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Comic Book / The Shade (DC Comics)
aka: Shade

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"I've killed many myself. Many, indeed. But there's no excuse for beastliness. None whatsoever."
Shade, Starman (DC Comics) Vol 2, 14

The Shade is an immortal darkness controlling DC Comics character created by Gardner Fox and Harold Wilson Sharp who first appeared in Flash Comics 33 in 1942. Starting out as a hammy Golden Age Flash villain the Shade was reimagined in the '90s as an Anti-Villain with ties to an additional legacy hero, Starman.

Richard Swift became the immortal channeler of the power of the Darklands back in the 1800s and turned to villainy as he felt more and more separated from humanity. He has been a member of the villainous Injustice Society alongside such characters as Solomon Grundy, Tigress, Vandal Savage, Sportsmaster and Harlequin. Shade has since developed an uneasy alliance and friendship with Starman and the Golden Age Flash (Jay Garrick), because he can't be contained or even killed, on occasion acts in a heroic manner if he feels like it that day, is genuinely friendly towards Jay and doesn't engage in criminal activity in Starman's hometown.


Not to be confused with fellow DC property Shade, the Changing Man.

The Shade appears in:

Notable Comic Books

  • Flash Comics (1942) first appearance
  • The Flash Vol 1 (1961 - 1981)
  • Justice League of America Vol 1 (1975 -2011) intermittent appearances
  • Starman (DC Comics) (1994 - 2010)
  • Shade Vol 1 (1997 - 1997)
  • JSA Vol 1 (2000 - 2006) intermittent appearances
  • Shade Vol 2 (2011 - 2012)
  • The Flash Vol 5 (2016 - ongoing) intermittent appearances

Western Animation

Live Action TV


The Shade provides examples of:

  • Alone in a Crowd: His powers made him feel detached and cut off from humanity, utill the rise of superheroes gave him others he felt a sort of kinship with;
    "I was not alone. My powers. My cursed, foul, fierce, dark, dire, wonderful powers had been as an affliction to me. Separating me from Man. Making me hate Man for his normalcy and resent him and despise and disdain him. My heart was as black as my shadow by this time. But now... now I was no longer alone. There were others afflicted as me. And one... one I chose."
  • Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain: He shifts from Anti-Villain to Anti-Hero as it suits him, but over the course of Starman (DC Comics), he starts leaning more towards the hero side of things. He protects Opal City to an extent but is largely disinterested in the fate of everywhere else. An even then...
    Random citizen: Thank you!
    Richard Swift: I'm saving the statue, not you.
  • Bearer of Bad News: He's fond of several Golden Age heroes and if he's on hand to do so will bring back word of their demise, and their bodies, to their friends and loved ones as he does for Allen Scott in JSA #48 (he turned out to be Only Mostly Dead).
  • Card-Carrying Villain: During the Golden Age, he was an unrepentant hammy Flash villain, before being dusted off and reimagined by James Robinson.
  • Casting a Shadow: 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. He can use it for various effects, both as an absence of light and a solid substance: he can summon and control "demons", summon and dispel shields and areas of complete darkness, create all kinds of constructs out of shadows, transport himself and others through it over great distances, and can, if necessary, use it as a prison dimension.
  • Classy Cravat: Swift usually opts for a black tie but he'll occasionally switch it out for a white cravat.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: After turning from Card-Carrying Villain to Anti-Hero.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Since it's virtually impossible to kill the Shade, he's developed a reputation for shooting his mouth off without fear of reprisal and he has been building his repertoire since the Victorian age.
  • Evil Is Petty: Simon Culp never gives a reasonable explanation for why he hates Shade and seems to have despised the man from the very start. This is even though, at the time they met, Shade was a simple, if prominent, businessman with a family who hadn't wronged him in any way. Then again, Culp is also Ax-Crazy, as evidenced by his own admission of having killed over 20 people long before he ever gained his Casting a Shadow abilities.
  • Familial Foe: Shade is constantly being attacked by the many descendants of the Ludlows, a family of murderers he killed in 1838. One Ludlow who sympathizes with Shade commits suicide because of his family's hostile reaction to this sentiment. By 2005, the Ludlows have nearly been wiped out by Shade, and the only three known survivors (one of whom is raised with no knowledge of the feud) leave him alone.
  • Foreshadowing: Over the course of Starman (DC Comics), numerous people, including Shade himself, note some of the ways that he's has changed over the years. He's been violent, charismatic, Ax-Crazy, goofy, well intentioned, world destroying, etc. This is mostly chalked up to the fact that he's lived such a long life and has therefore had the time to go through many personality changes. While this is certainly one reason for his many changes, it also makes a bit more sense when it's revealed that he's been Sharing a Body with Simon Culp for over 30 years and that Culp has, without Shade's knowledge, been in control of their shared form at numerous points in time.
  • Friendly Enemy: To Jay Garrick, now that both of them are semi-retired.
  • Heroic Neutral: In Opal City, at least, where he refuses to engage in any criminal behavior.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Among other things, he has no blood, just inky black darkness.
  • Immortality: The shadows have also granted Shade agelessness and immortality. Even with his heart torn out of his chest by Black Lantern David Knight, he remained alive and unable to die.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Eventually leads a colony of children off-world, and delights in telling them stories of heroes (and downplaying his own role in them).
  • The Lancer: To Jack Knight/Starman's hero.
  • Large Ham: Shade, normally a quiet Combat Pragmatist, practiced in a mirror when planning to go against Flash or Starman in the Golden Age to get the voice and additional gestures right.
  • Living Forever Is Awesome: The Shade usually thinks so, but sometime it wears on him.
  • Logical Weakness: The Shade's powers are somewhat weakened in the presence of flame or bright light, and he cannot use his powers at all if there is no shadow.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: He's had time to gather the finer things in life, and enjoys using them.
  • Mind Hive: The Shade has unknowingly been one of these ever since his last battle with Culp.
  • Older Than They Look: Richard Swift hasn't aged a hair since the 1800s.
  • Outside-Context Problem: The Shade's powers explicitly come from a source outside that of supernatural forces such as magic, worked perfectly well when the Genesis event depowered everyone else, and render him immune to being converted into a Black Lantern.
  • Retcon: After Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!, his origin was changed drastically. The Shade was retconned to an English gentleman named Richard Swift, who had been a young man in the year 1838 and not so villainous after all. The reimagined Shade was so popular he got two mini-series of his own.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant: He turned... well, not good, but at least neutral, and became a supporting character in Starman (DC Comics).
  • Sharing a Body: During Starman (DC Comics)'s "Grand Guignol" arc, it's finally revealed that this is the situation between Shade and Simon Culp and that it has been since World War II. This is used to then explain previously mentioned incidents where the Shade was a little off in comparison to how he usually is. That time when he tried to destroy the world, the time when he appeared to be a Cloudcuckoolander — all Culp.
  • Split Personality: The Shade and Culp.
  • Summon Magic: Although the Shade can use his shadow powers in the form of bolts and tendrils, he has a fondness for conjuring demonic-appearing entities. One of them in particular, Smudge, is a sidekick of sorts.
  • Supervillain: He started out his career as a superpowered Flash foe, and has taken on the entire JLA.
  • Thinking Up Portals: The Shade's powers let him do this.
  • Time Travel: It takes him a while to work it out but his powers allow him to time travel.

Alternative Title(s): Shade