Follow TV Tropes

Following

Characters / Batman: The Riddler
aka: The Riddler

Go To

Advertisement:

The Riddler

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/riddler_95.jpg
Click here to see his "Classic" design 
Click here to see his design in The New 52 
Click here to see his design in Rebirth 

Alter Ego: Edward Nigma/Eddie Nashton

Species: Human

First appearance: Detective Comics #140 (October 1948)

"What fun would that be? The whole point of the game is to outsmart the competition... with the danger that they'll outsmart you!"
Batman: Run, Riddler, Run

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.

Advertisement:

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 death traps. 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.


    open/close all folders 


    Appearances in Other Media 

Live-Action

Animation

Video Games


Advertisement:

Tropes applying to the Crown Prince of Conundrums:

    A-F 
  • 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.
  • Agent Peacock: Depending on the Writer, he can be quite campy and histrionic, with a love of purple, well-tailored suits, and a high-pitched, giggling laugh... and is still incredibly dangerous when he puts his mind to it.
  • Always Second Best: To Batman. His attempts to prove himself the intellectual superior through his riddles and Death Traps only serve to disprove this notion when Batman constantly defeats and outsmarts him.
  • Always Someone Better: Riddler is an Evil Genius whose Goal in Life is to be recognized as the World's Smartest Man, but that is a Tragic Dream because he lives in Gotham, home of the Great Detective Batman. As long as Batman proves he is smarter than the Riddler, the Riddler will continue to threaten Gotham City with his Criminal Mind Games and the Superhero Paradox.
  • Arch-Enemy: Batman is his in his mind, but much to his fury, he's rarely considered to be Batman's arch-enemy by anyone else, that spot usually belonging to The Joker.
  • Arkham's Razor Some of his riddles work this way. For a relatively grounded example, his first-ever crime used the clue "Basin Street bank wet", sending Batman and the police to a charity dinner on Basin Street. The real and much less conventional meaning of the clue was that the Riddler had flooded a bank vault — gotten a "bank wet" — to defeat its pressure-sensitive locking mechanism and was looting it in scuba gear.
  • 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.
  • Awesome by Analysis: He's just as good at solving puzzles as he is at crafting them. He once was able to determine the exact value of the Iceberg Lounge brand T-shirts down to the cent, taking into account the thread quality, the cost of foreign sweatshop labor, and the Penguin's knack for turning a good deal.
  • Bad Boss: Surprisingly, Riddler is one of the few villains in Gotham who isn't one of these. Even in the Arkham games the worst thing he does to his lackeys is replace them with robots.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: 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 Batman: Zero Year he tricks the GCPD into giving him total control of the city. And Batman isn't able to stop him.
    • Most of his appearances in The Animated Series qualify. He manages to evade capture in his earlier appearances and even succeeds in getting revenge on his intended targets.
  • 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.
  • Badass Normal: Riddler is a normal man with no superpowers, and he opposes heroes using his incredibly high intelligence to create brain-twisters plots and has perchance for creating Death Traps. Even on the rare occasion that he's portrayed as a fighter, he still relies on gadgets of his own making.
  • Baddie Flattery: He will occasionally indulge in this with Batman.
    Riddler: [while sitting in the Batmobile] Nice car. I think this is the first time I've been inside it conscious.
    Batman: Don't touch anything.
  • Bat Deduction: His riddles were often the catalyst for the Trope Namer.
  • Beat It by Compulsion: As the character evolved, more and more authors have focused on the mental illness aspect of Riddler's clue-leaving, giving him a severe case of Super OCD (which explains his compulsion to give puzzles) and narcissistic personality disorder (he has to prove that he's smarter than Batman no matter what). He once had a nervous breakdown when he realized that his OCD made it so that he couldn't stop leaving clues for the police and Batman to find.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Seems harmless and goofy, doesn't he? WRONG. Several stories have shown he's a Not-So-Harmless Villain, mostly notably Batman: Hush, where he was the Big Bad.
  • Big Bad:
  • Bodyguard Babes: Echo and Query, his two hench-girls from the comics.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Deconstructed. He knows full well that leaving clues at his crime scenes and leaving a difficult-but-possible escape method in his Death Traps is just going to land him back in Arkham Asylum. By his own admission, he quite literally cannot help himself.
  • Brains and Bondage: Occasionally referenced—his minions Query and Echo used to work in a BDSM club. The bouncer of that same club calls Riddler "Eddie" when he sees him. Apparently, he's a regular. There's also this exchange from issue 9 of the Gotham Underground miniseries:
    Riddler: Correct me if I'm wrong, but had your superiors found out about my bit of snooping, I'd be much more than simply roughed up...
    Penguin: You'd be dead. Okay, fine—I admit it. Sorry if the girls were a bit more into their roles than they were supposed to be.
    Riddler: Best beating I ever got. As a matter of fact... pass along my number to the chippie with the whip, will you?
