Rac Shade was a secret agent from the Meta-Zone, an alternate dimension, which is part of the even bigger Zero-Zone. Rac was framed for treason and was sentenced to death. Of course, Rac went on the run and tried to clear his name. He used the M-Vest that allows him to generate force fields and cause his appearance to change depending on the mental state of the viewer (hence "the Changing Man"). Mellu Loron, his former girlfriend, wanted to kill him, because she (incorrectly) thought he killed her parents. However, she changed her mind upon discovering that he saved her from the Area of Madness, which causes people to waste all their bodily functions on screaming. However, Rac is immune to the Area of Madness, due to his M-Vest. He was finally caught and put on trial. But, he leaped into the Area of Madness to escape. He joined the Suicide Squad, but ended up accidentally killing one of his own friends. Feeling guilty, he went back to his home dimension and hasn't been heard from since.
During the "British Invasion", Pete revamped Rac. Now, he was a poet sent to Earth to stop it's ever-growing madness. In this version, his vest was the "Madness Vest" and granted Shade reality warping powers. Despite the surreal nature of the comic, it took place in the DC Universe. The series used controversial (for that time) ideas and concepts (such as transgenderism and the JFK assassination). So, DC Comic created an imprint company for it and the other controversial comics called Vertigo Comics. The comic got a cult following, despite not selling in large numbers, and ran a full 70 issues.
Similar to Doctor Who, Shade had the ability to return from the dead, but with a new form. He has had a total of five forms: "the red-head poet", "the Changing Woman", "the black-haired lunatic", "the heartless mod" and "the bedraggled obsessive". Currently, he is a supporting character for John Constantine in Hellblazer.