Who’s Who Presents – Who’s That? #9: Nightshade

For the ninth episode of WHO'S THAT?, Shag and guest Paul Kien (from BATMAN FAMILY REUNION) take a look at DC's darling of darkness, NIGHTSHADE! We discuss Nightshade's WHO'S WHO entries, her origins, solo strips in Captain Atom #87-88 from Charlton Comics, plus her time with Shadowpact! Finally we debate Nightshade's various costumes over the years!

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22 responses to “Who’s Who Presents – Who’s That? #9: Nightshade

  1. A big fan of Nightshade. Incredible story about the writer! And Aparo on her solo stories! Insane!

    Thanks for putting in some of those pages from that backup strip. Crazy to see how much of that made it into the Who’s Who page.

    I am all in on the first costume. That half cowl with the hair out in a pony tail. The itty bitty pleated skirt. The orange highlights. Perfect.

    Never seen the Benes one. It is the most Benes thing I have seen.

    And you’re right that the Shadowpact power level is almost too insane. I like her better as shadowy stealthy sultry spy.

  2. ya know I dont blame anybody for forgetting the Silk spectre’s link to nightshade. We happy few know that Cuz we’ve “watchmen was based on charton (since we were 13) but my neices would think she was based on Black canary.

  3. Nightshade is a good character to highlight; in my case, I’m entirely unfamiliar with all of her DC appearances, so it was interesting to hear about how she was used over the years, and also examine a few of the different costume variations on the gallery page.
    Personally, I’ve only read a few of her Charlton appearances – including the one on your gallery page. (That and a few other Charlton Nightshade stories can still be found posted on the Diversions of the Groovy Kind blog). Besides the fact that it contains lovely early art by Jim Aparo, I also liked something that you mentioned in the show, i.e., the monochrome color scheme for the panels in the flashback sequences. Also, I’ve always found it remarkable, or perhaps suspicious, how much the Image’s symbol looks like the logo for Image comics.
    Anyway, based on that limited knowledge of Nightshade, I’d say I agree that that the character should have been maintained as she was there, i.e., not too powerful and kind of a superspy – a sort of Black Widow with an other-dimensional twist.

      1. By the way great episode (forgot to mention). Can’t wait until you get to Batman Family 13 with the Outsider, that was my first ever comic book and I was hooked from there! It was a head trip for a 7 year old!

  4. When I first saw Nightshade in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths, I assumed so he was a female counterpart to Blue Beetle. I think it might have been the goggles.
    Love this show. It brings me back to the days when I first flipped through the pages of Who’s Who and did indeed quite often say “Who’s that?” Of course back then it was a lot harder to do the research into the characters and where they appeared. Now… I have you folks to do that work for me! Thanks for your hard work and dedication.

  5. Great episode guys! I’ve always thought Nightshade looked cool. I love her original look. She’s got those Ditko goggles, like Spidey, Blue Beetle, etc. Other looks…meh. I think I like the McGuiness one the best of the others, but the original wins by miles and miles.

    I’ve always been a bit curious about that L.A.W. mini-series. It was one of Dick Giordano’s last big comic projects. That alone makes it worth my time, but I’m a bit scared now.

    I knew of David Kaler, but only due to histories of Charlton and early comic fandom I’ve read. He does seem to be the “missing” figure in some ways. I liked the Triumph analogy! Hopefully if he ever resurfaces, the remaining founders of comic fandom aren’t forced to freeze him and put him on display in Roy Thomas’ house.

  6. Great episode! Thanks for picking Nightshade, Paul.

    The name Nightshade has extra special meaning to me. Back in the late 80s, I adopted “Nightshade” as my BBS handle. Used that handle for *years*. I was using that handle when the Flash TV show had an episode with Nightshade in it. Which lead to the BBS I set up being named “Central City BBS.” Fun times, the early 90s, lol.

  7. Great episode, and a very interesting character to cover. My own origin story with Nightshade is Captain Atom #85 which I read when I was a kid, and the issue is long gone now. I’m quite sure it was not an original copy, so I’m thinking it was a reprint in a Whitman 3-pack. Maybe other listeners can confirm that this was a thing? I know I read other Charlton comics in the early 70s, so I have to think reprints. Is that possible?

