The Matt Signal – Episode 108: Beware the Creeper

Plot summary: Joker celebrates the seventh anniversary of his transformation by tossing Jack Ryder into a vat of chemicals, inadvertently turning him into The Creeper.

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Each Saturday and Sunday Matt Waters recaps an episode of the legendary Batman: The Animated Series, building an overall ranking along the way. Plus best performances, the ever-popular Villain Watch and more!

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Notes

Episode Title: ‘Beware the Creeper’

Original Air Date: November 7th, 1998

Directed: Dan Riba (17)

Written: Rich Fogel (5) (story) & Steve Gerber (3)

Bruce Timm quit the show Freakzoid! because he wanted to make the protagonist more like this depiction of The Creeper.

Steve Ditko, creator of The Creeper, gets a nice shout-out in the form of ‘Ditko’s Vintage Clothing’, as well as a mannequin resembling The Question, another of his creations who appeared in Justice League Unlimited.

Batman is drawn to resemble his very first comic book appearance in Ryder’s documentary.

Joker’s Mo, Lar and Cur are of course named for The Three Stooges.

Recap

TV’s Jack Ryder presents a package on The Joker, including his past with the Valestra mob and his transformation at Ace Chemicals. Hilariously, the Murder Clown himself is lurking in the background while Ryder talks to camera.

Joker gasses the whole crew and then tosses Ryder into a vat of chemicals. Batman and Robin arrive on the scene and beat up some henchmen but are forced to let Joker escape in order to try and save Ryder.

Little do they know that Ryder has been transformed into The Creeper, manically talking to himself and leaping around with superhuman agility. He terrifies customers out of a boutique and makes himself a wacky costume.

Joker is displeased somebody is ripping off his routine, so much so that he tosses Harley out after she surprises him by emerging from a giant pie and sings him a song in celebration of the 7th anniversary of his transformation.

Creeper hits up the Stacked Deck and attacks Joker’s henchmen, demanding to know where their boss is so he can have his revenge. Harley stumbles on the commotion and Creeper falls in lust immediately.

Batman and Robin also get in on the action, but Creeper punches Batman out without even looking at him and then flees with Harley, leaving the heroes to finish the brawl with the henchmen.

Harley quickly gets irritated by Creeper’s zany antics and drops a giant crate on him and heads back to Joker. He shrugs it off and tracks her across Gotham, with Batman and Robin not far behind.

The two green haired psychopaths do battle, leading to a car chase with our heroes clinging onto the back of Creeper’s car for dear life, pleading with Ryder to stop before more people get hurt.

One dramatic crash later, Joker begs Batman to save him from Creeper. Bruce instead handcuffs him and then injects Creeper with a tranquiliser before he can sexually assault Harley. No, really.

Sometime later, Ryder is restored to normal thanks to an antidote patch Batman manufactured. Naturally he peels the patch off as soon as Batman leaves, laughing his ass off as the episode ends.

Best Performance

For as much as I find Creeper annoying, Jeff Bennett is really the only viable option given he has what feels like 80% of the dialogue. He also certainly shows a fair amount of range, starting the episode off as the more straight-laced Jack Ryder before turning into a rambling nonsense factory, constantly changing the volume and tone of his voice. I just really wish the material he had to read was better!

It was nice to hear Billy West do his Three Stooges impression for Joker’s henchmen, especially knowing West was such a huge fan of the group. My enormous soft spot for him tempted me to give him the nod here.

Ranking

A showcase episode for a character that is annoying at best and a sex offender at worst is… not good stuff! I know some people have some affinity for Creeper, but to me it is laughable that the crux of this episode was the idea he and Joker were similar, because they are absolutely night and day. They have green hair, laugh a lot and are ‘like… totally crazy, man’, but the Joker is an iconic all-time villain, and this take on The Creeper is borderline embarrassing. See, he’s a lunatic… get it???

I want to praise them for taking advantage of the show’s continuity and Batman’s history, heavily referencing Mask of the Phantasm and showing Joker’s transformation, complete with an early days Batman. For him to create Creeper on the seven year anniversary of his own change – which Harley attempts to celebrate – feels like a good story, it’s just that I can’t really get past my hatred of Creeper. There’s also the fact Ryder has only appeared a handful of times this season, functionally replacing Summer Gleeson (remember her?)

Maybe you have a high tolerance for him babbling to himself or don’t agree with me that nothing he says is very funny, but how does one defend him repeatedly trying to force himself on Harley? Honestly, I wanted to rank him as a villain for that, but he is canonically as much of a hero as Etrigan the Demon.

