|First appearance||Detective Comics #140 (October 1948)|
|Created by||Bill Finger|
|Alter ego||Edward Nigma|
|Team affiliations||The Society|
Legion of Doom
|Notable aliases||E. Nigma (Nygma)|
Edward "Eddie" Nashton
Highly creative and skilled at inductive and deductive reasoning, lateral thinking, and pattern recognition
Vast esoteric knowledge
The Riddler (Edward Nigma) is a fictional character, a comic book character and supervillain published by DC Comics, and an enemy of Batman. Created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang, the character first appeared in Detective Comics #140 (1948).
The character has appeared in many Batman media. In live action, he was portrayed by Frank Gorshin and John Astin in the 1960s television series, as well as by Jim Carrey in the 1995 film Batman Forever. In animation, he has been portrayed by Michael Bell, John Glover, and Robert Englund. In 2009, the Riddler was ranked as IGN's 59th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.
The Riddler is obsessed with riddles, puzzles, and word games. He delights in forewarning both Batman and the police of his capers by sending them complex clues. With this self-conscious use of a gimmick, the Riddler's crimes are flamboyant and ostentatious. The character is often depicted as wearing a domino mask either with a green suit and bowler hat, or a green unitard with question mark prints. A black, green, or purple question mark serves as his visual motif.
The Riddler is typically portrayed as a smooth-talking yet quirky character, deemed insane by the courts of intense obsessive compulsion and neurosis. This was first introduced in the 1965 issue of Batman (titled, "The Remarkable Ruse of The Riddler") in which he tries to refrain from leaving a riddle, but fails. This compulsion has been a recurring theme, as shown in a 1999 issue of Gotham Adventures, in which he tried to commit a crime without leaving a riddle, but fails: "You don't understand... I really didn't want to leave you any clues. I really planned never to go back to Arkham Asylum. But I left you a clue anyway. So I... I have to go back there. Because I might need help. I... I might actually be crazy."
The Riddler was popularized by Frank Gorshin’s Emmy-nominated portrayal in the 1960s Batman television series. Jim Carrey played the Riddler in the 1995 film Batman Forever with Gorshin as his inspiration. The character was also featured in Batman: The Animated Series (voiced by John Glover) and The Batman (voiced by Freddy Krueger portrayer Robert Englund). In both series, he was portrayed as a smooth-talking intellectual who presented genuinely challenging riddles. While the former utilized his traditional wardrobe and appearance, the latter reimagined him with a Marilyn Manson-esque sense of style. Since the first animated series and Batman Forever, Riddler often carries a trick "question mark" cane.
Unlike most of the other prominent members of Batman's rogues gallery, the Riddler is not a psychopathic murderer; rather, he is a malignant narcissist with an enormous ego. He commits his crimes in order to flaunt his intellectual superiority and a large portion of his crimes are non-violent in nature. While the Riddler's behavior may often appear insane to some, it is in fact the result of a deep-seated neurosis. As such Batman's direct conflicts with the Riddler are typically more cerebral than physical and usually involve defeating him non-violently.
Fictional character biography
The Riddler's criminal modus operandi is so deeply ingrained into his personality that he is virtually powerless to stop himself from acting it out (as shown in his third comic book appearance). He cannot simply kill his opponents when he has the upper hand; he has to put them in a deathtrap to see if he can devise a life and death intellectual challenge that the hero cannot solve and escape. However, unlike many of Batman's themed enemies, Riddler's compulsion is quite flexible, allowing him to commit any crime as long as he can describe it in a riddle or puzzle.
After a teacher announces that a contest will be held over who can solve a puzzle the fastest, a young Edward Nigma (or Nashton at the time, according to some writers) sets his sights on winning this, craving the glory and satisfaction that will come with the victory. He sneaks into the school one night, takes the puzzle out of the teacher's desk, and practices it until he is able to solve it in under a minute. As predicted, he wins the contest and is given a book about riddles as a prize. His cheating rewarded, Edward embraced the mastery of puzzles of all kinds, eventually becoming a carnival employee who excelled at cheating his customers out of their money with his bizarre puzzles and mindgames. He soon finds himself longing for greater challenges and thrills, and dons the guise of the Riddler to challenge Batman, who he believes could possibly be a worthy adversary for him.
