Nightshade battles crime even after the perps have made their getaway.


Medium: Comic Books
Published by: Centaur Publications
First Appeared: 1941
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Superheroes of the 1940s had some of the darnedest super powers. The Comet could kill people just by looking at them. The Thin Man could make himself so flat he'd slip under doors. The Spider Widow could make arachnids do her bidding. And it wasn't just the minor, no-account heroes who could do oddball things — The Human Torch could burst …

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… into flame at will, which seems less than thoroughly outre only because comic book readers are used to it.. And here's a guy who could make his shadow as solid as his hand, and use it to manipulate things at a distance.

Howard Hall was a "Wealthy young scientist who has learned the mystic secrets of the East," to quote the first caption in his first story. In less than a sentence, that covered most of the bases of superhero origins — science, wealth and the secrets of the Mysterious East. The only thing missing was the cop who felt hampered in his day job by having to obey the law.

Anyway, he'd figured out a way to "give his shadow material qualities" and used the ability to become a "scourge of the underworld". It's all right there in the first caption, which also mentioned he wears a white tux (just like The Wizard did at first), and conceals his identity with dark glasses. It said all this, then added a couple of lines praising the shadow (including the fact that he could even speak or listen through it), in Amazing-Man Comics #24 (October, 1941), published by Centaur Publications (The Masked Marvel), Neither the writer nor the artist is known.

What wasn't mentioned in the caption was that he wore a special flashlight, attached to his leg, for purposes of casting long shadows when he found such things useful. But readers saw it in action on the same page.

The back pages of Amazing-Man were undergoing a wholesale revision about then. Gone were The Iron Skull and The Shark; and in their place were The King of Darkness and The Blue Lady. But the title was nearing the end of its run anyway. After #26, it ended, and after three adventures each, the heroes recently added to its back pages went straight to oblivion.

In later years, DC Comics had a villain of that name; and later yet, Charlton had a superhero named Nightshade. But this Nightshade was never revived.

Even in 1992, when Malibu Comics (The Trouble with Girls) decided to make itself a superhero universe by appropriating the old Centaur characters, such as The Arrow and Fantoman, which were in the public domain by that time — Nightshade wasn't there.


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Text ©2009 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Centaur Comics