The Comicon Advent Calendar 2022: Day 23 – It Sees You When You’re Sleeping…
by Richard Bruton
Closer and closer it comes, the unstoppable juggernaut that is Christmas. We’re almost there, so here’s the penultimate entry in The Comicon Advent 2022, a delightfully strange bit of Shade The Changing Man from 1991…
This one comes from the Peter Milligan-helmed run on Shade, the Changing Man that lasted 70 issues from 1990-1996, a very, very different thing than the original created by Steve Ditko.
I’ll not go too far into it, because it’s a dense, complex, involving read that deserves more praise and recognition than it gets when we’re talking about the seminal series of the dawn of Vertigo. And it’s definitely one I can only recommend you go out and get hold of.
Anyway, it’s all about Rac Shade, an alien originally from the planet Meta who’s now stuck in the body of Troy Grenzer, a convicted serial killer. It’s an American road-trip of sorts, with Milligan and various artists, most often the incredibly talented Chris Bachalo, detailing some American cultural analysis through a rather twisted lens. And along for the ride is Kathy George, a girl whose parents were killed by Grenzer. Yes, complicated.
So, it’s Christmas 1991 and Shade’s just spent his first Christmas on Earth. He’s lonely, he’s miserable, and he’s in a shitty bar writing a letter to Kathy, writing about what he’s been through…
“I’ve just experienced my first Earth Christmas.
It was a little strange.
I met a man who was looking for the new messiah.”
(well, I suppose he did at least pick the right time of year.)
Shade had met him, Dave, suitably enough, in Bethlehem, Kansas on Christmas Eve, where he’d told Shade about the studies (astrological charts, I Ching, Book of Revelations, Nostradamus, the Gnostics, Bob Dylan’s lyrics, Max Ernst’s paintings,) and they’ve all pointed him to this time and this place because, “Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, the new Messiah shall reveal himself.”
Of course, booze, madness, the general malaise of the season, it all gets a little too much for Shade and we get Milligan and Bachelo’s version of the virgin birth… as “a Santa Claus of hideous aspect.” Oh, you have to love the madness of Shade…
After this, well the bloke looking for the new Messiah could probably be forgiven for thinking he’s found him…
Anyhow, Dave and Shade head off hunting down the Santa thing, with Shade miserably, drunkenly musing on why the whole place is so shite that it damn well needs a messiah. Eventually Dave manages to get on Shade’s nerves so much that he just tells him he is the Messiah just to get him shut up.
At which point Shade gets pistol whipped and wakes up to this…
Sure, he was truthful when he said he was looking for a new Messiah, he just never mentioned what he was planning to do when he found him or her.
It’s Dave reacting against Christmas in all its forms, how it excludes everyone, all that bigotry and hatred through the years in the name of whatever Gods people believe in. But he’s reacting in style, planning a murder spree around Bethlehem, but not before killing Shade in an impromptu gas chamber… or at least that’s the plan.
But, as you’ll see below, the plan doesn’t account for Shade. Queue Christmas madness and seasonal violence, a town saved, and Shade musing on just what the hell any real Messiah would have to put up with if they did decide to turn up for the Second Coming.
So, with that madness reverberating in your head, keep yourselves at least a little bit sane this season. I know it’s stressful, it’s frustrating, it’s a nightmare at times. But let’s try to do our best to be as nice as we possibly can be, eh?