Richard's captor is about to get a surprise from Spy Shadow.


Original Medium: TV animation
Produced by: DePatie-Freleng Studios
First Appeared: 1967
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By 1967, superheroes had dominated American comic books for so long, publishers were starting to think they were bound to fall out of favor soon. But on Saturday morning TV, with …

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… characters like Space Ghost and The Mighty Mightor gaining popularity, they were just getting started.

The comics had some superheroes that made a relatively reasonable amount of sense, in that at least the logical underpinnings weren't completely ridiculous (such as DC Comics' Flash and Marvel's Spider-Man), and some that didn't (such as Charlton's Peacemaker, who committed violent acts because he hated violence). It was the same on TV. Super President, for example, was an incumbent U.S. chief executive who had nothing better to do than put on a costume to fight crime. Spy Shadow (no relation), who appeared in a back segment on the same show, may have had an implausible super power, but his reasons for using it as he did made a little more sense.

Spy Shadow was in reality Richard Vance, an agent for Interspy, one of those clandestine organizations that roam the world opposing evil, at least as defined by whatever government sponsors them (presumably the American one, but as secretive as they are, who really knows?). Years ago in the Orient, as the weekly origin recap of another guy called "Shadow" put it, he learned a strange and mysterious secret. Specifically, it was Tibet, that inexhaustible source of mystical powers that figured into the origins of superheroes from Wonder Man (the very first Superman imitator) to Iron Fist (mid-1970s), where he learned how to separate his shadow from his physical body — just like Q.T. Hush a few years earlier. The shadow could then assist him in his missions, or even take independent action, limited only by the fact that, like all shadows, he needed light to exist.

The Spy Shadow series began September 16, 1967, on NBC, as part of the Super President show. His voice was done by Ted Cassidy, who played Lurch on both the live-action Addams Family and its Saturday morning counterpart from Hanna-Barbera. Richard's girlfriend was voiced by June Foray (Nell in Dudley Do-Right, Ursula in George of the Jungle). The producer was the DePatie-Freleng Studio, also responsible for Tijuana Toads and The Pink Panther.

Spy Shadow was very nearly unprecedented in all superherodom. The only earlier character with that super power was the very minor Q.T. Hush. Negative Man of The Doom Patrol, who could create an electromagnetic manifestation of himself, was sort of similar, but there, the similarities were very far from exact. Maybe he'd have gone places, if he hadn't been inextricably tied to the show's unutterably silly lead character. As it is, the Super President series lasted one season of 15 episodes. Today, when Spy Shadow is thought of at all, it's only as part of a show remembered as little more than an oddity.


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Text ©2006-09 Donald D. Markstein. Art © DePatie-Freleng.