nightshade_hero

Fifty shades of Nightshade, Marvel's BDSM queen

Contributed by
Jun 26, 2018

Imagine Captain America having constant run-ins with an extremely intelligent villainess, a black woman who is well aware of her prowess and doesn’t shy away from letting others know it. Someone determined to rule most men, if not all of them — including everyone’s beloved Cap. Depending on the activity, she might even require a safe word. Marvel would never, right?

Wrong. They did. She goes by the name Nightshade, aka Tilda Johnson, a character who just made her debut into the Netflix Marvel universe via Luke Cage Season 2 as a quiet but deadly force to be reckoned with. She’s a character I’ve found intriguing despite the blaxploitation teas she served us in her early comic appearances as a result of being a black female character created in the '70s. While getting to know Nightshade better, I noticed how her run-ins with Captain America often had overt and some subvert kinks. This quickly made her one of my favorite Captain America antagonists. Most of her story arcs are centered around her using her natural aptitude for the sciences — and the natural effect she has on men — in order to commit crimes. Nightshade remains one of the few black women villainesses in the Marvel universe, but her presence holds just as much importance as it would if she were considered a hero. 

Created by Steve Englehart and Alan Lee Weiss in 1973, Tilda Johnson grew up in poverty in Harlem, New York. She found out at an early age that she was scientifically skilled but chose to hide it behind a childish facade. This front helped her to develop her intellect in secret, and by the time she was 16 she had gained extensive knowledge in subjects like genetics, cybernetics, and physics. Tilda used her talents to begin a career in crime. We don’t get too many highly educated black female villains, especially ones who get joy out of giving good ol’ Cap some pain. 

In our very first introduction to Nightshade in Captain America #164, she is in command of her own army of werewolves, or “Night-Stalkers." Unfortunately, she used the serum on incarcerated prisoners in an attempt to maximize the available manpower, which basically turned the prison industrial complex into a furry convention. After the Night-Stalkers are unable to take down Steve Rogers, Nightshade steps out from the shadows and introduces herself. Cap is clearly a little shook. 

PastedGraphic-5

On the very next page we’re treated to a tied-up Falcon. Look at Nightshade breaking up Steve and Sam’s daily routine! If you ask me, she’s doing them a major service. Nightshade gives Sam the werewolf serum she created — evil genius here — and is overjoyed at locking him up with Cap as he turns. 

PastedGraphic-6

Nightshade’s attempt at organizing a good bondage session is cut short when Captain America eventually overpowers Werewolf Falcon. However, before she can be caught, she goes out like the dramatic queen she is, leaping to what should have been her demise. 

Fast forward to issue #190 of Captain America, though, and Nightshade is alive and well. So well, in fact, that she’s taken over S.H.I.E.L.D by the time Cap and Falcon encounter her again. Nightshade reminds everyone that, one way or another, she’s always had the ability to control most male-type beings. A villainess with confidence like that — and one who gets under Cap’s skin so much —  deserves to be celebrated. Steve is one of the few men she can’t control, but she’s still totally game to make him her king. Sam, of course, isn’t for this. I mean, if they were down, all three could lead the charge in polyamorous relationships in the Marvel universe. Nightshade even suggests this after telling both men how she cleverly survived their first encounter. 

When we meet up with Nightshade again in Captain America #403, she's sporting a new hair, a new and improved costume, and a doctorate she earned while in prison. She’s fully come into her own, dressed in a leather catsuit with a personal flare. From here on out, it’s Dr. Nightshade if you’re nasty.

PastedGraphic-3

Apparently, Nightshade has been trying to turn Captain America into one of her Night-Stalkers for years, and in Captain America #405 she finally creates a serum that does the trick, blessing us with a fight between Werewolf Wolverine and Werewolf Captain America. It's a fight we didn’t know we wanted or needed, but Dr. Nightshade was looking out for us.

Once turned into a werewolf, Cap is not only under Nightshade's control, but she also gets him to go in her punishment pit. Nightshade has a punishment pit. How epic is that?! This black woman, perched atop of a cage full of werewolves under her control. My wig, ma’am, take it. 

PastedGraphic-4

Nightshade later goes on to lend her scientist expertise to Superia as a member of her Femizons, a group made up of other women in the Marvel crime world. Superia’s main goal was to recreate the world of Femzonia on Earth, a world ruled by women. After that, Nightshade spends a short time working with Misty Knight in Villains for Hire. Most recently, Tilda Johnson was reintroduced in the canceled Nighthawk series. While her that appearance saw her turn in her villain card, I think I prefer an evil Dr. Nightshade. 

There aren’t many black female villains in the Marvel universe. There definitely aren’t many, if any, that are as intelligent and resourceful as she is. Can you imagine a six-issue mini-series where Dr. Nightshade runs her own criminal organization, with a well-equipped state-of-the-art laboratory facility? On the weekends she could teach various kink classes and maybe even get Cap to agree to letting her turn him into a werewolf for demonstration purposes.

We stan a scholarly sadist queen in Nightshade, the villainess.