The Shadow Interview: Garth Ennis Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men
THE SHADOW is back, hitting stores and bad guys starting in April 2012. Garth Ennis (insert ten million awesome credentials here) is at the helm, and he answered a few of our questions on the upcoming project from Dynamite Entertainment.
BC: I've been told that you're a longtime fan of THE SHADOW. Looking back on the time when you first became a fan, what do you recall being the most appealing aspect of his story?
ENNIS: The first one I read was Chaykin's. I loved the look of the character – the hat, the scarf, the coat, the guns. And he had no compunction whatsoever about mowing down scumbags by the dozen, which was something that put me in mind of the British comic characters I grew up with.
BC: The Shadow is a character with so much history, presented through a wide variety of media. What previous incarnations have you seen/heard, and do you think there is an iconic interpretation of the character?
ENNIS: Chaykin's version, as I said above. Also, some of the Denny O'Neil 70's stuff and a few others. Generally, I'm more interested in the potential I see in the character than his previous appearances, even those that are considered definitive.
BC: What are the themes that you aim to explore in your take on THE SHADOW?
ENNIS: Betrayal, deceit, fighting very dirty when you have to, and idealism versus practicality.
BC: THE SHADOW originally came to prominence during the 1930s, during the Great Depression and the early growth of imperialism / fascism / nationalism. What elements characteristic of that era will play a role in your storyline?
ENNIS: Very much the latter. It's 1938 and stormclouds are gathering, with Nazi Fascism and Japanese Imperialism on the rise. How the democracies counter that will figure heavily in the conclusion of the story.
BC: Who are the supporting cast of THE SHADOW, and how do they complement the lead character?
ENNIS: Margo Lane is a brave and resourceful young woman who rapidly finds herself out of her depth. A certain Agent Finnegan of the US Government is bold, upstanding, decent, and honest, and was therefore out of his depth from the get-go. The villains are Major Taro Kondo of Japanese Military Intelligence and Chinese bandit warlord Buffalo Wong, both thoroughgoing bastards.
BC: The Shadow's main advantage over his enemies is his terrifying inhuman persona – he's a creature of fear and mystery. How are the villains in THE SHADOW able to appear monstrous in their own right when the hero's own menace is so prevalent?
ENNIS: A large part of the story is set in Japanese-occupied China, where fifteen million of the locals were murdered from 1931-45. So in that context, the Japanese will have very little trouble looking monstrous.
BC: The Shadow often assumes fake identities over the course of his crime-fighting. What role do human personas – both his real identity and any fake identities – play in your series?
ENNIS: I found that Lamont Cranston was rather more interesting to write than The Shadow himself, who tends to show up, mess with people's minds in rather unpleasant ways, and then kill everything in sight. Cranston's more inclined to explain himself, to give you some insight into why his alter-ego does what he does.
BC: What are your thoughts on taking the creative reins on such an iconic character? How do you handle the weight of responsibility for preserving The Shadow's legacy?
ENNIS: Oh, I don't think about it. I just get on and tell the story.
BC: Looking back on your body of work, have you felt there were projects that were strongly influenced by the pulp fiction / crime noir or THE SHADOW specifically?
ENNIS: Not really, except in the general sense that his influence must lie at the heart of the gunfighter/crimefighter genre. Nothing more specific than that.
BC: With Batman such a part of American culture and our industry, a character whose roots owe so much to The Shadow, what needs to be done to make THE SHADOW distinct from its thematic progeny?
ENNIS: He doesn't dress up like a bat, doesn't balk at killing people who so clearly need it, and doesn't hang around with a little boy in tights. There's really no mistaking the two.
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