Comic Book / The Riddler

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The Riddler (real name Edward Nygma or Edward Nashton, Depending on the Writer) is a supervillain that appears in comic books published by DC Comics, commonly as an adversary of the superhero Batman. Created by writer Bill Finger and artist Dick Sprang, the character first appeared in Detective Comics #140 (October 1948).

Thanks to the unforgettable sixties show (where he essentially replaced the Joker as Batman's lead villain), the Riddler is one of the "big four" classic Bat-Rogues (alongside the Joker, Catwoman and the Penguin). Like most of the Bat-Rogues, the Riddler is victim to a mental disorder - in his case, an obsessive-compulsive disorder that subconsciously forces him to leave clues in the form of riddles at the scenes of his crimes. Flashes into his past have shown an abusive father that would beat him every time he lied and an obsession with riddles, puzzles, and word games, all of which probably didn't help his descent into a criminal life.

The Riddler is best known for his many (often silly) riddles that confound all but the Dynamic Duo, as well as his over-the-top deathtraps. He is, however, incredibly intelligent, yet considers his battles of wits with Batman to be a game - one in which he heavily respects his opponent.

As mentioned above, the character appeared in the 1960s Batman television series, portrayed by Frank Gorshin and John Astin; Jim Carrey portrayed him in the 1995 film Batman Forever, and Cory Michael Smith portrays Edward Nygma in the television show Gotham. In addition, the character appears in many animated media and video games, including the Batman: Arkham Series. In 2014, the Riddler was ranked as IGN's 59th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.

