January 19, 2022

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #143: The Creeper

Steve Ditko's weird, possibly insane acrobatic technicolor hero can't keep a single origin for very long.

As some of you reading this may be aware, Jimmy Impossible and I have been doing a series where we discuss episodes of the various DCAU cartoons.  We’re currently working our way through the last three episodes of The New Batman Adventures which features a guest appearance by this week’s Misplaced Hero, the Creeper.  Jimmy asked me if the origin presented in the episode matched his comic book appearances.

I didn’t know how to answer that question.

By the by, that chat will go live here at Gabbing Geek this afternoon, but for now, on to the Creeper…

See, most of the time when I do these write-ups, they are for forgotten or lesser-known characters, superheroes who may have been big or at least part of a prominent superhero team but have since more or less vanished.  But there is a subset of Misplaced Heroes, like the Spectre, who never really went away but have had so many different backstories and such that they might as well be misplaced.  The Creeper falls firmly into that role.

Like here where he seems a bit on the sane side.

Allow me to explain.  The Creeper was created by writer/artist Steve Ditko for the April, 1968 issue of DC Comics’ Showcase series.  The gist was that TV reporter Jack Ryder, one of those hard-hitting newsguys who mostly makes enemies everywhere, got fired from his job and ended up taking a job in a security company.  While looking for one Dr. Yatz, a scientist who had invented some kind of regeneration formula, Ryder learned a mobster was throwing a costume party as cover to get Yatz.  Dressing up in an improvised costume that looked like, well, the Creeper, Ryder tries to rescue the scientist but got stabbed for his troubles.  Yatz gave Ryder the formula, which did heal him, but after Yatz was then killed, Ryder discovered he could use an activator inside his stab-wound to change himself into the Creeper, possessing greater than average strength, agility, and regeneration powers.  Figuring he could get some bad guys by faking insanity, Ryder developed a Creeper personality that included a memorable insane laugh that in some incarnations causes pain for those who hear it.

And since Ryder is generally based out of Gotham and he was created by Ditko, I figure the best way to understand the character is see him as a cross between Spider-Man and the Joker.

So, that’s that, right?  The Creeper isn’t insane.  He just pretends to be, and he gains his powers using comic book science.  Case file closed?

Er, no.

See, sometimes people can’t leave well enough alone.  So future versions of the Creeper had the character more like a Jekyll and Hyde sort.  The Creeper really was insane and Ryder had no control over that particular personality.

And that Joker thing?  In another revamped origin, one of the ingredients for the Creeper formula Yatz invented was Joker toxin.  That didn’t sit well with the Clown Prince of Crime.

Heck, the Creeper ran afoul of cosmic-powered villain type Eclipso a few times, and one of those times ended when Eclipso, in the shape of a pack of wild dogs, tore the Creeper apart, leaving an arm and maybe a foot behind.  Somehow the Creeper got better…

But at least these are still science-based origins, right?

Well, some Creeper stories make him out to be a demon of some kind inhabiting Ryder’s body.

Hey, even evil, the Creeper is nowhere near the world’s greatest evil when the DCU has Darkseid, Neron, Lex Luthor, the Joker, and a host of others standing above him…

The point is, the Creeper has had a lot of origins, and that’s not even getting into the one the Vertigo line ran, where the Creeper was a woman in 1920s Paris.

See why I couldn’t answer Jimmy’s question?

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