The Shade(pop culture)
The criminal motivations of the master of the darkness, the Shade (not to be confused with the superhero Shade, the Changing Man), have been predicated not upon avarice but instead boredom. “The Man Who Commanded the Night” crept into view in Flash Comics #33 (1942), courtesy of scribe Gardner Fox and artist Hal Sharp. A slender, top-hat-wearing figure attired in a black, the Shade slinked in and out of the shadows, stealing merely to engage the Fastest Man Alive, the original Flash, in contests just for fun. Carrying a walking stick that was presumably the conduit of his superpowers, which included the manipulation of “shadowmatter”—creating shapes, weapons, objects, and creatures from the dark— the Shade, whose smirking visage often glowed like a maleficent moon face from within his dark garb, jumped from comics' Golden (1938–1954) to Silver (1956–1969) ages when his co-creator, writer Fox, and penciler Carmine Infantino resurrected the villain in “Flash of Two Worlds!” in The Flash vol. 1 #123 (1961), the landmark tale that united the Scarlet Speedsters of two generations and defined DC Comics' multiple-earth concept. For the next three decades the Shade occasionally resurfaced in Flash and, along with other Golden Age supervillains, as one of the Injustice Society in Justice League of America and Infinity, Inc. The Shade might have wafted into obscurity were it not for writer James Robinson, who transformed the supervillain from a gimmicky felon to a complex ne'er-do-well in the critically acclaimed comic book Starman (vol. 2, 1994–2001) and its spin-off four-issue miniseries, The Shade (1997). Robinson revealed that the Shade was actually Londoner Richard Swift, an immortal from the nineteenth century, who inexplicably became connected to the dimension known as the Dark Zone along with a dwarfish troublemaker named Simon Culp. Swift and Culp clashed on several occasions, and for a time their personalities shared Swift's body after a bizarre explosion welded their souls together. The Shade's other enemy was Victorian businessman Piers Ludlow, whose descendants continued to assault Swift for decades. His wanderlust and agelessness allowed the Shade to meander through the centuries, and over time his motivations have proved ambiguous, as he has on occasion aided some of the superheroes he has also fought against. The Shade was unmistakably sinister, however, in his adaptation to animation, in “The Secret Society,” a two-part 2003 episode of the Cartoon Network's Justice League (2001–2004); Stephen McHattie voiced the villain in his television incarnation. DC Direct produced a Shade action figure and a Pocket Super Heroes miniature in 2002.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.