Given that they were arguably the most popular fictional characters of their era, owned and produced by the same publisher, it’s strange that there were not more occasions when Doc Savage and The Shadow crossed paths. Certainly it is understandable in the sense that the primary writers of each, Lester Dent for Doc Savage and Walter Gibson for The Shadow, had distinctly different writing styles. Dent could be bombastic and quirky…Gibson was generally lower-key and moody.
But in more modern times, the two characters have met on several occasions. In the comics, and in novel form, in the Wild Adventures of Doc Savage.
Team-ups, which are generally done as publicity stunts, have a tendency to be less than the sum of their parts. By trying to find compatible ground between character and story styles that are unique and idiosyncratic, it can feel like the special charm of each is lost in the labor of blending them. But they can also be fun.
In 1990, DC Comics held the rights to both Doc Savage and The Shadow. Comics, of course, are obsessed with team-ups and crossovers, so it was no great surprise when the two great pulp heroes had a single continuous story pass back and forth between their respective titles. The story was called The Conflagration Man, and was co-written by each series author, Mike Barr and Gerard Jones. The artists, Rod Whigham and Eduardo Barreto, teamed from start to finish to give the story a cohesive look. A clever visual device was used to connect the cover presentations, with each series retaining its normal masthead, but pictured below is a pulp-styled book-within-a-book, called Double Danger Stories.
The story begins with The Shadow operating solo, working on a mystery that includes a mysterious weapon that causes guns to heat up and detonate. Given his reliance on his .45’s, his confrontation with some gangsters does not go well. He decides to come at the case obliquely, disguised as a gangster himself.
Meanwhile, a young woman arrives at a certain skyscraper headquarters…
DC had begun their Doc Savage comic series with an updating of the scene to the 1980’s but they changed course after about a year and also included tales from the 1930’s. They also did a hybrid visual version of Doc himself, utilizing the basic Bama physique and an almost-widow’s peak, but dressing Doc in normal clothes unless he was in action.
Meanwhile The Shadow, disguised as gangster Alphonse Ombra, has infiltrated the gang holding the scientist who has created the anti-weapon weapon. The conversation among the other crooks, comparing Doc and The Shadow and which they feared most, is very entertaining, given the fact that The Shadow himself is listening.
Things head for a collision course, as Doc prepares to assault the criminals directly…and soon all hell breaks loose.
The Shadow, as Al Ombra, takes on Doc directly, and attempts to hypnotize him…whether this would have worked or not is rendered moot when Ham nails Ombra with his mercy pistol. And the result is an intriguing scene indeed…The Shadow on the operating table of Doc’s Crime College, about to go under the knife!
to be continued…