Steve Niles is a creator playing in a number of different sand boxes these days. The creator of “30 Days of Night” has been traversing the stars in the galaxy spanning “Bad Planet” with actor Thomas Jane over at Image Comics. Over at Marvel, he helped let the monsters out in “Monsters on the Prowl.” At DC Comics, he’s brought his unique style to Batman in “Batman: Gotham County Line.” This June, Niles will bring that style to one of DC’s and creator Steve Ditko’s most unique creations, “The Creeper,” in a new, six-issue mini-series. Wednesday afternoon we caught up with Niles in his car as he was driving around the often hazardous streets of Los Angeles.
Steve Niles: That’s right. Your readers should know that I’m being one of those typical Los Angelinos and I’m doing this interview while driving in LA traffic. So, if there are turrets like outbursts, you’ll understand! [laughs]
CBR: [laughs] Where are you off to?
Steve Niles: Oh, I’ve been shopping. I just bought Thomas Jane a robot! [laughs]
CBR: What? [laughs]
SN: I know, I know! He and I shop for each other like we’re children.
CBR: What, is it his birthday or something?
SN: Yeah and I’m buying him rockets and robots!
CBR: I thought this might be some little love present!
SN: “Tom, will you be my friend?!?!?” [laughs]
CBR: [laughs] As much as I’d love to continue this look into your personal life, I’m sure DC would prefer if we started talking about “The Creeper” and left the friendship of Steve and Tom in the past.
SN: Hey, they’ll benefit from it someday! [laughs]
CBR: [laughs] Right, right. OK, let’s look at the history of the Creeper a bit. There’ve been multiple Creeper’s throughout history, right? Which one are you working with?
SN: Right, OK. I know that aside from the original one by Steve Ditko there was a series that Sal Buscema did as well as a more recent series by Jason Hall & Cliff Chiang which found the Creeper as a woman. What I’m doing is starting from scratch. Using the original origin and modifying it a bit. I’m recreating the Creeper for the modern DC Universe.
CBR: So, the character itself has more in common with the Ditko version than any of the others?
SN: I used all the Ditko comics as the inspiration for what I want to do. The origin is similar, Dr. Yatz is still at fault, there’s still a mob connection. All those things from the original “Showcase” issues are still there, except what I’ve done is, well, I’ve not necessarily changed the science of the origin, but I’ve given some science to the Creeper’s origin. Previously, he would just shove something into his body and clicks a clicker and suddenly he’s the Creeper. What kind of technology is that?
CBR: Right, right.
SN: What I’m doing is a thing with nano-tech. Yatz has created a thing called smart skin, which is designed to be used by burn victims. It consists of nano-cells that can be injected into scar tissue and then the skin will grow itself back. The Creeper is the result of an overdose of that. It’s the skin taking over completely and dividing his personality, creating this second entity that separates Jack Ryder and the Creeper.
CBR: So, you’re going back to the roots of the character, but bringing him into modern times.
SN: Right. And it definitely takes place in the DCU. I don’t know if I should be giving this away, but when he meets Batman in this series, it’s the first time Batman sees him. So, it’s part of a new continuity.
CBR: You used the word overdose earlier. You don’t mean to say that in terms of a drug overdose, do you?
SN: No, not at all. Basically, instead of Dr. Yatz giving up the smart skin to the mob he owes money to, he injects it into Jack Ryder’s belly.
CBR: OK. Tell us about your first story arc. How would you describe?
SN: Creepy! [laughs]
CBR: [laughs] Noooo, not fair, you can’t use creepy to describe the Creeper!
SN: “I’m putting the creep back in Creeper!” [Laughs]
CBR: Oh, c’mon! [laughs]
SN: Seriously, it’s very weird, almost a little surreal at times. Before there was this separation within the character where he was either Jack Ryder or the Creeper. I’m going back to when he’s Jack Ryder, the Creeper is still whispering in his ear and, conversely, when he’s the Creeper, Jack Ryder still has a voice. So, a lot of the first arc is the origin story and Jack Ryder coming to grips with this new power, while simultaneously he’s one of America’s most successful, liberal talk show hosts. In my version he’s this talk show host and the name of his show is “You are wrong!”
CBR: Love that!
SN: Liberals are like that. Being one, I don’t hesitate to tell somebody they’re wrong! [laughs]
CBR: [laughs] You mentioned he meets Batman, so obviously ol’ Bats is a guest in your first story arc.
SN: Yeah, they have a little run in. They share a villain in this one. I’ve invented two new villains for this, on top of Yatz, who’s much more villainous in this version. So, Batman and the Creeper have a mutual enemy they cross paths with and they have a little run in. Basically, it’s Batman checking out the Creeper for the first time.
CBR: Is this affected by DC’s “52” or “One Year Later” plans?
CBR: Talk about your artist on this, Justiniano. He worked previously for DC on “The Human Race.” What are your initial impressions?
SN: So far, I’m loving it. He’s making the Creeper look cool. He’s making him look so devious and impish and possibly evil. It’s perfect. One of my biggest concerns with the Creeper was establishing a new visual without redoing what Steve Ditko did, which if you’ve seen the Creeper is very challenging. Justiniano has done an incredible job.
CBR: You’re a guy primarily known as a horror writer in comics, but the Creeper isn’t necessarily a horror character. How would you define him?
SN: I’ve made him a little darker and there’s an added element to his origin, that I can’t reveal, that makes him a little scarier. I think he’s a reluctant hero, more than anything. Instead of a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing where Hyde wanted to go off and kill people and be a bad guy, Jack Ryder has the Creeper who’s more action fueled – he wants to get out there and do good and make a difference. Jack Ryder has a life already – he’s a very successful person and the idea of being a super hero doesn’t interest him at all. If anything, it really endangers his career. So, yeah, it has super hero and horror elements, but he’s very much a reluctant hero.
CBR: Outside of Dr. Yatz, what’s the cast of characters look like in this series?
SN: Well, we’ve got Yatz’s entire studio crew. We’ve brought back Vera, his girl from the original series. I think she was a sassy reporter back then – they’d let her do the fashion news or something equally sexist – and now she’s one of the producers of the show and is very involved in putting together everything for Jack. Vera and Jack have an on-and-off relationship that really fuels the tension between them.
CBR: Very good. So, how did you end up landing this project? What was that process like?
SN: Well, the phone rang. I picked it up. It was Dan Didio and he said, “I have a character I’d like to run past you.” I said, “I hope it’s Batman!” [laughs]
CBR: [laughs] Oh, no!
SN: Yeah, he laughed too, luckily! [laughs] So, he said the Creeper.
I have to admit that at first I was like, “Can we get Steve Ditko? That’s the only way it’s going to work!” Then I thought about it and went back and read the Ditko work, focusing on the pure form of the character. I also picked up a lot of early appearances of the Creeper in Superman and Batman, back when Jim Aparo drew the character. So, even after going through all that I still almost turned it down, but then I realized we all had the same wish for this character – that he live up to his name a little more. That became a challenge and I’m really excited about it now. Making the Creeper creepy has been a lot of fun. And all of the elements that people loved are there.
CBR: What about that laugh of his?
SN: Oh, his laugh is still there except now it makes peoples ears bleed!
CBR: [laughs] Fantastic.
SN: Well, it’s got to be one of his weapons and, in fact, it can cause problems for Jack Ryder because he can hurt Jack with it. Basically, Jack Ryder has rough relationships with everybody, including the little man who lives inside his head.
CBR: And Jack is in full control of the change to the Creeper, right?
SN: Yeah and that’s one of those things they fight about. [screams] “Let me out! I want to punch somebody!” “No, I gotta work!” [laughs] So, basically the Creeper has become an inner demon that can actually be released.
CBR: Thanks for your time, Steve. Please drive safely.
And now you can discuss the Creeper, Steve Niles and more on the CBR DC Universe Forum.
NOTE: The original version of this story cited “The Creeper” as an ongoing series. In fact, it’s a six-issue mini-series. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.