The Riddler's first "serious" outing is in a series by Gerard Jones and Mark Badger. "Batman: Run, Riddler, Run" throws a spotlight on Gotham's urban decay. As Bruce Wayne tries to invest in new security technology for the city, provided by Donna DiForza, it is revealed that the Riddler is her security consultant and that her enforcer, Fritz, is a mechanized, German militant ready to sacrifice innocent lives. When DiForza's company is compromised and Fritz becomes uncontrollable, Batman must confront them both. In a rage, Fritz is killed by Riddler's bridge riddle, hovering over a shark tank, a contraption deemed too ludicrous for practical application. Run, Riddler, Run remains out of print, but is a landmark story that places the Riddler in a non-physical, puppet-master role in Batman stories, rare for a comic book villain, and a frustrating character for DC writers.
In Batman: The Long Halloween, the Riddler appears as an informant. He first appears when Carmine "The Roman" Falcone hires him to figure out who the Holiday Killer is. Falcone eventually loses his patience with the Riddler, however, and orders his daughter, Sophia, to force him to leave. Upon exiting Falcone's office, Holiday attacks the Riddler, but for some reason leaves him alive. The attack was planned to coincide with the holiday of April Fool's, and several items pertaining to it were left at the scene. This may be why the Riddler was left alive, as matters are traditionally reversed on the holiday. He appeared again in the same chapter of the story is which Harvey Dent is disfigured, when Batman comes to him for information about the attack. He plays a slightly larger role in the story's sequel, Batman: Dark Victory, in which Batman turns to him to figure out the significance of the lost games of hangman that are left at the scenes of the Hangman killer's crimes. He later showed up as a member of Two-Face's jury during the Hangman's trial.
In Catwoman: When in Rome, he joins Selina Kyle on a trip to Italy in search of his fellow rogue's origins. It is there that he manipulates her into believing that some of Batman's most dangerous foes are after her. He has his henchmen employ several gimmicks and weapons used by Scarecrow, Mr. Freeze, and the Joker to achieve this. He hopes to extract Batman's real identity from her, but to his dismay, she actually doesn't know or care.
The Riddler appears in The Question series, being convinced to become a "big-time villain" by a prostitute he meets on a bus. He hijacks the bus and begins asking riddles, killing and robbing anyone that got them wrong. The Question quickly subdues him by asking him philosophical riddles in return. He is outwitted and has a mental breakdown before being set free as a reward for getting one last riddle right.
In the one-shot "Riddler and the Riddle Factory", the Riddler becomes the host of an underground gameshow that focuses on digging up dirt on celebrities. Many of the famous people that he humiliates end up committing suicide shortly afterwards, suggesting that perhaps the Riddler did more than just inspire their deaths. In the end, his actions turn out to be a front for his attempts to find the hidden treasures of "Scarface" Scarelli, a Gotham City gangster who lived long before Batman's reign of crimefighting.
The Riddler has a working relationship with the Cluemaster, although he initially resents the villain for seemingly copying his modus operandi. In their first encounter, he sets his fellow rogue up with a bomb and sends Batman off chasing riddles that would lead to its defusing, as well as away from his real plan: to steal a vast amount of priceless baseball merchandise. The two team up on a few occasions afterwards, and work together on a big scheme shortly before Cluemaster's apparent death in the pages of The Suicide Squad.
After Harley Quinn briefly breaks free of her devotion to the Joker, she attempts to hold up a large party at Wayne Manor, only to find that the Riddler is targeting the building also. The two gangs engage in a firefight, but Harley gains the upper hand when Big Barda (who was secretly allied with her at the time) interrupts the conflict and captures the Riddler and his men. During the storyline, the Riddler makes constant allusions to a 'mystery' that is hidden within the mansion, and after his apprehension, damage done to the building causes the entrance to the Batcave to open. The Riddler sees this, and then declares that he has 'solved the riddle of Wayne Manor'.
During this period, he attacks Black Canary and Green Arrow in Star City, and he is easily defeated. This event helps lay the foundations for Riddler's future confrontations with Green Arrow.
In the 12-part storyline Hush, it is revealed that Riddler suffers from cancer, which also afflicted Dr. Thomas Elliot's mother. Riddler uses one of Ra's al Ghul's Lazarus Pits to rid himself of the disease, and offers Elliot the chance to cure his mother as well, provided he pays a large sum of money. However, Elliott is in fact eager for his mother to die in order to inherit her fortune. Elliott, who goes on to secretly become the masked criminal Hush, explains he wants to get revenge on his childhood friend Bruce Wayne. The two of them agree to work together and the Riddler sets Killer Croc, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn, Joker, Clayface, and Scarecrow out to destroy Batman, with Ra's and Talia al Ghul, Lady Shiva, and Superman being temporarily drawn into the scheme as well.