  • Break the Haughty: Riddler is extremely arrogant Insufferable Genius that frequently acts like a Smug Snake in stories, so writers usually give him a karmic downfall when his plans get foiled and he's outplayed by the heroes, with him acting like a Sore Loser, suffering a Villainous Breakdown or going through a Humiliation Conga. But by his next appearance, he's back to being his Insufferable Genius self and the cycle repeats.
  • Bully Magnet: Even as a child, he was already something of an Insufferable Genius and a Nerd, which attracted attention from bullies.
  • Butt-Monkey: Jeph Loeb's The Long Halloween and Dark Victory both portray him as this. Catwoman: When in Rome and Batman: 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: He leaves behind riddles in his crime scenes, and solving them gives away a clue to what the next part of his scheme is. Several stories have shown that the Riddler is psychologically incapable of committing a crime without the riddles, no matter how hard he tries.
  • Cane Fu: When he's portrayed as a competent fighter, he's use his Classy Cane as his Weapon of Choice. To the point where his cane in Batman: Arkham City acts more like a blunt weapon than a walking aid. His Batman: The Telltale Series incarnation carries a question mark-shaped Blade on a Stick.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: He's pretty upfront about being a supervillain who specializes in Criminal Mind Games, having referred to himself as "The Prince of Puzzles" or "The Crown Prince of Conundrums".
  • Catchphrase: Sometimes has a tendency to introduce his riddles with "Riddle me this."
  • The Chessmaster: Riddler is an accomplished chessmaster, notably for smooth sway over the media, especially post-reformation (a quality of Villain with Good Publicity), and for his previous yet strategically subtle maneuverings of other well-known manipulators and dangerous personas. This is best show in Batman: Hush where Riddler discovers Batman's Secret Identity and manipulates Bat's oldest friend and his old mechanic, Poison Ivy (who in turn uses Catwoman and SUPERMAN), Killer Croc, Harley Quinn, Clayface, Scarecrow, Ra's Al Ghul. Even the Joker was talked into going along with his scheme. One of the cover arts even shows him playing chess with pieces looking like the characters.
  • 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 and obsessing with beating Batman. In Batman: Gotham Adventures, it's brought up that his Super OCD Idiosyncrazy 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.
  • Classy Cane: He carries one of these about in almost all incarnations — it fits the trope (for a certain value of "sophistication") when he's a Sharp-Dressed Man in a suit and bowler hat, but less so when he's wearing spandex. The cane is also often shaped as an interrogation mark. For more action versions of the character, the cane may even serve as his Weapon of Choice and have him engage in Cane Fu.
  • Complexity Addiction: He is incapable of crimes without putting in elaborate riddles or clues that hint at the next crime. This is either due to a natural compulsion and/or a need to prove his mental superiority to others. This is something of a Fatal Flaw for him - if he just went for straightforward criminal plots, he'd be pretty successful, but his obsession is not with gaining wealth but with decisively outdoing Batman, and what better way to prove you're better than winning with a handicap?
  • Constantly Curious: Neil Gaiman's story "When is a Door" reveals that Riddler was exactly this as a youngster, pestering his parents and teachers with endless streams of queries, much to their irritation.
  • Consulting a Convicted Killer: The "Return of King Tut" story arc had Batman reluctantly go to Riddler for assistance when the titular villain began telling ancient Egyptian riddles while committing his crimes.
  • Convenient Coma: He was smashed in the noggin with a mace during Infinite Crisis, was in a coma for the "One Year Later" Time Skip, and woke up A) having conveniently forgotten Batman's Secret Identity, and B) free of his compulsions for both riddling and crime. He then decided to pull a Heel–Face Turn and became a Reformed Criminal who worked as a Private Detective for a while, but inevitably fell back into his supervillain ways.
  • Cool Shades: Increasingly the Riddler is shown wearing a pair of round sunglasses instead of a Domino Mask, which was carried over in the Gotham version of the character.
  • Covert Pervert: In Catwoman: When in Rome it becomes a Running Gag for him to accidentally walk in on Selina Kyle while she's naked, be it while she's bathing or just because she Sleeps in the Nude.
  • The Cracker: Most contemporary versions of the character, including the ones featured in the Batman: Arkham Series and the animated film Batman: Assault on Arkham, depict him as a master hacker and programmer; in the former, he manages to crack even Batman's secure feed while cloaking his own location from Oracle, and in the latter, he's the only person besides Amanda Waller herself who knows how to disable the bombs wired into the members of the Suicide Squad. His computer genius also appeared in "What is Reality?", an episode of The Animated Series that predates both of the above and featured the then-cutting edge technology of virtual reality games; Riddler created one of his own and used it to entrap Commissioner Gordon.
  • Criminal Mind Games: His entire M.O., as he enjoys to match wits with Batman and other heroes, and is often even plagued with the compulsive need to do so he can prove he's "superior".
  • 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 Detective, 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. This didn't last, naturally.
