The Creeper

Created by Don Segal & Steve Ditko

NAME + ALIASES:
Jack Ryder

KNOWN RELATIVES:
Randolph H. Ryder (father, deceased), Elanor (mother, deceased)

GROUP AFFILIATIONS:
Justice League Reserves, "Justice League of Anarchy"

FIRST APPEARANCE:
Showcase #73 (March-April 1968)

+ History

Notes

This profile pertains only to the pre-Infinite Crisis history of the Creeper, which is no longer in continuity.

Jack Ryder was born to the Publisher of a successful Union Dispatch. His father's history would influence Jack's own future — but so would his mother's. She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia while Jack was still a child and died in an institution. (Creeper #1) As a tabloid reporter, Jack made lots of enemies. "Jack Ryder's Hot Seat" was the most widely read exposé column in New York City, for no one was exempt from Ryder's crusading tirades. Ryder's great love was for unveiling corruption, and nothing in heaven or hell could bar his path once he latched on to a story.

Originally, he was not so successful. He lost his job as a reporter and went into security. He was put on the trail of a group of mobsters who had kidnapped Professor Emil Yatz. As it happened, the place Yatz was held was also hosting a costume party and Ryder rented a costume of leftovers to attend the party. He succeeded in locating Yatz, but was critically cut in the battle with the mobsters. To save his life, Yatz implanted Jack with a small ionized promethium plate that could store the sub-atomic coding of any number of inorganic materials. The device could also quickly heal his wounds, but there had been no time before the operation to remove Ryder's grotesque harlequin costume. Activating the device would now transform Ryder into another being with yellow skin and green hair (like his costume). He then became an occasional costumed adventurer known as the Creeper. (Showcase #73)

But that was all a lie.

Really, Jack was hot on the trail of a local mob boss known as Manny. Ryder infiltrated a masquerade party at Manny's house, but Manny's thugs found the reporter and decided to kill him — but not without enjoying some cruel fun first. Injecting Ryder with a hallucinogenic drug, they costumed him in a weird red-and-yellow outfit and set him loose at the party. Ryder was beaten then taken out into the wilderness, shot, and left for dead. Much to his surprise, Ryder awoke to see a wizened old professor — Emil Yatz. Manny had given Yatz the funding to develop a small ionized promethium plate that could store the sub-atomic coding of any number of inorganic materials. Yatz knew that the power supply would revive Ryder and heal his wounds, but there had been no time before the operation to remove Ryder's grotesque harlequin costume. This meant that activating the device would transform Jack into the "Creeper." Also, the hallucinogen pumped into Ryder made the Creeper laugh wildly. He returned to the party and exacted final justice on Manny and his aides by killing them with his bare hands. (Secret Origins v.2 #18)

Alas, this too was a lie. The truth is much simpler…

True, it is unclear whether Jack stumbled across Emil Yatz, or if he was specifically selected as Yatz's test subject. Regardless, the engineer of Jack's transformation was indeed Emil Yatz. Yatz sought truth through the manipulation of flesh, and began the process by experimenting on himself. Though Yatz gained the ability to alter his form, it was unstable. Therefore, he sought a new test subject and the experiment on Jack was much more successful, too successful. Ryder became a mad "creep" and escaped from Yatz soon after the transformation. His memories of the event were completely shattered. He went on to believe that Yatz had saved his life, and began a second career as the costumed Creeper. (Creeper #3) Yatz pursued the Creeper in another form. To the Creeper, he appeared as an arch-foe, the shape-changing villain Proteus. (Beware the Creeper #2-6)

After a few battles, Proteus left the Creeper alone. In time, Ryder learned the secret of his "other self" — a self hidden within the sub-atomic matrix of the device imbedded under his skin; a self that emerged on demand and brought him into a twisted, twilight world between sanity and psychosis. He also continued a successful career as a journalist, using every conventional and unconventional method to expose frauds, charlatans, and crooks.

The Creeper has met the Justice League several times. Once, during its early days (Justice League of America #70) and again during the Gray Man's atttack on the small New England village. (Justice League America #5-7) After this he appeared at a recruitment party, where he was deemed suitable for reserve status only. (#24) He retains this status today. (JLA #27)

The Creeper was also a part of an "suicide" mission to destroy Eclipso. He traveled to the Caribbean under the cover of news reporter, but Eclipso decimated all the heroes present, including the Creeper. (Eclipso #13) After some time dormant, his supernatural healing powers revived Ryder's body and he began wandering the jungles of Parador. He was found by by a woman named Miriam Leary and returned with her to the U.S. In "death," he had lost all knowledge of his life as the Creeper; this subconscious knowledge drove Ryder mad.

A celebrity, Ryder's situation made headlines; he was admitted to psychiatric care. And so, Proteus had finally caught up with the Creeper. Proteus posed as Jack's therapist, Dr. Skolos, and coaxed the Creeper back out of Jack. (Creeper #1) The Creeper ran, but was recaptured by Proteus, who finally told Jack his true origins. It seems Proteus' body was dying and he needed to unlock the secrets of his success that lay within the Creeper. Proteus literally swallowed the Creeper and began to assimilate his body, but Jack saved himself by reverting back into human form. Proteus managed to escape in a protoplasmic form. (#3)

During his absence, his show was taken over by his romantic interest/rival, Vera Sweet (nee Swetowski). While getting back on his feet, he occasionally stayed in Vera's apartment. (#2) He was soon back oin the job as a muckraker.

Though Proteus was demented, he discovered something during Jack's psychoanalysis: he suffered from an extreme case of bipolar disorder. In the past, the Creeper had always been a counterbalance to Jack's quest for order. In essence, the Creeper is an outlet for Jack's wild side — the side that inherited his mother's mental illness. The longer the Creeper was "bottled up," the crazier they both became. Indeed, the Creeper did finally literally claw his way apart from Jack! (#10)

As the Creeper, he is completely free to go after those who prey on the helpless, those so ungodly and unspeakably evil that only the Creeper's horrifying appearance and quirky, savage unpredictability can strike into their hearts the terror they so willfully exact on the innocent.

Notes

There is also a legend about a Parisian woman in the early Twentieth Century who committed surrealist "art-crimes" in the name of the Creeper. (Beware the Creeper v.2)

There was one unpublished Creeper story, which found its way into Canceled Comics Cavalcade #2 after the "DC Implosion." It was to have appeared in Showcase #106, and created by Steve Ditko.

In the DC/Marvel Amalgam universe cross-over (1996),
Kurt Ryder was called Nightcreeper.

SOURCES:
Justice League Sourcebook. Ray Winninger. Mayfair Games, 1990.

 

+ Powers

As the Creeper, Ryder possesses Olympic-level combat skills, and has extraordinary strength, stamina, and recuperative powers. His most formidable weapon is his insanity — the Creeper's foes never know what he might do next. Ryder can transform himself into the Creeper and back instantaneously. The Creeper's laugh has a paralytic quality which causes extreme nausea and disorientation.

Appearances + References

» FEATURED APPEARANCES:

 Adventure #445-447  Brave & Bold #80
  Eclipso #12-13
  First Issue Special #7
 Justice League of America #70
 Justice League International v.1 #5-7, 24
 Secret Origins
v.2 #18
 Showcase
#73
 Super-Team Family
#2
 Wonder Woman
v.2 #25

» SERIES:

 Beware the Creeper, 6 issues (1968-69)

 The Creeper, 12 issues (1997-98)

 Beware the Creeper v.2, 4-issue limited series (2003). This Vertigo series does not feature Jack

» SEE ALSO:

 Dark Mark > Creeper