Thursday, December 02, 2010
Showcase #73: The Creeper Becomes DC's Question
The Hawk and the Dove were only one of the two new projects that Steve Ditko brought to DC in 1968; the other was Beware the Creeper. But in a lot of ways, the Creeper is simply Ditko's Charlton hero, The Question. Consider:
Both Jack Ryder and Vic Sage are both TV talk show hosts who don't care if they offend one of their sponsors:
Both gain their powers from a "professor":
Both are capable of changing identities in a flash:
And both are subjected to the attentions of a gal they cannot stand:
Of the two, I'd say the Question is more interesting, as his character is even more uncompromising than the Creeper, and more of an exemplar of Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism. Ditko was allowed to script his Charlton tales, while at DC his scripters included Don Segall (in the Showcase debut) and Denny O'Neill (in the ongoing series).
The plot in this issue is one of the most common in the Silver Age: Professor has invented something that the communists want. The underworld has kidnapped the prof and are about to deliver him to the reds, but... well, they're going to have a costume party as well at the house where he's being hidden. Because the leader of the mob is also a pillar of the community, the anti-violence crusader and Ryder's sponsor are also at the party:
So Ryder cobbles together the Creeper's costum--a green wig, yellow body paint and a sheepskin rug along with the Sub-Mariner's trunks, and crashes the party. But as he tries to search the house, some guards spot him, and he has to make a dash for it. He's wounded, but discovers a secret room behind a sliding panel where Professor Yatz is hidden. The professor decides to use the Creeper as his guinea pig for a serum that heals people quickly and gives them extra strength. He also implants in Ryder's arm a device that:
Hence Ryder's ability to make the quick costume change. The professor is killed when the guards burst through the sliding panel, and so the Creeper's secret is safe. The Creeper beats up the hoodlums and the cops catch the prof's killer. But all's not well:
The Creeper had only a short run at DC (six issues), although he made several guest appearances in the 1970s and has been a background character (as TV host Jack Ryder) for decades since. He had another short series in the mid-1990s. In 2003, Vertigo put out a mini-series with a female version of the Creeper set in 1930s France.