Leave it to Steve Ditko to hit on the gimmick of an insane super-hero. Even if there is some doubt about whether or not the Creeper is actually ‘nuts’ (to use the colloquial euphemism), there is little doubt that he is one of Ditko’s most colorful creations.
Originally, the Creeper persona was described as able to be ‘put on’ by TV news reporter Jack Ryder to scare criminals.
The victim of misappropriated science, like Ditko’s most famous co-creation (Peter Parker/Spider-man), Ryder’s body is left enhanced by an experimental procedure that he is involuntarily subjected to. In this case, it’s a serum that Ryder is injected with by a desperate scientist. After the serum entered Ryder’s body, the scientist also implanted an electronic device allowing Ryder to change form at will and become the Creeper.
As the Creeper, Jack Ryder had increased strength, agility and speed, not to mention advanced powers of regeneration (i.e. a healing factor).
Later the antics of the Creeper were deemed as not completely or at all voluntary. The Creeper’s actions were ascribed to a demon who would possess Ryder in order to fight crime. I prefer Ditko’s original interpretation of the character, and I also enjoy the dark noir atmosphere of the original Creeper stories.
In fact, it’s possible that the Creeper character was inspired by a 1948 ‘B’ horror film of the same name. The film features many parallels to the DC comic. For example, a mad scientist doctor coming up with a serum that transforms someone into a cat-like creature. The name itself, ‘the Creeper’, along with the similarity in story may be a coincidence but I doubt it. You can watch the film here and make up your own mind.
I’ve never been able to find any explicit connection between this film and the Ditko creation. Are there any Ditko enthusiasts out there who know if my theory holds water?
This issue is the first appearance of Jack Ryder and the Creeper and it is also vintage Ditko. When Ryder tries to protect a scientist (Professor Yatz) from Communist spies, he is injured and then injected by Yatz with a special formula allowing him to both heal himself and augment his strength and endurance. This issue ends with the police branding the Creeper a criminal and placing him on their ‘Most Wanted’ list. Solid sales and good returns make this a great purchase if you can find it for a good deal. Currently 9.6 grades have the strongest returns at 61.8% over the last five years, but this grade usually sells at over a thousand dollars. 9.0 copies (having almost as strong a return at 58.3%) can be had for around $160.00. Grab the 9.0. If the Creeper ever appears in a movie or live action series you’ll be glad you did.
Beware the Creeper #1 contains more of the character featured in the Showcase debut, along with the same supporting cast it is just as strong of a comic as its predecessor. This series was unfortunately cancelled after only six issues. Apparently DC was going through a phase where it liked to cancel titles that didn’t show immediate high sales. A pity, but like Showcase #73, this comic has shown strong returns in most grades. 5.5 and 6.5 at 38.5% and 20% respectively, have shown the best returns over the last few years. Both are easily affordable: the last recorded 5.5. copy sold on Ebay in 2016 for $34.99. Higher grades cost more, but even a 9.8 can be gotten for under $1000.00.