Bat Signal

Issue 447 – “Enter: The Creeper”

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Welcome back to Bat Signal, my ongoing mission to read random issues of Detective Comics with no context. And lately I’ve really been struggling with that last aspect. For the longest time I just kept getting nice, simple, stand-alone stories that didn’t really matter that I hadn’t read the issues before them. They were all self-contained stories that worked well by themselves. But lately I’ve been happening to pull stories that are either the beginning of multi-part sagas or ones that are smack-dab in the middle of ongoing narratives, making it a little difficult to suss out what’s going on. And the laws of probability have now shown on me again this week, giving me a story that doesn’t really have a beginning or an end. But where that can sometimes be frustrating in other stories, t least the one we get to talk about today is pretty fun. I mean, it’s got the Creeper in it, and if y’all don’t know about the Creeper, get ready to be introduced to one bat-shit crazy…superhero? I don’t know if I’d go so far as to call the Creeper a hero, but whatever he is, he’s weird and in this issue. Let’s get to it!

Our story begins oddly enough with reporter Jack Ryder giving a newscast about how the Gotham City Police are currently hunting down Batman for murder. Which is more than a little shocking given I have no idea what’s going on. But it’s pretty quickly recapped by Batman, who moodily watching a crowd of civilians watch the newscast through a store-front window and debating the morality of Batman. He watches them on a rooftop, angry that the people of Gotham are so fickle and easily swayed to believe that he actually has committed a murder despite the years (if not decades) that he’s been protecting their town. Which is where we’re let in on what’s going on. Apparently in the issues preceding this one Batman had been fighting with Ra’s Al Ghul and their fight ended with Ra’s faking his own death, and actually killing his daughter Talia, and framing it all on Batman. But Batman’s not going to let this stand, so he marches himself straight to a Gotham cemetery to do the only thing that can prove he’s innocent. Dig Ra’s coffin up!

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Suspicious! The man that Batman supposedly killed seems to not be in his coffin, which should be raising red flags for the people who buried the coffin, but whatever, I guess it takes a Batman to get any decent detective work done in this town. So Batman begins trying to figure out what to do with this information when he gets an unexpected visitor. Two police officers who assume that they’ve just made a huge break in finding the wanted vigilante. Batman tries to explain to them that he’s found Ra’s coffin empty, and that he’s innocent, but the officers get belligerent and he has to fight them and he decides to force them to see his evidence. Unfortunately when he shows them the coffin there’s something unexpected in it. Namely the body of Ra’s Al Ghul, despite it having not been there a second ago. So, not looking like a crazy person at all, Batman runs away into the night, hoping to solve what’s going on.

Which of course means he’s headed back to his home to talk with Alfred. Apparently he’s living in an apartment now instead of Wayne Manor, but it doesn’t really matter because he barely spends any time there. He basically walks in, Alfred tells him he ran a ballistic report on the gun that Ra’s supposedly died from, and Alfred informs him that the gun was apparently hand-made and had a hair from a lion in it. Batman seems to think that this makes some amount of sense, and runs off to the zoo to see what a lion has to do with this complicated plot. And while all of that’s going on we cut to the newsroom where Jack Ryder has just finished his broadcast. Ryder becomes concerned about the news he’s having to report, since he knows that Batman is an honorable man, due to the fact that he’s previously helped him reign in his Creeper personality. But Ryder knows that there’s no way that he can help Batman, but that there may be a chance that the Creeper can help. So he removes some protective chemicals from his hand, and allows himself to transform into the Creeper!

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Now, if you’re not familiar with the Creeper, he’s a little complicated. I haven’t really read much with him in it, and most of my familiarity with the character comes from an episode of Batman: the Animated Series, but he’s certainly odd. I did some research and it seems like, at this time period at least, he has superhuman agility, some super strength, a healing factor, and is totally insane. But I guess he’s a good guy, so he races off to find Batman, somehow knowing that he’s going to be at the zoo. So the Creeper shows up at the zoo right as Batman does, and the two start to argue. Creeper doesn’t really seem to have Jack Ryder’s memories, and seems to think that he’s there to stop Batman. And Batman just thinks that Creeper is an annoyance, so the two quickly escalate from argument to fighting.

Batman and the Creeper just begin tussling, punching each other all around the zoo. And while they’re fighting neither of them seem to notice some shadowy guy in the background slowly walking around them and unlocking the habitat of some lions. Although as soon as lions do enter their fight, they pretty quickly stop fighting each other and start fighting lions. Yep, if you ever wanted to see Batman carefully incapacitate lions while the Creeper basically just curb-stomps them, this is the issue for you! Anyway, the two manage to deal with all of the lions, and then turn their attention on the man who tried to kill them. He’s just some random dude, and Batman starts to interrogate him. But that’s not really going anywhere, so the Creeper grabs him and acts like he’s going to drop him in a pit of crocodiles. Unfortunately as the Creeper is holding him in the air the man is struck with an arrow, and dies. And who fired that arrow? No clue! That’s where the issue ends. Guess we’ll never know!

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Yep, just another damned cliffhanger. At least I was able to piece together what happened in the previous issues, and as usual I can make a pretty good guess of how the story ends. Batman wins. But for being an issue right in the middle of a larger story, I did have some fun with this one. Seeing Batman against the police and trying to prove his innocence was a fun idea and it worked pretty well, even though it raised a lot of questions that this issue didn’t answer. And as weird as he is, the Creeper is a fun character and I enjoyed seeing him for the first time in this series. But the problem I had with this issue was that this seemed like the least interesting issue of this story. I would love to know what was going on with Ra’s Al Ghul’s complicated murder/suicide/revenge plot that happened in the previous issues, and I would also love to see how it gets wrapped up, probably with a Lazarus Pit or two. So while I had a good time with this issue, it does feel like it was probably the weakest link in this story, and was kind of superfluous. Unless that last panel is legitimate and the Creeper plays an integral role in clearing Batman’s name. Which would be fascinating. Maybe someday I’ll read about it!

“Enter: The Creeper!” was written by Len Wein, penciled by Ernie Chan, inked by Dick Giordano, and lettered by Ben Oda, 1975.

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