Read about one of the Outhousers' favorite characters in the weekly Character Spotlight! This week, we look at that dastardly dandy, the Shade!
In an Internet filled with overwhelming negativity and pointless hatred of frivolous stuff, it's sometimes necessary to take a step back, take a deep breath and remember why we enjoy comics in the first place. Character Spotlight is a weekly feature showcasing some of the Outhouse's favorite characters that epitomize why we read comics. Maybe you'll learn something, maybe you won't, but regardless we hope you enjoy the Outhouse's Character Spotlight!
- The Shade -
The original Golden Age origin of the Shade was simply a normal human who wielded a magical cane. For the modern version we still don't know the how and the why. However, those answers are to be revealed in the Shade mini-series (currently being released by DC comics).
What we do know is that a young Richard Swift woke up from a mystical accident that killed one hundred and four people with no memories prior to the event. He was then picked up by Piers Ludlow.
Taking him back to his estate, Ludlow treated the young Swift as if he were of his own. It was then the true reasons why Piers picked up Richard are then explained. The Ludlows are a clan of killers and thieves. They pick up poor people to frame for their crimes with Richard being the latest victim. However, it is at this time Richard unleashes his shadow powers upon them and slays all but a pair of twins (who weren't at the estate at the time). After learning the nature of their families' end, the pair swears revenge against Swift. So began the Ludlow and Shade feud that lasted over hundreds of years.
Throughout the years that followed, the Shade traveled the world, had numerous adventures as a observer/assassin and began to realize the extent of his powers weren't just controlling shadows but also came with immortality. It was during this besides running and slaying the occasional Ludlow that the Shade came upon Opal City. It was then he decided to make the City his home. However, two events in the early 1930s changed him. The death of his closest friend Brian Savage and the revelation the woman he had fell in love with, Marguerite Croft, revealed to him after she had poisoning him that she was in fact a Ludlow. After confessing that she did love him, she then stated she had to kill him out of deep loyalty to her family. Faced with no other choice, Swift murdered her and was left in a deep depression.
That depression ended after World War II when the Golden age of superheroes began. He found a new life as being a "super-villain" and began to have numerous fights with the Flash (Jay Garrick). A mutual respect for the two developed and furthered when the Shade saved Garrick from a Ludlow who was killing super criminals and heroes alike. The Shade continued his game of super-villain fighting other heroes such as Alan Scott Green Lantern and Ted Knight Starman, until fate put him on the path of meeting the latest man to call himself Starman, Jack Knight.
His charm. His outlook on life and his relationship with various superheroes is quite fascinating. Here is an immortal who actually has it all, and is quite content with it. He doesn't hunger for anything more than what he already has. He doesn't wish to conquer or wipe out humanity like Vandal Savage or Ra's Al Ghul. He simply just wants to continue on with his life with the normal humans around him.
The other aspect that is fascinating about the character is the level of trust heroes have with him. Here's a known super-villain and yet the DCU heroes treat him as if he's one of their own because deep down they know he isn't a Lex Luthor, Vandal Savage, or Joker. He has friendships with Alan Scott, Jay Garrick, Oliver Queen, Jack Knight and a current relationship with Hope O'Dare.
And that's the true appeal to the character. For all the darkness and nature of his beginnings there's actually a spark of good within this man.
Starman #0-6 - The Shade's first time under the written pen of James Robinson. The Shade appears at first to be an enemy of Starman, kidnapping the Golden Age version, Ted Knight as per the orders of the original Mist. However, near the end the Shade betrays his cohort.
The Shade vol. 1 #1-4 - Details his origins and ageless feud with the Ludlow Family. It also shows his friendly rivalry with Jay Garrick, the Golden Age Flash.
Showcase #12 – The Shade meets the devil himself, Neron, who was making all sorts of bargains to super villains to increase their power. The Shade says no and belittles the devil himself as to how can he offer something when he has everything. The encounter leaves Neron swearing vengeance.
Starman #33-34 - With the Godwave event striking at the heroes of the DCU, an insane bomber named Pip tries to take out Opal City and all its heroes in one blow. Regrettably for him, he incurs the wrath of the Shade.
Starman #61-73 – In this final arc of the series, Culp (another being with similar powers that Richard absorbed) takes control of the Shade's body and lays siege to Opal City.
Green Arrow (volume 3) #16-17 - Archer's Quest. This is one of the first (and scant few) post-Starman appearances of the character. After finding out that Catman was at his funeral, Oliver Queen tries to unearth the reasons as to why (it involves a lot of things not Shade related). Surprisingly, we find that Ollie left Richard to look after his estate and prevent anyone from finding out that he was Green Arrow. Why you ask? Because the Shade is immortal and everyone else in Ollie's circle (Roy, Bruce, and even Clark) aren't. It showcases an interesting friendship to say the least that's even brought up in the infamous story Cry for Justice.
JSA #48-49 – During the Princes of Darkness arc, the Shade appears before Billy Batson aka Captain Marvel and Courtney Whitmore aka Stargirl over the body of his long time friend/foe, Alan Scott aka the Golden Age Green Lantern. The pair begs the Shade for his help to transport the ailing Alan to his daughter Jenny, Richard concedes and performs the act. It's a brief appearance, but an important one for establishing a later JSA issue.
JSA #81 – During Infinite Crisis, the Shade of all people is seen trying to protect his beloved Opal from the effects that are happening from the mega event. However, even he can't protect everything from the city, with one stray bolt smacks a building of an occupant he knows all too well. It's then he discovers the deceased body of Courtney Whitmore's father, who was caught in the explosion. Instantly, the Shade teleports to where the current Stargirl is to report the news to her as only he could then bolts back to continue protecting his city.
Starman #81- The Blackest Night tie-in has James Robinson returning to write the character. The Shade protects his beloved Opal from the Black Lantern Ted Knight. Gorgeous art and Richard is at his charmingly smug best.
The Shade Can Even Beat Superman:
Old Dickie's powers are said to be on par with the Spectre, who considers Superman to be like a gnat. So what's big Blue going to do when going up against someone even seedier? He's always had a weakness to magic.
Where the Character is Today:
Currently, the Shade is staking claim to his own mini, the Shade vol. 2. It's supposed to be a twelve issue mini, however with the first two issues selling so lowly, DC might reduce that number. Surprisingly, the continuity still follows the old Starman books even though aspects of the new 52 leak into the book (overcompensating Deathstroke I'm looking at you). So quit lounging about and buy an actually decent comic!
Written or Contributed by: Zechs
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About the Author - Zechs
Zechs is the lord and master of The Toy Shed, Character Spotlight, and Cartoon Reviews. He's also an aspiring comic book writer trying to get some of his works published on the Outhouse. If there's any greater quality to Zechs, it's that he's an avid fan of comic book characters and would defend them to the bitter end against the companies that use them wrongly. Zechs walks the lonely path in Chicagoland area.
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