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Shade the Changing Man Vol. 1: The American Scream Paperback – December 1, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This collection of the first six issues of Milligan's Shade, The Changing Man tells the story of Rac Shade and Kathy George. Shade has come to Earth from his home planet, Meta, to suppress Earth's bubbling insanity, which has created an "area of madness" between it and Meta. Unfortunately, Shade finds himself in the body of an about-to-be executed serial killer, Troy Grenzer, and then in the company of Kathy George, the daughter of Grenzer's last victims. Shade and Kathy take off on the run across an America where everyday fantasies and obsessions are taking physical form. They throw themselves headlong into the heart of Shade's mission to control this madness. Milligan uses this far-fetched, pulpy premise mostly as an excuse to explore America geographically and thematically. He devotes an entire issue to the JFK assassination, eloquently riffing on the event's national trauma. In the volume's penultimate episodes, Hollywood runs amok, as movies come to life and actual casting couches chase starlets. Through it all, Shade and Kathy try to understand their own personal confusions. They are well-rounded, empathetic characters: Kathy's haunted by death, and Shade's just learning about Earth and America. They are perfect ciphers through which Milligan can operate. Bachalo and Pennington's expressionistic artwork and surreal tendencies perfectly complement Milligan's story, which veers from the real to the very unreal extremely quickly. This collection, while not for the faint of heart, shows just how far the superhero genre can be taken with honesty and wit.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

When mainstream comics publisher DC Comics began to essay edgier fare in the early 1990s, one of its more daring titles revamped a genuinely loopy character created in 1977 by comics legend Steve Ditko. Shade, the changing man, comes to Earth from the dimension of Meta to fight a spreading madness that threatens both worlds. When he arrives, he is trapped in the body of an about-to-be-executed serial killer. While escaping, he is aided by a young woman--the daughter of the killer's last victims. This book reprints the first six issues of the refurbished series, which on its face is every bit as absurd as Ditko's '70s silliness. But writer Milligan uses the outlandish premise for social commentary. The madness pops up in distortions of American culture, so that, for instance, all the conspiracy theories about JFK's assassination are equally true. Milligan and artist Chris Bachalo proceeded to more accomplished, higher-profile work, but these earlier collaborations already show a pair of talented creators reveling in the freedom the publisher gave them. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Series: Shade the Changing Man
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Vertigo (December 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140120046X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401200466
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.4 x 10.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #629,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
SHADE, THE CHANGING MAN: THE AMERICAN SCREAM collects the first six issues of the 1990 Vertigo comic series. There's a lot of history behind that character, so let's travel back just a bit. Shade, the Changing Man was one of my favorite DC titles from the late `70s. Created by Steve Ditko, it featured the adventures of Rac Shade, fugitive from the planet Meta. Shade's M-Vest surrounded him with a distorted energy field that gave him the appearance of a giant monstrous being, resulting in some truly weird visuals from Ditko. Unfortunately, the series was quickly canceled as a result of the DC implosion, and aside from some appearances in Suicide Squad, Shade was mostly forgotten.

In 1990, writer Peter Milligan and artist Chris Bachalo resurrected Shade as part of the Vertigo lineup, and while there was an initial attempt to link this character to Ditko's version in issue #1, it seemed like more of a nod to knowledgeable readers, rather than an honest attempt to fully integrate the two. Still, the connection is there, and as the story progresses, the two versions merge further, to where I eventually had no problem accepting this series as something of a continuation of Ditko's version. Yes, it's more of a "reimagining" (blech), but it's a good one.

This version of Shade is still from the planet Meta, but his mission is to battle a form of actualized chaos, referred to as "the madness", which trickles into our reality from another dimension. Shade's actual body floats comatose in the dimension of madness, wearing the M-Vest. With the vest, he is able to project his consciousness into the bodies of Earthlings, but his work gets off to a rocky start as he inhabits the body of Troy Grenzer, a murderer who is being put to death in the electric chair.
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Format: Paperback
I have to admit, I've been an admirer of Peter Milligan for a long time --- his sense of literacy and character is (to me) beguiling.
Shade TCM was one of his longest running US comics - and revivies a classic Steve Ditko character most impressively. In this collection (which covers the first six issues, rather than the first arc sadly) we get introduced to Rac Shade (from Meta, via the Area of Madness), the Madness Vest, Kathy and the American Scream. Issues dealt with here include the death penalty (an anachronism to Europeans), JFK's assassination, Hollywood and hippies. These all seem very dull, jaded targets - but Milligan adds more value than can easily be conveyed. It's a good mixed bag, but the series really took off later in it's 70 issue run.
Hopefully, this will sell enough (on the back of X-Force/X-Statix) to make more volumes appear - if not, look for issues 45 to 50 "A Season in Hell" - the finest moment of this series.
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Format: Paperback
Pop Kulcher Review: Not sure why, but Amazon has reviews for Sandman Mystery Theater printed below. As for Shade the Changing Man, all I can say is -- it's about time. Having released at least token trade paperbacks of most of the DC Vertigo titles, Shade seemed to be singled out for obscurity. Which would be a shame, as it was one of the most well-written Vertigo-related titles of the 90's, certainly on par (or close) with Sandman, Hellblazer, and Morrison's Animal Man & Doom Patrol. The first few issues (collected in this volume) were far from the title's best work, but still pretty cutting edge. At first, Milligan was big into general psychedelic weirdness coupled with an outsider's commentary on Americana. He got a bit too hung up on the (kinda silly) American Scream storyline, and struggled to integrate his book into the briefly-lived original Steve Ditko series, but once he put these aspects behind him, he made this a more character-oriented book, focusing on the 3-way love story among Shade, his girlfriend, and wisecracking NYC lesbian Lenny (all while continuing to keep a bizarre, sci-fi-ish weirdness). The book was often depressing, perhaps even more focused on young angst than Gaiman's Sandman, and that comes across even in these early issues. I hope (but doubt) that they'll work their way through the whole series, but I'm glad to have even a token bound collection of Milligan's ground-breaking work.
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Format: Paperback
Peter Milligan is yet another British writer that started in 2000 AD, most notably with Bad Company - a future war story in which a bizarre company of soldiers fight humanity's bizarre war against the alien Krool.

However, contrary to my characteristic preference for 2000 AD, my favorite is his work for DC Comic's Vertigo imprint label for more mature graphic novels outside the publishing restrictions of mainstream comics. Milligan came to Vertigo towards the end of the first wave of the so-called British invasion or 'Britwave' of British writers into American comics - and like his fellow British writers for Vertigo, he revamped an obscure DC Comics character, Shade the Changing Man.

The focus of the series is Shade, an interdimensional traveler to Earth from the parallel world of Meta, with the reality-warping 'power of madness' (which seems to be part of Metan technology) - he resembles another of my favorites, Neil Gaiman's Sandman, but with power born of madness instead of dreams. But then, what are dreams if not a little madness in our lives?

In other words, it starts off weird and gets weirder - a psychedelic fantasy and odyssey in three parts. The first part has the most defined plot structure, as Shade was sent to Earth to defeat a dangerous manifestation of madness and the American psyche or collective unconscious, the American Scream. After that, it is the personifications from Shade's own psyche that are dangerous, as well as other beings born from the Area of Madness - which after all extends to the land of dreams and the dead, angels and the Devil. Shade himself dies, but is reborn through the power of madness - jumping bodies and on one occasion gender as Shade the Changing Woman.
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