    • In the Trinity series, he was hired by Nightwing to look into why items related to Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman were being stolen and who was behind it. The other heroes think he's insane when Nightwing mentions where he obtained the information, but the series showed that the Riddler had an advantage that even Batman didn't: assorted lowlifes and ex-lowlifes like The Penguin are willing to talk to him without having to be threatened.
  • Cutting the Knot: Batman often defeats Ridder using either this or by taking a third option.
  • Darker and Edgier: Riddler is usually one of the lighter villains in the comics, but Depending on the Writer he can become just as dark and murderous and Joker or Penguin.
    • "When Is A Door" had The Riddler lampshading this, bemoaning the fact that comics have become grittier, asking just when did the Joker start killing people?
    • The War of Jokes and Riddles had The Riddler in his darkest portrayal in his history, willing to murder Kite Man's son just to Shoot the Shaggy Dog.
  • Dastardly Dapper Derby: His Riddle bowler cap, which illustrates his image as a Man of Wealth and Taste. Sharp-Dressed Man
  • Deadpan Snarker: Always has a sarcastic quip in him.
  • Death Trap: He loves these, and they often require solving one of his riddles in order for the heroes to escape them. In fact, he designs his traps with a flaw, often with the riddle in mind. It's implied to be part of the same crippling Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder which compels him to leaves clues and riddles about his crimes. 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.
  • Delighting in Riddles: His entire gimmick, as he leaves behind riddles as a Calling Card to his criminal schemes. Depending on the Writer this is portrayed as actually not something he enjoys, but simply something he must do due to his Super OCD.
  • 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. Though he is generally an opponent that must be defeated mentally rather than physically, how well he can handle himself in a fight tends to vary. Some modern writers have gone for a sort of middle ground, where he starts out as a noncombatant, gets beat up a few times too many, and brushes up on his fighting skills.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: The Reveal that he was the Big Bad in Batman: Hush was portrayed as such, since at that point everyone in the city considered a washed-up joke Harmless Villain because of his puzzle gimmick. Ever since he's been portrayed as a Not-So-Harmless Villain often enough that it's not that unusual for plots to take him seriously.
  • Domino Mask: A green domino mask 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.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • He is known as El Acertijo (The Riddle) in Latin America, a mostly faithful translation. Since there is no equivalent for riddler in Spanish, the translators used the word riddle instead. It worked and has a good ring to it, being one of the names that stuck in Latin America when name translations for DC and Marvel properties started to be phased out.
    • In Canada, his name in French is classier as Le Sphinx, sharing the name with the riddle posing monster in Greek Mythology that Oedipus outwitted.
  • Enemy Mine: A number of stories have him helping Batman solve a mystery. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Escape Artist: He is a self-trained escapologist, who looks up to Houdini himself. Notably, Riddler has been shown to be able to easily bust out of prisons even other villains can't get out of.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: In Batman: Hush, he admits he had one after healing himself in the Lazarus Pit. As he puts it, "The Lazarus Pit gives you a unique kind of...clarity." This is how and where he figured out Batman was Bruce Wayne.
  • 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 Is Petty: His main motivation for villainy is to prove to everyone (Batman especially) his genius intellect. And due to Batman having outsmarted him so many times, he grew to have a big grudge against the Dark Knight, so much so that most of his criminal career is based solely around avenging this insult upon his pride.
  • Evil Genius: He's a genius among geniuses, one of the smartest men in the world, though he's consistently hampered by his Idiosyncrazy and Super OCD compulsions. He has been one of the few people to deduce Batman's true Secret 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.
  • Evil Redhead: Depending on the Artist, Riddler is a ginger supervillain.
  • Expy Coexistence: Cluemaster is a Batman villain who is seen as a cheap copy of the Riddler In-Universe, a suggestion he bitterly resents, claiming that puzzles and riddles are completely different. And then there's the Baffler, who's not only a copy of a copy (having been inspired by Cluemaster) but is an idiot whose clues are terrible.
  • Fair-Play Villain: Depending on the Writer, he can be quite fair about his riddles and death traps. If his victim (usually Batman) escapes his death traps or solves his riddles, he will usually hold up his end of a deal or accept the result, even if he is rather whiny about it. In Riddler's mind, he's the smartest man in the entire world, and he won't lower himself to "baser instincts" because that would mean he isn't as smart as his victim. But on other occasions, he has also been known to cheat like hell.
  • Fallen Hero: Many adaptations and Elseworlds have had him working as police scientists before turning into a villain. In the comics, he did reform and became a hero for some time, but eventually returned to villainy.
  • 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.
  • Foil: His compulsion to use Riddle Me This often gives away his position, as he usually doesn't expect anyone to figure out his often difficult puzzles.
  • 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 games in the Batman: Arkham Series in particular reflect this trope, as does the TV series Gotham.

