Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bitter Fruit#2: "The Eyes of the Tiger!"

I didn't mean to continue the "Bitter Fruit" feature for a few more days, but because the second story in Shadow#1 is so brief, why not get it out of the way? I present to you the second stunning Shadow-as-super-spy tale, "the Eyes of the Tiger!" Rising up, back in the alley.

Although in the first story the title/splash page was where the narrative started, "the Eyes of the Tiger!" opens on a scene which won't come up until later in the tale as we see the Shadow attempting to hide from bullets in the shadows. Note in the above that Lamont is not relying on the shadows of any particular objects to shield him from the bullets, simply relying on the shade being cast by the building.

Lamont Cranston IS Mister Magoo.

Our story really begins at Pier 69 and the offices of Cranston Shipping Lines; Lamont has just finished work and Shrevy begins driving him back to his town house. En route, a man falls down in front of their Rolls Royce and Shrevy & Lamont exit the car to check on him, but Lamont is instantly suspicious when he sees the man is lying face-up with his legs under the car. Sure enough, the fallen man pulls out a gun and reveals he's a stuntman; two of his associates approach and knock out Shrevy, while the stuntman discards Lamont's glasses, thinking this will render him helpless.

Yeah, looking exactly like the Shadow isn't suspicious, but if they saw the costume they might begin to wonder.

Lamont notes he only pretends to be nearsighted, the glasses' true purpose is to maintain his secret identity as the Shadow. I don't believe a nearsighted person is "blind" without their glasses, but whatever, the criminals are seizing an advantage. The real question is, why don't they recognize him as the Shadow now? We already saw him fight crime in the previous story in a baby blue suit (sometime with cape, sometimes without). The three man gang load Lamont back inside his Rolls Royce and reveal their ploy: they're driving to a bank where Lamont will withdraw $1 million. Lamont protests he can't sign a check without his glasses so they pull under a streetlight (even though it appears to be noon outside). Lamont bolts from the car when it stops and runs into an alley, gleefully noting he has his Shadow costume hidden in his suit's lining. And by "costume" he means "cape." Yes, once you lace the cape around your neck you'll be a different person, by gum!

Did I say tiger? I meant kitten.

To maintain his advantage in the darkness of... noontime, Lamont throws bricks at his Rolls Royce, smashing the headlights. Lamont seems to be about 30 feet from the pursuing criminals, but they've lost sight of him and he's donned his cape. To frighten the criminals, Lamont pulls out a pen-size flashlight and holds it under his chin, scaring the criminals by using fireside tactics. They believe he has "the eyes of a wild animal! ...A TIGER!!!" Turning off the light and slipping through the shadows of the alley, the Shadow comes up on the criminals' right flank without them seeing. At this point, they really should allow Lamont to use his "cloud men's minds so they cannot see him" power from the radio, rather than portray his enemies as blind and dumb (full disclosure: Lamont claims he's performing hypnosis with the flashlight).

Yeah, it's hard to see outside when it's... noon.

The Shadow quickly knocks out all three criminals, who can only see the shadows, not him... even though the Shadow is standing in direct light in each panel as he hits them. Returning to the Rolls Royce, Lamont uses a radio transmitter in the backseat to contact police headquarters. Later, a policeman tells Lamont the criminals think a tiger came out of the shadows to maul them. Lamont replies "without glasses, the most I could see was A SHADOW!" And this brings our tale to a merciful end.

As before, the Grand Comics Database credits this tale to Robert Bernstein & John Rosenberger. This story doesn't touch on Lamont's status as a super-spy, instead playing off him as a millionaire playboy. This low-power version of the Shadow is howlingly bad, owing more to a Mad parody of the Shadow than the formidable character of the radio. I'm sure there's a brilliant comedy sketch to be had in the idea of the Shadow standing in direct sunlight while declaring "No one can see me! I'm concealed within the shadows of this nearby umbrella!" then waving around his flashlight and making eerie noises.

The Shadow#1 also contains a text story: "the Adventures of the Shadow, chapter one." I won't recap it in full, but it does some of the work the main feature didn't, relating details of the Shadow's origin. It relates how Lamont became a billionaire during his senior year at college when his parents died; despite his money and good looks, Lamont wanted more so on a whim, he journeyed to Cairo, Egypt. He met a hypnotist in Cairo and... there the story ends, supposedly to be continued in the Shadow#2. We'll see. I thought the Shadow gained his powers in "the Orient," not "the Middle East."

Later this week: the Shadow#2, in which our be-clouding hero discards his baby blue suit (and blond hair) for a mask and spandex! This could be painful.

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