A Tribute to the of

Right up to the end of the Silver Age Showcase was still introducing some interesting new characters, though it was beginning to lose some steam.

In the March/April 1968 issue, #73, we got our first taste of The Creeper.  "The Coming of the Creeper!" was plotted by Steve Ditko, with dialogue by Don Segall (though I confess I'm not sure what that means) and Ditko also did pencils and inks.  In the editor's chair we find Murray Boltinoff.

The action begins immediately when we witness the underworld gang of one Angel Devlin breaking into the secret laboratory of internationally known scientist Professor Yatz.  Yatz is abducted and his assistant summarily shot as they plan to deliver him and his equipment to the Commies.

In an alleyway by the hideout of the gang, a television network investigator is being roughed up for snooping on the underworld.

Concurrently a Dr. Clayton Wetley, described as a "...crusader against all kinds of violence..." is being interviewed on television by program host Jack Ryder:  "That's why I say, Mr. Ryder, that even the police are a symbol of violence!  They, too, use force for their purposes!"  "You've got to be kidding, Dr. Wetley!  That's like accusing doctors of liking diseases!"

It just so happens that the show's sponsor is a good friend of Wetley and he takes umbrage at Jack's treatment of the good doctor, so Ryder is promptly fired.  Wetley demands an apology, but Jack is unrepentant and walks away, referring to his guest as "Dr. Crackpot."  Meanwhile, Bill Brane, chief of network security has taken note of Jack's spunk and offers him a job in his shop.  Ryder accepts and begins his new duties by looking into the Professor Yatz situation.  Apparently the Commies have made a deal with the underworld to get red defectors out of the states.  He is told the CIA asked them to do some checking, hence the beaten up T.V. network investigator.  (I'm guessing the Central Intelligence Agency was short-handed in order to give some of their workload to a television station.)  Brane then shows Ryder photos of Professor Yatz and a red agent named Major Smej.  More photos of underworld figures are shown and Brane speculates that they're working with Smej to kidnap Yatz.  The beaten investigator had a lead on a party for all the players tonight.  Jack says he'll take it on.

When Jack gets to the party he discovers it is a costume ball, so he hurriedly makes his way to a costume shop.  Unfortunately they only have a boxful of leftovers in adult size as their usual clientele buy children's costumes.  Soon Jack is donning the contents of the box, which include a yellow set of full-body tights and green and black striped trunks, a green wig, some complimentary makeup, red gloves and boots that he ties on and finally a red sheepskin rug that he decides to use as a cape.

Soon the bizarrely clad investigator is slipping into an open window and is crashing the party.  Of course due to the costumes it is difficult for him to spot any of the men whose photos he'd previously perused.

Angel Devlin and Major Smej are speaking to one another in a corner and we see that Dr. Wetley is among the guests.  Shortly one of the guards spots Ryder and doesn't recognize him as being checked in, so they keep him under surveillance and discover him snooping around in a side room.  The fight is on and one of the goons manages to knife Ryder in his side.  He battles on, however and a secret room is revealed when a sliding panel is accidentally triggered.  Down the staircase, Jack discovers Professor Yatz and urges him to get out quickly.  Unfortunately for them the entryway is jammed, trapping them inside.

Yatz has his medical supplies with him and insists on administering to the knife wound.  He begins with one of two important discoveries representing his life's work, the first being a serum for instant healing that also provides greater strength and stamina that has been tested only on animals to this point.  The other wafer-like device is implanted in the wound to keep it out of the hands of the underworld.  "If perfected, this device will revolutionize mass transportation.  It would rearrange the molecular structures of matter---making it weightless and invisible!  Whole armies could be sent into foreign countries as normal tourists---with their invisible uniforms and equipment!  Then, at the right moment, my device could be activated and the hidden army could be assembled for conquest!  That is how my enemies hope to use it!"  Ryder acknowledges that they can't let the reds get it.  The professor then begins to burn his notes and equipment, but he realizes he forgot to add the activator to his device.  He gives it to Ryder and suggests that if he feels escape is impossible to swallow it.  Jack fiddles with the activator and his costume disappears.  Yatz says that he activated the device and it made the costume invisible.  Reactivating it, the molecules of the costume reassemble and it comes into visibility again.

Just then, a thug awakens and fires at the professor, killing him.  Jack pounces and lands a tremendous punch, demonstrating his enhanced abilities thanks to the professor's serum.