During the psychotic break that follows exposure to the Lazarus Pit, Riddler deduces Batman's secret identity, and that the late Jason Todd was once Robin. He then tells Clayface to shapeshift into a replica of Jason in order to torment Batman, who is haunted by the former Robin's death. Batman first thinks that Riddler had stolen Jason's corpse and hid it outside of Gotham Cemetery, but it turns out that Jason is alive the whole time and collaborates with him and Hush. When the Riddler threatens to expose Batman's secret identity, however, the Caped Crusader mockingly labels it an empty threat, pointing out that if Riddler revealed the answer to the riddle "who is Batman?", it would become worthless, something Riddler wouldn't be able to stand. In addition, Batman warns him that if he reveals the secret, it would give Ra's al Ghul a vital clue that he used a Lazarus Pit without his permission, and the League of Assassins would subsequently retaliate against him.
The fallout from Riddler's failed scheme is played out in Batman: Gotham Knights #50-53. In the story "Pushback", Hush reappears and beats Riddler senseless across a rooftop. Seeking refuge, Riddler goes to the Joker and the Penguin. He offers to tell the Joker who had killed his pregnant wife, Jeannie, if the Clown Prince of Crime would protect him from Hush. The Joker immediately agrees, but eventually Hush, with the help of the impostor Prometheus, defeats him, forcing the Riddler to flee for his life.
In Detective Comics #797-799, the Riddler seeks shelter from Poison Ivy only to be humiliated. Riddler and Ivy then face off in a physical duel, which Ivy wins easily.
Riddler is stripped of his deductive powers and left to rot as a member of Gotham City's vast and invisible homeless population. A chance encounter with an ex-NSA codebreaker gives him a positive environment in which to recover his mind. During that stay, he experiences an induced flashback that leads him to realize that his father had abused him many years ago. Envious of his son's academic achievements in school, and unable to understand his brilliance, his father believed he had cheated in his accomplishments, and beat him out of jealousy. Once Riddler discovers this, he also realizes that his compulsion is born out of a strong desire to tell the truth to prove his innocence of deception.
Having made this connection, the Riddler spends some of his vast fortune, acquired over many years of crime, to get minor plastic surgery and extensive tattooing, covering most of his torso with his trademark question insignia. He returns and kills the codebreaker – who had pieced together his identity but couldn't act on it – then promptly steals a priceless scroll out from under Batman's nose. Since then, the Riddler has spent most of his time either legally amassing a huge fortune or attacking various heroes in order to prove his new-found power.
After orchestrating a brutal series of assaults on Green Arrow, as revenge against his defeat at his hands during the No Man's Land era, Riddler gravely injures and almost kills both Green Arrow and Arsenal. He once again escapes before the Outsiders arrive to save them. Sometime between this incident and the events of Hush, the Riddler was hired to steal artifacts imbued with mystical powers from one of Star City's museums, and then distract the authorities so that the related rituals could be commenced. He sends Team Arrow on a wild goose chase around the City, and then reveals that he has an atomic bomb housed in the stadium where the Star City Rockets play. However, as a side effect of the ritual performed with the artifacts, the city is plunged into complete darkness, and Green Arrow uses this to his advantage, moving in and apprehending the Riddler.
Riddler later shows up in Infinite Crisis #1, with a group of villains, which includes the Fisherman and Murmur, attacking the Gotham City Police Department. He is next seen escaping Arkham Asylum during the worldwide supervillain breakout engineered by the Secret Society of Super Villains in Villains United: Infinite Crisis Special #1, which takes place only days after the prior supernatural disaster. Riddler reappears as part of the Society's "Phase Three" attack on Metropolis. He is defeated by the Shining Knight and is struck in the head by the Knight's mace.
In Detective Comics #822, the first of a series of issues written by veteran Batman writer Paul Dini, the Riddler returns, having spent much of the previous year in a coma due to brain damage after being struck in the head by Shining Knight. When awaking he is cured of his insanity and of his obsession with riddles, while retaining both his genius intellect and his mammoth ego. He has seemingly reformed, and is now a private consultant and went on a case the murder of a wealthy socialite. Hired by the socialite's father, he proves that a photo of Bruce Wayne apparently implicating him in the crime depicts an impostor and briefly works with Batman to investigate the crime. He suffered severe memory loss while unconscious; upon emerging from his coma, he barely remembers his own name. He does not appear to remember that Bruce Wayne and Batman are one and the same, although he does harbor some suspicions of once knowing something amazing about Bruce Wayne.
