Kent Allard was a spy in World War I (as well as for Tsar Nicholas before the war) as well as a famed aviator who crashed in the South American jungles. He made a fortune in that region (where he discovered a city of gold) before he returned to New York where he adopted a new identity. Allard bore an astonishing physical resemblance to a man named Lamont Cranston and used his identity while Cranston was traveling around the world.
When the two men finally met, Allard threatened Cranston, saying that he had arranged to switch signatures on various documents and other means that would allow him to take over the Lamont Cranston identity entirely unless Cranston agreed to allow Allard to impersonate him when he was abroad. Horrified at what Allard had explained to him, Cranston agreed--as much to distance himself from Allard as for any other reason.
The Shadow worked with a network of agents like Harry Vincent, his most trusted associate whose life he had saved when Vincent wanted to commit suicide, Moe Shrevnitz, a cab driver, and an operative known simply as Burbank, a radio operator who maintained contact between The Shadow and his agents. There were more of The Shadow's agents who were active and operative...but none let alone The Shadow himself knew who they were or even where they were.
The Shadow first appeared as the narrator of the Detective Story Hour radio program on July 31, 1930. The popularity of the character led Street & Smith to hiring pulp writer Walter B. Gibson to develop a backstory for the character. The Shadow was then made the star of his own pulp magazine in April of 1931.
Major Story Arcs
The Shadow Strikes #30 & 31: Disillusions and Illusions
Tells the story of Kent Allard's training in Shambala under immortal Chinese masters.
The Shadow and Batman (DC Pre-Crisis Universe, Earth-1)
Bruce Wayne first encountered The Shadow as a boy while accompanying his parents to the bank. A frightening robbery occurred that was foiled quickly and violently by The Shadow. Later in his career as Batman, he encountered The Shadow again on a rooftop and professed that he was one of his "greatest inspirations." The Shadow responded by referring to Batman as Bruce Wayne! "The Shadow Knows!" He then offered Bruce a .45-caliber semi-automatic as a token of his respect, but Batman declined, saying, "That's not my way." "We shall see." replied The Shadow.
On another occasion, Batman disguised himself as an elderly janitor to infiltrate the GCPD. He mused that he had gotten the idea from The Shadow, who often used this same guise to gain access to the NYPD after hours (it has been documented that Bob Kane plagiarized from The Shadow when he created Batman).
The Shadow Strikes #21-27: The Revenge of Shiwan Khan
It is revealed that The Shadow and Shiwan Khan both studied with the ancient masters in Shambala. Shiwan Khan was also seemingly immortal, possibly due to a similar elixir of longevity to that which The Shadow used. Margot Lane used the name Myra Reldon in this story; although not in this case, the real Myra Reldon was also an agent of The Shadow. Mao Tse-Tung appears in this adventure.
The Shadow: Blood and Judgment
Howard Chaykin re-introduces Kent Allard to the modern world in this 1980s mini-series. After years in isolation in Shambala, Kent Allard returns to New York to kill the original Lamont Cranston, who has now become the leader of a criminal empire posing under the name Preston Mayrock. He uses violence and savagery that the people of the 1980s are seemingly unaccustomed to as he re-asserts himself as a figure the criminal underworld must fear.
The details of Kent Allard and Lamont Cranston's first meetings are revealed in this series as well.
The Shadow Vol. 2, Annual #2: Agents
A love letter from Helfer and Baker to both Orson Welles and The Shadow character. The Shadow seemingly dies in the first few panels and his last word is "Eleanor." A young reporter decides to interview The Shadow's agents in order to find out what that word could have meant. After speaking to Harry Vincent, Margo Lane, Burbank and several other agents, a tapestry of the life of Allard/Cranston is woven together. But no one seems to know what his last words could have meant.
The issue is dedicated to Orson Welles, and Kyle Baker gives him a cameo as a producer of a radio program.
Powers and Abilities
The Shadow has complete control over his vocal cords and can throw his voice (producing a chilling laugh that can paralyze opponents) and accurately mimic anyone. He has an nearly photographic memory and is also a master of disguise and slight of hand. The ability he is most known for, however, is his amazing skills at stealth that make him akin to "a living shadow", to such an extent that rumors evolved that he can "cloud men's minds." The Shadow is a world class intellect. The Shadow is a master of stealth and espionage who went by the nom de plume "The Dark Eagle" during World War I and worked for Tsar Nicholas as part of an inner circle known as "The Secret Star." It was the Tsar who gifted Kent Allard with the mysterious Girasol gem that he wears in a ring and uses to hypnotize people.
During the 1920's he spent some years in the mysterious city of Shambalah where he learned many oriental disciplines, such as complete control over his body's vital functions, as well various martial arts.
When The Shadow resurfaced in the 1980s, it was apparent to those that knew him that he had not aged at all. Therefore longevity must be added to his list of disciplines.
Though not a power or ability, one key facet of The Shadow is his vast network of agents that keep him constantly connected with the criminal underworld. Gathered from all walks of life, some owing "the master" a life-debt, others willing servants in his war on crime, these people are the real reason that The Shadow "knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men."
Signature Devices and Weapons
During the 1930s and 1940s, The Shadow used suction cups on his hands and knees to climb buildings. In a nod to Kent Allard's aviation skills, he flew an early version of a helicopter then known as an "Autogyro." (The modern reference is to a "gyrocopter.") The Shadow is also known to carry various vials of acid and flash powders. The Shadow wielded twin .45-caliber M1911 semi-automatic pistols with unerring accuracy. He also uses a pair of LAR Grizzly .45-caliber Win Mag pistols.