There was a time when the Batman/Superman domination of superhero movies made sense. These were the two most recognizable figures in the comic book world. They played to the mainstream and not just the comic fanbase; an audience studios used to view as less than tertiary to their bottom line. Not to mention the fact that, up until 's Spider-Man, Marvel's attempts to adapt their characters to the screen had resulted in a Punisher, a Captain America starring J.D. Salinger's son, and a Fantastic Four so awful that tried to strike it from the record of cinema.
These days, comic book heroes are as much a mulitplex mainstay as popcorn, cup holders, and errant wads of chewing gum in the most inconvenient places. Marvel has experienced such an enormity of success with Iron Man, Thor, and The Avengers that they are reaching deeper and deeper into their own canon, convinced of their ability to sell mainstream audiences on even the most esoteric characters. It is even said that their Phase 3 lineup will feature Doctor Strange, ushering in a new era of magic for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
If magic is in the forecast for superhero filmdom, and if the darker edge of Dark Knight trilogy continues to serve as an influence, might we suggest a second cinematic outing for a legendary hero whose origins go back to the 1930s, and one who has spent time under both the DC and Marvel flag? We're, of course, referring to The Shadow.
In the '90s, studios turned to adapting lesser-known heroes who were either products of another time or were set in classic bygone-eras. This account for movies like The Phantom, Dick Tracy, The Rocketeer, and The Shadow. The 1994 Shadow movie is not terrible, in fact the majority of these films were solid. However, the property is long-past-due for another cinematic adaptation.
The Shadow began life as the narrator of a popular radio show, his voice lending an ominous framing device for Detective Story Hour. The character was then given his own radio program, where his lasting individual characteristics were crafted. He was an anti-hero crime-fighter who had learned to hypnotize villains. This later lead to magazines, comic strips, movie serials, graphic novels, and, again, the feature film in the 90s.
So what would/should a new Shadow film look like? It seems that one thing sorely missing from the landscape of superhero cinema is R-rated comic book films. It is for that reason that we contend that the new Shadow movie should function as a fantasy/horror mystery. What if The Shadow is suddenly losing control of his powers? Picture a scenario in which each time he clouds men's minds and becomes invisible, a little bit of himself fades away; pushing him ever closer to dissolving entirely, and painfully, into his actual shadow. Unfortunately, at the same time his city is under siege by a criminal mastermind known as The Black Dragon. So even as bits of his physical form are being torn away, The Shadow must continue to use his powers to save New York.
Now the question arises as to who should direct this sequel, to which we are bestowing the working title The Shadow: Fade to Black. Top prospect: . For years, fans have lamented Cronenberg's absence from horror, the genre that made him an icon. One of Cronenberg's trademarks was transformation body horror, something that would translate perfectly to a story about a man whose disintegrating into nothingness. The Shadow's changing between forms, and the increasingly violent mutations it could cause, would offer him plenty of familiar territory to explore. However, given Cronenberg's reluctance to return to horror, a high-profile superhero adventure with horror elements may just be an attractive enough prospect to lure him.
The hiring of Cronenberg would allow for a much darker and more visceral take on the character that still plays directly into his roots. Cronenberg's signature body horror elements would also serve as an interesting parallel to The Shadow's logistical identity issues; he used a number of aliases in print. And as the opening text reminds us, his shadow is the one thing he could never hide. One could argue that Cronenberg's The Fly is a film about the pain of slowly losing one's identity. Furthermore, The Black Dragon is a character who is described as a mirror image of The Shadow himself, so that choice would also be that much more apropos.
As to the casting of our titular hero, I think it's finally time for to get his cape. The guy has a jawline that would make Superman insecure, and he's been in the conversation for a great many prospective comic book movies. Given that our Shadow sequel would again be set in the 1930s, Jon Hamm seems an especially apt choice. Mad Men, the show that put Hamm on the map, is in fact a period-based drama. Therefore no one is going to have a hard time believing he can exist in a fashionably archaic setting.
Perhaps this is just a pipe dream. After all, what major studio would take a chance on a somewhat obscure pulp hero from the 30s in the midst of the contemporary superhero boom? Perhaps we should ask Sony, who just green-lit to write and direct a film based on Doc Savage. Doc Savage was a 1930s hero who appeared in pulp novels and eventually on the radio and in films. Sound familiar? Interesting side note: the DC run of The Shadow from 1989-1992 actually featured a team-up with Doc Savage.
What say you? Are you up for giving The Shadow another go in cinemas? You know what to do. Comment section, let us know what's on your mind.