    G-L 
  • Gadgeteer Genius: His Death Traps often make use of several bizarre gadgets of his own making, and sometimes he even has a couple on himself for self-defense. His Classy Cane in particular, usually doubles as having different types of gadgets installed on it.
  • Geek Physiques: Depending on the Artist, he has often had the lanky or lean build that is stereotypical of a Nerd and is frequently considered to be a Non-Action Guy.
  • Giggling Villain: Batman (1966) version of the Riddler had an iconic maniacal high-pitched laughter and Depending on the Writer this trait is also present in his comic version.
  • The Gimmick: Actually an interesting case, in that his gimmick is also explicitly his motivation and downfall: His Inferiority Superiority Complex and Super OCD are such that he has to leave clues, to prove that he's smarter than everybody else.
  • Going Postal: Not as originally written, but recent adaptations tend to make him a bitter former employee of a big company (maybe even Wayne Enterprises), or the police force, with him turning to evil because he felt his work wasn't appreciated. Of course he'd never settle for a simple shooting spree, though. His backstory in the New 52 would later also adopt this.
  • Great Detective: During his "Reformed Criminal" period, he becomes a private consultant and taking on the murder case of a wealthy socialite. He showed investigative skills that rival those of the Dark Knight.
  • Green and Mean: He's a Jerkass Evil Genius supervillain whose primary Color Motif is green.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Towards Batman. His whole goal is to prove that he's better at deduction than him.
  • Handicapped Badass: Appeared as one in Brian Azzrello's Joker.
  • Harmless Villain: Frequently portrayed as a fiendishly clever yet endearingly incompetent villain, especially in his older appearances. Even in the Dark Age, he tried to avoid needless violence, though it all depends on the writer. Unlike some, he actually stresses out over this, frustrated with how he is compelled to give Batman clues due to his neuroses — and is kept from revealing Batman's Secret Identity (which he managed to puzzle out) by the fact that a riddle everyone knows the answer to isn't a very good riddle at all. Over time, even he became Darker and Edgier and started to evoke Not-So-Harmless Villain, one notable example being in the "The War of Jokes and Riddles" where he's revealed to have murdered Kite Man's son in a petty power play, something that disgusted Batman so much he almost killed him.
  • Heel–Face Revolving Door: Sometimes retires from crime and uses his skills for puzzle solving to do detective work. Though inevitably never for long.
  • Heel Realization: It wasn't until he attempted to commit a crime without leaving riddles that he realized his Super OCD Idiosyncrazy compulsion. In his attempt to not be taken back to Arkham, he realized he had psychiatric issues and needed to go back to Arkham for help.
  • His Own Worst Enemy: Riddler is a fairly competent Evil Genius, but his Super OCD and Complexity Addiction have actively harmed his Evil Plans and his own psyche several times. It's been shown that he also could be a MUCH more formidable criminal mastermind than he is if he merely focused on the task at hand instead of following his obsession with riddles and trying to prove he's smarter than everyone else. One time he tried to commit robberies without leaving riddles, but couldn't resist the compulsion to send them Batman's way without even consciously realizing it. When Batman told Riddler, Eddie realized that he really is insane and needed treatment.
  • Humiliation Conga: He had a big one post-Batman: Hush that shows him getting beaten up by everyone he manipulated before.
  • I Am Not Spock: In-Universe, he absolutely hates being compared to The Joker, explaining that the Clown Prince of Crime's schemes are pure chaos compared to his own strokes of brilliance and clever clues.
  • Iconic Outfit: Riddler actually has two iconic outfits: the sharp green suit covered with question marks and a bowler hat or his green tights that are also covered with question marks. It depends on whether the portrayal is homaging Frank Gorshin's portrayal or not.
