciver’s work, the hierarchy is easily hijacked. No sooner has Van Sciver begun to talk to the reporter than he’s put off by her obvious remarks. He even sympathizes with his train wreck of a sibling, if only for a moment.

In another more complex scene, Van Sciver is a visiting artist on campus and must find a way to tolerate those less fortunate but still quite annoying. A relatively young man, actually thirty and not so young, who loves to wear a top hat and read teen girl manga, is prime fodder for Van Sciver’s wrath. The guy in the top hat, it turns out, is easily triggered by what he sees as Van Sciver’s micro-agressions. Nevermind that Top Hat has a lot of arrested development to deal with. Now, Top Hat’s focus is to get Van Sciver into trouble by reporting him to a school administrator. There’s no winning for Van Sciver when he’s called in to explain himself. Later, he tries to turn the other cheek and be positive. But, ultimately, Van Sciver is right back to being underwhelmed by life on campus.

A wonderful companion piece to this collection is the 2018 graphic memoir, One Dirty Tree, looking  back on a childhood with eight other siblings in a less than ideal situation. This is a closer look at a ramshackle upbringing: living in squalor, an abusive and irresponsible father who is a Mormon zealot, and a young man with a very uncertain future–a young life miraculously held together by dreams of some day becoming a famous cartoonist! By force of will and determination, Noah Van Sciver turned his dreams into a reality beginning with his series of collected comics, Blammo. That would lead to his early masterpiece, his first graphic novel, 2012’s The Hypo. And, most recently, 2022’s Joseph Smith and the Mormons. This new book, As a Cartoonist, comes full circle with a collection of short works that feature comics from Blammo, among other sources.

In 1980, Woody Allen made Stardust Memories. He had already made two of his masterworks, Annie Hall and Manhattan, and he seemed to be at a crossroads: keep making funny movies or make more serious films. Perhaps there was a bit of a struggle. Just see Interiors. Anyway, a certain Woody Allen universe had been created and he was pretty much set and would go on to create a wonderful body of work. Van Sciver pays homage to that creative turning point in a moment in the book where he recreates Allen asking space aliens for advice. It’s a perfect opportunity for Van Sciver to insert himself and provide another take on the absurdity of it all.

Van Sciver is now at a point where he can look back and see significant milestones, including Fante Bukowski, which alone would thrill any cartoonist to call their own, and which Van Sciver can say confidently he brought into this world. Having recently become a father, Van Sciver honors his son, Remy, with a dedication and the final comic in the book. I think it’s safe to say that Noah Van Sciver is on the right path.

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Infographic: FedTalks: Digital Transformation

FedTalks, 24 August 2022, Digital Transformation. Infographic by Henry Chamberlain.

FedTalks is a conference series, presented by FedScoop, a gathering of leaders in government and the tech industry. Last week’s FedTalks, on Digital Transformation, sparked a number of lively discussions centered around the focus of the citizen experience. A recent executive order issued by the Biden administration presents a bold vision of streamlining government service to the public. This order is a comprehensive plan to meet the challenges of the 21st century, especially when, left without leadership, government actions are slow and often counterproductive. But that is no longer something that can be ignored or put off for the future, not when our national security hangs in the balance. With that in mind, this conference took on the challenge of presenting twenty-three talks, one after the other, each lasting around ten minutes each, discussing as many facets as possible of the work ahead as the federal government faces a major shift in how it operates: a full-scale digital transformation.

But, you may ask, hasn’t the country already gone through a digital transformation? Well, has it? Business has. Many individuals have. But government, not so much. Government, left to itself, will take the path of least resistance, the path that is most familiar, and definitely not the path that is most visionary. There’s a reason that the very mention of government conjures up thoughts of red tape and bureaucracy. Think about it. Anything that involves government usually, if not always, involves some painfully slow process of unnecessary complexity. And maybe we’ve heard promises of change before. What makes things different this time is that our sluggish ways have left us completely vulnerable to attack from other countries and various other malicious agents.

The Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience and Service Delivery to Rebuild Trust in Government is the catalyst for change that has arrived not a moment too soon. Here is a link from The White House on that order.

