The Shade
The Shade-1.jpg
General Information
Real name: Richard Swift
First Appearance: Flash Comics (Vol 1) #33
Created by: Gardner Fox
E E Hibbard
James Robinson
Affiliations: Formerly:
Injustice Society
Portrayed by: Stephen McHattie
Mike McLeod

History[edit | edit source]

Origin[edit | edit source]

After Zero Hour, The Shade's origin was changed drastically. The Shade was retconned to a English gentleman named Richard Swift, a young man in the year 1838. One night in London, Swift was trapped amidst an unexplained mystical tragedy, which killed 104 people. The most immediate of effects upon him was the permanent loss of all memory before the incident; fortunately, a carriage appeared and took him in. The gentleman who had picked him up gave him the name Piers Ludlow, and offered to help him reencounter his past. Accepting his "kindness", Swift was taken to Ludlow's house and was taken to a house the next evening. However, the whole affair was a setup; the whole Ludlow family was in fact a band of killers and swindlers, and they had perpetuated a scheme many times over: to kill one of their wealthy, reclusive business partners and have a vagrant killed in his vicinity to give the impression of a failed robbery/homicide. However, when they intended to repeat the scheme with Swift as the scapegoat, he reflexively unleashed his shadows, killing all the present Ludlows. Only a young pair of twins, absent from the excursion, survived. The following evening Swift met one of his true friends prior to the incident: the author Charles Dickens.

Early Years[edit | edit source]

For decades thereafter, Swift lived a relatively normal life, one which changed when Rupert Ludlow, one of the surviving twins, appeared and ambushed him along with a band of hired killers, informing his of the murderous intent of the family and of its exponential growth. Though grievously injured, Swift still managed to kill Ludlow, (by then he had already discovered his immortality). Afterward, he left England and started a career as an adventurer/assassin/observer on life, which spanned whole continents and led him to many adventures. While traveling, he met Brian Savage (Scalphunter) and visited Opal City for the first time. He established himself in Opal, acquiring real estate and generally living well, even encountering Oscar Wilde, although he never quit the adventuring life, ensuring he would always have a considerable fortune waiting for him. However, during his journeys, he also met a similar immortal born of the same incident and bearing his same powers: a dwarf by the name of Culp, who would become his mortal adversary. During all of the Shade's escapades, he had been pursued quite actively by the Ludlows, whom he abated with little remorse, killing dozens of the family before meeting Marguerite Croft, a young lady, with whom he fell in love and established with in Paris during the thirties. Unfortunately, she proved to be a Ludlow, and tried to kill Shade by poisoning him. Shade survived the toxins, and was forced to kill Marguerite when she confessed that though she loved him, she would make more attempts on his life due to loyalty to her family. This left Shade with a sense of general depression and the feeling he could never love again. Because of this and the death of Brian Savage, he resumed his activities as an assassin.

During World War II, he left America to defend his country from the bombing raids, and fought Culp again. A bomb blast, falling on top of them, sent Culp into Shade's body. Unaware of this, Shade returned to America and to Keystone City. This was the time of the Golden Age of Heroes, and of them all he chose one as his adversary: Jay Garrick, the first Flash. For him, it was little more than a game, posing as a gimmicky villain (influenced by Culp) to get away with his truly important crimes unnoticed, and felt genuinely disappointed with the retirement of Garrick. This lasted until another "superhero", the Spider, came along. Shade, feeling curiosity for the Spider's motives, discovered he was in fact a criminal, getting rid of the competition, and a Ludlow by birth. Shade defended Keystone by killing the Spider and rescuing Flash and his wife from a murder attempt. When asked as to his own motives, he responded he truly enjoyed Garrick for his wit and humor, and that he already had a city to love and devote to (he protected Opal from harm several times, even saving Starman from a murder attempt and not committing even a single crime within its limits). During the 1960s he briefly teamed up with Doctor Fate to take down what was apparently one of Culp's criminal ventures, a mystic organization of madmen, the Wise Fools, who wished to repeat the ritual that created him by apparently summoning a wild, uncontrolled bubble of shadow (actually Culp's shadow, separated from Shade by Culp). Unaware that Culp's consciousness was actually within Shade, he and Dr. Fate destroyed the Wise Fools operation and threw the bubble into an empty dimension (where it continued to immensely grow in power and size), unaware that Culp had foreseen all of it and that it was only a step in a much larger plan, one which almost culminated in the destruction of Opal City.

