Shade, the Changing Man
|Shade, the Changing Man|
The original Shade version by Steve Ditko.
|First appearance||Shade the Changing Man #1 (June 1977)|
|Created by||Steve Ditko|
|Alter ego||Rac Shade|
|Team affiliations||Suicide Squad|
|Notable aliases||Mad Mod Poet God|
|Abilities||The M-Vest creates a strong forcefield that repels weaponry, allows a degree of flight and distorts Shade's appearance dependent on the viewer's mental state or his own.|
Shade, the Changing Man is a fictional comic book character created by Steve Ditko for DC Comics in 1977. The character was later adapted by Peter Milligan and became one of the first Vertigo titles.
Both versions of Shade are distinct from the Shade, another DC Comics character.
- 1 Publishing history
- 2 Fictional character biography
- 3 Peter Milligan and the Vertigo years
- 4 Return to the DCU
- 5 Other versions
- 6 Collected editions
- 7 In other media
- 8 References
- 9 External links
The Steve Ditko era
Shade, the Changing Man told the story of a fugitive from the militant planet Meta in another dimension. Shade (whose full name is Rac Shade) was powered by a stolen "M-vest" (or Miraco-Vest, named for its inventor) which protected him with a force field and enabled him to project the illusion of becoming a large grotesque version of himself. The character was the first Ditko had created, or helped to create, for a mainstream publisher for many years. Prior to rejoining DC Comics, Ditko had worked on characters such as his Mr. A. title. Shade was very much a return to mainstream superheroics, although Shade indicated no particular connection with the DC Universe (although the letters columns stated that there is no reason it could not be shown to be there). The series was dialogued from Ditko's plot and art by Michael Fleisher.
His series ran for eight bi-monthly issues in 1978 before its sudden cancellation in the wake of the "DC Implosion", a contraction of DC's line that saw a third of their books axed right before the September releases. A ninth extra-length issue, featuring the debut of a new Ditko character called The Odd Man, was produced, but was published only as a part of DC's Cancelled Comic Cavalcade in 1978. A revised version of the Odd Man story appeared in Detective Comics #487 (Dec. 1979-Jan. 1980). Both stories were published in The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1 (2011), a hardcover collection of Ditko's DC work.
Fictional character biography
In his own series
Rac Shade, a secret agent of the world in the Meta-Zone, a dimension near that of Earth, between which is the Zero-Zone, has been framed for treason and sentenced to death. Through various events, Shade spent some time on Earth trying to clear his name, using the retrieved M-Vest (The Miraco-Vest that had been stolen) in the process, but was met with resistance of the Meta-authorities at each point. His name was being cleared bit by bit, but he remained a wanted man, and Shade continued to use the M-Vest. Shade's former fiancée, Mellu Loron, wanted to kill him for some time for causing an explosion that crippled her parents, but her parents, operating a mechanical monster called the Supreme Decider (or Sude) had other plans.
The Metans have an outpost on Earth which is called the Occult Research Center (O.R.C). The Center was ran by Wizor, assisted by Leno. Mellu ran it for a time. The O.R.C. operates by telling the absolute truth about Meta, something the public tends to laugh off. When Mellu desires to kill Shade, the fact that other, more violent, criminals released in the freak accident during the prison riot that freed Shade become priority, annoys her greatly and causes her to leave the organization.
When Dr. Sagan shows Mellu videotape evidence that Shade has rescued her from a deadly part of the Zero-Zone called the Area of Madness, from which no one but Shade, thanks to the vest, has exited without expending all their bodily resources screaming, she changes her mind about Shade, in spite of having been the one who had ultimately captured him.
In the final issue, President Olon's hands are tied in regard to the treason charge, even though he considers Shade innocent, but until his death sentence is overturned in court, he is still under a death sentence as Col. Kross gathers evidence in his defense. With all of these on his side, he leaps into the Zero-Zone and is swallowed by the Area of Madness.
Running with the Suicide Squad
Shade ends up living in the Area of Madness. The Suicide Squad, after leaving Nightshade's home dimension ends up here and Shade is able to adjust his M-Vest so he can teleport himself and the Squad to earth.
Unfortunately the O.R.C has been taken over by Doctor Z.Z. and a gang of Metan criminals. They hope to use the place as a base to conquer Earth and eventually Meta itself. Shade's plan to stop them is sidetracked by the Crisis On Infinite Earths and being stuck back in the Zero Zone. He is eventually rescued by the Squad.
Shade's second attempt at stopping Z.Z. is successful, though Meta authorities still wish to arrest him. Rick Flag pulls a gun and Shade is allowed to leave with the Squad.