Up above, the jammed panel is released and billowing clouds of smoke from the fire emerge along with Ryder, who punches his way through.  One of the members of the underworld shouts that he's a thief and has robbed the safe.  Not taking the time to explain matters, Jack bursts through a window and escapes the house.  Once on the grounds he has more thugs to deal with, but he discovers his weird costume and accompanying maniacal laughter is having a strong psychological effect, putting the toughs off their guard and even causing panic.  Jack notes that the serum has completely healed his wound and given him the stamina and strength to take on his foes with ease.  Ryder presses his advantage as he goes, developing a menacing, lurching gait as part of his new persona.  Unfortunately, as he plows through the figures in the dark, he manages to also knock a policeman for a loop before realizing it.  With the law in pursuit, he swiftly uses the activator again and puts his street clothes back on just as he's questioned by another patrolman.  Jack directs him to the house, but they can't find the person they dub the Creeper.  He decides he must find a way to flush the criminals out of the secret room before the police depart.

Locating a concealed spot, Ryder again uses the activator to bring his alter ego back and prowls around for the crooks.  He'd also taken the precaution of calling Brane so he knows the police will linger awhile longer.  He then locates Devlin, Smej and their henchmen along with the Professor's body in a garage and attacks, laughing wildly and jumping in with all fours.  He soon tears out a power cord, plunging the place into darkness and tries to raise enough of a ruckus to attract the police.  Soon its utter mayhem as the Creeper plows into the henchmen full force.  Silencers keep the police from being aware of matters for awhile, but eventually it's down to just Ryder and Devlin and Devlin's silencer is lost.  The boys in blue arrive and of course try to apprehend the bizarre figure as well, but Jack leaps through a window and uses the activator once more to conceal himself.  Once he's returned to his Jack Ryder identity he tells Brane about the secret room and makes mention of the Creeper.  Brane wonders aloud why he's called the Creeper.  "Because he creeps…why else?"

The underworld is outraged at the Creeper's interference and put a $100,000.00 bounty on his head while back at police HQ they similarly want this strange creature for questioning.

Back at his apartment, Jack Ryder is shocked to discover that there isn't so much as a scar where he received the knife wound.  He decides to keep the Professor's inventions to himself and to use them properly, to battle the underworld.  The end of this origin tale shows Ryder and Brane discussing the previous night's events and speculating about the future of the mysterious Creeper. This story reappeared in the November 1974 issue of Detective Comics, #443.

I may have read the smallest handful of Creeper stories, and up to now none from his beginnings in Showcase or his own series, so my knowledge about his background was quite limited.  I did discover a pretty interesting comic blog that gives an impressive amount of data on the character that you can access here.

Interestingly, unlike many prior Showcase debuts, the Creeper made this lone appearance in the series and then went on to a brief six issue run of "Beware the Creeper!" (as the title was officially known; In 1998 Batman: The Animated Series reused the title for the episode that introduced the Creeper to the world of animation) in his own magazine.  Since then he's been more of a bit player, showing up in The Joker's self-titled magazine, the Justice League of America and of course the Brave and the Bold issue that I reviewed here awhile back to name just a few.  As a matter of fact, elements of that B&B story should sound very familiar as the same pious Dr. Wetley appeared in both stories.  So, while Steve Ditko created an interesting character that seems to have some endurance, he wasn't quite strong enough to be a star.

The Creeper occupies something of a niche all his own and I suspect that some elements of another of Ditko's characters, Spider-Man, are present.  The Creeper is a creature of the night and the law isn't sure what to make of him.  He is a definite threat to the underworld, though.  I even see some minor elements of the Spectre in him as it's very nearly like he and Jack Ryder are two different people occupying the same space.  This story was absolutely action-packed with the extended fight scenes and the somewhat cocky Jack Ryder made for a pretty interesting character in his own right.  About the only questionable thing I could find in the plot was why the bad guys were having a costume party when their objective was to get the captive Professor Yatz out of the country?  Other than that, this was pretty good stuff and I'll grade this issue with a 7.

You'll want to be sure to catch our next review in about two weeks as we continue our wonderous journey through the greatest era in comicdom!   Feel free to contact me in the interim with your comments, questions and accolades at professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2007 by B.D.S.

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