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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.)

6/26/07

177. The Creeper

Creeper 1.jpg

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.

Creeper Showcase.jpgCreeper 3.jpgCreeper 6.jpg

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.

Creeper 2.JPGCreeper 4.JPGCreeper 5.JPG

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!

Weird Fact:

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?

Creeper Shag.JPG

Beware… Beware… Beware the Creeper!

Links:
Creeper at Toonopedia
A Creeper retrospective on Dial B for Blog

16 Comments

“The art was good but the story wasn’t quite there” is a pretty good description of pretty much everything I’ve ever read by Steve Niles.

I love the Creeper when he’s done well.

My first exposure was post Ditko–but it was not a surprise to find out Ditko created him.

Tom Fitzpatrick

June 27, 2007 at 3:45 am

Hmmm, I seem to remember an old DC series in the late 70’s called The Stalker (which had a limited run).

I can’t remember if Steve Ditko was the artist of this series or not, but it was downright creepy. ;-)

My first exposure to the Creeper was in the late, lamented Hawk and Dove series by Barbara and Karl Kesel–they did a reader poll on who the fans wanted to see teamed up with Hawk and Dove, and the Creeper won. It’s an excellent two-parter that features Punch and Jewelee, and well worth tracking down.

Stalker, from the mid-’70s, was Ditko & Wally Wood, with (I believe) new pro Paul Levitz writing … I’m pretty sure it’s mentioned in an earlier Ditko post.

I remember stumbling across a Creeper comic when I was a kid (no idea if Ditko was involved). It would’ve been the very late ’70s, I’m betting (or early ’80s), and probably was a World’s Finest Comic backup tale. Anyway, I remember the Creeper blew my mind. He was definitely unlike any other character I’d ever encountered. He’s got a lot of potential … he’d make a good addition to the Outsiders, don’t you think? Or, better yet, the Suicide Squad.

He was kind of a red herring in the early Maquire Justice League, but the Creeper has a great appearance in the Timber Wolf limited. He only gets involved because they have the same basic silhouette, which probably says something about how the Creeper’s mind works. Or doesn’t.

Now, if we could get a DC Direct Creeper figure. Or better yet, a more poseable Mattel one.

If DC offered me my choice of any title to write, Creeper would be my second choice after Enemy Ace.

I’d make Jack Ryder a flaming liberal who has to take a job as an ultra-conservative radio talk show host. By night, the Creeper fights the crime and corruption of the very fatcats who think he is their staunchest defender.
I’d play up the whole “is-he-or-isn’t-he-crazy” Hamlet thing.

I absolutely love that wild, whacky, thrift-store costume.

The Kirbydotter

June 27, 2007 at 1:08 pm

The complete Steve Ditko drawn CREEPER:
SHOWCASE # 73 (Origin + 1st appearance)
BEWARE THE CREEPER # 1 to 6
1st ISSUE SPECIAL # 7
WORLD’S FINEST # 249 to 255

Since the World’s Finest issues are only back ups (8 pagers?), this would make a perfect size volume for the DC ARCHIVES format…

So c’mon DC!
Whaddayasay???

"O" the Humanatee!

June 27, 2007 at 2:33 pm

Just thought I’d point out, lest anyone be misled by the fact that this is a Ditko Week entry, that that cover to Beware the Creeper #6 – the one with the Creeper tied up and water rushing in – is by Gil Kane, not Ditko. But interestingly, Kane, an artist with a very strong style of his own, seems to have made some effort to ape aspects of Ditko’s, from the quality of the inking line to (especially) the overall drawing of the figure in the window.

I’ll have to see if I can get my hands on some of the original stuff.

Ditko Creeper! Good Stuff. I remember totally beoing hooked after reading the Creeper origin story. My favorite Ditko creation. The new Creeper, just not right and did not engage me.

Also I believethe Creeper was also in a Brave and Bold team up with Batman, but that could just be wishfukl thinking

FunkyGreenJerusalem

July 4, 2007 at 5:10 pm

Jack Ryder should be Bill O’Reilly!

On a personal note, comments about loving a ‘chance’ to write the character are a bit odd. It sort of brings the column down to a fanboy level – well more of a fan boy level than it has by definition of ‘reasons to love comics’.

THE 60’s SUPERHERO

I recall reading Ditko’s Creeper when the stories were first published in 1968. The Creeper was my favorite as he was a natural product of the 1960’s – a young man who lived out his post-war liberal values, rejecting the petty conservatism of his employers, sponsors etc. and using whatever powers he had to maintain those liberal values in the positive construction of a just society. The Creeper’s dramatic theatricality arose from his extreme reaction to his extreme circumstances. He was given the choice of slavish conformity to petty corruption or dismissal from his employment, with his decision to opt for the ‘crazy impracticality’ of the latter alternative naturally generating his assumed ‘antic disposition’ of mocking laughter and manic physical activity.
Ditko’s Creeper thus represented the last positive 60’s attempt at social integration. He did not reject society, he sought to positively help in its continuing construction, even though he had become subject to social rejection.
There is no reason why the original Creeper concept could not be continued. From the 70’s until today people have continued to hold and pursue liberal values, following alternative occupations and lifestyles, so that Jack Ryder could be realistically portrayed as a freelance writer/consultant for alternative values and lifestyle with occasional work for the security services etc. where his manic episodes of crusading liberalism protect and further the construction of peace and democracy. The post 60’s representations of the Creeper are unsatisfactory because they include the negative rejection of the Creeper’s raison d’etre by actually portraying him as a ‘madman’.

how much is the creeper 1968 no.1

The only Creeper I enjoyed was the original Ditko Creeper. Sadly, all Ditko characters created for or acquired by DC have been twisted into mockeries of the real deal. O’Neil’s political bias couldn’t allow him to write the Question as an Objectivist. Wein turned Blue Beetle into a generic Spider-Man knockoff. Dove had to be killed and Hawk had to be made out as insane for being conservative in his views. The Creeper may have suffered almost as much as the Question at the hands of writers afraid to tackle what Ditko laid out. Sad.

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