The Riddler provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: He was brutally beaten as a child because his father believed that he was a cheater and a liar (depending on the canon, it's possible he was right). It's probably fair to assume it wasn't just an isolated incident.
  • Adorkable: His Gotham version fits this. He's given a romantic subplot, for crissakes!
  • Ascended Extra: A rather minor villain until his first appearance on the sixties show. A combination of the series' popularity and Frank Gorshin's memorable performance saw Riddler become far more prominent in the comics.
  • Attention Whore: His justification for becoming the Riddler, as shown in Detective Comics Annual #8:
    Riddler: It wasn't the money I wanted. It wasn't the action I sought. I just liked the attention.
  • Badass Boast: In the 1960s episode "A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away", as seen at the beginning of this tribute.
    Riddler: Royalty? You've never met royalty?...
  • The Bad Guy Wins:
    • His Diniverse version actually won in his debut episode. While Batman and Robin thwarted his attempt to kill the Corrupt Corporate Executive who screwed him out of the profits of the best-selling video game he designed, the Riddler still got a very nice Consolation Prize in that the executive's life was ruined because he now lived in paranoid fear of the Riddler's return.
    • As of the New 52 reboot, Batman's first year of vigilantism has once more been modified, and Eddie plays a big role in it. In Zero Year he tricks the GCPD into giving him total control of the city. And Batman isn't able to stop him.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Thanks to Gorshin designing a new outfit, and later Batman: The Animated Series, he often dresses in snappy suits as opposed to his original green question-mark-print tights. And yeah, he can be a badass when the situation calls for it.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Seems harmless and goofy, doesn't he? WRONG.
  • Big Bad: He's one of the main antagonists in the sixties show and the sole antagonist of Batman Zero Year.
  • Brains and Bondage: Occasionally referenced—his minions Query and Echo used to work at a fetish club.
  • Butt Monkey: Jeph Loeb's The Long Halloween and Dark Victory both portray him as this. Catwoman: When in Rome and Hush (both written by Loeb as well) avert this, however. Although, the aftermath of Hush shown him getting beaten up by everyone he used before, and he wound up worse than empty-handed in When in Rome.
  • Calling Card: His riddles.
  • Cane Fu: To the point where his cane in Batman: Arkham City acts more like a blunt weapon than a walking aid.
  • Catch Phrase: Sometimes has a tendency to introduce his riddles with "Riddle me this."
  • The Chessmaster: During the Hush arc. One of the cover arts even shows him playing chess with pieces looking like the characters, though Batman had dismissed him earlier since he hadn't updated his tactics like the others had.
  • Chronic Villainy: He's probably the villain who has it the easiest to theoretically reform at any time, but he's too driven by his hatred for Batman. In Batman: Gotham Adventures, it's brought up that his compulsive nature prevents him from reforming even if he genuinely wants to.
  • Civvie Spandex: His trademark outfit. Now almost exclusively associated with the goofy, harmless trickster version of him; he's preferred the question-mark smoking jacket more recently.
  • Cool Hat: His Riddle bowler cap.
  • Covert Pervert: Once "accidentally" walked in on Selina Kyle naked.
  • Criminal Mind Games: His M.O.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: He actually decided to cut himself one: After Infinite Crisis, he briefly reformed and went into business as a Private Investigator, reasoning that he'd still get paid to match wits with Batman (the thing he really enjoyed) and Batman wouldn't be allowed to hit him anymore.
  • Cutting the Knot: Batman often defeats Ridder using either this or by taking a third option.
  • Dastardly Dapper Derby: His Riddle bowler cap.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Always has a sarcastic quip in him.
  • Death Trap: He loves these. In Batman: Arkham City, he uses them on innocents in a challenge for Batman. Some fans have pointed out that he's taken a few lessons from Jigsaw, while others would like to point out that Jigsaw took a few lessons from him.
  • Demonic Possession: During the "Dark Knight, Dark City" storyline. The result? An Ax-Crazy version of the character that only the Batman: Arkham Series's version can compete with.
  • Depending on the Writer: Bumbling Cloud Cuckoo Lander? Scheming near-equal to Batman? A Bunny-Ears Lawyer version of both? Or a psychopath who could go head to head with the Joker in terms of insanity? And thanks to Batman: Arkham City, he might be a nerdy Jigsaw.
  • Diminishing Villain Threat:
    • Inverted, began as a relatively harmless, some-what ridiculous villain and escalated into a genuine threat.
    • Also kind of applied in universe; throughout his criminal career the Riddler has felt the need to pull bigger, more dangerous and more complicated stunts mostly out of a compulsive need to "play" with Batman.
  • Domino Mask: A green one is more or less the only thing consistent about his costume throughout his various incarnations. Well, when it's not purple...or black...or painted on... During his tenure as a private detective, he swapped this out for a pair of Cool Shades.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: He doesn't have the homicidal need to kill like many of his fellow villains do. He does, however, possess the capacity to murder people and will do so if it keeps him out of jail or furthers his goals.
  • Evil Genius: He's a genius among geniuses, one of the smartest men in the world, though he's consistently hampered by his compulsions. He's one of the few people to deduce Batman's true identity as Bruce Wayne, but never reveals it because if everyone knew the answer to the question of "Who is the Batman?" then it wouldn't be a riddle anymore.
  • Fallen Hero: His Arkham video games and Gotham series counterparts both worked as police scientists before turning evil.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He may seem Affably Evil when he's in a good mood, but his disposition can quickly take a hard swerve into dismissive Smug Smiler on a good day, and Ax-Crazy murderer if he's particularly tee'd off. His Arkhamverse counterpart leans more towards this, but it's present to some extent in all his incarnations.
    Riddler: Well, well. So the shaved monkey has failed. How utterly, utterly expected.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Several adaptations which have tried to move on from the Domino Mask have instead put in him a pair of glasses. The Arkham games in particular reflect this trope.
  • Giggling Villain: In the sixties series, even more so than the Joker.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Towards Batman. His whole goal is to prove that he's better at deduction than him.
  • Harmless Villain: Frequently. Even in the Dark Age, he tried to avoid needless violence, though it all depends on the writer.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Sometimes retires from crime and uses his skills for puzzle solving to do detective work. Though inevitably never for long.
  • Humiliation Conga:
    • He had a big one post-Hush that shows him getting beaten up by everyone he manipulated before.
