November 5, 2009

Unsung Characters of Comicdom: The Shade

The Shade

The Shade

Welcome to another edition of Unsung Characters of Comicdom! This week’s anomalous profile is dedicated to AC Comics’ supramundane sensation known as the The Shade!

First Appearance: Americomics #1 (1983)
Alias/ Codename:
The Shade
Secret Identity:
Roger Brant
Astral Projection, Psychic Suggestion, Flight, Shape-Shifting, Super-human Strength, Metaphysical Intuitions, Phasing (walking through walls), Accelerated Healing (in human form)
In 1968, an American soldier named Roger Brant was walking through the jungles of South Vietnam with two members of his platoon. During his patrol, Roger stepped on a booby trap that violently exploded and reduced his legs to a bloody mess of mangled flesh. The two men that were accompanying him were killed instantly. When he awoke, he was in shock and his body had become completely numb. Although Roger felt no pain, he soon realized that he couldn’t move his legs. Unable to walk, he used his upper body to drag himself to the nearest shelter. After he crawled inside of the strange structure, he immediately passed out, and was later awoken by a mysterious man who introduced himself as Chen Lo.

Roger Brant's sririt gives birth to The Shade

Roger Brant's spirit gives birth to The Shade

According to Chen Lo, the building in which Roger stumbled upon was actually a temple that once housed an ancient and unholy cult known as The Faceless Ones, who worshiped a number of devilish entities called the Outer Gods. As part of their religious rites, The Faceless Ones would sacrifice young girls, drain their blood, and use it to fill an endless abyss they called the Black Pit Of Hell. As a result of these malicious acts, the tormented spirits of a thousand corpses would eventually permeate the temple’s walls.

After explaining the temple’s mystical properties, Chen Lo took Roger on as a pupil, and taught him the healing properties of the mind. Utilizing these techniques, most of his body eventually healed, but his survival came with a price; he would never walk again. Soon, Roger was taken to the Black Pit of Hell by Chen Lo for the final phase of his training. Upon his arrival, Roger was greeted by an intangible mist that was swirling upward from the pit. Materializing into a thick fog above his head, the spirits entered into Roger’s body. They tested his soul for impurities and weaknesses, and it was decided that he was worthy to serve their venerable will. After the spirits successfully summoned Roger to come forth from his body, they gave him a new moniker.

The Shade

The Shade's first battle

Naming him The Shade, the temple’s spirits charged him with the task of vanquishing warfare from the surrounding villages. He’s told that once he’s restored peace to their sacred grounds, they will finally be allowed to rest. Using the power of ‘psychic suggestion,’ he created an elaborate illusion to scare his enemies. The soldiers near the temple were soon convinced they were being attacked by a horde of demonic minions. Also, to ensure they believed that the gates of hell were actually opening, he turned himself into a giant caterpillar and ate one of them. The remaining men fled in terror, never to return. After The Shade returned to Roger’s body, he realized that his powers came with a price. He was completely drained. As the spirits dissipated in relief, Roger fell to the floor.

A few days later, the remaining members of his platoon stumbled upon the temple. When they went inside to check things out, they found their missing comrade lying unconscious inside. Once awakened, a hysterical Roger asked, “Where is Chen Lo?”  To which one of the soldiers responded, “You musta been talkin’ to one of them statues!” As they dragged him out, he saw a stone likeness of Chen Lo in the shadows. Roger was honorably discharged from the Army, and sent home shortly thereafter. As the years progressed, he began to believe that Chen Lo, the temple, and his powers were all part of an elaborate delusion brought on by the horrors of war. Until one night, awoken by horrific visions in his dreams, he concentrated all of his mental energies and once again left his body to become the metaphysical force known as The Shade!

Motivation: Using the power of ‘astral projection,’ The Shade is able to visit the dreams of others and predict their malicious behaviors. He uses this unique ability to prevent violent crimes before they happen. In his eyes, this is not only a service to the victim, but to the perpetrator as well. His philosophy: If there’s no offense, then there’s no guilt. Hence, his purpose is absolute neutrality.

Relationships: The Shade’s a loner, plain and simple. His interactions with the human race are limited to the individuals whom he’s compelled to help. Once this service is provided, he finds comfort in the seclusion of his small one-bedroom apartment in the city.

Allies: The spirit of  his master, Chen Lo, is his only companion. Otherwise, he fights the war against injustice alone.

Americomics #1

Americomics #1

Antagonists: The main villain is Thurstan Lahr. He’s the head of a local drug ring that targets children. On his downtime, he enjoys drinking expensive booze and exploiting young women. One night, while following his psychic intuitions, The Shade visits Lahr’s high-rise apartment. Incidentally, he’s entertaining one of his lady friends, and she’s had enough of his perverse advances. As The Shade flies onto the balcony, the girl already has a gun pointed at Lahr’s head. He senses the evil within the depraved man, but the intent of the visit is to prevent his murder. He simply doesn’t want the girl living with the guilt of ending this guy’s life. In an ironic twist, The Shade drops twenty acid-laced sugar cubes into Lahr’s mouth. What follows is a psychedelic, zombie-fest of insanity. During his bad trip, he sees every child that suffered or was killed on his behalf. In the midst of his cerebral overload, Lahr stumbles off the edge of  his twentieth floor balcony, and The Shade apathetically watches him plummet to his death.

Americomics #1: The Shade’s first appearance was penciled by John Beatty (Captain America, Secret Wars) and was inked by Jerry Ordway (Crisis on Infinite Earths, Superman). Adding to the pool of mainstream artistic talent, George Perez (Wonder Woman, Teen Titans, Crisis on Infinite Earths) was commissioned to illustrate the cover. While Craig Zablo and Bill Black (AC ComicsPublisher, Editor, and Chairman of the Board) pulled the writing duties.

From The Shade’s inception in 1983, it was intended that he would receive a regular series and become a staple character in the AC Comics’ universe. One year after his debut in Americomics #1, he was featured in a one-shot called Weird tales of the Shade #1. For the past three decades, The Shade has consistently guest-starred in many AC Comics’ titles. Although, to date, he’s never been given an on-going series.

Josh Jones



  1. billy

    Good article J. It’s weird that this character never had an ongoing.

  2. Wendy

    Wow. Seems like there are tons of references to LSD in this comic. Nice Writing! ‘he turned himself into a giant caterpillar and ate one of them’ made me LOL

  3. And the moral of this story: Don’t trip on drugs at great heights.

    What other books did AC Comics produce?

  4. @Andy- AC Comics mostly reprints Golden Age comics and utilizes public domain characters in all new stories. The most successful attempt being an all-female super hero team called ‘Femforce,’ which is a mixture of Golden Age and original characters.

    AC also printed a comic called ‘Sentinels of Justice’ that starred Blue Beetle, The Question, and Captain Atom before DC obtained the copyrights for those characters.

    Americomics #3 actually featured Blue Beetle and The Shade in the same book!

  5. […] from hell (to see more Unsung action involving demonic hallucinations in ‘Nam, click here). Paranoid and confused, Roger killed everyone in site, including his comrades. After the effects […]

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