Mattel seems increasingly determined to produce a wide range of characters for the JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED line despite the fact that the show has been off the air for over a year. The concept is still popular, certainly, and so are the characters. And with the line becoming seemingly increasingly collector oriented, and with Mattel securing an increased "master" license to DC Comics characters, we can look forward to animated-style action figures of some very obscure DC Comics characters that otherwise probably wouldn't've stood a lot of chance of ever being made as action figures.
Certainly one of these obscure characters, despite several appearances in the animated series, would be THE SHADE. Reportedly he's a fairly scarce figure, and based on my own observations, I haven't seen him all that often.
The character within the DC Universe dates all the way back to the Golden Age, making him one of the older characters to appear in the animated series. Based on the Unofficial Guide to the DC Universe, his background is as follows: English by birth, the Shade finds himself most at home in Opal City, a place he has come to love dearly. Over a century ago, he and a dwarf called Culp experienced something which gave them command of a mysterious shadow-substance and made them immortal. Using these abilities for mercenary purposes, the two of them often clashed across the globe for many years, until finally Culp disappeared. The Shade made a name for himself, of a sort, as a costumed villain, fighting the masked mystery men of America for no reason other than for sport. In recent years, however, he has mellowed and reformed, tending to use his powers in protection of Opal City and could even be regarded as a hero of sorts, having formed friendships with a number of super-people, not least Starman Jack Knight. He has also had a final confrontation with Culp, who had been hiding within his own body for decades.
The Shade's first appearance dates all the way back to 1942, in Flash Comics #33.
The character has not had a sufficiently extensive presence in the animated series to get into his comics background with the dwarf named Culp or the Jack Knight Starman or anything, but the character certainly has displayed the shadow-like powers. He's been involved in at least one incarnation of Luthor's attempted gatherings of super-villains, although he has been shown at times to be moderately reluctant to act in a truly evil fashion. Perhaps some measure of the near-heroism of his comics counterpart exists in the animated version.
The figure, a superb likeness of the character, is interesting both for the starkness of its coloration, and for certain design elements incorporated into the figure that go beyond the usual "muscle body" that is used for most male Justice League figures.
The Shade definitely lives up to his name in that he is almost entirely black, except for his face, which is a pale white color. Not an especially heroic visgae The Shade's face has a pronounced downturned nose and long, narrow chin. The Shade's eyes are concealed by apparent sunglasses. The sides and back of the head are hidden by a black skin-tight hood that merges with the complete black of the rest of the uniform, and the figure is wearing a black top hat.
As for the body, the torso of the "muscle body" has a black tunic placed over it. The tunic is not removable. This is, of course, in keeping with the appearance of the character.
One slight fault with the figure is that the lower legs and feet are rather drastically pointed upwards. This is a problem that has occurred on some Justice League figures in the past, although to be honest I haven't encountered it recently, and was sincerely surprised to encounter it again. The end result, since the figures do not generally have knee-joints (except for certain versions of the "main seven" characters) is that it is very difficult to get them to stand up. Fortunately, in a way, I have been told that since the figure is molded from slightly flexible plastic, it is possible to place a figure with this particular problem into boiling water, and soften the plastic enough so that it can carefully be realigned to a more proper stance. I've never tried this myself, but I have heard it mentioned enough times from multiple sources to give it a reasonable recommendation.
The Shade comes with a small accessory, a short, elegant staff or walking stick, black with a silver sphere at the top, giving the overall package of figure and accessory a little additional hint of color. Unfortunately, the figure is unable to hold the staff given the shape and positioning of his hands, but I suspect it would be easy enough to use a small bit of modeling putty for The Shade to hold this accessory in his left hand, which is slightly open.
On the whole, this is a fairly cool figure. He has a rather distinct appearance just because of the lack of color. He's not as well known as some characters, but he does have several recorded appearances in the Justice League animated series, and he's an obscure enough character so that this will probably be the only action figure of him ever to be produced.
From that standpoint, and just as a cool addition to the Justice League Unlimited line of action figures that I sincerely hope continues for a good ling time to come, THE SHADE gets my definite enthusiastic recommendation!