  • Idiosyncrazy: Riddler and his compulsive need to expose his plan via his riddles. It originated as a harmless theme, but became Darker and Edgier as the years went by: Riddler suffers from Super OCD and narcissistic personality disorder, and has to leave puzzles to prove how smart he is (he's even been given a Freudian Excuse in the form of a father who, not understanding his son's intelligence, beat him, giving Nigma an obsession with expressing his smarts in convoluted ways). In one instance, Riddler thinks he's found a way around his compulsion by leaving notes instead of riddles... but Batman discovers puzzles embedded within the notes that Nigma didn't intentionally leave—in other words, he's so mentally ill that he doesn't even realize when he's acting on his compulsions. However, he's sometimes able to make this work for him: sometimes, the obvious answer to his clue masks the real answer, which is much more difficult to figure out.
  • If My Calculations Are Correct: Once pulled this out when challenged by the Penguin to guess the profit made on the Iceberg Lounge's high-priced promotional T-Shirts, just for fun. Riddler took into account the weave of the shirts' fabric, the cost of overseas sweatshop labor, and knowledge of Penguin's own unscrupulous business practices to calculate the production cost down to the cent.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: A case of Depending on the Writer. Edward Nigma is often treated as slightly less of a threat than most of Batman's gallery because his particular lunacy isn't inherently violent, and he has a Idiosyncrazy compulsion to tell Batman and the police what his plans are (he's tried not to, but he just can't). It's tough to write a Riddler plot that can believably challenge Batman... so many writers don't, essentially writing him as a joke.
    • One issue of The Batman Adventures takes this and runs with it for all it's worth. The Riddler decides to try one last time to beat Batman, vowing that if Batman solves the riddle and defeats him, he'll give up crime forever. The riddle he comes up with really is good, but Batman's busy with multiple other villains and essentially decides to not spend time on the Riddler, and catch him after the fact if necessary. He catches him anyway, completely by chance, and admits as much to the Riddler when asked how he solved the puzzle. Satisfied that he outwitted Batman, even though he got caught, Riddler sings all the way back to Arkham.
    • In another Adventures book, Riddler found a Really Good hideout, and taunted Batman with riddles about other criminals' planned crimes. Unfortunately, his Super OCD caused him to structure the riddles as a meta-riddle that led Batman and Robin to him. Initially, he's going to fight them off... but then he stops and says (more or less) "Take me away. If I did that, I belong in Arkham because I'm really crazy."
    • Lampshaded in an issue of The Question, where Commissioner Gordon points out that Nigma can't hack it as a criminal and should just reform. This has the opposite effect.
  • Inferiority Superiority Complex: Riddle is an Insufferable Genius extraordinaire, yet so deeply willing to prove his smarts to the world. It bites him in the ass pretty much every single time. His gimmick is that his plans are interspersed with riddles and puzzles that, if solved, allow his schemes to become unraveled. This is obviously counterproductive, but for the Riddler, proving that he's smarter than the authorities (and Batman) is a compulsion so powerful that he literally can't resist it. According to most of his backstories, this is a compulsion he developed in childhood due to being abused into having some major self-esteem issues.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: A variation: he'll occasionally use classic children's jokes and riddles for his messages while giving them a deadly twist. In one example, he sends challenges to the GCPD including "Why did the cabin go on a diet?" and "What time do you go to visit the dentist?", which Commissioner Gordon successfully deduces to be a warning to be at the Gotham Lighthouse ("because it wanted to be a light house") at 2:30 ("tooth-hurty"). Sure enough, a bomb goes off at that moment, destroying the building.