Shade is offered technical help in returning to Meta in exchange for his help on missions. Shade cooperates, though he is not quite sure if Earth's technology is up to the task. Shade also spends time trying to help the ex-Squad member Mindboggler, who had died in issue #2, then became Ifrit, a digitized ally of the Jihad.
Shade became increasingly doubtful of the wisdom of staying with the Squad. So when Lashina (in the disguise of Duchess) came to him with an offer to return him to his home dimension via a detour to Apokolips, Shade agrees, not knowing what was in store for him. He ends up being forced to kidnap Vixen as well as Captain Boomerang (although he had little regret with kidnapping the latter). Shade knew that his actions were wrong, but felt he had little choice.
Lashina betrayed him as soon as possible on Apokolips. Several of Shade's friends, the pilot Briscoe, civilian Flo Crowley (part of the Task Force X support staff) and the villain Dr. Light soon die in the fight against parademons and the Female Furies. Darkseid appears and settles the conflict, sending the Squad and its dead home. Shade, wracked with guilt, is sent back to his home dimension.
His whereabouts since then have been unknown.
Peter Milligan and the Vertigo years
|Shade, the Changing Man|
The third iteration of Milligan's Shade (center), with Kathy (left) and Lenny. Taken from Shade the Changing Man #50; art by Brian Bolland.
|Publisher||DC Comics, Vertigo|
|First appearance||Shade the Changing Man #1 (July 1990)|
|Created by||Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo|
|Alter ego||Rac Shade|
|Team affiliations||John Constantine|
|Abilities||Can use his Madness Vest to warp reality to his will.|
In July 1990, just six months after Shade's final appearance in Suicide Squad, Shade was revamped by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo, becoming part of the so-called "British Invasion", alongside Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Grant Morrison's Animal Man.
The new series still took place in the DC universe: John Constantine turned up for a three-issue story arc, Death of The Endless appeared in a subtle cameo in issue 50 and Shade appeared with a group of other Vertigo characters in 1999's Totems. However, the comic departed quickly from its origins. Milligan and Bachalo reinvented Rac Shade as a red-headed lovelorn poet sent to Earth to stop a growing tide of madness from consuming the planet, his M-Vest becoming a Madness-Vest capable of warping reality. Working from Brendan McCarthy's character designs, Bachalo created a distinctive look for the comic, distinguishing it from the character's other DC Universe appearances. The original series was retconned as a story that Shade made up to amuse himself while traveling to Earth. (Left unexplained was his stint with the Suicide Squad.)
Milligan killed Shade off several times during the series, bringing him back each time in a different form: a woman; a black-haired madman; a red-haired, emotionless mod; and a bedraggled, unshaven obsessive.
The series employed concepts and ideas which were at times controversial and distinct from regular DC titles (for example, JFK's assassination and transgenderism). To distinguish these more 'adult' themes in Shade and other titles, DC created the Vertigo imprint in 1993. Shade became one of the initial Vertigo titles starting with issue 33.
Shade sold steadily for Vertigo and maintained a cult following. The title lasted 70 issues before being cancelled in 1996.
In 2003 a special one-off story by Peter Milligan and artist Mike Allred was printed as part of Vertigo's tenth anniversary celebrations. In 2004, the first six issues of Shade were reprinted as a Vertigo trade paperback.
In August 2010, Hellblazer #268 featured the return of Shade the Changing Man, this time as a supporting cast member for John Constantine in a series of storylines written by Milligan.
According to Absolute Crisis on Infinite Earths HC, the events of the second series originally took place on Earth-85 in the Multiverse before its destruction.
Different shades of Shade
Version One (the red-headed poet)
The first Shade was a young, romantic poet ill-suited to the task of saving Earth from the American Scream. He fell in love with Kathy and she with him, although he often felt inadequate about himself and his ability to please her sexually and emotionally. Eventually, he plunged into his own psyche and dredged up his repressed passions and desires, forming an alter-ego: Hades. Hades wasn't quite an evil twin, merely prone to giving in to his own desires. Hades generally spent most of his time lodged at the back of Shade's mind, although he was given the use of their body when the time arose, and briefly had a madness-constructed one of his own.
Version Two (the changing woman)
Shade was eventually killed, but his spirit wasn't able to pass on and he ended up inhabiting the body of a recently murdered red-headed woman. Shade attempted to force his old, male form on her body but what remained of the woman's personality resisted because her murder had gone unsolved. Shade, Kathy and Lenny investigated and found out the horrific circumstances of the woman's death, but not before Shade experienced sex as a female and endured the onset of his first period. Once at peace, the woman was able to pass on and Shade was able to shape the body to resemble his original form.