  1. The Laughing Fish
  2. Mask of the Phantasm
  3. Mad Love
  4. Over the Edge
  5. Almost Got ‘im
  6. Heart of Ice
  7. Harlequinade
  8. The Trial
  9. Riddler’s Reform
  10. Double Talk
  11. Legends of the Dark Knight
  12. Shadow of the Bat Part I
  13. I Am the Night
  14. Robin’s Reckoning Part I
  15. Baby-Doll
  16. Sins of the Father
  17. Batman & Mr. Freeze: Sub-Zero
  18. The Man Who Killed Batman
  19. Perchance to Dream
  20. Two-Face Part I
  21. Girls’ Night Out
  22. Torch Song
  23. You Scratch My Back
  24. Bane
  25. Batgirl Returns
  26. A Bullet For Bullock
  27. Joker’s Favor
  28. Read My Lips
  29. Feat of Clay Part II
  30. The Ultimate Thrill
  31. Catwalk
  32. The Demon’s Quest Part II
  33. Harley and Ivy
  34. Robin’s Reckoning Part II
  35. House & Garden
  36. Beware the Gray Ghost
  37. Mean Seasons
  38. Old Wounds
  39. Growing Pains
  40. Holiday Knights
  41. Second Chance
  42. Mad as a Hatter
  43. Heart of Steel Part II
  44. Appointment In Crime Alley
  45. Two-Face Part II
  46. Pretty Poison
  47. Deep Freeze
  48. Chemistry
  49. Harley’s Holiday
  50. Lock-Up
  51. Shadow of the Bat Part II
  52. Feat of Clay Part I
  53. Cold Comfort
  54. His Silicon Soul
  55. Off Balance
  56. Vendetta
  57. Birds of a Feather
  58. Joker’s Millions
  59. Heart of Steel Part I
  60. Never Fear
  61. On Leather Wings
  62. Love is a Croc
  63. See No Evil
  64. The Clock King
  65. It’s Never Too Late
  66. Make ‘Em Laugh
  67. Joker’s Wild
  68. Eternal Youth
  69. The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy
  70. The Cat and the Claw Part I
  71. Zatanna
  72. Day of the Samurai
  73. Avatar
  74. The Demon’s Quest Part I
  75. The Mechanic
  76. The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne
  77. Terror in the Sky
  78. P.O.V.
  79. Christmas with the Joker
  80. Fear of Victory
  81. Be a Clown
  82. The Worry Men
  83. What is Reality?
  84. The Demon Within
  85. Animal Act
  86. Night of the Ninja
  87. Fire From Olympus
  88. Mudslide
  89. The Cat and the Claw Part II
  90. Nothing to Fear
  91. The Lion and the Unicorn
  92. Prophecy of Doom
  93. Cult of the Cat
  94. Tyger, Tyger
  95. Blind as a Bat
  96. If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
  97. Dreams In Darkness
  98. The Last Laugh
  99. Cat Scratch Fever
  100. Moon of the Wolf
  101. Paging the Crime Doctor
  102. Time Out of Joint
  103. Sideshow
  104. Beware the Creeper (NEW ENTRY)
  105. The Under-Dwellers
  106. The Forgotten
  107. Showdown
  108. Critters
  109. The Terrible Trio
  110. I’ve Got Batman in My Basement

Villain Watch

The Joker (Mark Hamill) (twentieth appearance)

If you ever need a harsh reminder of how awful Joker’s re-design is, just watch Ryder’s news piece on him that recreates elements of Mask of the Phantasm but with his new look. It’s pretty depressing.

It’s also kind of a bummer that Joker’s final appearance is one where he basically doesn’t stand a chance against Creeper. It’s a strong start, with him hanging out in the background of a news broadcast and then attacking the crew in violent fashion. But then it’s straight on to being clowned (pun intended).

I specifically chose to cover the episodes in intended production order rather than air date, but I can’t argue ‘Mad Love’ would have been a much better send-off for the show’s most iconic villain

Harley Quinn (Arleen Sorkin) (thirteenth appearance)

See the above, really. She’s subjected to Creeper’s unwanted advances over and over, having to be saved by Batman in the end. Sure, she drops a crate on the sex pest, but really, this wouldn’t have happened on Paul Dini’s watch. Popping out of a giant pie probably would have, though.

  1. The Joker
  2. Harley Quinn
  3. Mr. Freeze
  4. Poison Ivy
  5. The Ventriloquist
  6. Catwoman
  7. Two-Face
  8. Bane
  9. The Riddler
  10. The Phantasm
  11. Baby-Doll
  12. Mad Hatter
  13. Clayface
  14. HARDAC (and Randa Duane)
  15. Ra’s al Ghul
  16. Livewire
  17. Calendar Girl
  18. Roxy Rocket
  19. Killer Croc
  20. Firefly
  21. Penguin
  22. Scarecrow
  23. Lock-Up
  24. Lloyd Ventrix
  25. Rupert Thorne
  26. Mutant Leader
  27. Count Vertigo
  28. Clock King
  29. Klarion (and Teekl!)
  30. Nivens
  31. Roland Daggett (and Germs & Bell!)
  32. Enrique el Gancho
  33. Josiah Wormwood
  34. Talia al Ghul
  35. Sid the Squid
  36. Queen Thoth Khepera
  37. Maxie Zeus
  38. Jimmy ‘Jazzman’ Peake
  39. Tony Zucco
  40. Man-Bat
  41. Rhino, Mugsy and Ratso
  42. Hugo Strange
  43. Red Claw
  44. Arnold Stromwell
  45. Mad Bomber
  46. Tygrus
  47. Kyodai Ken
  48. Condiment King/Pack Rat/Mighty Mom
  49. Farmer Brown (and Emmylou!)
  50. Grant Walker
  51. Gil Mason
  52. Nostromos (and Lucas!)
  53. Cameron Kaiser
  54. Dr. Dorian (and Garth)
  55. Mad Dog
  56. Ubu
  57. Thomas Blake
  58. Professor Milo
  59. Romulus
  60. Arkady Duvall
  61. Sewer King
  62. Boss Biggis
  63. Montague Kane
  64. The Terrible Trio

Plugs

Eager for more long-form coverage of Batman? Why not check out my podcast with Mike Thomas, The Tape Crusaders, which reviewed every Batman movie and delved a tiny bit into the animated series.

My other recap column, Marvel Mondays, will in fact not be presenting thoughts on Black Widow as Life Happened. Full steam ahead for What If…?

There Will Be Movies continues Ben & Matt’s look back at the 90s each Wednesday. This week we find out if we can handle the truth with A Few Good Men.

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Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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