Shade the Changing Man
32 years ago - Rac Shade is born on Meta, an extra-dimensional planet.
12 years ago - 20-year-old Rac becomes an agent of the Mentan Service.
9 years ago - 23-year-old Rac battles the Daemonites when they invade his planet. They fail, and his is imprisoned in an extra-dimensional torture chamber, the "Area of Madness"
6 years ago - 26-year-old Rac escapes the "Area of Madness" by taking control if it's energy, abandoning his Mentan body. His consciousness supplants that of Troy Grezer, a soon-to-be executed mass murderer on Earth. He escapes, and takes refuge with Kathy George.
5 years ago - 27-year-old Rac's body is killed by Whizor, his former commander and an agent of the Daemonites. His consciousness moves into the body of an unknown woman and recent murder victim. He is unable to access his shape-changing powers until he solves her murder.
4 years ago - 28-year-old Rac recovers his powers, and finds Kathy George, who is now in a relationship. He comes to reside in the Hotel Shade, a crux of Madness energy.
3 years ago - 29-year-old Rac agrees to join Vera Black's new Elite, although he is notably not a combatant.
During the early eighties the existence of vertigo comics in DC brought about a small revolution. Several characters the various corners of the DC universe, characters that had long languished in obscurity, were being dragged out and given to a motley crew of British writers. These were writers that had cut their teeth in the lush creative environment of British serials like 2000 AD, and as each of them was handed a character no one cared about they each crafted small masterpieces. Alan Moore created one of the greatest comic legacies of all time in Swamp Thing. Grant Morrison wrote himself into the pages of Animal Man. Neil Gaiman continued to write the single greatest ongoing comic series that's ever been written in Sandman. it was in this environment that Peter Milligan took the reigns of an obscure Steve Ditko creation, reshaping him into a complete departure from his original concept, and building a character so bizarre that incorporating him into the DC Universe proper is almost an utter impossibility.
Originally, Shade the Changing Man was a story of extra-dimensional aliens fighting each other. You could make an argument that he owed some elements of his design to the old Gold Key Comics character Magnus Robot Fighter, who would later become part of the Valiant universe. The story involved an alien warrior that was on the run after being accused of a crime. He wore an "M-Vest", some sort of alien weapon that let him warp his body. This version of the character joined the rest of DC during the Crisis of Infinite Earths, and spent a brief while as a member of the Suicide Squad.
Milligan's design was such a departure from the original concept he was unrecognizable. He was still an alien fugitive, but the story was a deliberately bizarre and human story, a journey across America from the perspective of a British writer. It used the idea of his constantly shifting persona to explore ideas about identity and gender, and about the nature of relationships. The series lived in a space that thrived on madness and oddity, with no attempt made to resolve the questions it raised. While many of the characters in the pages of Vertigo at least still felt like a hero of sorts, Shade's arcs were entirely just about weirdness. He even appeared as a Constantine villain at one point, so completely caught up in his own madness that he actually posed a threat to the world.
This version of the character was reworked a few times to appear within DC proper, briefly serving as member of the magic-based team Justice League Dark, although his abilities really have nothing to do with magic. He also appeared in a single DC Direct short, one that did a far better job of representing the character by suggesting that he is aware of a level of reality rooted in madness, and uses his own abilities as a sort of dream-traveler within this altered reality. This is a really great character, but to simply transpose him into our timeline doesn't serve anything. He would simply be an oddity functioning outside the overarching plot, uninvolved and unrelated to anything or anyone. What he needs, then, is some sort of PURPOSE larger than himself.
If we're going to make any changes to the character, they need to SUPPORT his concept. he needs to remain the bizarre shape-shifting avatar of madness. But what does that MEAN. What is he manipulating? What IS he? We found that, once we tried to incorporate him into our Wildstorm team the Elite, a lot of the needs of the character were immediately fulfilled.
The Elite's enemies, the Daemonites, are extra-dimensional invaders, and they could easily have invaded his extra-dimensional home of Mentan. If we conceive of his "Area of Madness" as a Daemonite torture device, then it gives structure to his story. It givewa him something to manipulate that explains exactly what is empowering him; an alien energy, something tapped directly into the idea of madness. He is an alien consciousness within a human body, twisting and warping reality, perceiving it through the minds of others.
My personal favorite part of this version of the character is the idea of him being on a team of superheroes as a non-combatant. The Elite are battling an extra-dimensional alien force, something that isn't always perceivable to other humans. Having a member of the team that can move through that twisted, warped world is absolutely fascinating, and is a GREAT use of a fascinating character that needed a great role to play in the world.