Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Who is Bold Enough to Wear Green and Purple Spandex?

Bet you can't guess the next Batman villain to be featured on my stupid blog.  I'll give you some clues, it'll be a game like 20 questions.  Some may even call it a riddle...

Created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang (best name in comics history!) in 1948, The Riddler first appeared in Detective Comics #140.  Edward Nashton, sometimes named Edward Nigma (E. Nigma being a synonym for mystery), is unlike other villains, as he rarely kills anyone, however, his obsession with solving puzzles and proving his superior intellect puts him right in the same ballpark with all of the other obsessed Batman villains.  

Unlike some of the other campy Batman bad guys who were able to be rewritten by contemporary writers into scary villains, The Riddler has always been, and probably will continue to be, a joke.  There is something far too silly about a criminal who leaves clues that will lead to his arrest.  His modis operandi does not allow him to be taken too seriously.  A criminal that wants to be caught shouldn't expect any respect from anyone.  However, this character continues to be a mainstay villain, despite the camp and the stupid gimmick. 

Carey and Schumacher couldn't kill him
Recently, the Riddler's reputation was given an overhaul.  Jeph Loeb seems to like the character, as he uses him in his Long Halloween/When in Rome/Dark Victory storyline, and also in his Hush story arc.  In Hush, the Riddler is revealed to be the mastermind behind the entire plot, manipulating Ra's Al Ghul, Tommy Eliot, and the rest of the villainous cast.  

The people that brought us the Arkham video game series have also contributed to building the Riddler into a character worthy of more than just pathetic comedy.  In Arkham City, he is portrayed as psychotically obsessed with proving his superiority to Batman.  He takes hostages and sets up death traps that Batman is forced to solve in order to save innocent lives.  This is a departure from past versions of the character, in that he is willing to murder.  

In the current comic book continuity, the Riddler had been revealed to be "cured" and was moonlighting as a private eye in Gotham, often teaming up with Batman to solve crimes.  So, much like Catwoman and Mr. Freeze, it looked like the Riddler would end up a reformed villain.  However, in the See No Evil story arc, the Riddler's psychosis returns and he starts taking private eye type jobs from other villains.  This arc ends with the Riddler murdering his partner/sidekick, Enigma.  

After the reboot, the Riddler is found in Arkham Asylum where he is released by the Joker during the Death of the Family story arc.  This Riddler character is portrayed as a more sober genius, and is seen as intellectually dangerous by the Joker.  

I definitely approve.  I'm not a fan of classic villains going soft and turning into anti-heroes.  It appears that the Riddler is headed toward a more dangerous characterization as seen in Arkham City instead of the clownshoes of a villain we all grew to know and expect.   

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