SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Peter Milligan
Chris Bachalo
Shade, the Changing Man
Steve Ditko
Neil Gaiman's Sandman
Grant Morrison's Animal Man
Shade, the Changing Man Vol. 1: The American Scream
Shade, the Changing Man Vol. 2: Edge of Vision
Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons
Star Trek: A Comics History
The Chronicles of Solomon Kane
Chew Volume One: Taster's Choice
Recent Books of Interest
Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons (Fantagraphics)
Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons This incredible boxed set of three gorgeous hardcovers celebrates one of art's funniest and most disturbing cartoonists. Printed on archival-quality paper in both color and black & white, the handsome set includes not only all the legendary artist's cartoons, prose fiction and text-and-art features from Playboy, but also many of his strips from The New Yorker, Punch, The National Lampoon, and many other magazines. Gahan Wilson: 50 Years of Playboy Cartoons is the most comprehensive and attractive Wilson book ever produced.

Star Trek: A Comics History by Alan J. Porter (Hermes Press)
Star Trek: A Comics History The lavishly illustrated tome chronicles the extensive history of English-language Star Trek comic books and strips. Porter, author of James Bond: The History of the Illustrated 007, smartly divides the entries by publisher, and includes insightful annotations and accounts of the publisher's interactions with the Trek universe. He summarizes each illustrated adventure along with the stardate, publication date, and a list of the creators. Star Trek: A Comics History culminates in a fascinating interview with several writers who worked on various incarnations of this storied franchise.

The Chronicles of Solomon Kane written by Roy Thomas and Ralph Macchio; art by Howard Chaykin, Brett Blevins, John Ridgeway, Al Williamson, Sandy Plunkett, Kevin Nowlan, Jon Bogdanove, and Mike Mignola (Dark Horse)
The Chronicles of Solomon Kane Several columns back, I lamented the fact that the excellent 1985 series The Sword of Solomon Kane remained uncollected. Dark Horse remedies my complaint in The Chronicles of Solomon Kane, which contains all six issues of the series plus the Solomon Kane stories from Marvel Premiere. Produced by an impressive array of talent, The Chronicles of Solomon Kane reprints the extant of the Marvel's superior full color renditions of Robert E. Howard's dour Puritan hero.

Chew Volume One: Taster's Choice by John Layman (script) and Rob Guillory (art) (Image)
Chew Volume One: Taster's Choice Layman and Guillory create an alternate present where, due to avian flu fears, the American government has criminalized the possession, sale, and consumption of all poultry! Tony Chu, investigator for the Special Crimes Division of the powerful FDA, employs his abilities as a cibopathic -- he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats -- to solve crimes. Guillory's over-the-top humorous illustrations and Layman's clever script expertly mix to spawn an enjoyable concoction of cannibalism, conspiracy, and murder.

The American Scream

By 1990, the Reagan-promised American dream lay in ruins. The U.S. economy teetered on the verge of a recession. While crime rates eventually dropped dramatically later in the decade, American crime levels had achieved record highs throughout the 80s. After decades of neglect, the U.S. education system doomed an entire generation to lives of mediocrity and poverty. The Iran-Contra controversy combined with other scandals and the ridiculous excesses of consumption further eroded the weary American psyche. From this malaise, writer Peter Milligan and artist Chris Bachalo produced Shade, the Changing Man for DC Comics, an indictment and a chronicle of failed dreams and hopes.

Powered and protected by his "Madness-vest," mind agent Shade journeys to Earth from his home dimension Meta to research the prophesied "changes," which will threaten the orderly, tightly-controlled Metan universe. Between Earth and Meta lies the Area of Madness, chaos given form and fueled by humans' uncontrollable, emotional nature.

At first his visits are brief three hour affairs undertaken in his own Metan body. But as the Madness threatens his home, Shade must remain on Earth for an extended period of time to confront the chaos directly. To accomplish this, he occupies the body of convicted serial killer Troy Grenzer at the moment of his execution by electrocution! Though Shade's persona supersedes Grenzer's sociopathy, echoes of the murderer remain. Through his vest, Shade can project his dreams and visions, literally warping the reality around him.

In a bizarre but believable twist, Kathy George, daughter of Grezner's last victims, befriends Shade. The pair journey across the country confronting and often containing the Madness, now represented as the American Scream, a physical embodiment of the failed American dreams of the previous thirty years.

Milligan and Bachalo wisely relied on surreal imagery and non-linear storytelling for this imaginative, allegorical series. At the time, these methods were unusual, as was the prominent portrayal of controversial topics such as capital punishment, interracial relationships, and transgenderism. The series developed a cult following and lasted an amazing 70 issues (through 1996).

The third title to emerge from the first wave of DC's own British Invasion, the previous being Neil Gaiman's Sandman and Grant Morrison's Animal Man, Shade, the Changing Man re-envisioned the original concept created by Steve Ditko in 1978. In the original incarnation, which ran for eight issues, Metan Rac Shade, using a stolen vest that enabled him to project a illusion of a large grotesque version of himself, escaped to Earth after being framed for treason.

Milligan and Bachalo discarded all references to the prior history and most of Ditko's concepts, incorporating only the bare bones. Their series existed generally outside the established DC Comics continuity, though John Constantine from Hellblazer and The Endless from Sandman made appearances.

Unlike Sandman and the Morrison-written Animal Man, whose entire runs are available in trade paperback editions, only two Shade, the Changing Man collections exist: The American Scream (issues 1-6; originally compiled in 2003) and Edge of Vision (issues 7-13; published for the first time in November, 2009). I hope that more collections are forthcoming. After nearly a decade of terrorism scares, war, and economic decline, Americans once again need the unique perspectives of Shade, the Changing Man.

Copyright © 2010 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures RevolutionSF, King Kong Is Back!, Conversations With Texas Writers, Farscape Forever, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, and Steampunk. MonkeyBrain Books published the collection of his essays, reviews, and other things Klaw, Geek Confidential: Echoes From the 21st Century. He can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide