Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

I have this certain love for Killer Croc. I don’t know why or where it started. He’s just…cool. Maybe it’s because so many of the Batman villains rely on these complicated, drawn out psychological schemes that often involve turning people’s strengths into weaknesses, committing crimes through brainwashed proxies, or just plain spreading mayhem. But what I think I like about Croc (and all Batman villains, to some degree) is that he is a fairly accurate depiction of what violent criminals are really like. That is to say, he’s mean spirited, aggressive, undereducated, and fits the profile for someone diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder. Everybody gets really into all of these Hannibal-esque, genius serial killers who have zero conscience and orchestrate their plans in this scarily precise, intelligent manner. So all of the bad guys on CSI, Dexter, and even Law and Order have these intricately complex personae that they’ve developed to help them “fit” into society and slip by undetected. Now, do people like this exist? Certainly. Are they fascinating and make for good comic book fare? Of course. But anyone who’s ever visited a penal institution (myself included- er, that is, visited, not did time, in a penal institution) will tell you that most crime isn’t like that. Crime is ugly. Most offenders aren’t cold, merciless, sociopaths. A lot more are walking balls of rage who lash out at anyone around them, sometimes senselessly. At the same time? Criminals aren’t idiots either. Croc is a brute, sure- but he’s got streetsmarts, enough to know who to victimize, when to do it, and how to get away with it. It’s the lunchroom bully who never grew up- instead, they just refined the act of picking on the smallest kid in the room into an art. So really, I think part of the impetus behind the character (like so many in Batman comics) is to really bring Batman’s struggle a sense of realism. For a guy with alligator scales and big jagged teeth, Croc is about as “typical” a dangerous criminal as you can get. Someone who doesn’t know how to be, save to prey on other people. Of course, you probably don’t need me to spell out the metaphor here (but I will anyway). Born Waylon Jones, Croc is diagnosed with “regressive atavism.” Believe it or not, this a real condition (pictures will freak you the &*$% out if you see it), in which people are born with some genetic feature that was probably present in an ancestor of some kind. In Croc’s case- all sorts of reptile goodness. Maybe, originally, Croc was just an excuse to write a cool comic book about Batman going into the sewers and fighting a big alligator-guy, sort of all urban-legend-style. But one way to look at Croc is like this- maybe people are just violent, by nature. Like maybe the reason there’s crime in society is because deep down in there, somewhere, there’s some genetic feature that’s been passed down from generation to generation of our species that makes people cruel, petty, and aggressive. Because hey, let’s face it- in a hostile environment, that’s probably adaptive. So the question is- is crime just human nature? When Batman tries to stop crime, is he really just railing against something that’s inevitable- born into us? Deep down, are we all just wild animals at heart, Croc being the leading example of just how close to animals we can be? So the thing is- the whole conflict with Croc, when it’s done right (and there aren’t a lot of in depth stories featuring Croc, I have to say) really puts Batman in this kind of humanist light, if you stop and think about it. Of course, there are plenty of Batman villains that raise tons of other interesting, philosophical questions about the nature of crime and humanity- and that’s probably why it’s unarguably one of the most influential comic books ever written. So why am I into Croc these days? Well, yes, the metaphor is all interesting- but really I’ve started to dig him just because: have you frickin seen the guy lately!? He gets scarier and scarier every time he makes an appearance. Take a look at Hush, for example. He isn’t even remotely human anymore- his condition has deteriorated so badly, he’s like the equivalent of a walking, talking, velociraptor (okay, wrong species- but still). I remember back on the old Batman animated show when Croc was just the gimpy looking guy with some weird growths on his back. Now he’s terrifying. You see, in the Marvel Universe, the term “mutant” denotes this separate race of people and raises all of these issues about prejudice, society, civil rights and all that stuff. But see…being a mutant in the DC universe…well, it usually means you a freak and that’s that. And by that, I don’t mean “people call you a freak and they just don’t understand you” I mean, literally, you a horrible abomination and a pox upon the world. Croc is a freak. SO in conclusion- there are plenty of good, sophisticated reasons to be interested in a character like Croc and what he brings to the Batman comic book. While Christopher Nolan has kept the movies pretty “on the level” so far, as far as realism and goes (and I wouldn’t have it any other day), I still think seeing Croc in a feature film one day would be interesting. Regardless, my only reason for writing this column is because I am fixated on seeing Croc devolve into a weird, pseudo-human pseudo-reptilian monster man. Thank you and have a nice day.