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The Shadow Strikes #7: To Cloud Men's Minds. (DC, 1990)

The Shadow Strikes #7: To Cloud Men's Minds. (DC, 1990). Click for larger image.

Though no overt reference is made to the 1938 broadcast, this issue focuses heavily on a radio and theatre star named Grover Mills who is of course transparently modelled on Orson Welles and named after Grover's Mill, where Howard Koch chose to begin his Martian invasion. Audaciously combining elements of Welles' real life and career with the fictional adventures of The Shadow, (who of course Welles also played on radio) the story convincingly suggests that there would have been an almighty clash of personalities had fact and fiction ever come face to face.

When we first meet the flamboyant Mills, he is deep into rehearsals for a new theatre play, but at the eleventh hour his plans are dealt a cruel blow. The Federal Theatre Project (which did exist and with whom Orson Welles was heavily involved in the late 1930s) has pulled the plug on the production for the play's perceived communist sympathies. This also is based on a very real event, and is here played out essentially as it happened, with Mills taking the entire audience on foot to another hastily procured theatre. (For the full story, see my book Waging the War of the Worlds.)

Interior page of The Shadow Strikes #7.

Such are the plaudits Mills receives, that he is asked next day to create a radio show to compete with the Charlie McCarthy show. He has an audacious idea, to produce a weekly drama about The Shadow, the enigmatic vigilante who has the city in an uproar. There is trepidation from the advertising agency, concerned that The Shadow might object, but Mills waves this away. What after all can someone whose very essence is secrecy do to stop him without himself attracting unwanted publicity?

Meanwhile, the real Shadow is on the trail of two criminals who have been hitting theatre box-offices. Ferret is the brains of the operation, while his partner Tiny (who naturally with a moniker like that is anything but) is the brawn. Ferret has a plan to hit the box office of the radio network, and as you can guess, he targets the night of Mills first production, but if the enraged Shadow has anything to say about it, the show will never be preformed again. Everything is in place to bring Mills and The Shadow face to face.

This is a very satisfying read, nicely combining fact and fiction in a great 1930s setting. Artist Rick Magyar has a good eye for the period detail, and writer Gerard Jones is clearly having a lot of fun with the concept, closing the story on a great nod and a wink, as Mills has planted in his mind (by The Shadow no less) the glimmer of an idea for a radio show about Martian invaders.

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