Altered States: The Shadow writer's commentary by David Avallone. Art by Ivan Rodriguez
My second "Altered States" book is The Shadow. I've always loved the Shadow. I love the Shadow so much I took a job as an extra on that kinda awful Alec Baldwin movie. I'm the guy in the glasses standing next to Margo Lane when she enters the Cobalt Club.
One thing about that bad movie: it has an absolutely perfect musical score by Jerry Goldsmith. I listened to that (and some other Goldsmith) on a loop while I was writing this comic.
On both Altered States comics I wrote, I was given simple one-sentence pitches as starting points. For The Shadow, the two ideas were that he loses his physical form and he's transported to the future. So that was my starting point.
Page 1 & 2: How do get The Shadow out of his body? Given his mysterious powers (gained in Tibet or South America, depending on who you talk to), I thought maybe the Shadow needs to recharge his energies through meditation and astral travel. The first scene is set in The Shadow's Sanctum Sanctorum, as he's recovering from a case.
I was concerned about "hearing" The Shadow's thoughts. A big part of the character's appeal –- to me, at least – is that he's an enigma. But for my purposes I decided I really needed to hear his thoughts. And in the opening scene, his thoughts set up that he's maybe a little bored with the mortal human foes he's facing in 1935 New York City.
Page 3: The issue title is borrowed from an H.P. Lovecraft short story of the same name. Of course H.P. didn't actually mean THE Shadow.
The Shadow's Astral Form gets sucked through a wormhole or a time-wormhole or a timehole. I was concerned that this would be hard to convey, but at every step of this story Ivan Rodriguez exceeded my wildest expectations. I love everything he did in the book. More about that later.
It's a subtle thing, but the Shadow's rug resembles a Buddhist sand mandala. I found a great picture of a Sand Mandala being erased by swirling all the colors together. On the bottom of the page we see that the act of sucking his astral form into hyperspace has scrambled his rug in the same way.
Page 5: The Cosmic Chessboard motif is lifted – with love and admiration – from an amazing and forgotten comic: Mister Miracle # 23, written by Steve Gerber, pencils by Michael Golden. This was one of the few comics that blew my mind when I was a kid, and I'm paying tribute to it here.
"A CONSTELLATION HAS FORMED THAT SEEMS TO BE THE ENORMOUS GHOST IMAGE OF A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN'S FACE."
I said nothing about her hair. I certainly didn't indicate that EDEN is bald.
While I was writing the comic, I had a mild concern that EDEN was similar to "Ilia" from Star Trek The Motion Picture, but I decided I liked the character the way she was, and after all… who would ever notice the similarity?
Then somehow, picking up subconsciously on what I was thinking… Ivan drew her as bald, and looking not unlike Ilia. When I noticed it, I considered asking Ivan to add hair. In the end I chose to let the homage stand. We love you and miss you, Persis Khambatta…
Page 16- 18: The Shadow figures it out, and EDEN explains the rest. The concept of Earth having an interconnected defense network that one genius tactician could manipulate to save the world is influenced by the plot of Philip K. Dick's Time Out of Joint.
Page 19: The Shadow says, "I have known what Evil lurks in the hearts of men… now I discover there are worse things in the Universe than man." The first half of that sentence is a play on The Shadow's famous tagline, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" I can't say I did it consciously, but rereading this, I think the second half of the line is a twist on an ironic line from Taylor in Planet of the Apes; "There must be something in the Universe better than man."
Page 20: Ivan really delivers here. This final image was the first one I wrote for the comic: The Shadow, astride the Earth, ray-guns in each hands, laughing at the thought of what he's going to do to alien invaders.
For more on Altered States: The Shadow, click here.