Will an executive order truly make a difference? This one is certainly one of the most articulate, ambitious and credible of such orders. The big takeaway from this FedTalks conference is that people want to rally around a certain set of goals that make sense and can actually lead to a lot of good. So, in that regard, this order is a football in play. The game has begun. And no one appears to want to let the hard-fought momentum slip away. The overall consensus is that experts in tech and government already know that we have a broken system and any push toward fixing it is more than welcome.

FedTalks is a series of discussions and presentations that brings together some of the greatest minds in the tech, government and academic communities. Now in its 13th year, FedTalks is the premier federal IT event, showcasing the most important conversations on topics like modernization, the evolution of zero trust security, the adoption of emerging technologies like AI and 5G, and the importance of culture, talent and innovative thinking in making the government a more digital institution.

Here at Comics Grinder, we remain a steadfast observer and commentator on the cultural landscape, and various related themes. For a look at my specific visual storytelling services, I invite you to refer to WordtoPicture.com.

Henry Chamberlain at work during FedTalks.

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Joseph Smith and the Mormons review: The Mormon Saga—in Comics!

Joseph Smith and the  Mormons. By Noah Van Sciver. New York: Abrams, 2022, 454pp, $29.99

Guest Review by Paul Buhle

This monumental work has a considerable backstory. Artist Noah van Sciver, the eighth of nine children, was born and raised in a Mormon home in New Jersey until his parents divorced when he was 12 and his mother brought him along a different path. This disjuncture, followed by others more typical of teens in the last third of the twentieth century, may have stirred his artistic impulse. No doubt he looked to the example of an older brother who went successfully into the Superhero comics big time. Experience, separation and a sort of rejoining the earlier world thorugh art: these are large themes in artists’ and writers’ lives for centuries. That Van Sciver has taken on Mormon founder Joseph Smith is no accident.

Van Sciver has a penchant for US history, especially the history of the nineteenth century, rife with religious and social contradictions, idealists, cranks, Protestant revivalists and utopians. Joseph Smith, unlike nearly all the others, was a successful institution-builder (Mary Baker Eddy with her Christian Science denomination might be another example).

The spectacular, world-wide growth of the LDS or Latter Day Saints, its weighty and deeply conservative political influence in Utah and beyond, is remarkable given the improbable origins of the Church. The extended and heavily institutional story of prophet Joseph Smith, considered by most non-Mormons a dubious self-creation, is offered here in splendid detail in remarkable color.

Van Sciver could have examined the saga from a psychological distance, and even chosen to play the iconoclast. His earlier books on U.S. history, from Lincoln to Johnny Appleseed and Eugene V. Debs, show something else: a penetrating treatment of personality within a vanished era. That he documents his study with careful explanations at the end of the book, and that he donated the original art for the book to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, is a measure of his seriousness.

Joseph Smith’s story is bizarre, a story about a discovery (he insisted) of golden tablets buried in the ground in upstate New York in the 1830s; a story about a church with outlandish views including (after a while) polygamy; a story that would not be the same in any other artist’s hands. Smith and his flock moved Westward with the great population shift of the mid-nineteenth century, and—this is crucial—they moved through natural and wondrous landscapes, which are drawn with stunning beauty and a certain strangeness by Van Sciver.

So much of the narrative has always seemed to critical observers as a magnificent case of American charlatanism, these days likely to be seen as pre-Trumpism. And yet Smith and his followers, staggering through bankruptcies, persecutions and the fatal defenestration of Smith himself, seen by Van Sciver, the observer-artist, looks like a revelatory detail of American history that seems in turn. . . a lot like the rest of American history.

Paul Buhle

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Thaddeus Stevens: An Infographic of an American Hero

Civil Rights Leader Thaddeus Stevens

It was my pleasure to connect with the Thaddeus Stevens Society and its president, Ross Hetrick. As a freelance writer and illustrator, I end up meeting a number of interesting people and learning a lot about so many subjects. In a visual thinker role, I can facilitate in clearing away the clutter, help organize thoughts, and make sure goals connect with results. That brings us to today’s infographic, a concise look at one of America’s lesser known heroes. Thaddeus Stevens was arguably the most important member of Congress during the American Civil War. His passionate and unrelenting work in support of civil rights helped lead the way to the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 14th, 15th and 16th Amendments to the American Constitution, all working to ensure the rights of Black Americans after the war.

