[Jump to menu]

[The Shade]
Real Name: Richard Swift
Aliases: Many, including James Black, Louie Fox
Occupation: Various, including criminal
Past Group Membership: Injustice Society of the World
Base of Operations: Opal City
Past Base of Operations: Keystone City, Kansas
First Appearance: Flash Comics #33 (September 1942)

In 1838, a young man wandered the streets of London, dazed and amnesiac. Taken in by Piers Ludlow and his family, he recovered his strength but not his memory, until the day the Ludlows tried to kill him. In desperation he lashed out, and discovered the force of darkness he could control. He killed all the Ludlows save the two youngest, who had remained at home—and whose descendants would pursue him for a century and a half. Not long afterward he encountered Charles Dickens, who had known him in his previous life and, it seems, witnessed his transformation.

The man who would become known as the Shade had stopped aging, and could use the shadow he controlled to heal most wounds. Over time, he began to wonder if he was truly “alive” in any real sense. Feeling set apart from the world’s mortals, he spent the next century living a life of adventure and lawlessness. Every few years another Ludlow would attack him and die. Every few years he would return to Opal City in the American west, eventually coming to call it home.

There was another man who had gained the same power of shadow, and on the very same night: Simon Culp. He and the Shade clashed many times over the years, until an explosion during a fight in the midst of the London Blitz fused them together. The Shade was unaware of this for decades, but at times of extreme fatigue the Culp personality would become dominant.

The Joust

[The Shade (Silver Age) - Flash #151]

In the 1940s the first wave of super-heroes and villains appeared. The Shade desired the challenge of battling an equal, and he chose the Flash. He hid his ability to be lethal, concealed his shadow’s origin by allowing people to think it was created by his cane*, and embarked on a series of crimes in Keystone City designed to draw out the city’s protector. The Shade relished the “joust,” as he considered it, until the Flash’s retirement in 1950. The thrill of the contest brought out a sense of being alive, breaking the melancholy that pervaded his existence.

A hero called the Spider briefly patrolled Keystone City after the Flash’s retirement, and the Shade prepared for a new joust. In his investigations he learned that the Spider was actually a criminal mastermind behind the scenes. When the Shade confronted him, the “hero” revealed another crucial detail: he was a Ludlow, and was prepared to frame the Shade for the Flash’s murder. The Shade escaped his trap, killed the Spider, then rescued the Garricks from the hired killers, leaving the evidence he had collected where the police could find it. He and the Flash parted as friends that day, though they would meet again as enemies.

Master Plan

The Shade’s most ambitious scheme as a super-villain was planned by the Thinker and carried out with the aid of the Fiddler. The trio managed to shift Keystone City out of phase with the rest of the world for thirty years while the population slept. No one inside could put up any resistance, and no one outside could remember the city even existed. The three of them were able to plunder the city at their leisure. About ten years ago the second Flash discovered and crossed into the hidden city, then tracked down the original Flash, waking him up and joining him to stop the trio and restore the city.**

The Shade occasionally crossed paths with the second Flash, but eventually retired to Opal City, slowly transforming from villain to near-hero.

Text by Kelson Vibber. Do not copy without permission.

Top of Page Primary Sources

  • The Shade #1–4 (1997), James Robinson
  • “Flash of Two Worlds” - Secret Origins #50 (August 1990), Grant Morrison (retelling of the original story by Gardner Fox)
  • Unpublished material for the canceled Flash Sourcebook (2002), Christopher McGlothlin (files from the old DCU RPG Resource Site are archived at the dcurpg and dcurpg2 Yahoo groups)—mainly used for the information on Culp

Art

  • Modern: The Shade #3 (June 1997) - Bret Blevins
  • Silver Age: Flash #151 (March 1965) - Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella
  • Golden Age with Machine: Flash Comics #33 (September 1942) - Hal Sharp (according to GCD; title page lists E.E. Hibbard)

Profiles

Significant Golden-Age Appearances

  • Flash Comics #33 (September 1942): “The Man Who Commanded the Night,” Gardner Fox

Unlike the Silver and Modern Age lists, the Golden Age info is secondhand and possibly incomplete. Sources include The Comics Archive and GCD.

Significant Silver-Age & Bronze-Age Flash Appearances

  • Flash #123 (September 1961): “Flash of Two Worlds!” Gardner Fox
  • Flash #151 (March 1965): “Invader from the Dark Dimension!” Gardner Fox
  • Adventure Comics #460 (December 1978): “A Nightmare To Remember!” Cary Bates (illusion)
  • Flash #298–299 (June–July 1981): “A Deadly Shade of Peril!” and “A Stab in the Black!” Cary Bates

Significant Legacy-Era Flash Appearances

  • Secret Origins #50 (August 1990): “Flash of Two Worlds” (revised), Grant Morrison
  • The Shade #3 (1997): “The Spider: 1951,” James Robinson
  • The Life Story of the Flash (1997): “Stolen Thunder,” Mark Waid
  • Flash 80-Page Giant #1 (August 1998): “Dark of the Sun,” John Byrne
  • Flash #161 (June 2000): “Honeymoon in Vegas,” Pat McGreal
  • Recurring Character in Starman v.2 (1994–2001)

Notes

[The Shade (Golden Age)] * In the Shade’s only(?) Golden Age appearance, he did not have any powers. Instead, he used an air-conditioner–sized machine to remove light from an area. When he returned in the Silver Age, he was depicted as having a device in his cane that projected darkness. Later still, his history was changed so that he had intrinsic powers.

** “Flash of Two Worlds,” originally presented in The Flash #123 (1961) and now available in The World’s Greatest Team-Up Stories and The Flash Archives Volume 3, was the first meeting of the pre-Crisis Earth-1 and Earth-2. In it, Barry Allen crossed over to Earth-2 and convinced Jay Garrick to come out of retirement to help solve a string of robberies carried out by the Thinker, Fiddler, and Shade. The aftermath of the Crisis placed Keystone and Central Cities on the same Earth, across the river from each other. Grant Morrison, in Secret Origins #50(1990) updated the tale to fit with post-Crisis continuity. As far as how long it was out of phase, that’s less clear. Morrison’s story implies that it was under 10 years (“There were a couple of orphans there that day who suddenly weren’t orphans anymore”), but Brian Augustyn’s “Riddle of the Retro Robberies” (Flash 80-page Giant #2, 1999) states that it was thirty.

Related Commentary

The Flash Companion The Flash Companion
Preview at Speed Force
Order at TwoMorrows