Toy-Ventures 1: The Shadow Crime Fighter Detection Belt
New video series from PlaidStallions.com, each episode will showcase a unique and interesting toy from our archive.
This week it’s the 1977 Shadow Crime Fighter Detection Belt from Madison Industries. A curious bit of merchandise for a character that kids weren’t probably all that aware of at the time. Still glad it exists though.
Look for a new Toy Venture in the coming weeks, I would value your feedback.
You can see more Shadow Merchandise like at the PlaidStallions Gallery of Shadow Toys:
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Nifty video & page.
I think the success of Superman, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark made other venerable franchises look like a good gamble. Maybe better than some of the new franchises — I remember Kaybee Toys having a bin full of action figures from already-forgotten shows and movies.
The Shadow had a few things going as a property, despite the lack of a current series or movie. For kids, the character came back in various comic books. Also, the visual — equal parts Batman, Bond and Dick Tracy — was, as you observed, pretty impressive and all the more intriguing for being unexplained. A crimefighting hero who looked like a grim supervillain! With guns!
I wonder how many Shadow toys were purchased by parents and grandparents, who knew the Shadow either from personal memory or pop culture osmosis. The original radio show lasted into the 1950s, and the old merchandising and pulp novels (the latter numbered over 300) must have been pretty common for a while. "The Dick Van Dyke Show" referenced Shadow a couple of times, and elsewhere the Shadow was frequently invoked as a symbol of old-time radio. In the 60s-70s there were LPs and cassettes of the radio show, and I recall reading about fan clubs.
The inevitable franchise movie came in 1994 with Alec Baldwin. For all the liberties they took, they DID take the trouble to give Baldwin the iconic hawk nose when he was actually the Shadow.
What is a toy venture?
A lot of the folks that have commented as to having Shadow toys mention their parents as the influence, so I think there was a segment of the population buying out of their own childhood nostalgia. Makes sense my own mother dressed me up as the Lone Ranger one Halloween despite my not knowing anything about him.