Starman[edit | edit source]

James Robinson decided to use Shade, giving the character a starring role in his new Starman series in 1994. In the first story arc, Sins of the Father, Jack apparently finds an enemy in Shade when he kidnaps his father, retired Starman Ted Knight on the orders of the senile Mist, who wishes for a final showdown. Shade later betrays the Mist by allying himself with the O'Dare Family, a clan of police officers who assist Jack in memory of their father Billy O'Dare, a policeman who had often assisted the original Starman. Shade, with the O'Dares, assaults the Mist's hideout and rescues Ted Knight. Out of the O'Dares, he befriended the family's "black sheep", Matt O'Dare. Much of the Shade's past is revealed through journal entries included in the Starman comics, including the flashback issues called "Tales of Times Past". They often dealt with different Starmen, including Jack's father Ted, as well as other characters from the Starman mythos such as Brian Savage. There were a total of 10 "Times Past" issues in the 80-issue series. "Excerpts" from the Shade's journal often replaced the Starman letters column, frequently giving additional background related to the story or background into Shade's motivations. These excerpts are written as prose, as opposed to a more traditional comic style, with occasional illustrations, and as journal entries being written by the Shade himself at different points in his existence.

Shade has an active part in an adventure of Jack's involving a demon hidden within a poster that can snatch innocent people and drag them into Hell. Shade, as always, wishes peace for Opal, and also does not like Merritt, the human guardian of the poster, who has gained immortality for his protection of it, and consequently become the inspiration for Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. In a fight for possession of the poster, Matt O'Dare is dragged within and Shade follows. Within the poster, Shade agrees to sell his soul in exchange for the liberation of all the souls contained within (something that, unknown to Shade, Jack Knight and Matt O'Dare have also agreed to do), but the demon, unable to accept a selfless deal, releases all of them. Following this, Matt decides to turn over a new leaf and put his crooked past behind him. Shade assists him in his efforts, partly influenced by the revelation O'Dare is, in fact, the reincarnated lawman Scalphunter, an old friend. A particularly important point in the life of Shade comes when he meets the demon-lord Neron. Neron offers, as he has to many supervillains before, to augment Shade's power. However, Shade sees little use in Neron's offer, as he has no need to increase his already substantial wealth, he sees no way of heightening his shadows' power, and is already immortal. Neron, angered by his rejection, swears vengeance against Shade. Over the years the Ludlows have apparently ceased to attack him, which Shade sees as a respite. This lasts until the wife of the last Ludlow by blood calls him to the city of Ludlow to talk her husband out of attempting an attack on him that would certainly cost him his life. Shade answers the summons and talks Ludlow out of his silly vendetta, apparently burying a legacy of hate that has lasted more than one and a half hundred years.

Another notable point during the series' run came when the Godwave struck the DC universe, depowering almost all superheroes. In a confrontation between Starman, Matt O'Dare, Green Lantern, and The Infernal Doctor Pip, in which Pip almost blows up a large section of an Opal skyscraper, Shade appears at the last minute and draws Pip into the Darklands, which serve as his power source, before the bomb can explode. The plot twist is that his powers are unaffected by the depowerment, with a note indicating there are powers not even God wants anything to do with, referencing the dark origins of the Shade's massive powers. At various times, Culp is able to take control over or subtly influence The Shade. At one specific point, Culp takes full control to talk to Jack, in the process making a mistake about the name of a Wilde story. Around the time Jack returns from space in the "Stars, My Destination" story arc, Culp is able to assume full control over Shade's body for an extended period of time and imprison or neutralize most of Opal City's heroes in a bid to loot and destroy Opal - with no other motive than to destroy what Shade loves most. Gathering an army of villains whom Jack has battled over the course of the series, Culp absorbs Shade's powers, in addition to the ever-growing and tremendously powerful shadow force Shade and Dr. Fate had exiled decades before, to cast a spell allowing him to trap Opal City in an impenetrable bubble of shadow and force a confrontation with the city's heroes. Many of the supervillains helping Culp have been gathered by either Neron, the still-vengeful daughter of the Mist, or one of the last Ludlows in existence, the son of the false hero the Spider. This story is the climax of the series, told in the "Grand Guignol" arc. Shade eventually is able to cast out Culp, losing his shadow powers in the process. However, Culp underestimates the Shade, and is tricked into allowing a small shadow imp loyal to Shade to be absorbed into his own shadow, leading to a battle of wills in which Shade draws all the darkness into himself (adding Culp's shadow's might to it, augmented by the Wise Fools ritual), leaving Culp powerless. Shortly thereafter, Culp attempts to buy his freedom by threatening the younger Mist, but is killed in the process by the elder Mist. This is a turning point for Shade, as he now has freedom of choice, is able to discern right from wrong, and therefore able to decide whether he wishes to remain a villain or become a true hero, protecting his city. He is present at the final showdown with the Mist and leaves the building with Ralph Dibny, Jack, and Theo Kyle Knight.

Post Starman[edit | edit source]

Since the end of the Starman series, the Shade has made cameo appearances in several comic series, including Green Arrow and JSA and was listed alongside magical-based villains such as Felix Faust and Circe. He also has a brief appearance in DC's Brave New World in 2006. During the Infinite Crisis, he is seen using his powers to help Opal citizens, by protecting the buildings they are in (though, in a remark full of his trademark cynicism, reminsicent of his status as a solitary man, he comments he is not doing it to save the citizens themselves, but, rather, he is "saving the architecture"). He shows up in Robinson's Justice League: Cry For Justice, waiting for his old rival Jay Garrick in his home. He informs Garrick that the insane supervillain Prometheus has ordered a series of attacks on various superheros (including Batwoman, Barry Allen, Crimson Avenger, and Stargirl) in order to distract them from a sinister master plan. Shade then accompanies Jay to the JLA Watchtower in order to warn the other heroes of the impending doom.

