First Issue of The Shadow Pulp Goes for Record $156,000 at Auction

Comic News

The debut issue of historic long-running pulp magazine The Shadow (April, 1931) in FN- condition has just sold for $156,000 at Heritage Auctions, a record price for the issue in any grade.  The character was fleshed out and transformed into an icon by Walter B. Gibson at the behest of seminal American newsstand fiction publisher Street & Smith, after being introduced as the mysterious narrator of the Detective Story Hour radio program. Detective Story Hour was itself developed to promote Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine.  The Shadow as a story narrator began on Detective Story Hour on July 31, 1930, and the pulp series launched on the newsstands around March 6, 1931 according to Library of Congress Copyright records.  This historic issue is difficult to find even by the standards of the era, and nearly impossible to find above low grade.

The Shadow, April-June 1931, Street & Smith
The Shadow, April-June 1931, Street & Smith

The Shadow pulp series lasted for over 18 years during the course of its 325-issue run, ending with the Summer 1949 issue.  One of the most important fiction periodical issues of the pulp era alongside the likes of The All-Story Magazine October, 1912 (The first appearance of Tarzan), the debut of the Shadow in print would become enormously influential on the superhero comic books that would follow a few years later. Of course, the Shadow himself has continued to be a regular fixture of comic books, novels, and other media to this day.

The Shadow, April-June 1931, Street & Smith
The Shadow, April-June 1931, Street & Smith

The Shadow – April 1931 First Issue (Street & Smith) Condition: FN-. This super-rare pulp was every bit as influential as Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #27, and is far more difficult to find. This is the second copy we have ever offered at auction, and the first we’ve seen in 11 years.

The very first “hero pulp”, it hit newsstands some seven years before Action #1 started the Golden Age of comics. A radio narrator called “The Shadow” had proven a hit, and magazine publisher Street & Smith assigned Walter Gibson (under the pseudonym Maxwell Grant) to take the name and flesh out a full-fledged character before someone else did. The cover was re-used from the one for the October 1, 1919 issue of Thrill Book, with some alterations, possibly to save on costs.

This first issue was an instant hit (the series would run for 325 issues over 18 years) and a pop culture icon was born — one that has appeared in radio, television, film, comic books, and elsewhere in the nine decades since, and who influenced the creation of numerous comic characters.

Bookery’s lists this pulp as “quite scarce”, and the only issue we’ve offered before this one was a heavily restored FR/GD copy that sold for $2,629 in May 2010. Expect the bidding on this impressive copy to be spirited, to say the least. Bookery’s Guide to Pulps Second Edition VG value = $9,000; VF value = $25,000.

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