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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #286

In Westerns, the good guys have white hats and the bad guys have black hats. In comics, the good guys tend to wear primary colors– and the bad guys get stuck wearing green or purple. I’ve always found that interesting (and it certainly gives an intriguing layer to the Hulk). All the villains I’ve looked at so far this week have had one or the other in their color schemes– tonight’s has both. He’s also one of the best Bat-villains of them all.


286. The Riddler

Riddler 1.jpg

Don’t worry, I’ll spare you some cheesy “riddle me this” joke. No ‘When is an archive not an archive?’ or any of that crap. Nope.

The Riddler has an intriguing history. Created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang and first appearing in Detective Comics #140, he made two early appearances in the 1940s, and wasn’t seen again until nearly 20 years later. A certain William Dozier happened to read the issue that housed Riddler’s long-overdue reappearance, and lo, was the Bat-tastic ’60s Batman show born.

Frank Gorshin (rest in peace, my friend) was the man who portrayed the Riddler during the show’s run (though John Astin filled in at one point), and he was brilliant. The Riddler was easily the show’s strongest villain, for Gorshin turned him into a delightful, cackling maniac with his excellent delivery. He owned the screen. Thanks to Dial B for Blog, I also know that Frank Gorshin put out an album in which he sung in-character. You can listen to that here. No one will ever top Gorshin’s Riddler. The less said about Jim Carrey, the better.

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Anyway, the show gave the Riddler the push he needed to become permanently ingrained into Batman’s rogues gallery. Thank God for that! Edward Nigma is a marvelous villain– an obsessive-compulsive criminal mastermind whose sole mission in life is to outsmart Batman. Over the years, he’s become madder and darker, undergoing a few revamps here or there. Frankly, I don’t think The Riddler needs to be changed or transformed in order to be made formidable– he just has to be The Riddler. He’s already cool.

Quite a few good Riddler stories have appeared over the years. Everyone turns to Peter Milligan and Kieron Dwyer’s “Dark Knight, Dark City” as an example of a good Riddler story. It’s a great tale, and makes the Riddler scary. It does, in fact, appear on Greg Burgas’ “Comics You Should Own” list. However, it’s not my kind of Riddler story. I prefer a Riddler who is a littler saner and less murderous– a guy who probably wouldn’t be shut up in Arkham Asylum.

The Batman animated series provided an excellent portrayal of the Riddler, and Paul Dini has now put that version in the comics. Today, the Riddler’s more or less gone straight, working as a private detective. It’s given us some good stories, but we all know he’ll go bad again one day.

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The Riddler isn’t Batman’s most popular bad guy, and he’s never been the Dark Knight’s most fearsome opponent, but he’s a cool and clever rogue that’s usually pretty fun when he shows up. I’ve always liked the Riddler. It’s a shame his best appearances are in television and film, and not the comics themselves, but I have faith we’ll see a pile of great Riddler stories in the future. He’s the perfect Batman baddie: a devilishly smart guy with a fun gimmick and a few tricks up his sleeve.

And so, I leave you with this image I ganked from one of Burgas’ old posts. It’s from a classic Riddler story by Neil Gaiman and Bernie Mirault that appeared in the 1989 Secret Origins special:

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That about sums it up. For more on the Riddler, though, there’s always the Wiki.


Definitely one of the best and most original villain concepts ever. Also, well, Frank Gorshin.

If my comic boxes weren’t all stacked on top of each other, I’d go dig up the Dixon/Nolan Riddler story that I remember as being particularly good.

We need the Riddler to either join or fight the Croatoan Society.

I have that Batman issue to the right of frank Gorshin, (Your right, not his–the newer issue)–It’s one of my favrorite Riddler stories. I was actually disappointed by Dark Knoght, Dark City. It had some good points, I even wrote them about it, and I believe they published an edited version of my letter on it.

That Secret Origins issues was fun–it featured other Batmna villains with an interesting framing story about a News show doing stories on Batman’s villains, and there was discussion that their criminal careers were Batman’s fault. But it was doen with a sense of humour.

Ahh, The Riddler! Huzzah for Edward Nigma! He easily made my Top Ten List that I sent to Cronin, but sadly he didn’t make the Top Fifty. Of course Frank Gorshin is a HUGE reason why The Riddler’s so cool, but he’s got a really great premise to begin with. (Speaking of great performances on that show: Cesar Romero was always a disappointment as the Joker, but Burgess Meredith is almost as brilliant as Gorshin; it’s just that the Penguin isn’t nearly as cool as The Riddler.)

One of my favorite Riddler tales comes from the “I Killed Batman” four-parter. Great cover on that issue, too:

And “Hush” was overall a stinker, story-wise, but I loved how it helped restore the Riddler to prominence. I would totally buy a Riddler series with him as a crooked P.I. who bends all the rules to solve crimes and make money. I’ll be totally fine with it if he never goes back to being a straight-up villain.

What about John Glover voicing Riddler in B:TAS? He only starred in three episodes (“If You’re So Smart, How Come You’re Not Rich?,” “What Is Reality?,” and “Riddler’s Reform?”), but it was a nice departure from the lameass in Challenge of the Superfriends, and the one with the weird speech pattern from the Sixties.

As for great Riddler stories, I’d add his “Year One” tale back when DC used that theme in their annuals.

Sorry about the lack of HTML…I keep forgetting not to use brackets here. Also, it’s “Riddler’s Reform” with no question mark at the end.

While I’m double-posting…Was anybody else annoyed that Riddler was reduced to a silent figure after “Reform”? This came with the last version where he had a bald head for no good reason (including the Superman-as-Batman ep). And I remember the Judge ep where Eddie’s doing his thing, saying, “Hey diddle diddle, time for a riddle,” and the Judge comes in and freakin’ destroys him. Not good.

The Neil Gaiman and Bernie Mireault Riddler story from SECRET ORIGINS is one of my all-time favorite comic book story! A prefect match of talents. It’s a shame Neil and Bernie never worked together again…
I liked the fact that it was abig homage to the Batman of yesterday, especially to the great Bill Finger with all those signature giants props (we see a giant camera here but they where many more all over the story. Very nice.

I loved Frank Gorshin’s acting. I always thought that he should have played the Joker instead of Cesar Romero. Riddler should have been a more cerebral character. Roddy MacDowell, who played a villain called Bookworm in the TV series, would have made a good Riddler I think.

I liked Caesar Romero’s Joker! He was fun, and (to my young self) properly “villainous.” Also, I liked how he rolled his /r/.

He was no Riddler, though. The Riddler was my favorite villain because of how Gorshin played him.

As for good Riddler stories, my favorite is one of the Puckett & Parobeck stories from the Batman Adventures comic (can’t remember which issue). The Riddler gets out of prison, and goes back to crime at the urging of his gang. He actually wins, too! Well, sort of…

I actually liked the revamped Riddler that came out of Hush and it’s a shame they went backwards (even in an interesting way) with the character.

Ah well.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci

October 14, 2007 at 11:02 am

The Riddler is one of my favorite villains, secoond only in the DCU to Black Manta! As others have mentioned, much of my Riddler-love has to do with Frank Gorshin. Gorshin scared the living &^%# out of me as a kid! He was the only villain on that campy West / Ward Batman show who seemed like he might really be insane; like he might just snap, pull out a pistol, and gun down the Dynamic Duo.

Also, the Riddler has one of the best motivations in comics. Simply put, he wants to stump the world’s greatest detective. That’s just perfect. You don’t need to delve any deeper into his psyche than that if you don’t wish to. He wants to prove himself smarter than Batman. Any kid can understand that perhaps unhealthy desire to prove that you’re better than someone else. That’s why the Riddler, to me, is the best Bat-villain, of all.

The Riddler is definitely my favorite Bat-villain, and Frank Gorshin is a big part of that. I got to meet Gorshin at a convention a couple of years ago & he signed my DVD of the 1966 Batman movie. He was very nice.

Kudos for posting the cover of my all-time favorite Riddler comics story: Batman #362. The story by Doug Moench, Don Newton & Alfredo Alcala is a classic IMO. Also check out Batman #292 for a great story about how the Riddler “killed” Batman.

Yeah, I forgot to mention I put him on my top ten list too.

Although I despise the era it refers to, the Gaiman story is one of my favorite stories, also.

[…] Some baddies have very obvious names that describe their entire villainous function. The Rhino’s a big rhino dude. The Riddler riddles. The Tinkerer tinkers. The Shocker… well, okay, he vibrates. And the Melter? He melts stuff. […]

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