Powers and Abilities[edit | edit source]

Powers[edit | edit source]

Unlike many other DC Comics characters, Swift has been able to improve his abilities over a span of around 150 years. Powers he possesses now he might not have had in previous centuries. In the future, Starman v2 author James Robinson tells us how Swift learns powers that practically make him god-like.

  • Darkness Manipulation: ability to control darkness. His powers were revealed to be a connection to the Shadowlands (or Dark Zone), a dimension of primordial, quasi-sentient darkness which Shade, as well as other characters with similar powers, can channel for various effects. Swift, perhaps due to age, seems to be the most powerful possessor of Shadowland (Dark Zone) given powers. In the far future, Swift masters, through his shadow powers, how to travel to point A to point B practically instantaneously, as well as time travel.
  • Darkness Teleportation: ability to travel great distances in short amounts of time, by traveling between Earth and the Dark Zone.
  • Darkness Constructs: ability to create solid constructs out of shadows.
  • Shadowland Demon Control: ability to summon and command demonic creatures from the Dark Zone,
  • Darkness Projection: ability to project darkness
  • Darkness Force-field: ability to surround himself with a force field.
  • Immortality: Swift is an immortal not tied to a type of magic. The only time he lost his immortalty was briefly in the second series of Starman, when Simon Culp broke away from him. However, it appears the only way he can lose his immortality is if he loses his shadow, which would require someone from likely the same event back in 1838 meeting up with him (very unlikely). He is highly resistant to attacks of all kinds, and survived a direct bomb fall on top of him, appearing only slightly dazed.

Abilities[edit | edit source]

  • Coming Soon

Strength[edit | edit source]

  • Swift is able to lift heavy objects such as large stone statues with his shadow.

Weakness[edit | edit source]

  • Coming Soon

Equipment[edit | edit source]

Weapons[edit | edit source]

  • Cane-Sword

Notes[edit | edit source]

  • The character of the Shade was created by writer Gardner Fox, and expanded upon by James Robinson.
  • The Name James Black is mentioned in the Shade's Journal in Issues of the The Shade Miniseries.

Possible Futures[edit | edit source]

During the Starman story arc "Stars, My Destination" Jack is thrown by a shadowy corridor created by a future Shade across time and space into a future where Shade's powers overtake him due to a disease that Culp had infected him with during their final battle (the absorption of Culp's shadow, along with the mystical enhancements brought as a consequence of the Wise Fools ritual). His shadow begins expanding into the universe and threatens areas protected by the Legion. Rescuing him, the future Shade explains how Jack may be able to stop it from ever happening by using his cosmic rod on him in the past. He later opens another time portal to allow Jack to journey across time again to reach his destination, Throneworld. In the final issue of Starman, Jack apparently is able stop the disease before it has the chance to affect Shade; this apparently changes the future that he had seen on his space voyage.

Starman Annual #1 shows a possible future for Shade, as the protector of a Utopian planet thousands of years from the present. As with the current Shade, he enjoys telling tales of his past. The planet's technology and possibly the planet itself seemed to made almost entirely out of Cosmic Rod technology inspired by Starman and his legacy.

Trivia[edit | edit source]

  • The Shade has appeared in several episodes of the Justice League animated series as a member of the Injustice Gang, and later as part of Lex Luthor's Secret Society. This version of the Shade had more in common with his Golden and Silver Age roots, than the revisionist version of the character as seen in the pages of Starman. Actor Stephen McHattie provided the voice for the Shade.
  • The Shade was released as part of DC Direct's micro-heroes collection.
  • James Robinson's interpretation of the Shade may have been influenced by the literary character Arsène Lupin – a gentlemen thief created by French mystery writer, Maurice Leblanc. Although the Shade may be interpreted as a pastiche of Lupin, there is no direct correlation between the two characters.
  • James Robinson envisioned actor Jonathan Pryce's voice for the Shade's.
  • James Robinson's interpretation of the Shade and his counterpart in shadow, Culp, from the Charles Dickens novel The Old Curiosity Shop. Judging by Culp's similarity to the book's villain, Quilp, it can be assumed Swift is somewhat based upon the book's victorian rake who means well, Richard (Dick) Swiveller (note the similarity in the character names).
  • In DC comics, some of the Shade's 19th century life was used as a basis for his friend Charles Dickens' novel The Old Curiosity Shop. He also helped influence Hans Christian Anderson's tale The Shadow.
  • In James Robinson's comics, it is revealed the Shade has spoken to the Devil and God. Shade rejected the Devil and threatened he would take over hell. He also met Neron an rejected his offer, insulting the demon in the process.

See Also[edit | edit source]

In Other Media[edit | edit source]

Links[edit | edit source]

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