Version Three (the black-haired lunatic)
After further strange adventures Shade was killed once again, but this time the angels themselves forced him to return to Earth and do their bidding. They provided him with a human host created for just such an occasion - a twenty something male born with no soul or mind; a mere hollow shell. However, the strain of death and the afterlife had caused Shade's mind to become both unhinged and combined with that of Hades. This new Shade had no permanent hold on sanity and would bounce from impulsive mania to thoughtful collection within the blink of an eye. He met up with Lenny and Kathy again and they opened the Hotel Shade, where they met John Constantine and Peter Milligan himself.
Version Four (the heartless mod)
After Kathy's death, Shade became a red-head again, but this time with a short mod cut. Lost in mourning, he removed himself from his old life and moved to the big city, where he befriended a deaf dancer and the reincarnation of Nikola Tesla. He also attempted to bond with his son only to find that the child was suffering from a fast aging disease. Tired of suffering, Shade removed his heart and locked it in a metal box, becoming more apathetic to surrounding characters and events.
Version Five (the bedraggled obsessive)
Shade eventually lost control of the Madness, which began feeding on his subconscious and maiming and killing innocents. Desperate to put things right, Shade gathered his remaining colleagues and developed a time machine. The resulting struggles met with limited success—Shade's son, for instance, found himself trapped in a female body—but the series ended happily, reuniting Shade with Kathy.
Return to the DCU
In 2011, Shade was featured in Geoff Johns Flashpoint miniseries and its spinoff miniseries Flashpoint: Secret Seven (written by Peter Milligan) as the leader of the Secret Seven. After Flashpoint, Shade appears as one of the lead characters in the first story arc of Justice League Dark, a new title written by Peter Milligan and drawn by Mikel Janin.
In Kingdom Come, Alex Ross created Shade III, an African-American version. He is referred to as "more of the classic, heroic version", and is visually based more on the Steve Ditko Shade than the Peter Milligan Shade.
JLA: The Nail
In 2011, Shade returned to the DC Universe in Flashpoint: Secret Seven, a limited series spinoff of the Flashpoint crossover event. The series is written by Peter Milligan and drawn by George Pérez. This version of Shade is visually based on the Vertigo incarnation, but draws elements from the original Steve Ditko iteration of the character as well. In the series, history is altered accidentally by The Flash, resulting in a greatly altered timeline that reimagines many characters. Here, Shade is the leader of a band of heroes dubbed the Secret Seven, which includes Enchantress and Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld. Shade and the others are recruited by Cyborg as part of an effort to stop an apocalyptic war between Atlantis and New Themyscira.
|This section requires expansion. (August 2011)|
- Flashpoint: Secret Seven #1
- Flashpoint: Secret Seven #2
- Flashpoint: Secret Seven #3
The original Steve Ditko series is collected in The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1 (2011).
The Vertigo series is being collected into trade paperbacks.
- Volume 1: The American Scream (168 pages, collects #1-6, 2003, Titan Books, ISBN 1-84023-716-3, DC Comics, ISBN 1-4012-0046-X, DC version resolicited 2009, reprint, Titan, December 2009, ISBN 1-84856-500-3, DC, )
- Volume 2: The Edge of Vision (192 pages, collects #7-13, DC Comics, November 2009, ISBN 1-4012-2539-X, Titan Books, January 2010, ISBN 1-84856-501-1)
- Volume 3: Scream Time (176 pages, collects #14-19, DC Comics, July 2010, ISBN 1-4012-2768-6)
In other media
- Shade, the Changing Man appears in one of the DC Nation Shorts on Cartoon Network voiced by Benjamin Diskin.
- Shade appeared in Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.
- McAvennie, Michael; Dolan, Hannah, ed. (2010). "1970s". DC Comics Year By Year A Visual Chronicle. Dorling Kindersley. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-7566-6742-9.
Steve Ditko returned to mainstream comics with Shade, the Changing Man. Joined by writer Michael Fleisher, Ditko unveiled the story of Rac Shade, a secret agent-turned-fugitive from the extra-dimensional world of Meta.
- Ditko, Steve (2011). The Steve Ditko Omnibus Vol. 1. DC Comics. ISBN 1-4012-3111-X.
- Suicide Squad #33
- Suicide Squad #36-37
- DC Universe: The Source » Blog Archive » Flashpoint Friday: One among them will betray them all!
- Flashpoint #1 (May 2011)
- Nation Promo - YouTube
- Shade at ditko.comic.org
- Synopsis of the Ditko run
- Pete Milligan interview
- Transgender Graphics and Fiction Archive An overview of the "Shade, the Changing Woman" story arc.