Born and raised in London, England in the early 1800s, Richard Swift was a wealthy importer. In the course of his business he came into contact with Simon Culp, who hired Swift to import a lion for him. The pair became friends while awaiting the arrival of the lion. It was soon revealed that Culp was merely using Swift in an effort to enact an arcane ritual; he captured Swift and attempted to use him as a sacrifice to the goddess Scathach. However, for reasons unknown, Swift was gifted with the powers that Culp had intended only for himself. The resultant mystical occurrence resulted in the deaths of over a hundred people. Bereft of all memories of who he had been, Swift departed his old life and was reborn as the Shade. Immediately after the events that gave him his powers, the disoriented Shade was taken in by Piers Ludlow, who attempted to take advantage of Shade's state by framing him for murder. Shade lashed out instinctively with his powers, making an enemy of the Ludlow family when he killed almost the entire family. Following this he embarked on a career of questionable legality, exploring the world and occasionally taking work as an assassin.
The Shade was originally created by EE Hibbard. He was re-imagined by James Robinson.
In his original Golden Age appearances, the Shade was portrayed as a villainous character. Primarily a thief, he utilized a cane that allowed him to manipulate shadows. He retained this characterization throughout the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages.
Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, Shade remained a villain for a few more years. Following Zero Hour his character was significantly rewritten. He was re-imagined as an immortal of Victorian extraction, and given a more morally ambiguous, anti-heroic bent. Much of his previous villainy was retconned as the influence of Culp. This version of the character no longer needed the magical cane to manipulate shadows, this trait became inherent.
Following the universal reboot, the powers of the Darklands, previously only semi-sentient, became fully sentient and autonomous. Shade himself became significantly less competent.
Major Story Arcs
Flash of Two Worlds
Working with the Fiddler and the Thinker, Shade takes part in shifting Keystone City out of phase, trapping the inhabitants and causing the rest of the world to forget the city ever existed. They use this power to loot the city with impunity. They are confronted by both Jay Garrick and Barry Allen, and the heroes eventually defeat the Shade and his companions.
Shade first comes into contact with Starman when he abducts the hero's father, Ted Knight, at the behest of Mist. He soon turns against Mist and sides with Starman, later forming close ties with the O'Dare family, particularly Matt O'Dare. During their association Shade frequently engages in heroic behaviour to assist Jack and Matt. At one point he agrees to selflessly sell his soul to save those trapped in a cursed poster. Around this time he makes an enemy of Neron by refusing to accept the demon's deal to increase his own power. During the events of the Godwave his powers are completely unaffected by the event that depowered most powered individuals. Slowly but surely Culp is able to take control of Shade's body, culminating in an attempt to destroy Opal City, carried out with the sole intention of destroying the city that Shade loves. Joining Culp's efforts are Neron, one of the last remaining Ludlows, and Mist's daughter. Shade is able to expel Culp, but in so doing loses his powers. Despite this, he is able to use a shadow demon to engage in a battle of wills with Culp, which he ultimately wins. Stripping Culp of his powers and adding them to his own, Shade is victorious.
Still in Opal City and acting as the city's heroic, if cynical, protector, Shade spends the Crisis defending the city and its inhabitants.
Cry For Justice
Shade tells Jay Garrick of Prometheus' plan to distract the heroes from his master plan, and travels with the hero to the Watchtower. There, they encounter Prometheus, who is attempting to flee the ship. As he is not a hero, Prometheus has no file on how to defeat Shade, and is confounded by how to deal with him. Donna Troy takes the opportunity to attack Prometheus and beats him nearly to death. Shade prevents her from killing the villain. He later aids Green Arrow in travelling to Prometheus' lair, where Green Arrow kills the villain.
Now in a relationship with Hope O'Dare, Shade is attacked by Black Lantern David Knight. Due to his immortality, Shade is not killed when Knight rips his heart from his chest, and is able to resist the Black Lantern ring that attempts to attach itself to him. He traps Knight in the Darklands when Knight threatens to kill Jack and O'Dare. Using his own heart he traps Knight and banishes him permanently. He is found soon afterwards by Barry Allen and Hal Jordan, who ask for transportation to the Ghost Zone. He agrees to help, and they locate the rotting body of Prometheus in the Ghost Zone.
Shade is sought by Jay Garrick, Doctor Mid-Nite, Sebastian Faust, and Wildcat, all of whom seek his assistance in locating Obsidian. He is found in his home in a comatose state, apparently placed there by the Starheart-possessed Obsidian, who wanted to stop Shade from revealing "secrets". Soon afterwards Shade is captured by Eclipso, who brainwashes him. At the behest of Saint Walker he is sought and rescued by Starman and Atom, who manage to free him of the brainwashing. He turns on his erstwhile captor, helping the heroes defeat Eclipso.
Attacked at his home in Opal City, Shade sets off on a world-spanning quest to discover the origin of the assassination attempt. At the same time he explores his past, and encounters numerous figures that have been important in his long life, as well as exploring the extent of his own powers. It eventually becomes clear that the assassination was ordered by a member of his own family, Dudley, Lord Caldecott, acting in concert with an ancient cult. The cult accidentally unleashes ancient godlike beings on London, whom Shade is able to defeat by trapping them in a pocket dimension and transporting them back to their home dimension.
The Speed of Darkness
As Shade grows increasingly worried that he will return to his life of crime and jeopardize his relationship with Hope, his shadow powers take it upon themselves to begin committing crimes on his behalf. When this is discovered by Hope, who believes that Shade has relapsed, the shadows kidnap and brainwash her, and entrap Shade in the Darklands. He is able to push some shadow into Central City, where it attracts the attention of Kid Flash and the Flash, who come to his aid. They help him rescue Hope and regain control of the Darklands.
Powers and Abilities
Shade is the strongest known channeller of the shadow powers of the Darklands, a dimension of sentient darkness that he can channel to a variety of effects. He can also use this dimension to teleport himself and others, with no known limits to the distance he can travel; it can also be used to travel through time. He is functionally immortal and practically indestructible. He is intelligent and resourceful.
Unknown Alternate Earth
A female character based on Shade and Nightshade appears on this Earth; she shares Shade's powers and wears clothing similar to his traditional outfit. She is killed by Eve of the Shadows
Shade is a magician and member of the League of Shamans.
Shade makes his first appearance in the two-part Justice League episode "Injustice for All". The DCAU version of the character bears many similarities to his pre-Zero Hour characterization: he is a villain, a member of the Injustice Gang, and carries a "nightstick" rather than possessing inherent shadow powers. He appears in several other episodes, each time as a villain, generally as a member of various villain gangs. He later appears in several episodes of Justice League Unlimited. In the episode "Alive" he joins the mutiny against Lex Luthor, and is ultimately killed by the resurrected Darkseid. He is voiced by Stephen McHattie.