    Boy, that issue was a trip and honestly, it paid off much later in my comic reading since it had Cap of course, Nightshade, Punch and Jewelee, AND a Blue Beetle backup story! So the seeds of being a BB fan were started early.

    Thanks for reminding about public domain options, Paul. I’m going to have to revisit all of these issues when I can. And Shadowpact. I was scaling back all of my comic buying when it came out, so I couldn’t pick it up back then. So yet another thing on my DCU Infinite “to read” list. At this rate, I’ll be done by …. carry the 3 … gosh, I hope I’ll still have my teeth.

    Count me as another Suicide Squad fan, but like you Shagg, it was JLI that started me on reading it regularly. Always enjoyed her in that series.

    Original costume all the way, closely followed by the second one. Of course, Nightshade can look great in anything.

    Now, completionist me has to mention that 3 alternate versions of Nightshade appeared in another DC mini-series. Countdown: Arena, a tie-in to Countdown to Final Crisis. And that’s all I’ll say about that, as I feel dirty just thinking about that series. Ew.

    Thanks for the great episode, guys!

      1. A “OH MY GOD THE GATES OF HELL ARE OPEN some deamon with six vowels in his name is gonna destroy the universe this is gonna be DARK
        B wait monkey in a hat! Thats not grim!
        C dear sweet lord that’s dectecive chimp! This is a joke you need a phd in DC HISTORY to figure out why it’s funny and once you figure out why it’s funny it’s NOT very!
        iN other words “Dectecive chimp as badass took me WAY out of the story

  8. Great review of Nightshade! I didn’t realize how much history and depth there was there, and the glimpse into Kaler and the fandom of 60 years ago was fascinating. I was struck by one of the lines in the Newsday article: “Bill Finger, a stripwriter who helped Bob Kane create Batman…”. Wow, there it was in widely circulated print in 1963, only 24 years after it happened.

  9. Thanks for a truly great episode. I’d never heard of Nighty before Crisis on Infinite Earths, but followed her story from Suicide Squad on. Shadowpactvwas such a fun series.

    It’s weird that Nighty has had so many costumes and after the original they’ve all been utter pants. They should have struck with the mini-skirt version.

    Paul isn’t wrong about LAW and Eve, I read the first issue today, with Fate… just awful

    I see your point, Shag, about the Nightshade Odyssey focus shifting from Nighty to Shade the Changing Man – maybe DC should have had a letterer design a story arc title treatment along the lines of ‘Night/Shade Odyssey’… that would have paid off when Shade showed up as a surprise.

  10. I only had a few Charlton back issues pre-DC purchase, and Nightshade made no appearances, excluded as she was from the oft-noted “Action-Heroes? We Got Em!!!” house ad. She was in a panel or so of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, and while I got a kick out of recognizing the other Charlton heroes, she could have been Spiderwoman for all I knew. No, I first became aware of Nightshade in Suicide Squad, where she was the very ’80s new wave heroin chic heroine chick, defined almost solely by the cool goth Angelyne visuals. John Ostrander never seemed to know what to do with her, like a wicked looking action figure that you bought, but never really incorporated into your play time with the established favorites. I’ve seen her in crowd scenes in dozens of books, but she’s never really had a breakout moment. She’s the only major Charlton heroine, she had a solo strip in a time that was very rare, she inspired the creation of a character from one of the very top rated comic stories of all time, and she’s got ties all over DC comics… but she’s rarely anybody’s tenth pick for a super team that isn’t associated with Charlton/Watchmen. She’s like Linda Perry– a exceptionally talented artist overshadowed by bigger acts that she’s affiliated with and only remember by most as a one-hit wonder from that one period group.

