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The Creeper By Steve Ditko

DC

Written by Steve Ditko, Don Segall, Dennis O'Neil and Michael Fleisher; Art by Steve Ditko, Jack Sparling, and others

Apr 01, 2010 DC Universe Bookmark and Share


I had only read a small handful of Creeper comics going into this graphic novel. Like some fans, my introduction to one of Steve Ditko’s seminal works was through Vertigo/Cliff Chiang’s re-envisioning of the character (Beware the Creeper). Chiang told me in a recent interview, “only Ditko can do The Creeper,” and he’s absolutely correct. The Creeper is an insane character to draw. He contains the fluidity of Ditko’s most famous creation, Spider-Man, The Joker’s manacial glee, and a Clark Kent-like day job. Spoilers: You find out that Ryder loses that day job as a Gotham City talk show host within the first few panels of this 256-page collection.

Soon he’s transformed into The Creeper, with his iconic yellow, red, and green costume. The way he becomes the hero is somewhat gross, but in step with Ditko’s pseudo-scientic style. This new color graphic novel collects much of The Creeper’s early adventures: from his debut story in March 1968 (Showcase #73); to Beware the Creeper #1-6; 1st Issue Special #7, and several short stories from World’s Finest Comics #249-255. It’s a bold smattering of story that doesn’t always gel in the narrative department, but ultimately clings to Ditko’s detailed pencils.

The Creeper author was aided by comic giants such as scribes Dennis O’Neil (Batman, Green Lantern/Green Arrow), Michael Fleisher (Jonah Hex, The Spectre), and Don Segall (Fantastic Four, M*A*S*H). The latter was a TV writer/producer before he got his start in comics. One of Segall’s last assignments, before leaving the medium for television, was the infamous Showcase issue that introduced The Creeper. Segall wrote the snappy dialogue over Ditko’s art and plot. It’s an excellent debut issue and sets the tone for the crazy plots to come. The Creeper is sometimes pure spectacle, but at least it’s a wild ride worth taking.

As the series progressed, Ditko became more experimental with the interplay between characters and panel borders and stepped out from the rigid nine-panel grid. By the time issue six rolls around you can see how Ditko influenced artists as far-ranging as J.H. Williams III and Ethan Van Sciver. Also, the introduction of long-standing arch-villain Proteus in issue #2 amps up the drama significantly and keeps Ditko’s simple stories from dragging down his rain-soaked artwork.

One of the joys of reading or re-reading some of these tales is found in relishing The Creeper’s strange superpowers. They are mostly physical in nature and mirror his loud-mouth alter ego. Of course he’s got superhuman healing, agility, stamina, and strength, but the acrobatic ways he takes down foes are quite dazzling. The best power he has is his laugh, which Dikto often depicts as being painful to the ears of others, to the point of comatosis. All of this is rendered in eye-popping, impressionistic color. The Creeper is certainly one of the weirdest superheroes DC has ever published and his legacy lives on through a recent cameo in the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum, the Bruce Timm ‘90s cartoon Freakazoid!, and various other comics.

Added bonus: The end of this book contains a never-before-released Creeper story. The “lost” story is black-and-white and obviously a little rough around the edges. Despite this, it puts a nice cap on this handsome, traditional graphic novel. For a little more information on The Creeper go here. (www.ditko.blogspot.com / www.dccomics.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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