For those unaware, I am rather fond of weird, off-beat, maybe lesser-known superheroes and supervillains in comics. Sure, I like many of the mainstream heroes and baddies that everybody knows about, but I also like to shine a bit more light on some hidden gems that get overshadowed by the likes of the X-Men or the Justice League. Among those oddball underdogs on the #DC Comics roster, I find it particularly difficult to turn my attention from the manic lunacy of one Jack Ryder, a.k.a. The Creeper.
Fun history tidbit: We owe the Creeper's creation to none other than Steve Ditko, the same man responsible for creating Peter Parker, Marvel Comics' friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. In his first solo outing, Beware the Creeper, we see sharp-witted reporter Jack Ryder drawn into a criminal plot, wherein he crosses paths with one Professor Yatz, and through a desperate attempt to hide the Professor's secret invention, The Creeper persona is born, turning Ryder into a superhuman vigilante.
Seems like typical superhero stuff, right? Origin story, mild-mannered ace reporter, experiment gone amok, add goofy costume — wash, rinse, repeat. Except, in later comics (in particular, his 1997 solo outing, titled simply The Creeper), Jack Ryder emerges again, with a totally new spin on the original character. Instead of being merely a human implanted with advanced technology, our Jack Ryder is now seeing a professional for what he believes to be emerging mental illness. His mother (clinically schizophrenic) traumatized him as a child with outrageous behavior, including threats of a monstrous, yellow-skinned boogeyman who would come for him if ever he stepped out of line.
At this juncture, a clever bit of retconning gives his past encounter with Prof. Yatz a different spin. His journalistic investigation into Yatz (who is being pursued by criminal ne'er-do-wells) leads Ryder to be injected with a serum meant for life-saving medical treatment. Instead, it makes Jack's body incredibly malleable. In concert with his childhood trauma, the serum transforms into the very same yellow lunatic his mother used to frighten him as a boy. With that, Ryder is also endowed with superhuman physical capability (including an unreal healing factor, the ability to scale walls and a trademark laugh that literally induces physical pain), all of which are perfect to help exact revenge against the gangsters responsible for his change. If Ryder and the Creeper just happen to take down some other criminals along the way, too, then so be it.
Needless to say, in tracking down The Creeper's solo comic runs, I was delighted with just how much potential lay in wait to be brought into live-action form. Given the primarily positive critical response lavished on the likes of Deadpool (and rightfully so), I think now is as good a time as any to show that DC won't shy away from their own brand of violent, high-action and entertainingly weird superhero shenanigans.
Though, to be fair, I don't think a movie is likely. Even if they did, I fear that a mere two hours would be insufficient to dive into the nuances that make The Creeper so great (as many would argue was the case for The Punisher and Daredevil's movie outings — not that the movies were necessarily bad, but their TV series are widely hailed as better).
As best I can figure, the optimal options are as follows:
'The Creeper' Solo TV Series
This could work, I think. It could touch on the action-packed madcap vigilante adventures (including the undeniably entertaining Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde Odd Couple dynamic between Ryder and The Creeper), and on the heavier side, it could focus on Ryder's struggle with mental illness, which is partly responsible for giving birth to The Creeper as a physical persona. Hallucinations, flashbacks, surreal cinematography, stints in mental institutions (not unlike FX's new show Legion, where the protagonist wonders whether his powers are even real), there are times when the Creeper emerges when Ryder doesn't even want him to, and it can lead to all manner of chaos.
Not to mention, when he's not creeping, Jack Ryder is a journalist. His investigations could lead him all through the ugly underbelly of famous DC Comics locations —Metropolis? Central City? Ryder could even — as he has on an occasion or two — cross paths with the Batman in broody, moody, Gotham City. The only fear here is that with the cost of the effects for his powers in action (on top of so many other costly DC shows) it may end up getting short-changed, such that we only get a criminally-short animated miniseries, like Vixen, The Ray and, soon enough, Constantine.
Creeper CW-DC-TV-verse Cameos
The next best thing to getting a full-on, in-depth exploration of Ryder and the Creeper on their own is seeing the interactions with others in their wake. On the one end, Jack Ryder is dry, cynical, sarcastic. On the other end, The Creeper is a live-wire — obnoxious, rambunctious, energetic and mischievous. Each is genuinely their own distinct character, despite inhabiting the same body. Of course, there could be an appearance on Fox's Gotham, or NBC's new show Powerless, but these could result in painfully small portrayals (with little to no character development), doing the character(s) grave injustice.
On the CW, however, The Creeper could challenge the long-held notion that nearly all metahumans are bad (he's not evil, after all, perhaps closer to Chaotic Neutral). He may find himself at odds with Flash, but then perhaps his investigative prowess as Ryder proves invaluable in solving a case? Perhaps he could challenge the likes of the Green Arrow in combat before seeing the dark part of himself in Oliver, and lending him a hand against a greater foe? Supergirl would make quick work of him, but if another vacancy should open up on the Waverider with the Legends of Tomorrow, he could easily prove both ally and menace, as have both resident villains Captain Cold and Heatwave.
There's even hope that on the mean streets The Creeper might find himself in league with, or at odds against, the new hero on the block, Black Lightning. After all, the two are both members of the Justice League in the comics, but during their solo adventures they're both primarily street-level vigilantes. Not to mention, they have even been teammates on the lesser-known Outsiders team. In fact, if anything, I think the Black Lightning show is the most likely place for The Creeper to take on not only a cameo role, but a recurring position of support within Black Lightning's inner circle.
So, let's review: Jack Ryder has a debilitating illness that, in the real world, would warrant serious medical attention, but in the fictional world, also is great for action and laughs. Jack Ryder is sardonic, bitter and sarcastic, while The Creeper is crude, violent and mischievous, making for plenty of interesting character chemistry dynamics. The Creeper has a delightfully eccentric costume, a fantastically weird power set, and connections to other lesser-known supers, making for a unique visual superhero and/or antihero experience. Potential for supernatural elements (in a few incarnations The Creeper is a literal supernatural spirit inhabiting Jack Ryder's body). Somebody tell me why this isn't already a show?