The Neglected Nemeses: The Shade


Well hello there. Let me start things off by introducing myself to the world of Comic Book Therapy. The name is Josh Johnson, a/k/a ecksmanfan. I’m a relative newcomer to the world of comic books, especially compared to some of the other folks on the site, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less passionate about the characters and their fictional worlds that are such a draw to many of us.

What I bring to you today is the first in a series that examines the baddies and rogues that are consistently passed over for more recognizable characters. We have seen a total of seven films based on the Batman comics and within those films, we saw four villains that were duplicates. Take a look at Superman as well, with Lex Luthor filling the villainous role in nearly all of those films. It’s not just DC Comics that is at fault here as films based on Marvel characters are also guilty of this, with Magneto acting as a villain (in some fashion) in all four films based on the mutant team. My point is that there are so many untapped rogues that writers can look to in order to provide a formidable and unique foe. With “The Neglected Nemeses” series, I hope to bring you baddies that you hadn’t thought of and show that because they are less popular, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t as menacing and potentially profitable as the more known characters.

The first rogue I’d like to highlight could provide a an interesting antagonist for a potential Flash film. We all know that The Flash does not have the most impressive list of foes, but with a bit of imagination and some killer CGI, the Shade could turn out to be a formidable opponent.. Add to that a bit of a martial arts element and the cool factor of this guy just went up considerably. I’ll admit that at first glance, Shade may not be your first choice for Flash to take on; in fact, most people would rather see Reverse Flash in the possible upcoming film. I first became aware of this character while watching the Justice League animated series and when I caught a glimpse of him, I couldn’t help but think of how awesome it’s be to see what they could do with him in a live-action film. Some would say that his ability to manipulate the shadows is similar to Green Lantern power ring abilities, I think this could be handled in a much better and less cheesy fashion.

The Shade, also known as Richard Swift, was first introduced in 1942 as a rogue for Flash and went on to take on the Flash from both the Golden Age and Silver Age of comics and eventually becomes a mentor for Jack Knight, the son of Starman, one of the heroes that Shade had previously battled. When first introduced, Shade was portrayed as a thief who utilized a cane to manipulate shadows. In 1994, the character was re-invented as a Victorian era immortal who gained the ability to control the shadows and his immortality from an unknown mystical event. Back in 2009, Shade was given the honor as being ranked number 89 on IGN’s list of the Greatest Comic Book Villains of all Time.

Shade is at present one of the best, if not the ultimate, channeler of the power of the Darklands, a quasi-sentient, extra-dimensional mass of malleable darkness which he can channel to various effects, both as an absence of light and a solid substance: he can summon and control “demons” from there, summon and dispel shields and areas of complete darkness, create all kinds of constructs out of shadows (in a similar manner to a Green Lantern, with the exception of the color of the constructs), transport himself and others through it over massive distances, and can, if necessary, use it as a last-ditch prison dimension.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty bad-ass to me. Shade has been part of several versions on the Injustice Society and has worked closely with other baddies such as Wizard and the Fiddler. He has made several cameo appearances in several series including Green Arrow and JSA and has also recently been linked with Felix Faust and Circe. During the “Infinite Crisis” run, Shade was seen using his powers to shield many shield Opal City citizens from falling buildings. Instead of admitting he was helping people, the villains stated that he was simply “saving the architecture.” He also played a major role in the battle against Prometheus during the “Justice League: Cry For Justice” series. here, Shade is found waiting in the home of his former rival Jay Garrick to inform him that  the super villain Prometheus had put out an order for a series of attacks on various heroes including Batwoman, Barry Allen Crimson Avenger and Stargirl in order to distract them from a larger, more menacing plan. Shade is accompanied by Jay to the Watchtower where they arrived just as Prometheus showed up, who had defeated the entire League. Jay is quickly defeated, but because Swift is not a “hero,” Prometheus didn’t have the knowledge of how to defeat him. After a severe beat-down, Prometheus is saved from death from Donna Troy. Shade then creates a portal giving Green Arrow access to Prometheus’ otherworldly lair where the hero kills Prometheus.

This wouldn’t be the last time that Shade has assisted the League or shown  a bit of heart. After David Knight, reanimated as a Black Lantern, threatens to kill his lover, Shade uses the power of his own heart , which was pulled from his chest by Knight, to entrap the Black Lantern in the Shadowlands, claiming he had “no light of his own.” Shade also plays a big part in the Brightest Day storyline, where Atom and Starman are sent into Shade’s body to fight of a brainwashing that Eclipso had placed onto him. Having just barely freed him, Shade joins the fight against the villain.

As I mentioned previously, with the Shade’s ability to manipulate shadows and darkness, it could provide for some really cool visuals on the big screen. Add that to the visuals needed to make the Flash…the Flash, and you have yourself some potentially epic fight scenes. Toss in a bit of some hard-core martial arts to the character and holy crap! The potential in huge! If the folks behind the potential film use a character like Reverse Flash, I worry that it will be too much of the same thing throughout the film and using a character like Shade would offer up something we haven’t seen in a comic book movie yet.

It will take a certain type of actor to make a character like this work. Not just Shade, but Flash as well. While the debate for who should play the Flash, and which version we see (Barry Allen, Wally West, etc), I don’t think there is a better person to fill the role of Shade than the always impressive Vincent Cassel. Most known for his darker films like Brotherhood of the Wolf and Eastern Promises, Cassell has had some parts in some fairly successful films; most recently starring opposite Natalie Portman in Darren Aronofsky’s The Black Swan. He also played the acrobatic thief in the two Ocean’s Eleven sequels. It was his role in these films that make me think he’d be perfect for Richard Swift. He has the ability to come off as elegant and suave, while being deceiving and evil at the same time.And let’s face it, the guy is an amazing actor and would be an amazing addition to any film.

So what are your thoughts? Is this someone you’d like to see take on the Flash in a potential film? What other actors would you suggest for the part? Sound off below!


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