A Tribute to the of

The Flash, Green Lantern, Metal Men, Sgt. Rock and the Spectre. These characters and so many others were introduced through the pages of Showcase, which ran for 93 issues and is more or less the guide we use as the life of the Silver Age. Many of the characters ran for a few issues before being given their own series since Showcase was, by design, an arena for introducing potential new series and of course it took a little while for sales figures to come in to aid in the decision. Sometimes, however, the Showcase title seemed to be just a formality, as in the case of Steve Ditko's Creeper. You may recall my review of his debut in issue #73. That book has a publication date of March/April 1968 and by golly Beware the Creeper #1 hit the stands with a publication date of May/June 1968. It was obviously a foregone conclusion that The Creeper would have his own series. In fact, "Where Lurks the Menace?" is actually a continuation of "The Coming of the Creeper!" Issue #1 was the product of three Charlton Comics alumni with Steve Ditko providing pencils and inks for both the cover and the interior along with the story plotline, dialogue by "Sergius O'Shaugnessy" or as I called him during the interview, Denny O'Neil, and editing by the great Dick Giordano. Let's see what the team cooked up, shall we?

The splash page shows promise with a 3-panel introduction of a costumed figure in a patented Ditko full-face mask that wouldn't look out of place in a wrestling match swinging on a rope in the rain and lightning of a gloomy night, thinking about his revenge. Behold the debut of The Terror.

The swinging figure bursts through the glass window of the room and attacks the man waiting to talk to Jack Ryder, who arrives moments afterward and also incurs the wrath of The Terror. The ruckus, however, is alerting the neighbors in the building, so The Terror departs, but Jurgen manages to pass along some names before he succumbs to his wounds, like Gerk Kreg, Vance Cleary and Hack Axeley and Ryder is left with an intriguing mystery.

Back at the studios of WHAM-TV, Ryder's employer, he learns he is to look after their weather girl, Vera Sweet, who says she's been threatened, but her motives are suspect. Ryder is not happy about this babysitting detail, but apparently has little choice in the matter.

Elsewhere, The Terror continues his work, assaulting "Baldy" Pate, a leader in the underworld with his highly trained skills in acrobatics, boxing and judo. After knocking Pate into submission he demands half the thugs proceeds in exchange for keeping the evidence about his activities to himself.

Later, Pate meets with his fellow underworld leaders to discuss this new threat and the chieftains speculate that The Terror is one of them, due to his seemingly intimate knowledge of their operations. Gerk Kreg decides he's going to take care of things in his own way and vows to eliminate The Terror.

Jack Ryder has decided to look up Gerk Kreg and outside his penthouse; Ryder uses the activator that transforms him into the Creeper. Gerk isn't about, but some of his henchmen are, so the Creeper launches into them, demanding to know about Jurgen. He's told Jurgen was a stool pigeon. Ryder thinks to himself that Gerk must be The Terror. Just then, reinforcements arrive and so does Gerk himself. The Creeper is subdued and when the gangsters attempt to remove his wig and makeup they find they cannot. Even Ryder is surprised, surmising that the gimmicks that make him into The Creeper apparently also make his costume and makeup a permanent part of his persona. Leveraging the advantage of surprise, the Creeper uses his tremendous strength to burst free and escape his captors, turning back into the trench-coated Jack Ryder when he gets back into a darkened alley and determining that his next stop will be to see Hack Axeley, private detective.

At Axeley's office, where the detective is toiling away with the aid of his secretary, Ida and assistant, Forbes, Ryder learns that the detective knew Jurgen, having purchased information from him, but he knows nothing of The Terror and refers Ryder to his lawyer, Vance Cleary, another name the late Jurgen mentioned before expiring. Cleary is even less hospitable than Axeley, running Ryder out. Jack changes into the Creeper outside, hoping to get the answers denied his alter ego, but he's been spotted and since the police are after the Creeper, he is forced to beat a hasty retreat and change back into Jack Ryder.

Later, Ryder and Vera arrive at his apartment only to be ambushed by The Terror. Vera's screams are enough to encourage the villain's early departure and Jack Ryder climbs a darkened stairwell to the roof, hitting the activator in the process, thus the Creeper pursues The Terror, but he soon finds himself under siege at The Terror decides to try and capture the Creeper for the $100,000.00 reward on his head. A spectacular battle ensues until The Creeper is sent tumbling into space, barely managing to catch himself on a canopy. Quickly climbing back up, he sees his quarry has departed and the Creeper determines that Gerk couldn't be The Terror as he said he wanted to stop Jack Ryder's snooping, but the Creeper questioned Gerk. He decides to pay a visit to Axeley as the Creeper, but he's too late as he finds the detective beaten to death in his office and his files ransacked. Suspecting that Axeley's secretary is the critical link, he decides to seek her out and to call Cleary to warn him.

Elsewhere Gerk Kreg is making plans to take out the blackmailing Terror, dispatching his hoods to gather intelligence.

The Creeper, meanwhile, has found Ida Horn, the secretary and is questioning her about the identity of The Terror. He detects movement in the room and notices a water puddle under the drapes, so he works his way back and uncovers The Terror himself and the battle is on again, with Ida lending aid to The Terror. Abruptly the fiend leaps out the window and grabs a handy rope, but the Creeper is all over him, certain he now knows the true identity of The Terror. Below, the gangland members are about to open fire when the Creeper unmasks The Terror, revealing Axeley's employee, Forbes. Forbes tumbles to the street and soon the police arrive, adding to the melee of the gangland members. The Creeper battles his way out of the mob and makes good his escape.

Back at his apartment, Jack Ryder finds an enraged Vera Sweet. He remarks to her that he thought he'd seen a two-headed goblin outside the building and can hear something at the window now. She angrily departs and he collapses to the sofa in laughter very reminiscent of a certain green-haired crime buster known as the Creeper.

Steve Ditko at DC during the Silver Age will always be known for the Creeper and the Hawk and the Dove. Both series ended maddeningly quickly, with Steve doing work on only the first few issues in each case. Legend has it that he was suffering some health issues at the time and while the concepts seemed to be pretty good, the folks who picked up the reins couldn't seem to keep the momentum going. One can only wonder what might have transpired had Ditko been able to continue on with them. In the case of the Creeper, issues #2, #3, #4, #5 and #6 reveal a series of encounters with the Creeper's new primary foe, Proteus. I like this series, and as per usual, few can put together a dynamic fight scene in the shadows of the city like Steve Ditko. With the Creeper, he was free to cut loose on the pages as only he can. More's the pity that we have only a handful of his efforts on this very original character. A solid 9 is my rating for this issue and if you get a chance to read it (rumor keeps telling us that the stories are due any time in a volume of reprints) by all means do so.

We enjoy hearing from you, reader; so feel free to express yourself via the wonders of e-mail. Write to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

After you've done that, mark you calendar for the 15th when a new review with be in this space and with any luck another interview. I have been gently pinging my interviewees and something is bound to break loose soon. Patience and persistence will pay off.

Long live the Silver Age!

2000-2010 by B.D.S.

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