Mar 29, 2015
The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 33: Shade, The Changing Man v.1 #8, August-September 1978
All things must end, I guess. At least, in a lot of ways, we have a decent closure here, which I was not expecting. Shade is tasked with another mission, and is still considered a traitor, but he has allies, and a deal to clear his name after another trip into the Zero Zone on the way to Earth to stop Dr. Z.Z. These are adventures that, sadly, we won't get to see, but this trip into the zone does manage to segue very nicely into Peter Milligan's run.
This issue, as the last one, is in large part exposition, this time filling in some of Shade's back story, specifically the story of how he gained the M-Vest. There's also quite a lot of cutting across the Zero Zone from Meta to Earth to witness the various scenes taking place in either zone. One of the lovely things about this issue is the transition panels that Ditko inserts where we have a snippet of dialogue from whichever zone we have just read and a snippet from the zone that the action is moving into, and in between there are bizarre illustrations of the inhabitants of the Zero Zone. Creepy and weird, a little trite, but nicely executed.
There's also a long-awaited reunion, which I won't spoil, since the series, if you can find a copy of it, is well worth a read. I'm glad I decided to take this detour into Ditko-Land. It was wild and wonderful, and I'm now looking forward to discovering some more of his work deeper in the collection (there's definitely some of his Charlton work kicking around in there) and to re-reading Peter Milligan's wonderful Vertigo take on Shade.
Shade shows up a few more times in the DCU and Vertigo Universes. For the ten year anniversary of Vertigo, Milligan and Mike Allred did a short Shade story based on the Vertigo version of the character. As I've mentioned before, the Ditko-Shade shows up in Suicide Squad in the 1980s, and then an interesting amalgam of the two makes an appearance in the Flashpoint crossover, and is catapulted into the New 52 DCU in the Milligan-penned Justice League Dark. None of these later appearances measure up to his original and re-visioned Vertigo iterations.
This Ditko run of Shade suffered, I think, in its resemblance to a superhero comic, which it most certainly isn't. There's no evidence that it takes place in the mainstream DCU, and had DC thought ahead here and changed the branding on the comic in order to show that it wasn't a superhero comic, it might have helped draw in readers. That said, the series still might not have survived the "DC Implosion," so perhaps branding is a moot point.
I wasn't sure what to read tomorrow. I don't think I'll move on to the Vertigo Shade yet. It's a 70-issue series, so I'd be reading it for few months. I'm not sure I'm up to it quite yet. In my database, Paul Pope's 100% is next in the reading order, but I'm not sure I'm ready right now to jump into so dense a work.
Here's a thought, though I'm not promising anything. If you're reading this, and I have irrefutable statistical proof that people are at the very least looking at the page, if not reading it, anyway, if you're reading this, and you have a suggestion of a series or character, or publisher, or decade, or genre, let me know, and I'll do my best to fulfill the suggestion from my collection. Again, I won't promise I'll do it every time, but once it a while it might be fun to get some public input.
See you tomorrow.