When I was a kid, I didn't know anything about pulp fiction magazines, until I saw the cover of The Shadow #1 at a local comics store, in their back issues section. (Actually, that's not entirely true. I saw a small blurb about someone getting the rights to do a Shadow movie in an early issue of Comics Scene magazine--this was at least 10 years before the movie was actually made starring Alec Baldwin--and that led me to actually purchase the comic book I had seen displayed at the comic book store.) The comic, by Denny O'Neill and Mike Kaluta fascinated me, and I bought as many issues as I could, which all happened to be drawn by Kaluta.
Still, I wanted more. This would have been well before the days of the Internet, so I'm not sure how I did my research. Probably just hit or miss, really... I know I started finding paperback reprints of the original stories at used bookstores, and eventually I found a copy of The Shadow Scrapbook, a nonfiction book about the character and series written by creator Walter Gibson and uber-fan/comic book colorist Anthony Tollin. I probably heard about Doc Savage as I was learning about the Shadow, but it really didn't register on my radar until after NPR did a radio series. Doc Savage paperbacks were fairly plentiful as I did my Shadow search, but I really didn't try to collect those. No, my passion was for the mysterious urban crimefighter and his network of agents.
(I did become more interested in Savage as I got older. But since his books were still being reprinted, there wasn't the same urgency or desire to snatch the older ones up whenever I saw them. Since the Shadow rights were tied up with the still-unproduced movie, they were more difficult to find.)
I bought the various comic book revivals of both characters, and saw the Shadow movie as soon as it came out. (Not a perfect adaptation, but still fun, I thought.) But I despaired of ever seeing new Shadow reprints, especially after the movie failed to be a huge hit. Eventually, Bantam Books stopped publishing Doc Savage books, and they both faded into my memory, along with all the other things I once loved that aren't available any more.
However, as I mentioned earlier on this blog, Anthony Tollin (co-author of The Shadow Scrapbook now has the rights to reprint both the Shadow and Doc Savage novels. And the first Shadow book is out, and it's great. It's designed to look like an old pulp, using the original cover art, but the material inside has been newly-typeset for clarity. The original illustrations are also in place, but they've been cleaned up nicely, and are probably as good as can be without having access to the original artwork. The book contains two complete Shadow novels, and includes some feature articles giving some background to the novels. For example, this first book contains "The Golden Vulture," and the article explains how the story was originally written by Doc Savage creator Lester Dent, then rewritten by Shadow creator Walter Gibson, making it a unique collaboration between these two pulp giants.
And, the important thing is that the books completely hold up. I'm not saying that they read like contemporary adventure fiction, although except for the technology, they aren't really dated. But they are every bit as enjoyable and exciting as I remember as a kid. There's a reason the character and these stories have endured and keep being revived, and I'm pleased to find out that, in this case, the memory hasn't cheated. (Yes, Superfriends and most of the cartoons made by Filmation, I'm talking to you.) Tollin is offering subscriptions to the books, and I'm totally going to subscribe, just so I don't have to go seeking these books out every other month.