Shade the Changing Girl v. 1: On sidequels and writing the teenage alien.
This week (and next due to the nature of different release dates for the direct market and the book market) marks the release of the first collection of SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL v.1: Earth Girl Made Easy, which compiles issues 1-6 (previously). It’s a heavy load to recreate a character that giants before you have written. Steve Ditko is a master of the strange. His mind a merry-go-round of experimentation.
He pushed the envelope with the characters he worked on and that he created. Peter Milligan (along with Bachalo) created a cult character in their Rac Shade, one that true outliers and weird cool kids flocked to by seeing something otherworldly in the madness that he brought to the story of a man who fell to Earth. Rac Shade comments on the state of the world and of his time, while dealing with the tricky task of having human heart.
The original Shade the Changing Man lasted only 8 issues. Created by Steve Ditko, it came out in 1977 and is a strange and absurdly beautiful comic. What I love about it, besides its madness, is that at its core it is a love story. A really messed up one. A star crossed one. A story of Rac Shade and his fiancée Mellu Loran who have to deal with some pretty epic shit. Add on top of that, strange worlds, political machinations, madness and stolen M-Vest, trips to Earth, and a madness area. In 1990, Peter Milligan along with Chris Bachalo rebooted Shade the Changing Man. In his version there is a red headed poet who wears a madness coat to address a growing tsunami of madness on Earth, possesses the body of a serial killer and the 70 issue run grew to become a deep examination of madness, cruelty, politics, humanity and of course love. Rac Shade, the red headed poet, deals with his heart and his loves Kathy and Lenny. It was a book that was daring and provocative.
For me, creating Shade the Changing Girl under the amazing Gerarad Way’s Young Animal imprint, has been pure joy. The premise of Shade, the Changing Girl is simple. Now Shade is a bored and restless 20-something Avian (a bird-like creature) obsessed with Earth and its poetry and the promise of feelings. When she discovers the titular character Rac Shade, hero of the previous two incarnations, she knows that Earth is the place for her. This bird, obsessed with an I Love Lucy-like TV show called Life With Honey, steals the madness coat that Rac Shade wore and rides the stream all the way to Earth where she possess the body of a 16-year old bully named Megan Boyer.
Thus, Shade the character is changed.
Loma Shade, as her own unique character, was a way of being steeped in the world of Shade the Changing Man, while being its own thing. Some people say that Shade the Changing Girl seems to be a direct sequel of the Milligan run. I say not so. I’ve always approached it as a kind of side-quel. I wanted to take care to have nods and echoes to them both, but to be able to stand narratively on its own. It was a way of striking out in a new direction while plucking elements from the Ditko original and the Milligan run.
Our Shade the Changing Girl is a way of changing the changing.
The body of a teenage girl was a great place to start that change. The body of bully was the way to take it to the next level. The idea of a real alien, who moves like a bird in human form was the best way to express it. Add in Marley Zarcone’s wongld. They are blooming and bursting with feelings and big body changes. They are confident and awkward. They are experimenting with identity. They are constantly changing.
When we are teenagers, we are figuring out how to become who we are. To throw down and figure out what it really means to be human and to break free from our parents and to think for our selves. This is why I love writing Shade, because as an alien, she mirrors our own growth in this world. She can see the quotidian with eyes that we can’t see the world with. She has to figure out how to transform herself from who she was to who she isn’t. And through her we dive deep into her attempts to discover the meaning of humanity. Loma Shade is changed profoundly by being this mean girl and having to navigate the fall out of living in Megan’s body and in her world.
So who is Shade the Changing Girl? In a way, I think she is all of us exploring and living through this time. Being chased by our own demons. Flocking together with others who are kindred beacons of light in a vast darkness. Fighting like hell to be as human as we can in a world gone mad.
I love writing Shade the Changing Girl working with Marley Zarcone and Kelly Fitzpatrick and the rest of Team Shade. We hope you love reading our book.
SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL v.1: Earth Girl Made Easy [Cecil Castellucci/DC Vertigo Young Animal]
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