365 Reasons to Love Comics #177
My browser ate my first draft of this post, but fear not, I shan’t let DITKO WEEK fail! Day Three bounds onto the blog with my second-favorite Ditko creation! Jeepers! (And here’s your archive.)
177. The Creeper
The superhero so awesome, he comes with his own shag carpeting.
Yesterday, I mentioned how “Spider-Man” was Peter Parker’s inner self that burst free to go mad and take on the world. The Creeper is also a lot like that; in fact, later incarnations of the character took that concept literally.
Created by Steve Ditko in a 1968 issue of Showcase, and featured later in his own short-lived series, the Creeper was really Jack Ryder, a TV reporter who, in a bizarre and often revamped set of circumstances, got injected with Professor Yatz’s regenerative serum and stuck with a molecular transformer or somesuch that, in the end, enabled him to turn into the most bizarrely-costumed super-character in comics. In the original version, Jack Ryder and the Creeper were the same person, just differently garbed, though Ryder put on a crazy persona– the Creeper laughed his head off and called people “foolish mortals” whilst fighting crime. It was a neat book.
My first encounter with the macabre manhunter occurred with the third issue of Ditko’s series, which somehow found its way into my collection. Upon reading it, I was absolutely enthralled. I don’t want to damage it by subjecting it to my scanner, but take it from me, it’s lovely. Ditko’s style was perfect for portraying the Creeper, who was a whirling dervish of wispy lines and twisty gesticulating limbs. With an over-the-top script by Denny O’Neil in his Sergius O’Shaughnessy persona, the art burst into life, and the Creeper came across as a fun and compelling madman.
The series was canceled, however, and the Creeper found himself relegated to guest appearances and back-up strips, many of which were under the pen of Ditko. Sometime in the early ’90s, the Creeper was killed off during that Eclipso crossover. He didn’t stay down for long, however. A new Creeper series was launched, this one lasted twice as long as the original series. Written mostly by Len Kaminski and drawn mostly by the excellent Shawn Martinbrough (with inks by the scintillating Sal Buscema), the series gave us a Creeper who was an actually creepy and thoroughly insane split persona from Jack Ryder. It was a marvelous psychological adventure series, and a forgotten gem from that period. If you find it in your back issue bins, pick it up! I highly recommend it.
The Creeper, though not Jack Ryder, also returned in a Vertigo mini by Jason Hall and Cliff Chiang, which had a female Creeper in a story set in the past, with seemingly no connection to the Ryder incarnation. It was quite good, though. Seek it out!
Even more recently, for that One Year Later thing, Steve Niles and Justiniano rebooted the Creeper yet again in another mini. I didn’t read it– from what I’m told, the art was good but the story wasn’t quite there.
I’ve always loved the Creeper, and I wouldn’t mind writing him. A few years back I had an idea for a Vertigo ongoing that chronicled the past incarnations of the Creeper, much like in the Hall/Chiang mini, but also followed the current journey of Jack Ryder. Nowadays, I’m not sure if that take would work, but I don’t think it’d hurt to try. The Creeper is a cool concept with a spectacular visual, and I can never get enough.
The Creeper’s appeared in the Batman and Justice League cartoons and has his own action figure, so why can’t he find success in comics? Is he simply too out there for your standard superhero audience? Maybe, but for me, he’s a lovable lunatic. Let’s have the “smash hit of ’68” be the smash hit of ’08!
Steve Ditko must’ve liked the Creeper enough to keep creating stories for him even when he wasn’t working at DC! In the ’80s, he created Shag, who had the exact same gimmick and nearly the same appearance as the Creeper! Anyone know the circumstances behind its publication?
Beware… Beware… Beware the Creeper!