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PULP POWER: The Shadow, Doc Savage and the Art of the Street and Smith Universe review

Pulp Power: The Shadow, Doc Savage and the Art of the Street and Smith Universe. Neil McGinness. Abrams. New York. 2022. Fully illustrated, hardcover. 352pp. $58.50

Walter Gibson was the writer behind the masked hero, The Shadow. Writing under the pen name, Maxwell Grant, he developed a character that seemed to emerge on its own, out of the confluence of pop culture media, circa 1930: pulp fiction and radio. The character was a strange mix of mystery and daring, part of something bigger, and a sign of things to come. The strangeness begins with the eerie voice warning that it sees all: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” followed by a shrill cackle. Such an otherworldly introduction to adventure was like mana from heaven for the millions of beleaguered radio listeners across the country confronting the dire reality of the Great Depression. Stranger still, at that point, there was only the weird voice to introduce the mystery hour–but the voice had become the star! Overnight, people wanted more. Who is The Shadow? Where do I get The Shadow magazine? This would lead to perhaps the greatest scramble ever to flesh out a popular character that did not yet exist!

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!”

The Shadow went on to become the leading product of the famous Fiction Factory, founded by Francis Street, a bookkeeper, and Francis Smith, an aspiring writer in the 1850s. Street and Smith bought the New York Dispatch, a newspaper focused on news, and turned it into the New York Weekly (1858–1910), a newspaper focused on fiction, the foundation of what was to become the Street and Smith publishing empire. It was when this publishing house decided to step into creating radio shows that The Shadow emerged out of the ether. Pulp Power covers this phenomenal enterprise providing the reader with an in depth look at the origins of America’s first pop culture icons: The Shadow, Doc Savage, The Avenger, Justice Inc., the trailblazers that would inspire Batman, Superman, The Fantastic Four, even the whole ball of wax at Marvel and DC Comics. Thanks to this generously illustrated book, with engaging writing by Neil McGinness, the original glory days of American pop culture come to life for the reader in this unique collection showcasing dazzling covers from pulp fiction, comics and movies, along with assorted ephemera.

The Shadow magazine

Getting back to The Shadow, if there is just one character to represent the exuberant creative force at play in the early years, it has got to be this strange, yet beloved, fellow. It’s fascinating to consider how much this character is so much of its time, and defies being easily bounced around various media until it finally settles into what works. Ultimately, a lot is working; it’s just a matter of doing justice to the material. You won’t be seeing a major motion picture anytime soon, until maybe you do. What you can count on is The Shadow thriving in prose and in audio. Perhaps that’s simply because The Shadow is so much a creature of the night, a mysterious force not to be observed too closely. He also has his specificity. He’s a New Yorker, and don’t you forget it. Thankfully, Neil McGinness does take a close look for the sake of better understanding the attraction. Essentially, it comes down to quality storytelling, which can’t be faked; it involves so many factors coming into place; and runs best with one determined author.

The Shadow comics

The Shadow’s original author, Walter Gibson, followed a tried and true formula, a five-point plan that never failed: a main crime; a problem arising from the main crime; a secondary crime that serves to complicate matters; an attempted third crime to thwart the investigation which is foiled by the hero; and the climax which reveals the villain, the trick, the true nature of the crime. It is a ticket to endless variations and served Gibson well as he went on to write nearly 300 Shadow novels. Not only that, Gibson was sensitive to literary refinements. In fact, The Shadow is closely based upon Bram Stoker’s Dracula. This is a hero but a dark hero. A crime fighter as grim and merciless as the worst criminal. This is a complicated character shrouded under layer upon layer of ambiguity. . .while, at the same time, just a fun thrill.

Orson Welles portrait by Irving Penn, for Vogue, 1945

The Shadow radio show ran for 17 years, from 1937 to 1954. Orson Welles, then only 22 years-old, served as the first voice of the character in 1937. Welles was quite busy with his own Mercury Theater and would do the show with no rehearsals. He just did it and he proved to be one of the best of the actors to take on the role. This was around the time that Welles was at his hottest: a year later, he would make history with his War of the Worlds broadcast of 1938. It’s a nice touch to see included here in this book a photo of Welles at the height of his success, a portrait by Irving Penn, for Vogue in 1945. It’s a masterwork of a photograph, complete with all of Penn’s still life magic–and a fitting companion piece to the magic and mystery that is The Shadow.

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Filed under Book Reviews, Comics, pop culture, Pulp Fiction, The Shadow