For good or bad, certain 1980s comics created the idea that The Shadow does not age and somehow has achieved immortality. The Shadow is definitely human in Gibson’s stories, and this element has since become rather divisive among fandom.
This idea continues today in the most recent “Shadow/Batman” comic.
In the October, 1932 story “The Ghost Makers,” Walter B. Gibson was directly influenced by his time working with Harry Houdini. In the story, The Shadow is a denouncer of all fakery against the poor and disadvantaged like Houdini. Gibson later wrote:
“I liked it; and Houdini would have, if he had lived to see it.”
Early promotional image for what would have been Jim Steranko’s version of ‘The Shadow’. (1973)
Steranko, like Alex Toth and Bernie Wrightson, was removed from the project early on, when he began to make demands that the script be closer to the original pulps. One can understand why this might have been a personal effort for him, as Steranko was close friends with Shadow creator Walter B. Gibson for most of his life, considering the prolific pulp writer something of a mentor.
When the dust settled, DC opted for the creative team of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Michael W. Kaluta to relaunch the character in comic form. It would last just 12 issues, yet remains tremendously popular among die-hard Shadow aficionados.
Steranko, himself, would go on to provide the cover artwork for the 1970s reprints of The Shadow pulps in paperback form. Rocketeer artist Dave Stevens would take it upon himself to ink the image in the 1990s: