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[personal profile] espanolbot posting in [community profile] scans_daily
One of the big names when it comes to Batman villains, the Riddler has worn a number of different variations over the years. From egotistical violent criminal to relic of a more innocent period of supervillainy to Batman's Smartest Foe, Eddie Nygma is curious as he's often subject to far more internal analysis than you'd expect for a man who wears clothes covered in punctuation.

In 1948's Detective Comics 140, Eddie has something unusual for a villain of the time period: An actual explanation for who he is and why he does what he does.

The Riddler bursts into the control room of the giant crossword puzzle, incapacitating the operator by throwing a "Loudini Rope Tie" at him, and changes the crossword to ask 1. (Five Across) A water utensil, 2. (Six Down) A public way, and 3. (Seven Down) a formal dinner.

The caped crusaders arrive to free the operator, and Batman seemingly makes short work of the clues. Reasoning that the Riddler is attacking the Basin Street Banquet, Batman and Robin burst in to defend the Mayor and his dinner guests from the supervillain... only for a cop to run in and exclaim that the Basin Street Bank has just flooded.

While Batman and Robin are metaphorically smacking their foreheads over not getting the "bank wet" pun, the Riddler breaks into the place in scuba gear and manages to successfully steal tons of stuff. The next day, a fleet of trucks pulls up outside of GCPD headquarters saying they have a delivery for Batman, their cargo turning out to be giant jigsaw pieces.

They spend all day fitting the thing together, and realise that the Riddler must be targetting a local art collecting billionaire.

They rescue the guy, only for Eddie to try and escape in a truck dragging a giant corn cob, which along with the attached riddle leads them to believe that the Riddler intends to escape town via the glass mirror on the pier. They go to it, and promptly get stuck inside while the Riddler gloats that he's set up a bomb to explode while they're bumping into the walls.

Clearly having had enough of the Riddler's schenangians by this point, Batman just tears up the carpet from inside the maze and sets fire to it, the heat making the glass pop out of its frame as it expands. The Riddler attempts to flee, only to get caught in his own explosion, leaving only a mysterious question mark floating in the sea for Batman and Robin to find.


But the Riddler, obviously, survives this encounter and went on to annoy Batman and Robin for decades to come. Curiously, the Riddler's gimmick here seems to pass a kind of resemblance to the Joker's first appearance, where he'd warn his victims ahead of time in a cryptic way and then carry out the crime despite the police actively being on the look out for him.

Come the 1960s and the arrival of Julie Schwarz, the Batman books underwent something of a shake-up, dispensing of the more outlandish content from the Silver Age and a renewed interest in more grounded villains, with the Riddler fitting the bill nicely. Curiously, in the 1966 story "the Riddle-Less Robberies of the Riddler" they actually attempted to add some psychological complexity to the character by having him attempt to commit some regular crimes for once, only to find...

So yeah, dehabilitating mental illness had now been added to the character. Which is a narrative thread carried on through several other versions of the character, such as the later DCAU depictions, such as in Gotham Adventures 11 where the Riddler attempts to commit crimes without leaving his standard clues only to find that Batman was able to beat him by solving clues Eddie wasn't even aware he was placing.

This in turn leads into something of a tricky situation, as they have a character who was explictly being depicted as being mentally ill while at the same time being treated as a camp joke as the comics moved forwards into the 80s and 90s. Whether it was a result of Frank Gorshin's memorable depiction of the Riddler in the Adam West Batman show, or due to the fact that... well... his gimmick is kind of silly, the Riddler has been treated as something of the odd man out in Batman's rogues gallery. A villain with a silly costume and persona typical for the early days of superhero comics, while at the same time being too high profile with the comics reading public to just ignore.

This lead to some writers downplaying the threat the Riddler once was, be they having Commissioner Gordon just telling him to go straight and leave Gotham (following his release on a technicality) because the GCPD didn't have the time or patience to deal with his relatively harmless mischief (the Question 26), having him be a wormy police informant (most Jeph Loeb works besides Hush), or being used by Neil Gaiman to highlight how the nature of supervillainy has changed in Gotham over the years.

There have been a number of attempts to make the Riddler more of a threat akin to modern incarnations of the Joker or Penguin, with varying degrees of success. In the classic Dark Knight, Dark City, for example, the Riddler attempts to trick Batman into summoning a demon from colonial days to grant Eddie power... though in the end all that happened as Grant Morrison pillaged the story for parts while composing his preboot Batman story arc.

Similarly, in the post-Kevin Smith Green Arrow series there evolved a bizarre subplot where the Riddler would end up in Star City (which considering it's on the West Coast while Gotham's on the East implies Eddie roams the US committing crimes), where Green Arrow would beat him up and shoot arrows into him. This lead to a storyline where the Riddler decided to get serious, where after getting greviously injured by Green Arrow, the superhero then tortured him for information with the police's backing. This led to him updating his look to include getting a question mark tattooed on his face, start wearing lipstick, and beat up Ollie with a crowbar... which really makes it seem that the writer really wanted to use the Joker, but settled for his closest counterpoint.

This version of the character lasted for a shorter amount of time than Scarebeast (and, yeah, we'll get to that in the Scarecrow retrospective), and we were back to Riddler classic in time for Hush and its follow ups. There a bunch of stuff happened in quick succession. The Riddler got cancer, used a Lazarus Pit to get cured, worked out that Bruce Wayne was Batman, helped Hush arrange the elaborate ensemble revenge scheme, was retconned into the Killing Joke by his coincidently seeing the men who staged the Joker's wife's "accident", and was promptly beaten into a coma by Hush.

This led to what is my favourite version of the character, where in Paul Dini's Detective Comics stories Eddie awoke from his coma with both amnesia and a desire to express his intelligence and desire to show off in more constructive ways... Basically? He became a detective.

Considering the background of the character, this version actually worked really well, his former supervillain status slotting him into something of a moral gray area in the Gotham Underworld, where he'd still be friends with the Penguin, Harley Quinn and such, while also solving crimes. It was something new, and it worked more often than it didn't... at least, until someone decided it was boring and restored his old personality. Because, as the Catwoman mindwipe demonstrated, moral ambiguity and character development are for chumps.

This brings up to date, with Scott Snyder's version of the character. Here he's depicted as the most intelligent of Batman's rogues, with the Joker saying that out of all of them he's the one who keeps the caped crusader intellectually in the game by consistantly challenging him. This was expanded upon further in Snyder's Year Zero story arc, where Eddie's game was upped to the point where he became a full-on social darwinist.

Here he isolated Gotham from the outside world, and refused to let anyone in or out on pain of weather balloons filled with biological weapons until they can ask him a riddle he can't answer. His idea being that humans only evolve through times of hardship, and that by enforcing a post-apocalyptic environment on Gotham's citizens they'd become "better".

This version was... okay. The fun came more in the form of Batman and his allies defeating him with a team effort which was actually genuinely exciting. It also differentiated him from the Joker, although Snyder's continuing need to escalate the threat level of each successive villain is becoming a tad repetitious (see the Joker plague or Two-Face setting an entire state of ordinary people after Batman, for example).

Up next, viewer's choice again: Two-Face or the Scarecrow? Down for other suggestions if people have them too.

Date: 2016-12-24 11:55 am (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
I have a soft spot a mile wide for the Riddler, mostly because of Frank Gorshin having the time if his life as an explosively unpredictable psychotic bastard in the middle of a camp kids show! Well that and his taste in overelaborate deathtraps)

BTAS rarely used the Riddler because they felt that too often he was tik close to the Joker in terms of his gimmick and they wanted nhim to stand out when they DID use him. So I think that there are only two Riddler as solo threat stories in BTAS and none in NSBA

The comics did better with the story above, another when he's a hairsbreadth away from giving up crime because Batman just keeps solving his riddles and is just depressed, even though his loyal henchmen do try to cheer him up by noting that Batman gets hit in the head a lot, so he might be dumber by now. He's determind to retire after one last try until Batman, (without realising the significance of what he's saying) mentions that he hadn't solved one of the riddles, he'd just ignored it, which inspires Eddie to keep trying after all! :)

I also like the explanation given in the Alex Ross series Justice, where we find that due to an overstrict and physically abusive father who beat him when he wasn't absolutely honest, Eddie is functionally incapable of lying, so he always has to admit that he's going to commit a crime, but if he can hide his "pre-confession" behind insoluble riddles then he's still not technically lying.

Also, yes, Riddler PI was a brilliant move I wish they hadn't undone. It just plain works with Eddies ego and obsession with putting puzzle pieces together.

Date: 2016-12-24 01:36 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Yeah. I merntioned thevretirement story in my reply too. :)

And I love that Eddie is genuinely frustrated at thus guy for being TOO obscure! I remember him showing up a time or two in he cvcvomuc but I missed his intro

Date: 2016-12-24 05:39 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lego_joker
I don't think he *had* an intro. IIRC, Scott Peterson just plopped him in as a guy Batman had already fought a couple times off-screen and just hasn't broken out until now.

Date: 2016-12-24 01:48 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] locuatico
Okay. first of all, there is no way in hell Nigma was a kid in those first panels.
second, i do find interesting that the first time they chose to depict his obsession with riddles as a form of mental illness, they avoid the pitfall of acting like his mental illness is a direct cause of him being a villain

Date: 2016-12-24 02:11 pm (UTC)
reveen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] reveen
I think Riddler is one of those villains for whom the original pulp characterization just works. He's a neurotic jerk who thinks he's a big smarty pants and is fixated with stumping Batman for the sake of ego. It's silly, but he is what he is. he doesn't really need to be a serial killer or a leader of a crime syndicate to make him "serious", that just turns him into a pale imitation of already existing villains in that niche and just looks just as ridiculous as his golden age character.

I mean, I can see why a writer might resort to that, because coming up with the riddles and puns and conveying them in a story can be really, really hard.

Date: 2016-12-24 03:33 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Though I was surprised that The Batman used both the Riddler AND The Cluemaster

Date: 2016-12-25 09:56 am (UTC)
lbd_nytetrayn: Star Force Dragonzord Power! (Default)
From: [personal profile] lbd_nytetrayn
I thought the reason they didn't use Riddler more was something along the lines of "it's hard to write someone who is that smart"?

Date: 2016-12-24 03:35 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Ramping up the bodycount to make a villain more threatening is a trope which long since outlived its usefulness

Date: 2016-12-24 03:38 pm (UTC)
bradygirl_12: (batman--robin (holy night))
From: [personal profile] bradygirl_12
I always liked it in the Batman TV show when Robin would solve the riddles first most often. His love of puns and other wordy stuff made him a natural for riddle-solving, and let the audience see that Robin was superior to Batman in this area. A nice change-of-pace as the show of course had Batman be a know-it-all. ;)

Date: 2016-12-24 03:48 pm (UTC)
q99: (Default)
From: [personal profile] q99
-Considering the background of the character, this version actually worked really well, his former supervillain status slotting him into something of a moral gray area in the Gotham Underworld, where he'd still be friends with the Penguin, Harley Quinn and such, while also solving crimes. It was something new, and it worked more often than it didn't... at least, until someone decided it was boring and restored his old personality. Because, as the Catwoman mindwipe demonstrated, moral ambiguity and character development are for chumps.-

Got to be a major major character in Kurt Busiek's 'Trinity' maxiseries too.

Date: 2016-12-24 05:12 pm (UTC)
qalchemist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] qalchemist
I really miss that version of the Riddler.

I liked him as a 'heroic' grey sort of character, solving crimes for the glory of it and to prove his intellectual superiority.

Date: 2016-12-24 05:24 pm (UTC)
reveen: (Default)
From: [personal profile] reveen
You'd think that interpretation could really take off. Considering how "insufferable bastard genius solves crimes" is a pretty damn popular premise. House, BBC Sherlock etc. You could totally get a TV network to sign off on a Riddler show.
Edited Date: 2016-12-24 05:24 pm (UTC)

Date: 2016-12-24 04:31 pm (UTC)
dr_archeville: Doctor Arkeville (Default)
From: [personal profile] dr_archeville
Excellent analysis!

I liked The Batman's take on him -- undeniably brilliant, but with certain blind spots, like who it was that really betrayed him at his Start of Darkness. (And, voiced by Robert Englund!)

Date: 2016-12-24 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lego_joker
Excellent retrospective, but the, ah, chronology is a bit off. Nitpicking time!

As I understand it, the plot progression goes something like, "Hush" -> "Hush Returns" -> "Low" -> "Riddle Me That" -> The lipstick-wearing GA Riddler we see here.

"Hush" and "Hush Returns". Riddler manipulates Hush and a bunch of other guys in the former, Hush beats the shit out of him in the latter, all is good...

... then we get to "Low", a three-part backup that ran in Detective during "War Games" (hence the fact so few people have heard about it). It picks up right where "Hush Returns" left off, with Riddler begging Poison Ivy for sanctuary. Cue 24 pages of Ivy throttling him while sneering that he was never a "real" villain, and finally tearing off his tie as a "symbolic" death. Or something.

The same writer (Shane McCarthy) continued this plotline in "Riddle Me That", a five-part Legends of the Dark Knight arc (apparently at this point LOTDK telling non-canon stories had gone straight out the window). It's a thoroughly tepid "reinvention" story-arc in my opinion, but it does end with a clean win from Eddie. More importantly, that was where the new Riddler design came from...

... slotting neatly into the GA scans posted here. Then Infinite Crisis and a bunch of other bullcrap happened, and Eddie got knocked into his coma by Shining Knight during the Battle of Metropolis (I think). Seguing right into Dini's Detective run.

Date: 2016-12-24 06:32 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Is Riddle Me That the ome which attempts to make the Jokers past from The Killing Joke canon, but much more convoluted with his wife's death being murder?

Date: 2016-12-24 07:22 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lego_joker
No, the TKJ stuff was all "Hush Returns".

Riddle Me That's biggest claim to fame was canon-ing the whole "Mr. Nygma couldn't stand a son smarter than him, so he routinely accused young Eddie of cheating and beat him" backstory. I'm not sure if that inspired Justice's Riddler backstory, or if Kreuger and Ross invented that independently.

Date: 2016-12-24 06:41 pm (UTC)
thosefew: bored death (Default)
From: [personal profile] thosefew
If you like PI Riddler, you might also like "Run, Riddler, Run", where Eddie works as a security contractor for a New Gotham. The series also has jazz-loving, pink-mecha-piloting ninjas.

Date: 2016-12-24 08:19 pm (UTC)
qalchemist: (Default)
From: [personal profile] qalchemist
I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Which comic was this run in?

Date: 2016-12-24 10:06 pm (UTC)
thosefew: bored death (Default)
From: [personal profile] thosefew
I believe it was a limited series, not in any of the conventional lines. I've only seen physical copies that were book prints.

Date: 2016-12-24 08:35 pm (UTC)
trooper924: (Default)
From: [personal profile] trooper924
I remember reading about a Riddler story where Batman, Commissioner Gordon, and the Elongated Man all responded to one of his riddles, but after capturing him, they discovered that they all had come up with different answers to the riddle and Eddie refused to tell them which one was correct. Does anyone what that was from?

(And given that I recently finished the Telltale Batman series, I'd like to see Two-Face next.)

Date: 2016-12-24 08:35 pm (UTC)
silverhammerman: (Default)
From: [personal profile] silverhammerman
Put me down as another big fan of the Riddler PI concept. I was actually a little annoyed with his role in Zero Year because the scale of his villainy would seem to preclude him believably moving in the PI direction again. Which is too bad, because in these days of Gotham Academy and Squirrel Girl, I feel like a Riddler detective comic might actually work.

Minor nitpick with the Gaiman scene: it seems to be referencing the Batman '66 stuff, what with the goons and Joker, Penguin, Riddler, and Catwoman being the central cabal. But I was always under the (potentially misinformed) impression that by the standards of the show, the Riddler was always the most sinister of those villains, given Gorshin's performance.

Date: 2016-12-24 09:57 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
No, Gorshin was pretty terrifying, channelling his best hyperintense Jimmy Cagney impersonation (which was superb) into the role. but he never killed anyone directly (though it could be said that he was indirectly responsible for the death of Molly in the first episodes) and it could be argued thatbhe never EXPECTED anynof his deathtraps to actually work. The only onscreen deaths were Molly, the Joker's definite attempt to murder his moll in the slot machine story,and a coupe of gun!end who kill each other in their own crossfire in the Zelda the Great story

Date: 2016-12-25 01:34 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lego_joker
'66 Joker, at least, had absolutely zero problem with killing people. In the pop-art episode he thought his deathtrap had given the walls a Robin-colored paintjob, and he was *freaking ecstatic*.

(I believe that in the Key episode, his henchmen chat about how he once killed an entire jury - offscreen - to rescue them from the Pen.)

Shame also claims to have killed a guy over a watch once, but it's possible that was just tough-talk.

Date: 2016-12-25 01:54 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] lonewolf23k
The only problem I have with "PI Riddler" is that it abandons the original point of the Riddler, which was "criminal who leaves Riddles because he likes to play Mind Games." I mean, if he's out solving crimes, why is he even still the Riddler? Who is he leaving Riddles for?

Now, a variation on this I could see is him going "Crime-fighting Vigilante Detective" where he investigate and solves crimes done by other criminals, but instead of outright telling the Police, he just leaves Riddle-clues to Commissioner Gordon or some other Detective.

Date: 2016-12-25 10:45 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Two valid reasons I can think of.

One, a criminal case is a puzzle all the different elements that need to be put together to come up with a solution.

Two, the Riddler was always out to prove himself smarter than Batman by baffling him with riddles. This was just him reversing the process and aiming to show that he was smarter than Batman by solving crimes that Batman could not.

Date: 2016-12-26 02:28 pm (UTC)
junipepper: (Default)
From: [personal profile] junipepper
Raise your hand if you actually remember shoelaces having metal ends...

Date: 2016-12-30 01:00 am (UTC)
zylly: (Default)
From: [personal profile] zylly
Always liked the Riddler, especially Gorshen's performance.

The Riddler is also an example of one of my favorite things about comics: people with names that made them halfway predisposed to villainy or heroics already. E. Nygma. It's perfect (not quite as perfect as Roy G. Bivalo, but still awesome). I've always hated attempts to make it an assumed name.

Date: 2017-09-29 04:45 pm (UTC)
riddler13: (riddler)
From: [personal profile] riddler13
Huh. I might grow some affection to this... Riddler character, as you call him.


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