What do you do to follow up on a success like Spider-Man? Whatever you feel like! Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Showcase #73 awaits!
Writer: Steve Ditko, Don Segall (dialogue)
Artist: Steve Ditko
Letterer: Charlotte Jetter
Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 12 Cents
Release Date: March/April 1968
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $220.00
Previously in Showcase: Having worked for upstart Marvel Comics since the mid-1950s, Steve Ditko was already well-respect as a creator when Marvel hit big in the mid-1960s. When he became the co-creator and definitive artist for Spider-Man AND Doctor Strange, two books with very different, very distinctive visuals, Steve’s surreal landscapes were utterly unique. To hear Stan Lee tell it, the existence of Amazing Adult Fantasy, the book that would (after a title change) give us Spider-Man, was entirely to create a vehicle for Ditko’s trademark uncanny tales. So, naturally, when Steve left Marvel in 1967, for reasons that only he was fully aware of, Ditko was highly sought-after, taking his work to Warren Publishing, Charlton Comics and also giving the world his creator-owned Objectivist super-hero Mr. A. But nowhere was Steve more warmly welcomed than at DC Comics, where he immediately created two enduring-yet-somehow-short-lived-in-their-original-incarnation concepts. One was the politically-oriented ‘The Hawk and The Dove’, and the other…
Well, the other kind of has to be seen to be believed!
Showcase #73 opens with one Doctor Yatz being overpowered and kidnapped by unidentified “Reds” who want to sell his technological advances to the highest bidder, regardless of morality or who might be hurt. At the same time, uncompromising crusading reporter Jack Ryder gets canned from his prestigious job for refusing to bend the truth, even a little bit. (Even in this more mainstream work, Steve’s world-view comes through loud and clear, as it does over at Charlton with his work on The Question and in his Mr. A stories.) Unbowed by the loss of his job, Jack is immediately approached by the chief of Network Security, who has a job offer for him: Become an independent investigator. Ryder leaps in wholeheartedly, taking on the matter of the missing professor Yatz. There are certain characters who only look right under the pen of their creator: Deathstroke is never as cool as when he is drawn by George Perez, only Keith Giffen could make Jack of Hearts and Ambush Bug look exactly right, and non-Kirby Galactus is always standing the shadow of the master. The Creeper’s outre visual in Showcase #73 is another example of this phenomenon, as these pages make him look impossibly cool and completely unlike anything DC had ever put out before. Jack sneaks into the fancy-dress party of Major Smej, another Ditko character whose name seems like it HAS to be an anagram, but gets discovered, roughed up and STABBED before ending up locked in with the missing Professor Yatz.
The Professor reveals what it is the evil folk want: an experimental teleporter device that would allow soldiers to infiltrate in plainclothes and then immediately switch to fully armed and armored forms. Implanted in Jack’s wound, with a little boost from healing serum, it allows Ryder to switch back and forth into his costumed form at will. Moreover, his physical prowess is enhanced to superhuman levels, allowing him to bust out of Smej’s brig, though Yatz is killed by a gunfire. Hearing his carpeted alter-ego referred to as “that Creeper”, Jack decides to use his newfound powers to bring the murderous Smej to justice.
The Creeper leaps into action against Smej, his devil-masked partner Devlin and their goons, discovering the true scope of his new powers in some stunning Ditko pages (Steve seldom looks as good as when he inks his own work, and this book is proof) channeling his aggression into a blood-curdling cackle worthy of The Joker himself and some serious punching.
The issue ends with the police, the mob and even Jack’s former employers taking note of the fuzzy new vigilante and vowing to bring him down, one way or another. As for Jack Ryder, he intends to use his newfound powers to keep bringing down bad guys in a slightly Objectivist way for as long as his powers last. Sadly, his solo book lasted only six issues, but repeated relaunches and revamps have kept The Creeper in the public eye, with his last appearance as of this writing being a recent issue of ‘Doomsday Clock.’ Regardless of his longevity, though, Showcase #73 is visually stunning and provides a clever enough story to keep your interest, reminding me of exactly how Ditko got his well-deserved artistic rep, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. If nothing else, it shows that even the strangest costume can make for a great profile in the right hands.