The Darling of Darkness, the Deadly Nightshade is the only female member of the Charlton Action Heroes line-up. She never had her own self-titled comic book like Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Judomaster, Thunderbolt or even Peacemaker, but she was in many ways a central figure in making various disparate elements of the Charlton Universe cohere. I'll explain in a moment.
Nightshade is on my mind because of the news that soon Canton Press will be releasing a trade edition gathering up all of her Charlton Comics adventures from the pages of Captain Atom. Looking forward to adding this rare Action Hero reprint volume to the collection.
Nightshade debuted in Captain Atom #82 plotted and written by her co-creators Dave Kaler and Steve Ditko, and of course drawn by Ditko with inks by Rocke Mastroserio.
She is a government agent, soon revealed to be the beautiful Eve Eden, the daughter of a United States Senator and a part of the Washington, DC jet set community which serves as a convenient cover for her espionage work for the U.S. government.
She is partnered with Captain Atom as they try to stop the super-spy The Ghost. Captain Atom is of course Captain Adam and since Nightshade is Eve Eden we get "Adam and Eve" no less as our light and dark partners in crimefighting.
Some issues later in Captain Atom #85 in another story by Kaler, Ditko and Mastroserio, she is again teamed up with the good Captain, this time with a slight costume alteration that allowed her beautiful hair to flow freely as they duo battle the super-villainous team of Punch and Jewelee.
Formerly Nightshade had been merely an adept hand-to-hand fighter but in this appearance it is shown that she has the uncanny ability to transform into a shadow.
The battle against The Ghost continues into Captain Atom #86 and again Cap and Nightshade take on the elusive criminal.
Nightshade gets a focus as she uses some new tools, specifically Ebony Bombs to battle the slippery spy.
And that's that until Captain Atom #87 when after the departure of Steve Ditko's Blue Beetle, Nightshade takes up residence as the back-up feature. Written by her creator Dave Kaler, the series enjoys the considerable artistic talent of the great Jim Aparo, who brings a whole new level of grace and power to Nightshade's adventures.
In the opening two-part adventure which continues into Captain Atom #88, she battles The Image, a foreign agent who can use mirrors to travel instantly from place to place.
His ability seems to have some connection to the very origin of Nightshade and her own weird talent for becoming a shadow. But the origin will have to wait.
We finally get the answer in her final Charlton appearance in Captain Atom #89, the final issue of the run.
We learn that Eve and her brother were the hybrid progeny of their human father and an otherworldly mother from another dimension, a dimension of shades and shadows.
We further learn that Eve has gotten her training from a familiar face, Tiger from the pages of Judomaster. This series set in the then modern day was some decades after World War II, so Tiger is an adult now, but this bit of connection does a great deal to suggest that the sometimes disparate storylines of the Action Heroes all take place in a single universe.
Of course that universe, named Earth-4 when it makes its official DC appearance during the Crisis on Infinite Earths is clearly a world in which the heroes all mingle, but when little Charlton tried to do it, it was a whisper of what that superhero universe might have become had they found more marketplace success.
And I hope the Nightshade trade finds a market. I know I want a copy and will take all necessary steps to gather up one. So should you.