DCAU #255: Beware the Creeper

IN THIS ONE... Jack Ryder becomes the Creeper.

CREDITS: Written by Steve Gerber and Rich Fogel; directed by Dan Riba.

REVIEW: I love this! Jack Ryder becomes the Creeper, finally, and he's hilarious. His shtick is that he has a cartoon mind and obeys cartoon logic, and he's got some great lines to go with it. Between him, the Joker and Harley, they could have said, it's enough, but no, they go full on comedy. When he has to find a costume for himself, the thrift shop clerk is humorously jaded about the whole affair. He pays with plastic, one of those Batman Halloween masks I remember from my youth (with the Golden Age Batman in Ryder's Behind the Laughter dramatization, that makes two fun winks to the past). The fights are odd and play like punchlines. And the episode features one of the craziest car chases ever, as much slapstick as it is action. Even Batman has comic timing, turning the car around at one perfectly edited point that should make you at least smile.

The Creeper has been a Gotham resident for a long time, but tying him to the Joker is something only a more self-contained universe like the DCAU can so smoothly do. Ace Chemicals really should stop making that slop. What is it used for anyway? All we know it does is make you crazy and change your skin tone. In this case, it's also give Ryder super strength, toughness and healing. Unlike the Joker, he's on the side of the angels, and given the way it ends - his condition can be managed with a patch, but he can become the Creeper anytime - the fact the show is ending means we won't get the promised return engagement. I would have loved for him to show up again, perhaps in his own crazy shorts (you know what I mean).

The one thing I could have done without is his cartoonish lust for Harley Quinn. We were already sort of stealing the next episode's thunder (they remake Mad Love, tune in tomorrow) with the Joker abusing Harley on their anniversary - the giant cream pie did nothing for him - and then to have the Creeper licking and straddling her... I'm sorry, but in the age of consent awareness, this plays very wrong. I know the intent is harmless, but if these cartoons are at all retro, it's in their attitude towards women (who apparently all get to be called "toots" at least once in their onscreen lives).

IN THE COMICS: When the Creeper showed up out of sequence in the tie-in comics, I promised to keep his comic book history to THIS episode, so buckle up. The Creeper is a Steve Ditko creation (note Ditko's Vintage Clothing where he gets his costume, and where arguably, there's a mannequin that looks like the Question, another Ditko creation), first appearing in Showcase #73 (1968) and soon starring in a short-lived series called Beware the Creeper (this episode's title). His origin was not tied to the Joker's. Instead, he was caught investigating gangland types at a costume party, was injected with a serum and implanted with a device by a scientist he attempts to rescue, and then becomes able to switch between a mad costumed persona and his own self. Initially, he fakes the madness - DC has gone back and forth on that - the laugh a tool to strike fear into the hearts of criminals. The dramatization of the Joker's origin steals from Batman (1989, but Batman's own appearance is inspired by his original look in Detective Comics #27.

Billy West (still best known for Futurama) does the voices of Lar, Mo and Cur.

REWATCHABILITY: High - My favorite episode in a long time. Send Creeper to series!


Mela said...

According to an interview on the Freakazoid DVDs, the idea for this episode came from their original plans for Freakazoid before making it a total comedy. Which only made me wish the Creeper was given his own series more.

Martin Léger said...

Creeper as prototype for Freakazoid? Huh, that's cool. Totally makes sense too.

Siskoid said...

I've read that too. So in a way, we did get a Creeper series.


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