The Shadow Pulp Leather Tablet Cover

The Making of a Pulp Hero

I’ve been a huge pulp fan since my grandfather first showed me his collection of the Old Time Radio episodes of The Shadow (on cassette!). This was years previous to Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of the character, to give you an idea of the time period.

The Shadow aired in the 1930’s, and his first appearance was during the Detective Story Hour, as the narrator. Over time, the voice actors changed, the Shadow got his own saga on the air waves, and became voiced by the infamous Orson Wells. (famous for his 1938 broadcast of the War of the Worlds)

I’ve listened to almost all of the Radio Episodes of the Shadow, and for the last 10 years or so, I’ve been slowly reading every pulp magazine in chronological order. They are a great read, and they are being reprinted with their original interior artwork (Edd Cartier’s work is gritty and fantastic, by the way)! I prefer the pulps over the radio program, because in the novels The Shadow doesn’t have any “mind clouding” powers, he’s just a super smart detective/spy, with a group of plucky agents to help him defeat the underworld crime bosses, and the occasional super villain. To me, pulp provides a sense of realistic adventure, where good triumphs over evil, and the hero doesn’t have to wear spandex to get the job done. (Real heroes wear black fedoras and sable hued cloaks, thank you very much.)

Speaking of comic book super heroes, the character of Batman was directly based off of the Shadow and his alter ego, wealthy man-about-town: Lamont Cranston. The Shadow was in fact the original superhero, and all others are based off of aspects of his character. (You may contest that fact, but it’s going to take quite a bit of convincing to sway me.)

Enough with the History Lesson, let’s get down to some leatherwork!

Here I start with the rough sketch of our Master of Darkness. I usually hand sketch on a piece of paper the basic shapes and outlines that I want to cut and tool. This Shadow leather tablet case will be based off of one of my favorite Shadow Pulp covers, Dead Man’s Chest, from Fall of 1948. As you can see in the following photo, I have traced my sketch onto the leather using a modeling tool, similar to a ballpoint pen.

The Shadow sketched onto leather

Then I take the swivel knife and cut into the leather in preparation for the beveling. I dont cut all the tracing marks, some are just modeling reference lines. (example, his cheek bones, knuckles, and some folds on his cloak)

My next series of steps will be to bevel in the parts that are furthest in the foreground, and also to bevel the outline around the Shadow, to give him that three dimensional feel. I’m using a checkered beveler around the outside, because it looks similar to the printed texture on the old pulp covers.

Beginning to bevel the outline

This piece is mostly just a lot of beveling work, then I break out the smaller modeling tools to give his facial features some depth. Most of the details will be painted on later, so I’m not really worried at this stage if I don’t get them perfect.

Here is the finished leather tooling for the back side of the Shadow leather tablet case. The “Chief” in all his glory. I wish my tablet case was a little larger, I would have attempted to fit more of the original pulp cover artwork on there, it’s very striking.

The Shadow finished leather tooling

And for the front side’s tooling, nothing too fancy, just the font of the pulp title.

The Shadow tooled title

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows….HA HA HA HA!!

Well, that’s all for today’s episode. Stay tuned for another exciting adventure from The Leather Geek!

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