  • 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. It gets especially annoying in Batman: Arkham Knight, where he talks about his intellect compared to the other characters about every five seconds of his interactions with Batman and/or Catwoman.
  • Jerkass Woobie: He's (usually) not as bad a guy as some of the other Bat villains (hence the period he was a Reformed Criminal), but he still qualifies as a jerk with his Insufferable Genius attitude and the grievances he's put people through. So, as established by his history as a maniacal shitheel, he's a big nasty dangerous jerk, but it's not exactly surprising when in "Low" and "Riddle me This", we learn he was raised by two people who openly hated him: "My mother hated me. Not as much as my father, sure, but it wasn't from lack of trying". We already know from his origin comic that they would blame each other for his conception, but in the aforementioned arcs, we learn they also went out of their way to hinder his education by rejecting his test scores. And if that isn't bad enough, his father took it beyond emotional abuse and beat Edward for his accomplishments until he was so emotionally damaged that he developed a Super OCD while trying to cope with his trauma.
  • 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. Cory Michael Smith's incarnation is influenced by both of the above.
  • Last of His Kind: He occasionally plays this role in a philosophical sense, overlapping with Living Relic. Riddler rose to prominence during the campy 60's period of the Batman mythos and is one of the only villains to get through that age relatively unchanged (as opposed to other villains who appeared on the Adam West TV show and in the early comic books, only to fall into obscurity). He's also one of the few villains in the rogues' gallery that doesn't go out of his way to kill people, and is even morally opposed to the idea. As such, Riddler can be used to represent the Silver Age's campiness, silly plots, and wacky crimes —comic books before the 80's made things Darker and Edgier—in a way that even Joker can't. Neil Gaiman's "When Is a Door?" sums it up with a surprisingly poignant quote:
    Riddler: And there were all these guys that you never see anymore — King Tut, Bookworm, Marsha, Queen of Diamonds, Egghead... where did they all go? Batman and Robin were part of the fun—they were the straight men, but we were the stars. No one ever hurt anybody. Not really. Nobody died... you look around these days, it's all different. It's all changed. The Joker's killing people, for God's sake! Did I miss something? Was I away when they changed the rules...?
  • Lean and Mean: Riddler is a petty, arrogant and Evil Genius and in most of his depictions he has a lean or downright skinny physical build. And while he's a Non-Action Guy most of the time, when he is a fighter, he's an agile and slippery one.
  • Linked List Clue Methodology: Pretty much his M.O.. He leaves riddles at his crime scenes, as his Calling Card and solving the riddle gives the heroes a hint to what the next step of Riddler Evil Plan might be. This is actually Justified since Riddle is an Insufferable Genius with a Complexity Addiction and Super OCD that enjoys matching wits with his pursuers and prove he's smarter than they. As the character evolved, it's revealed he became actually psychologically unable to commit crimes without leaving clues behind.
  • Lost in Translation: A recurring problem with Riddler are his riddles in translations. Riddler uses a lot of puns for his riddles that don't have an accurate translation or substitute in other languages, making him one of the hardest characters to translate and understand. An example would be a riddle from Batman: Arkham City, "You're a dummy if you don't try and buy one". Dummy can both mean a puppet-like Scarface, and an idiot. In the Spanish translation, since there is no equivalent to dummy, it had to be translated as "eres un bobo si no intentas comprar uno", with bobo just meaning "fool", making the riddle incomprehensible for Spanish-speaking players.

    M-R 
  • Malicious Misnaming: Catwoman refers to him as "Eddie" much to his dismay. She's perfectly aware of this and does it just to irritate.
    Riddler: It's Edward, you bitch.
  • The Man Behind the Man: While he's the Big Bad in both in Batman: Hush, Batman: Zero Year, he's the orchestrating Hidden Villain who is hiding behind The Heavy, Hush in Hush and Dr. Death in Zero Year.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Riddler goes back and forth between his Iconic Outfit being a natty question-mark-themed suit with spats, bowler hat, and a Classy Cane, or a ridiculous unitard version of same.
  • Master of Illusion: Depending on the Writer, creative illusions may be part of his riddles and Death Traps. In particular his Superfriends incarnation specializes in this.
  • Meaningless Villain Victory: As Batman himself correctly concludes, Riddler figuring out his Secret Identity in Batman: Hush is utterly worthless since Riddler's psychology and ego make him pathologically incapable of revealing it to anyone else. And by using the Lazarus Pit to have the "Eureka!" Moment to deduce said identity has also now earned Riddler the wrath of Ra's al Ghul, thus putting his own life in danger.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: Formerly one of the few Batman villains to be genuinely sick - even back in the 1960s.
  • Motive Rant: Gives one at the end of Batman: Hush, with a fair dose of Leaning on the Fourth Wall, as he complains that in the old days, he used to be somebody in Gotham, but then everybody started to get a gimmick, lampshading how the Riddler is one of the oldest Batman villains, yet had fallen out of focus with all the newer villains and wasn't being as utilized as much as some of the other, older rogues.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: His backstory has changed a lot over the years: In the 80s, an issue of The Question reinvented Riddler; his real name was Edward Nashton, and he changed it to Edward Nygma when he became the Riddler. His obsession with riddles wasn't born from cheating in a school competition and wanting to prove how clever he was; it was a Idiosyncrazy compulsion to tell the truth due to a violent father. It also claimed that he was never a major Batman villain. Later, Neil Gaiman wrote a Secret Origins story in which Riddler retells his classic origin, before adding "Or maybe I'm a frustrated second-rater called Nashton with a meaningless schtick!" The Riddler's latest origin, post-Infinite Crisis, is largely his classic origin... but his real name is Edward Nashton. And then later it was reverted back to Nigma.
  • Narcissist: Depending on the Writer, Riddler is an incorrigible Glory Hound who leaves riddles for attention and to prove his cleverness.
  • Nice Hat: It started with Frank Gorshin, but even in the comics, he's now often found wearing a snazzy black/green bowler hat.
  • No Challenge Equals No Satisfaction: One of the best-known examples in comic books, he may hate losing, but he doesn't like winning without a fight either and he often acts like a Fair-Play Villain, designing his plans and Death Traps so as to be beatable or solvable. His own minions have pointed out that if he could just get over the whole "leaving riddles" thing, his crimes would be incredibly profitable and make him extraordinarily rich and powerful. But wealth and success aren't enough for Riddler—he needs to show off how smart he is. If the world isn't cowering before his intellect, it's not enough to give him any pleasure.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Depending on the Writer. The Riddler is a very dangerous criminal mastermind, but he's often portrayed as a Non-Action Guy. That's exactly why in Batman: Zero Year he arranged everything so that simply defeating him in a fistfight wouldn't solve the problem. After the signal to his technology is blocked, Batman beats him this way anyway. However, in other stories like The War Of Jokes And Riddles, he does become much more physical, getting in some decent hits against Batman and Joker in a three-way fight, though it's clear he's not quite at Batman's level and if Joker wasn't involved in the fight, Riddler might not have lasted as long.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Riddler was frequently portrayed as a Harmless and Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain in his early appearance, but over time writers started putting a Darker and Edgier spin on him:
    • In the Hush story arc, Riddler, bitter that he's fallen so far in Gotham's criminal hierarchy, decides to team up with the new psycho on the block and puts Batman through the wringer. He figures out Batman's Secret Identity. The only thing that stops him from completely destroying Batman is that he has the answer to the ultimate riddle, and it's no good if everyone knows the answer. Thankfully for Batman, he eventually got hit in the skull with a mace and received a case of Easy Amnesia.
      Riddler: I used to be a somebody in this town. Now, everybody has a gimmick. I was going to show them all. And I did.
    • In the Peter Milligan tale "Dark Knight, Dark City", for the first chapter, you think he's the same old Riddler, leaving clues to pointless crimes. Then he nearly kills a security guard... then a baby... then he blows up a minion's throat... That's about the time one of Riddler's minions outright tells him, "You're starting to make the Joker look positively sensible.", after commenting to another that he's looking positively less stable than ever before. Then you find out that the crimes aren't the point, they're just a way of manipulating Batman into a Fate Worse than Death. It eventually turns out that the increased level of evil is due to Demonic Possession.
    • "The War of Jokes and Riddles" arc during Batman (Tom King) showed just how evil the Riddler could get when pressed by someone like The Joker, going so far as killing Kite Man's son, which disgusts Batman so much he almost broke his Thou Shalt Not Kill rule.
    • 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 destroying the Dark Knight.
    • In the second season of Batman: The Telltale Series Riddler appears as a major antagonist trapping people into jigsaw-like contraptions and exhibits elements of a mad villain with using his sharp question-mark cane to slit a person's throat and tearing off a guard's face during his escape prior to the events of the season.
  • Obfuscating Insanity: His doctors question whether he's insane or just childish.

