DC's Stargirl: Who Is The Shade?

A major element of DC's Stargirl is the concept of legacy, something that is best exemplified by Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger) taking up the mantle of Stargirl and setting out on a quest to get justice for the man she believes was her father and his fallen Justice Society heroes. But while the lost heroes of the JSA are in a sense ever-present, the history of the Injustice Society is less known. This week's episode, however, begins to shed a bit of light on the villain team with the revelation of a past ISA traitor in "Wildcat". But who is "The Shade"?

Spoilers for DC's Stargirl "Wildcat" below.

In "Wildcat", while Courtney is working to find her first Justice Society recruit in Yolanda (Yvette Monreal), Jordan Mahkent/Icicle (Neil Jackson) is dealing with his own team issues. Dr. Ito/Dragon King (Nelson Lee) made his presence known, assuring Icicle that he is devoted to the team and the mission that is Project New America. He promises Icicle that he won't fail like The Wizard did (and also creepily asks for The Wizard's body) and also says he won't betray the team the way The Shade did.

So, who is The Shade? The character is briefly visible in the portrait of the villain team, but this is the first time he's been mentioned on Stargirl. For fans of the comics, The Shade is a character with ties to Starman and a rich, complex history. The character first appeared in 1942 in Flash Comics #33 as an enemy of Jay Garrick's Flash. A thief with the ability to manipulate shadows with a magical cane, The Shade was also a foe of the second flash, Barry Allen and his role as a villain is one that was maintained post-"Crisis on Infinite Earths" when he appeared in 1986 as part of Wizard's version of the Injustice Society.

It's after Zero Hour that The Shade's story changes a bit, turning him into an English gentleman named Richard Swift who ends up coming to Keystone City first as an adversary for Jay Garrick's Flash, though he ends up saving Jay and his wife. By the time he shows up in Starman in 1994, Jack Knight initially believes The Shade to be an enemy when, on orders of Mist, The Shade kidnaps Ted Knight. The Shade ends up betraying the Mist, though, and ends up as an ally of Jack's and while The Shade isn't exactly a hero, he tends to ally himself on the heroic side more often than not.

The mention of The Shade and the implication of a history in which he betrayed his villain buddies is an example of the balance between show and comics series creator Geoff Johns previously told ComicBook.com was a challenge in a good way, offering fans of the comics something recognizable while also being fresh and new for television audiences.

"It's always a challenge in a good way. It's like, you want it because you want to create something that's going to both... just like the comics," Johns said. "You know, it's like when I wrote JSA, it's not like there was a huge audience that read the books in the 1940s that was going to read the new books, but there's people that know the history and love the history like I do. And then there's new fans, new readers that are going to try it. And the balance is always a little tricky. You need to make it both resonate for, especially with the history as deep as the JSA, you need to make it resonate with both fans, long-time fans, hardcore fans, fans that know every aspect of this, that could have memorized the DC Wiki. You want all that stuff to be in there. And at the same time, you want to introduce this in a way where you have a lot of new fans because millions of people watching the pilot, most of those, the majority of those, I think probably 99 percent of those, have never read a JSA or a Stars and S.T.R.I.P.E. comic."

Johns continued, "And so you're dealing with a fan base and some have seen by Courtney and S.T.R.I.P.E. on just the animated Unlimited which is awesome. Some might know them from the video games or some other stuff, but they don't know these characters. And so it is a balance, but you also, there's a reason that a character like Johnny Thunder and the Thunderbolt has resonated and survived decades, decades, and decades, because there's something really cool about a fricking pink genie that can do anything you ask it and all those kinds of things you want to present when you eventually do introduce them, present them in a way that is both true to who they are in the comics and for the fans that visually and spiritually and emotionally, and then also to new fans, new viewers, never heard of these characters, to get a sense of who they are and fall in love with them like we already are in love with them."

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DC's Stargirl airs Tuesdays at 8/7 on The CW. New episodes debut Mondays on DC Universe.

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