In Detective Comics #828, Riddler is a guest along with Bruce Wayne on board a ship during a party. During the party, an old friend of Bruce's falls overboard and is mauled to death by sharks. The Riddler appears to solve the case with the suicide of the apparent murderer, and quickly takes the credit. However, Batman finds evidence that the suicide was a setup to divert attention away from the real killer. Bruce suspects foul play, and eventually tracks down the killer, whom Riddler is also close to catching before Nigma is bludgeoned over the head by a shark-tooth club. The killer pushes Batman out the window, and is about to drop him to his death, when Nigma wraps his tie around an arrow, lights it on fire, and shoots it into the killer's back. As the assailant rolls around screaming, Nigma taunts him, refusing to douse the flames. Batman extinguishes the flame and responds to Nigma's assertion that they're now allies with hostile dismissal.
In Detective Comics #837, Riddler is hired by Bruce Wayne to track down an experimental drug developed by Wayne Enterprises, currently being tested for muscle stamina and cellular regeneration, which has been stolen by a lab assistant named Lisa Newman. He discovers that Newman is staying at the same Athenian Women's Help Shelter as Harley Quinn. With Harley's help, he defeats Newman and returns the drug to Wayne Enterprises, earning Batman's trust for the time being.
In Countdown #42, Riddler claims to Mary Marvel that he has gone straight and is now a detective. The two join forces to defeat Clayface, and after witnessing Mary's new malicious approach to crime fighting, suggests that she consider finding a mentor to help her control her powers or at the very least get some anger management counseling.
After a serial killer surfaces on the streets of Gotham City, the Riddler homes in on closing the case, only to find that the killer is actually one of his former victims out for revenge. The young man, whose girlfriend was caught in the crossfire of a gunfight between Nygma's gang and security guards, captures the Riddler and attempts to kill him, but Batman intervenes just in time and saves his former foe's life.
In the 2008 miniseries Gotham Underground, Riddler investigates the Penguin's involvement with the events of Salvation Run. He saves Dick Grayson, who is working undercover during the Gotham Gang War between Penguin and Tobias Whale and deduces that Grayson is Nightwing.
He appears in Battle for the Cowl: The Underground, where he is hired by the Penguin to find Black Mask. To that end, he tracks down Selina Kyle, meeting up with Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy in the process.
In Gotham City Sirens storylines, Poison Ivy is controlling the Riddler, keeping him in a nearly vegetative state so she can move into his house. When a villain named Boneblaster decides to make a name for himself by killing Catwoman, the fight ends up there. The house is severely damaged, but the Riddler is freed from Ivy's control in the process. Seeing his house in shambles, he takes his question mark cane off of the wall and begins to savagely beat the already downed Boneblaster.
In the third issue, Riddler attempts to solve a pair of unlikely suicides, the first being the second best female tennis player in the world, the second an ace race car driver. During his re-enactment of one of the deaths, he is visited by both Catwoman and Poison Ivy, seeking his help for locating Harley after her abduction. Due to the events of the first issue, and Harley's mental state, he quickly declines, and brushes off Poison Ivy's threats.
In his efforts, he discovers that these deaths are in fact homicides orchestrated by a serial killer who leaves subtle clues to the next victim within the body and time of death of the current victim. While attempting to alert the media, he provokes Dick Grayson as Batman. Almost instantly, Riddler deduces that the Batman before him is a new one. Nevertheless, Riddler reveals that the next victim will be the sister of the second victim, a young romance writer, something that Dick needed Alfred Pennyworth and the Batcave computer to figure out.
In the end, Dick goes off to confront the killer, whereas Riddler agrees to look after the intended victim. After a brief, but expected misunderstanding about Riddler's intentions with the young woman, Dick phones in to announce that he has apprehended and questioned not one, but three killers about their intentions, but gets no answers. Riddler almost leaves the woman to her life, when the lights go out unexpectedly. Riddler immediately concludes that Dick has not captured all of the killers, and pulls the woman out of harms way when a bomb goes off in front of her bookstore.
While Riddler and the writer hide as the smoke clears, three costumed assailants enter the wreckage, looking for their victim to mark with their next riddle. The two men are led by a woman going by Conundrum, and their costumes sport black and green color schemes along with disturbingly similar question mark emblazoned on their outfits. As Riddler stealthily disposes of the two grunts via use of his cane, Conundrum takes the writer hostage at gunpoint. At which point, Riddler deduces that Conundrum and her men are all college students who specialize in Police Sciences. Due to his famous rehabilitation, Conundrum's group decided to fill the void with their debut murders. Conundrum even admits that Riddler was her idol, and that it would be a shame to kill him.