    I own the two Action Heroes Archives, but I didn’t get further than a half-dozen or so Captain Atom strips from before Nightshade’s debut before getting sidetracked. As noted, her solo stories aren’t actually in any of those volumes, and through some quirk of copyright, my understanding is that those stories somehow entered the public domain. A number of years ago, one of those tiny outfits that do overpriced color (mostly) Golden Age reproductions solicited a Nightshade collection. I remember because I ordered it, but to my knowledge it was never actually produced, likely kiboshed by a spurious yet toothsome cease & desist from DC. One of those Uncensored Mouse deals, where it’s technically legal, but a corporation with deep pockets can insure it won’t happen regardless. I think I might have read a strip on one of those under the radar public domain representing blogs, but I have no strong recollection, and I tend to just think of that swell Jim Aparo art.

    I see a lot of value in Nightshade, and I would definitely play with her if I were a DC writer. One of my never to be realized aspirations was to just let the Charlton Action Heroes remain ’60s period characters in a sliding DC timeline that lets lesser lights remain in that the era they were best suited for. Instead of making up increasingly contrived excuses for why there were no super-heroes for decades after the JSA until whenever Superman debuts in 2011 or whatever, just be like “oh yeah, Captain Atom was the big gun in 1966, but obviously he was no Man of Steel.” The skirt look was the most original and distinctive, especially the pleated version from Cindy Martin’s Who’s Who entry, but it would be a reach to call it contemporary in 1966. Charlton was a very conservative line, so it would make sense for Nightshade to be an establishment type still dressing about a decade behind the times. That said, the purple & black is the baddest look, and while very much of its time, is also the most timeless. Trying to wear the ’60s suit today is nostalgic cosplay, like a Captain America tour chorus girl, while the ’80s suit is more like a vintage choice. The L.A.W. zebra suit looks like Silver Banshee left an ink pen in her pocket while doing laundry. The early ’00s revival suit is way too basic, especially that lame pointy domino mask. She looks like a member of the Mutant Liberation Front, not a dark horse contender. The Shadowpact suit is just bad. What the hell is that? It billows like a sun dress but looks thick like a tunic. If you’re going summer casual, you need some color, not a BDSM collar and vinyl gloves. Is she hot or cold, because she’s dressing for both simultaneously? Kinderwhore, Riot Grrl, and industrial goth style? You’re all, over the road lady– pick a lane! The actual worst though is New 52 Hill Country Farm generic Ultimates gear. That’s not a statement, it’s a settlement.

    The coolest thing about Nightshade is that she’s a relatively grounded secret agent type with a hint of high fantasy/mysticism. That’s a very unique combination. The charm is in the genre incongruity, like horror-comedy, spy-fi, or weird western. She’s a Monte Cristo Sandwich or Chicken and Waffles, not a beaver tail. Making her the Jean Grey of a supernatural team is incredibly boring, like mixing jelly with pancake syrup. There’s no contrast, no compliment– just a repellent, excessive sameness. Literary Vegemite.


    Tim, you probably had one of the ’70s Modern Comics reprints. They’re even more common than Marvel’s ’70s reprint books relative to the first printings, and probably most of my Charlton issues are mixed with Moderns.

    David Kaler is the Pete Best of O.G. letterhacks turned pros. Jerry Bails had even less of a footprint in published comic stories, but was a much bigger presence in period fandom, more closely associated with all time fanboy-made-good Roy Thomas.

    Edo, the Image Comics logo was stolen whole by Rob Liefeld from a California pool cleaning/chlorine company, with the specific “i” design hardly unique, so any similarity to the Charlton villain is likely coincidental.

    Chris, The L(iving).A(ssault).Weapons). is a waste of time. Written and penciled by Bob Layton with inks by Dick Giordano, where the art credits should have been reversed and another scripter/co-plotter much needed. The result looked more like late career Frank McLaughlin on full art chores. Put simply, neither creator cared to deal with the super-powered characters, so they contrive to sideline Nightshade and Captain Atom for most of the arc. They also offer several limp character redesigns that mostly don’t survive the series. It was clear that they’d have rather been doing a Sarge Steel noir mini-series, but instead they had to begrudgingly advance a plot about aged sidekick Tiger doing a heel turn into a cosmic megalomaniac for a JLA-adjacent paycheck. Less Lethal Weapon 4, more Gone Fishin’.

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