Interview: Matt Wagner on Dynamite’s The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1


Matt Wagner is the creator of Grendel and Mage and has worked on such comics as Doctor Mid-Nite, Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman: Trinity, Zorro, and many more. Now, he turns his attention back to one of pulps greatest heroes in Dynamite’s The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane. He recently told Westfield’s Roger Ash more about this upcoming series.

Westfield: You’ve worked with The Shadow before. What keeps you coming back to the character?

Matt Wagner: I first discovered The Shadow when I was 12 or 13…a very impressionable age and right around the time you start making lifelong connections to various aspects of pop culture. This was the early 70s, long before comics took on a darker edge and tone and The Shadow was the first character who, debuting forty years earlier, broke the traditional mold for a hero. He dressed like Dracula and readily wielded guns to deal with bad guys, and he laughed maniacally while doing so! My first exposure came when DC Comics started their classic run of the title, cleverly written by Dennis O’Neil and beautifully drawn by Michael Kaluta. At around the same time, various episodes of the old radio program started to become available on LP vinyl. And then Pyramid Books began reprinting the original pulp novels with gorgeous painted covers by Jim Steranko. So, I really got an ultra dose of The Shadow, all in the span of just a couple of years. Since then, the character has been a perennial favorite for me and I find I really love contributing to his legacy in my own way. Between the pulps, the immensely popular radio show and the various comic incarnations over the years, there are many different facets to The Shadow, all of which I try to distill together in my version.

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1 preview page 1

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1 preview page 1


Westfield: This story features his companion Margo Lane. What makes her so important to the Shadow and his mythos?

Wagner: Margo Lane as a vital element in that she’s consistently been my narrator of The Shadow’s adventures. Much like Sherlock Holmes, I think its vitally important that we never be inside The Shadow’s head, that we never have access to his internal thoughts as that destroys the character’s mystique. And so Margo acts as my Watson, giving us intimate insight into (the man posing as) Lamont Cranston and his cloaked adventures. And…she’s his lover as well. When the radio show famously credited Margo as The Shadow’s “constant friend and companion”, 1930s audiences knew exactly what that meant. Her presence humanizes The Shadow in a way that makes him much more accessible to readers and I think that’s really important. In many portrayals, The Shadow is almost too invincible and unstoppable and I thought it was important that we realize that he isn’t a spirit or a supernatural force. He’s a man. A very, very capable and powerful man but still flesh-and-blood. Margo, as a character, helps ground him in that regard.

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1 preview page 2

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1 preview page 2


Westfield: What can you tell us about the story?

Wagner: Well, with a title and concept that this provocative, I don’t wanna say or reveal too much. The series is five-issues and so that’s a pretty tight narrative. Suffice to say that the events of this series will shake The Shadow’s world and crusade to its very core.

Westfield: What makes this a story you want to draw as well?

Wagner: It just felt right. I’ve a long career in this field wherein I’ve drawn plenty of stories but also written many more tales for various other artists. And it’s usually very evident to me which is which—some stories just feel like I ought to draw them and others don’t. I had done a full run of covers for The Shadow: Year One, which I wrote but didn’t draw. And then I finally got to draw The Shadow’s world in the Grendel vs. The Shadow crossover event. And I discovered that I really loved drawing that setting and time period. The style, the fashions, the architecture of the 30s and 40s were a real high point in the American zeitgeist…and I really love portraying that era. In the end, it’s all just apples and oranges…writing and drawing. It’s all a form of story-telling. But, for this one, I wanted have my hand on the pencil once again.

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1 preview page 3

The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1 preview page 3


Westfield: Your son Brennan is coloring the series. What can you say about working with him?

Wagner: I think Brennan is a extremely talented colorist and we have a very close relationship, both personally and professionally. He’s colored a ton of the stuff I’ve written in recent years—The Shadow: Year One, the Django/Zorro series and he’s currently working on the relaunch of Will Eisner’s The Spirit that I wrote. He had colored a variety of my covers as well but Grendel vs. The Shadow was the first sequential work of mine that he colored. I think he’s done a fantastic job on all of those. He’s a thoughtful colorist who gives a lot of consideration to story-telling as well as drama and mood.

For this series — The Death of Margo Lane — we’ve worked closely together and struck an all-new and very specific color palette that doesn’t look quite like any of the work I mentioned above. It’s very noirish and, I think, lends a dramatic pulp atmosphere to the story as a whole. And Brennan has a lovely, very painterly style when it comes to color. I really love his bold yet delicate style.

Westfield: Any closing comments?

Wagner: Only that this series should appeal to both new readers as well as longtime fans. The story is a perfect jumping-on point if you’re a reader who’s had some interest in The Shadow but might not know where to begin. This tale has a profound effect on The Shadow and his merciless war on crime…the cost is devastating.

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The Shadow: The Death of Margo Lane #1

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