NIGHTSHADEMedium: Comic Books
Published by: Charlton Comics
First Appeared: 1966
Creators: Dave Kaler (writer) and Steve Ditko (artist)
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With Marvel and DC dominating the superhero resurgence of 1960s American comic books, publishers like Harvey, Archie and Dell could establish only a marginal industry presence in that genre. Charlton Comics made only a few sporadic attempts to sell superheroes, and only once, for
a brief period during the middle part of the decade, marketed a noticeable line of them. Nightshade (no relation) was a late entrant to that line, who lacked a title of her own, and its only female member.
Nightshade started out as a supporting character to Captain Atom, whose first incarnation preceded the "action hero" line by a few years. Her first appearance was in Captain Atom #82 (September, 1966), where she and Cap teamed up to fight a villain called The Ghost. It was written by Dave Kaler (who referred to her on the cover as the "darling of darkness") and drawn by Steve Ditko (The Hawk & the Dove), who had created the Captain Atom character.
Nightshade was apparently intended from the beginning to be a supporting character to Captain Atom. In counterpoint with his non-superhero name, which was Adam, she was Eve Eden, daughter of a U.S. senator. She was blonde, but wore a black wig as part of her disguise. No explanation was given for the fact that she could melt into shadows.
She wasn't in the next couple of issues, but did turn up again in #85 (March, 1967), as The Ghost returned, and the one after that, as he returned yet again. She and Cap even carried on a mild romance. In #87 (August, 1967), she broke out of her one-villain rut and began appearing in a series of her own in the back pages (replacing The Blue Beetle). There, she was written by Kaler and drawn by Jim Aparo (Batman & the Outsiders). Aparo continued to draw her until #89 (December. 1967), after which Charlton pulled the plug on the whole line, and she, like all of the company's superheroes, was out in the cold.
Years later, in the fanzine version of Charlton Bullseye, her super powers were explained. Her mother was Magda, an extra-dimensional alien who passed on her power to make herself two-dimensional, that is, transform herself into a living shadow. During the course of the story, Magda was killed and her brother captured. She promised to rescue him, but didn't as long as she remained even partly a Charlton character.
That situation continued through a couple more appearances in Bullseye, both in its fanzine form and as a comic book, and even a Charlton-licensed use by AC Comics (Femforce) in 1981. Soon afterward, Charlton sold its superhero properties to DC Comics, which used most of them in its mid '80s event/series, Crisis on Infinite Earths. DC also modified them for its series/graphic novel Watchmen. There, Nightshade, with a few elements taken from Phantom Lady, was the basis for the character Silk Spectre.
The DC version of Nightshade was a lot like her former Charlton self, except she wasn't merely an ordinary expatriate of her alien dimension, but a royal refugee. Her mother, renamed Maureen, had been Queen of The Land of Nightshades until fleeing with her two infant children from the alien usurper Incubus. On a trip back to show the kids their heritage, she was killed by Incubus, who also captured Eve's brother, now dubbed Larry.
As a DC character, she'd gotten involved with The Suicide Squad, which generally functioned as a work-release program for super villains. Trying to rescue Larry, the Squad found him dead, and his body possessed by Incubus. This also brought her into conflict with The Enchantress, a mostly good-guy magic wielder, whose inherent mental instability was exacerbated by conditions in The Land of Nightshades.
Nightshade continued to work for the U.S. government, which brought her into contact with Sarge Steel, also a former Charlton character. She was thrown in with even more in 1999, when she became involved with L.A.W., which stands for "Living Assault Weapons". There, she was teamed with The Peacemaker, The Question, and others who either started at Charlton or were based on those that did.
The group is currently defunct, but that should prove a small enough obstacle to anyone trying to market it or Nightshade.