Mar 25, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 29: Shade, The Changing Man v.1 #5, February-March 1978


I was four years old when this comic came out. I don't know if it's just me, but I struggle, not intellectually but emotionally, to reconcile the fact that life, and lives, were still happening, just the way they are now, when I was barely a conscious creature.

Page 10 of this issue has another couple of those Ditko panels that are just a remarkable feat of motion in a static medium. Mellu and Sgt. Barak leap from a building into the air, and you can see the muscles tense and then release in the run up to the jump and the jump itself. It's the same sort of motion the panel I highlighted in Amazing Fantasy manages to achieve, and it's certainly not something that all comics artists have mastered.

The story continues to hurtle along at a rapid pace. Though I could definitely see this work as a long-form graphic novel, Ditko definitely deftly places exciting moments that are used as cliffhangers in the serial that could easily be translated to climactic high-points if the work were a singly-published work. If that makes any sense. I guess what I'm trying to get at is that each cliffhanger ending keeps me wanting to come back for the next issue, but they're not contrived.

Something that I'm kind of fascinated by in this comic so far is its focus on the criminal elements of both the Meta-Zone and the Earth-Zone. While on Meta we do get glimpses of the security forces, the criminal elements are definitely the focal characters, or focal cultural settings, of the story. I guess it could be argued that this is because Shade has been wrongly included in this segment of the culture, so we're seeing contrasts between wrongly and justly accused criminals. What's truly fascinating is that the actions of Shade and the criminals are not particularly different, only the motivations and justifications for those actions. And then only in the eyes of the beholder. Shade sees what he's doing as just, but those pursuing him see his actions only as criminal. It's people like Sgt. Barak, Dr. Sagan, and finally, in this issue, Mellu, who shift into that grey area of not really understanding Shade's actions, or more properly of questioning what his motivations must be.

I wonder about the cancellation of this title. The story really is quite spectacular, and Ditko seems to know precisely where it's going. Perhaps if it had been billed as a maxi-series or something similar, it wouldn't have been cancelled, though I can see, unless the story wraps up and a new arc begins, how it might have lost the interest of the reading public. My sense of the comics industry at this time is not great, though Wikipedia claims the cancellation was a result of the "DC Implosion." At least one can suppose that it was due to market forces, and not lack of interest, that the title did not get the chance it deserved.

So it's officially been 1 month since I started this project. I've decided that at the beginning of each new month I'm going to write up a comic that has been particularly important to me. So tomorrow we'll take a brief break from Shade, the Changing Man, and have a look at issue #5 of Grant Morrison's run on Animal Man, which, I've often said, is probably the single best single issue comic I've ever read. Hopefully my review tomorrow will do it some justice.

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