In keeping with the tormented spirit of the spooky season, psychiatrist our weekly exhibition of the unloved shall once again assume a creepy countenance for the month of October.
We begin our fiendish festival of the forgotten with Squire Shade…
…the spectral sad sack who haunted the host segments of DC’s Ghosts from issue #104 (September1981) through the cancellation of the series eight issues later.
Unlike its sibling titles in DC’s horror anthology stable, Ghosts was quite specific in its focus and dealt exclusively in tales involving hauntings, appartions, or some other manifestion of the ethereal undead. As the product of a bullshit-haunted era, the series attempted to plead the veracity of its turgid tales of terror by eschewing the traditional leering horror host device in favor of testimonials by manufactured Men of Science.
Who better to offer an expert opinion on reports of a spectral locomotive, after all, than a general practicioner of internal medicine at a community health center?
As the curtain came down on DC’s line of Bronze Age horror anthology offerings, however, it was somehow decided that Ghosts needed its own answer to Cain, Able, and the Three Witches. Thus Squire Shade entered the scene, though it was pretty clear that his ectoplasmic heart really wasn’t into the gig.
Despite similarities in name to the immortal, shadowcasting gadabout who menaced the Golden Age Flash and swapped anecdotes with 1990s incarnation of Starman, the Squire had more in common with Gentleman Ghost…if the old school Hawkman nemesis was a depressing bookworm instead of a murderous spectre.
Where other funnybook horror hosts brought a pun-packed level of ghoulish glee to their MC duties, Squire Shade went about his task with all the ghostly gusto of a haint fulfilling a spiritual community service obligation. When he wasn’t providing unenthusiastic intros for so-so stories, the Squire recounted fragments of his former life as an avid chaser of Victoria Era tail.
In short, he was a spirit who clearly conveyed that he’d rather be anywhere else than killing time in the dying days of a mediocre horror comic. As fate would have it, the Squire soon got his wish. The cancellation of Ghosts granted the cursed spirit the peace he so desperately craved, a long slumber undisturbed even by the continuity conjurings of Moore and Gaiman.
‘Tis a cruel turn for a man to be cursed to roam the world as a ghost, crueler still for the gig to involve selling the merits of mediocre muck cribbed from M.R. James, old E.C. tales, or the Weekly World News to an apathetic audience.
For those damned souls, true death can only be a blessing, which is why I supect the forgotten phantom known as Squire Shade is content to slumber eternal in the vault of No Body’s Favorites.
Recommended listening: Ghost Dance – Where Spirits Fly (from Gathering Dust, 1988)[audio:131007sf.mp3]
The eventual destination is never in question, so make sure to enjoy the ride.