    S-Z 
  • Sanity Has Advantages: You could argue it's his whole gimmick. Given a little more depth and drama in some comic interpretations that demonstrate Riddler's shtick as an unstoppable compulsion, and all the problems this gives him. Played right, it's a tragically self-destructive compulsion.
    • In one early story ('60s) the Riddler realizes that he simply cannot commit crimes without leaving riddles. He tries to fix himself, but that doesn't work either...
    • The Riddler reformed and worked as a private detective. Since Batman is also a detective, Riddler could match wits with him legally. Aaaannnddd then he returned to his old game again, following a kind of reverse-nervous breakdown.
    • In Batman: Hush, he found out Batman's Secret Identity... but Batman was easily able to manipulate him into keeping it a secret by playing on the Riddler's need for intellectual superiority; there's no point to a riddle if everyone just knows the answer.
    • During the events of Knightfall, the Riddler is working alongside several random crooks to steal a large shipment of bonds that are passing through a post office. The crooks finally snap at Riddler after he forces them to delay the crime for weeks while he tries to get the police to pay attention to the riddles he's been mailing them (overshadowed by the breakout at Arkham and Gotham being all but completely put to flame). The Riddler flees, and the crooks go ahead with the crime... which goes pretty well. They follow the Riddler's actual plan (without the riddles) to the letter, and they're in and out in minutes. One even notes that if he weren't so hung up on his riddle-gimmick, he'd make a fortune, but another counters that it's probably that very same obsessive attention to unimportant details that lets him plan heists this well. Of course, it all comes to naught when they get taken down by the Huntress.
  • Secondary Color Nemesis: He tends towards green outfits with purple highlights.
  • Secret-Keeper: Sometimes he's portrayed as having found out Batman’s Secret Identity. Pre-Flashpoint, he figured it out while taking a dip in the Lazarus Pit. