Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Did I Mention He was a Robot? Because That's Very Important! Wednesday!

It's no secret that I loves me some B-list comic characters. Now that I've started dabbling in actually writing comic book scripts, I find I'd much rather write a story about Bluejay than Batman. The Justice League is always a good read, but I really got a bang out of Shadowpact.

So when I look at Showcase as a whole, I have a lot of fondness for it. It rebooted several old characters, which certainly revived the super-hero (tm of Marvel and DC!) genre. But what I really enjoy about Showcase is that you never knew what was coming next. Yes, you might have to suffer through a few issues of Rip Hunter: Timemaster to reach the good stuff. But there was always good stuff on the way.

Case in point: The Creeper.

The Creeper is one of those characters just brimming with potential that never quite gets there, but he is nonetheless a guaranteed sale for me whenever I see him make an appearance. It is because of this that I own the dreadful Timber Wolf mini-series.

The origin of the character has been shot straight to crap. I don't know what possesses writers to overly complicate the origins of characters, but nothing will ruin a character more quickly.

Seriously, how complicated is this? I give you:

Okay, reporter Jack Ryder needed a costume on the fly to get into a costume party. All the costume shop had left were bits and pieces, so he slapped something together:

Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? And it's kinda cool that for once, a hero didn't have the luxury of spending hours designing his look.

But, being a regular guy in a weird outfit completely untrained in hand-to-hand combat, things didn't go so well:

With a big gaping knife wound in his side, Jack finds Professor Yatz, who was kidnapped by the host of the party and being held for his newest discoveries:

Of course, in true Captain America fashion, the professor is killed and the secret of his nifty gadgets die with him. But now Jack has strength, agility, stamina, and a way to instantly change duds, which is dang convenient when you have a costume like the Creeper's:

See? Awesome. But since then, the origin has been changed twice, with one of them being that Jack and the Creeper are two different personalities and the Creeper is actually a demon from Hell. I really don't understand why writers insist on rewriting history. It's one thing if you're just adding details, like in The Killing Joke. But when someone tells you that a character you've read for twenty years is an alien (they actually did that with the Jack of Hearts) or a demon.... well, if you can't reconcile it with that character's history as written, then you are doing a disservice to that character's fan base.

But you know, they were able to bring all those origins of Hawkman together into something that kind of made sense, so I cling to hope that one day they'll get the Creeper right.

Meanwhile, check this out from Showcase #72, which was a Wild West-themed issue:

Now obviously, the Trigger Twins aren't talking about Dr. Victor Von Doom, the Fantastic Four villain. But wouldn't that have been positively bitchin' if they were? Walt Trigger, you shall suffer the wrath of Victor Von Doom.... after I take a week-long stagecoach ride to get there.

And here's a two-fer in the "Names We've Seen Elsewhere" Department - Johnny Thunder and Black Lightning (or "Black Lightnin'," as the case may be)

When I was younger, I ordered some Johnny Thunder comics thinking it was about the Justice Society member with the Thunderbolt. You can imagine my disappointment. But there you have it: Johnny Thunder, who wasn't the funny Johnny Thunder I enjoyed, rode a horse called "Black Lightning." If Tony Isabella wrote it, wouldn't a Johnny Thunder/Black Lightning title simply rock? Of course, you'd have to undo DC's valiant attempts over the years to completely ruin the character, but I digress.

Anyway, I asked Tony about this, and he said "What amazes me most is that no one at DC ever reminded me of this. Not even Bob Kanigher (who created the character) or Nelson Bridwell (who remembered everything). There was also a silent film about a horse named Black Lightning and I have a copy of the poster for that movie."

To be fair to everyone, the horse was often just called "Lightnin'," so it makes sense that it didn't leap to mind. Although if I were Bob Kanigher, I'd be wondering if Tony was developing a series about the horse I created. You never know what goes on behind the scenes.

By the way, there was also a terrible movie in 2008 called Black Lightning that had nothing to do with the super-hero or any horses. I'm still not sure how they avoided litigation, because I certainly had my hopes up for a second that there was a Black Lightning movie based on the DC Comics character.

Thanks once again to Tony Isabella for sharing some inside info with us!

See you tomorrow!


MarvelX42 said...

Not to mention that the horse is white. White as snow! Was the name "White Lightning" taken at the time?

Britt Reid said...

"...they were able to bring all those origins of Hawkman together into something that kind of made sense..."

Really? When did THAT happen?

Remember when people were complaining about there being just two Hawkmen, and that the whole Earth-One/Earth-Two concept was too difficult to follow?

On another note...
Have always been a big Creeper fan, but calling that thing on his shoulders a "sheepskin rug" was just...silly.
I had a sheepskin rug. If it looked like what the Creeper wears, I would've lived in mortal fear of it!
The Batman animated ep got it's a boa!

Lazarus Lupin said...

Love the creeper and always felt he should team up with the question. As to why writers crap on other writers origins and such, its basic territorial instinct. If they were monkeys they'd fling poo into every corner so they can say, "THIS IS NOW MINE." As for the creeper in particular, I think some writers had trouble with the idea of a guy just ACTING crazy. So they thought of a split personality/demon as a reason to write the creeper as well..creepy.

Lazarus Lupin
art and review

SallyP said...

That's not a horse...that's a pony. A SHETLAND pony, by the size of it.

Zocktastic said...

I had no idea that the Creeper had had multiple conflicting origins. The only one I was familiar with was the one shown in Batman: The Animated Series, to wit, he was a normal bloke who fell into the same vat of chemicals that made the Joker. As it was, I kind of liked that idea, making him a sort of an "anti-Joker": a character created through the same circumstances, but with opposite morals and goals. Though I will say the concept of a hero just being a normal guy who wanted to fight crime, picked out a random costume, and got a leg-up from some crazy chemicals is a creative and wicked cool idea! The Creeper always rocks.

Anonymous said...

@MarvelX42 - I think "White Lightning" was a registered trademark of backwoods hillbilly distillery operations.

Tom K Mason said...

@ Anonymous: "backwoods hillbilly distillery operations" is, I bet, correct. Since this was a Code-approved comic, I'm sure they knew at the time what White Lightnin' was slang for.

I love Ditko's Creeper. By anyone else? Not so much.

Unknown said...

Ugh, thank you. We already have Etrigan fulfilling the demon quota. Why change Creeper?

I'd take the Niles reboot over the demon origin, and I don't think I'm alone in that.