At this point, Riddler announces that Batman is en route to their very location, something both Conundrum and the writer have difficulty believing. Riddler claims that since his reform, he and Batman have become close, and that his cane now has its own GPS that alerts Batman to his location whenever the question mark is twisted. Still unbelieving of his claim, Riddler calmly asks Conundrum with a smirk, "Why is this man smiling?"
After his question has been delivered, Dick shows up and knocks Conundrum out. Riddler then admits that he is completely baffled that Batman is indeed there, since he was only stalling for time until he thought of something, leading him to wonder if there truly is a Batsignal in his cane (a panel during Riddler's "bluff" shows that there is indeed a Batsignal in his cane, as a green question mark alongside a map shows up inside the Batmobile's window).
After the ordeal is over, the young writer hugs Riddler, thanking him for saving her life. Afterwards, she and Riddler go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, with Dick looking over them. Dick admits that Riddler is indeed on a path of recovery, but must still be watched. After washing up in the men's room, Riddler sees a gossip show on a circuit television, showcasing a plainclothes Harley getting into a car with Hush disguised as Bruce Wayne. He then calls Selina and tells her to turn on her television.
Some time later, Riddler arrives at his office to find his secretary bound and gagged at her desk, with Harley, Ivy, and Selina waiting in his office. The women tell him that they're being framed for the murder of a young woman whose body was dropped into their pool, and they need his help to prove that they had no part in it. After examining the woman's body, he finds that the women were telling the truth, only to be attacked by Dr. Aesop.
Return to villainy
In Tony Daniel's "Life After Death", Riddler appears early in the story at a gala party attended by Arkham, Dick, Huntress, and Oracle, hired by Penguin to find the Black Mask. As he chases Catgirl away from her robbery of the venue, the Riddler is rocked by a bomb denotation. The trauma re-awakens his psychosis. Cackling, rambling, and insane, he terminates his contract with Cobblepot and disappears.
In "Riddle Me This", the Riddler still "acts" as private eye and teams with Batman to solve the murders of a mysterious sorcerer named Sebastian Rothschild (a.k.a. Sebastian Blackspell). Blackspell is apprehended, but only after it's revealed there's bad blood between Blackspell and the Riddler from a former heist plot. At the end of the investigation, Riddler disappears, leaving Batman with more questions than answers -- and the suspicion Riddler went to great lengths to orchestrate the ordeal, including poisoning himself with a nearly lethal dose of Joker gas to skirt suspicion.
The Riddler's return to villainy is cemented in "Eye of the Beholder,". Investigating the Sensei's attack on the Jade Society, Batman (Dick Grayson) is ambushed by Riddler and a woman introduced as Enigma, Riddler's daughter. The story concludes with the Riddler and Enigma being paid by a mysterious woman who has he "owes" (although admits he can't remember the details of the arrangement). Delivering a list of Jade Society members, Riddler hopes to be paid with the files Gotham's DA has on him, but the woman says he has one more job for the pair, flipping a coin as she does so.
In Batman #710, Two-Face has returned to Gotham searching for his lost coin. It is revealed that Gilda Dent, coupled by Mario Falcone (son of Carmine), is behind the storm of Gotham crime in revenge of the events of The Long Halloween. The Riddler is featured in the preview cover of issue #711.
Powers and abilities
The Riddler possesses extreme ingenuity in decoding and formulating puzzles of all kinds. His deductive ability has perfused his new role of private detective, in which he is shown to have investigative skills that rival those of the Dark Knight. The Riddler has no superhuman abilities, but is a highly cunning criminal strategist. He is not especially talented in fisticuffs (although his endurance has grown from having to engage in them over the years), but sometimes employs weaponry that exploits his gimmick, such as exploding jigsaw pieces, his infamous question mark cane, known to house a wide variety of technological devices and weapons, and question mark shaped pistols. He is shown to be skilled with engineering and technology, confronting Batman and Robin with unique and elaborate deathtraps.
|Shared codenames: Batman • Robin • Batwoman • Batgirl • Huntress • Nightwing|
Villains: 2-Face-2 • Bane • Black Mask • Calender Man • Catwoman • Clayface
Character names: Ace the Bat-Hound • Bat-Mite • Helena Bertinelli • Stephanie Brown • Cassandra Cain • Tim Drake • Barbara Gordon • Dick Grayson • Betty Kane