    • Then there's what happened after that Halloween night in Batman: Arkham Knight. He had kidnapped Catwoman to get the Dark Knight to participate in his "game". He failed and ended up in jail. While he was in prison, Catwoman snuck into his robot factory, stole all his money, and blew it up to boot as revenge. To top it off, he was listening to it the whole time, since he was attempting to access his computer to stage a breakout. Since he wasn't able to keep up the facade of just talking to his lawyer, Officer Cash got suspicious and tasered him. Not... one of his better days.
  • Idiosyncrazy: He has super-OCD according to some comic book creators.
  • Insufferable Genius: He's the self-declared smartest man in Gotham and he doesn't mind lording it over that big dumb Bat at every opportunity.
  • Karma Houdini: His Batman: The Animated Series and Batman: Arkham Origins counterparts.
  • Kick the Dog: He laughs at people who can't solve his riddles. Oh yeah, and if they fail those riddles they die.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: He murdered Miss Kringle's abusive boyfriend in Gotham.
  • Large Ham: The Gorshin version especially had a tendency towards giggling, manic monologues. And Jim Carrey's one had the outrageous clothes to help.
  • Linked List Clue Methodology: Pretty much his M.O.
  • Love Makes You Crazy/Love Makes You Evil: His Gotham counterpart is driven entirely by this.
  • Master of Illusion: His Superfriends incarnation specializes in this.
  • Nice Hat: It started with Frank Gorshin, but even in the comics, he's now often found wearing a snazzy green bowler hat.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: In Batman: Arkham Origins, his desire to bring about the fall of Gotham City during the night of the Blackgate Riots indirectly causes peace when he exposes the corruption under the police department and brings down the city's corrupt mayor.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain:
    • "Dark Knight, Dark City" shows that if Riddler ever stepped up his game, he would actually beat Batman.
    • The reaction many had toward his appearance in the Batman: Arkham Series can be summarized as "they actually managed to make the Riddler scary". Not to mention he actually has a boss battle in Batman: Arkham Knight, piloting a giant robot suit he personally made for destorying the Dark Knight.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: His doctors question whether he's insane or just childish.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: During Catwoman: When in Rome.
  • Offing the Offspring: Implied to have killed his daughter, Enigma.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: He hates losing.
    Riddler: Impossible! You cheated, you must have.
  • Psychotic Smirk: A trademark of his.
  • Punny Name: Edward Nygma. Really, what are the odds? The writers tried to give him the more normal "Edward Nashton" for a while. It didn't stick, so it was changed into Nashton being his birth name, from his father, which would explain why he changed it.
  • Reluctant Psycho: He's crushed at how his insanity renders him incapable of not leaving Batman riddles that lead to his defeat.
  • Ret Canon: Frank Gorshin in the live action Batman created the green suit and bowler hat look as an alternative for the spandex and the slightly more sedate version in Batman: The Animated Series sealed the deal to make this the Riddler's preferred costume in the comics.
  • Riddle Me This: He's not the Trope Namer for nothing.
  • Rogues-Gallery Transplant: Temporarily during No Man's Land where he wisely left Gotham while the getting was still good and tangled with other heroes, leading to a particularly embarrassing defeat at the hands of Green Arrow. Nygma never got over this particular defeat, and after his post-Hush Humiliation Conga, he came to Star City for a rematch against the Emerald Archer. He nearly killed Ollie and still managed to escape capture.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
    • His reaction to the earthquake that created the No Man's Land arc. He's the only Arkhamite to even consider making a break for it. Which he does.
    • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, he does the same. He wasn't very concerned with escaping from Arkham City, though.
  • Shadow Archetype: He's a reflection of Batman's nature as an intellectual.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: He's perpetually seeking to prove himself as the smartest person in the room.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: When he's not wearing the Domino Mask, which has been a lot lately.
  • Smug Smiler: Always has one of these grins in his appearances.
  • Smug Snake: One of his trademarks. In Batman: Arkham City:
    Riddler: And as you lie blubbering on the floor like an ignorant child, you'll know... [that the Riddler is better than you!
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Is it "Nigma" with an "I" or "Nygma" with a "Y"?
  • Spirited Competitor: Depending on the Writer he can be this with Batman.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Once towards Bruce Wayne in Batman Forever and another towards Miss Kringle in Gotham.
  • Symbol Motif Clothing: His outfits are adorned with question marks, the amount of which depends on the outfit.
  • Take a Third Option: Batman often gets past his riddles by doing this, beating them in ways Riddler didn't anticipate.
  • Tongue-Tied:
    • He knows Batman's identity, but he can't reveal it due to his demented psyche; as Batman says, "A riddle that everybody knows the answer to is useless."
    • Also, Batman hints to Riddler that Ra's al Ghul might find out he used a Lazarus Pit if he bragged about it.
  • Tragic Villain:
    • In The Batman he became a villain after his girlfriend sabotages his experiment and discredits him as a scientist. This causes him to adopt the Riddler persona when he goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
    • In Batman: The Animated Series he is less sympathetic, but still only resorted to villainy after getting screwed over by his boss.
    • On a larger level, the idea that he's been warped so greatly just by Abusive Parents is pretty sad. Especially given that he can't seem to stop himself, and in some canons seems to be just a genuinely mentally ill person who lacks self-control - it makes it sort of depressing to watch him attempt any kind of reform, since it's always a case of Failure Is the Only Option.
      Riddler: 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.
    • In Gotham, his abusive father relationship is Adapted Out (presumably), in favor of being teased and bullied by his peers and others, with himself completely oblivious to it...until he develops a psychotic, murderous split personality mirroring his mild-mannered, meek one that takes him over after he inadvertently murders the woman he had a major crush on and learned how to be a murderous psycho thanks to Penguin. Despite this, it's not hard to feel sorry for Nigma in the end.
  • The Trickster: His riddles can prove very difficult.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The reason he always loses to Batman is that he's so full of himself.
  • Villainous Breakdown: He's had a lot of these over the years.
  • Villain Has a Point: Sometimes he's actually right in his arguments against Batman.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: He'll just coat the truth in an enigma, wrap it in a riddle, and stuff the whole thing into a Chinese puzzle box.
  • Worthy Opponent: Considers Batman this, due to him being the only one smart enough to solve his riddles.

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