Issue #22, Page 24: "What's Left When You've Left Too?"

Shade The Changing Man
©1992 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.

by Peter Milligan & Brendan McCarthy
Issue #22, Page 24: Psychedelic Splash Page
"What's Left When You've Left Too Soon?"
Graphite and ink on board
Signed by Milligan and McCarthy
11" x 17"

Two of the prime mover-shakers of the late 80's British comic book invasion, Milligan & McCarthy, cut loose in a free-standing issue of an already uncommercial title to dive inside the id of a loony –who might just be a resurrected immortal...

Following the success of Alan Moore at DC Comics (and in anticipation of his pending exit) editor Karen Berger initiated a heavy recruitment of UK talent from the same publications that helped launch Moore: 2000AD, Warrior & Crisis among them. This new wave of British talent included Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan. When Gaiman's supernatural rethink of The Sandman caught fire with fans and critics, and Morrison's green-minded Animal Man proved popular with readers not interested in conventional super hero action or general continuity, DC commissioned several more incredibly weird variations of forgotten, throwaway characters from the 1960s and 70s. None was as uniquely surreal as Milligan's Shade, the Changing Man.

Originally created by Steve Ditko, and cancelled after 8 monthly issues during the DC Implosion of 1977-78, the character disappeared until briefly resurfacing in Suicide Squad in the late 80s. When reborn under the guidance of Peter Milligan in 1990, Shade was completely unrecognizable. The inter-dimensional hero was transformed into the alien host of an emotionless observer constantly pulled into action by passersby. Milligan frequently killed the character to resurrect him in a radically altered form, crossing gender lines and embodying multiple psychosises via a sort of madness-powered, technicolor dreamcoat. Fellow Irishman and avant-garde collaborator Brendan McCarthy designed the new Shade's look, providing the cover art for most of the first 32 issues, but the only issue that featured his interior art for the character he helped create was issue 22.

Both Sandman and Shade, the Changing Man were nominated for Best Continuing Series at the 1993 Eisner Awards, and the offbeat success of Milligan's controversial subject matter (transgenderism, conspiracy theories) particularly demanded a new and separate imprint. In 1993, DC launched Vertigo, and Shade was among the initial run of titles. The steady and dedicated readership proved to the publisher that a loyal fanbase could support non-commercial subject matter as along as the creative team was left unbothered. The series lasted 70 issues and remains (along with Alan Moore's Saga of the Swamp Thing, Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol & Invisibles, and Warren Ellis' non-superhero Transmetropolitan) one of the most requested series not yet collected in an Absolute Edition.


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