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My first and most recent encounters with DC’s laughing maniac (no, not the Joker)- DC Comics Presents #88 & Beware the Creeper #5

September 1, 2010

One of the weird things about comics is how you join a book or character in midstream and, because of that, the “origins” of said book or character for you are always that later iteration. Since the Creeper made his debut in Showcase well before I was born, my first encounter with him was one of the many guest appearances that he subsequently made in the DC Universe.

My first meeting was here:

This book came out at a memorable time in my youthful comics fandom. There was this thing called the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” going on that seemed so big and cool to me. Keep in mind that I never actually had an issue of the Crisis series — I’m guessing that that particular title didn’t make it to my local newsstand. So I was relegated to the crossovers, which always seemed to show our Earth getting torn apart by unimaginable forces. Like this one. The Crisis seemed so dark and awesome

“Prophecy of the Demon-Plague!” comes to us from Steve Englehart, Keith Giffen and Karl Kesel. With the world ending, the armegeddon types are in heaven — hey, the sky is actually falling! Sadly, there’s no sign of Walter Kovacs and his “The End is Nigh” placard among their numbers. Here the moon has shifted in its orbit and that’s causing all kinds of troubles, and its of course created a media firestorm. By-day reporters Jack Ryder and Clark Kent are on the story, though they don’t see eye to eye on what the coverage should be like:

Giffen leaves a lot of space open on many of the pages in this issue. I think it’s a nice touch, and adds weight (along with his angular style) to some of the smaller cramped panels.

Long story short, some discovered runes release a demon that uses the airwaves to infect humans, and Superman and the Creeper both spring into action to fight it. Supes takes a hit early on, and he’s forced to team up with a, how shall we say, unstable ally:

Hamburger? And that demon looks like a really pissed off version of Reddy Kilowatt:

Guess what? They beat the demon and Supes can’t wait to get away from this Creeper guy. I like the low opinions each has of the other as they part:

I remember as a kid not being sure of what to make of Giffen’s art. It was different, and it certainly didn’t fit in with the Curt Swan Superman that I’d come to know, but it definitely made an impression. I think it was well suited to this story.

A couple of weeks ago I bought this:

I was of course aware of Steve Ditko’s creation of the Creeper, but I either never knew or forgot that he had handled this brief and early series detailing his adventures. I was struck by how different his portrayal was here in the character’s infancy. In “the Color of Rain is Death,” from Denny O’Neil, Steve Ditko and Mike Peppe, the Creepster spends much of the issue battling his nemesis, Proteus. For what I find jarring, take this page as an example:

The Creeper’s straight-laced internal monologue is a bit odd (for me), and I’m not sure about the “shattered glass” panel style that Ditko employs. I’m just so used to the regular panels he always used so effectively on books like The Amazing Spider-Man.

There’s also some psychedelic grooving going on later in a dream sequence as Jack Ryder wonders just who Proteus might actually be:

This issue ends with a cliffhanger:

Ditko sure loved to trap his heroes in impossible to escape scenarios with water dripping down over them, didn’t he?:

      

I dig the way Ditko draws water rivulets. I just do.

I enjoy the juxtaposition of the two artists — Giffen’s hard edges and sharp points versus the soft flowing curves of Ditko. It makes for an interesting contrast. And the difference between the Creeper’s divergent characterizations in these two books lies in the evolution of the character. He started out as a guy who could control his transformations and only acted insane, but later his origin was tweaked and he was a person who couldn’t control his transformations and who really was cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. I prefer the latter, and as much as I like Ditko’s art, I kind of like the way Giffen drew the Creeper with his face always covered by shadow. It gave him a dark, villainy feel which was apt for such a “tweener” character.

Hamburger?

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