Shado

Publisher: DC Comics
First Appearance: Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters #1 (August 1987)
Created By: Mike Grell

Biography:

Shado’s father was a Yakuza operative who traveled to America to set up Yakuza operations there. However, he was placed in an internment camp during Word War II, where several of the soldiers came to suspect him of having a hidden agenda. After the war, they tracked him down, killed his wife, and made him give up the location of the money. He committed seppuku, and the burden of his disgrace fell upon his infant daughter, Shado, who was trained by the Yakuza as the perfect archer – and perfect assassin.

As an adult, Shado tracked down the soldiers who had tortured her father and started picking them off. When Green Arrow tried to stop her – because, you know, murder – she basically kicked his butt. However, she also helped him kill the men who were torturing his lover Black Canary, saving both of their lives in the process.

Back in Japan, Shado was instructed to cut off her thumb as penance for allowing Ollie to kill one of her targets. Instead, she fled to America. When Ollie tracked her down, she shot him in the chest, but then nursed him back to health. While he was still delirious and recuperating, she raped him and conceived a son, Robert. She forbade Ollie to take a role in Robert’s life, but enlisted Ollie’s help when Robert was kidnapped.

Years later, Shado resurfaced at an archery tournament, where she totally made out with Connor Hawke, Ollie’s other son. Groooooss. Then she had Connor shot as part of a convoluted plan to save her own son. (This is about the point where I – along with everyone else – stopped reading Green Arrow.)

So What’s So Great About Her?

Let’s face it: Shado’s a problematic character on a number of levels. She’s so unsubtly a stereotypical Dragon Lady that she actually has a giant dragon tattoo. (And all of her plot lines are titled things like “Song of the Dragon” and “The Black Dragon Saga.” And most of her cover appearances have her posed looking over her left shoulder, so as to better show off the dragon tattoo. And also: dragons.) Even beyond the Dragon Lady aspect, she has a lot of the trademarks of Asian comic book stereotypes: Speaking in wise and faux-zen tones of the tao of archery and being the bow or whatever. An obsession with honor. A backstory that involves both the Yakuza and a noble sensei. Come on already, Grell.

In recent years she’s been the victim of bad writing, what with the semi-incestuous makeouts and the out-of-character Machiavellian schemes and the hey hey. And at the end of the day, she is an admitted rapist, even if recent writers like to misinterpret that as sexy, sexy cheating on Dinah (note to writers: it’s not).

And yet when written well, Shado is a compelling character. In her first storyline, we meet a woman who has lived her whole life as a tool for someone else’s vengeance – and who makes her first choice for herself when she decides to let Ollie’s vengeance take precedence, knowing full well that she will be penalized for that choice. She’s doing what she believes is a kindness, though deliberately taking a life sets Ollie on a path of self-destruction that eventually ends in his death. It’s a complicated, deeply flawed choice from a complicated, deeply flawed woman.

In a later appearance, she shoots Ollie in the chest. She claims she mistook him for an attacker and that it’s only luck that he wasn’t killed; Ollie maintains that she is too good of an archer – you know, the greatest archer in the world – to have missed. Either way, she cares for him until he’s well again, and they spend a lovely few weeks in her idyllic garden paradise, swimming naked and talking about archery – with Ollie completely unaware that she raped him while he was delirious. (Her justification is that, knowing that Ollie will always love Dinah and that Dinah can’t have children, she wants to have something of Ollie that Dinah can’t have. With the magical powers of comic book ladies, she manages to conceive from one-time intercourse out of sheer willpower, I guess.) So: she shoots him, she heals him, she rapes him, she staycations with him. Again: complicated.

Shado’s hardly a role model. She’s committed violent crimes against both friends and enemies, and if her son is at risk, it’s a fair bet she’ll commit them again. (She’s a very devoted mother! Have I mentioned? Complicated.) But in her heyday Shado was a nuanced and interesting character who always added to any story in which she played a part, and will hopefully add her own particular brand of ambiguous morality to Green Arrow storylines to come.

Notable Appearances:

Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters
Green Arrow v2 #9-12, 21-24, 35-38, 63-66, 75, 101, 115-117
Green Arrow Annual #2
Shado: Song of the Dragon #1-4
Connor Hawke: Dragon’s Blood #1-6
Green Arrow/Black Canary #11-12

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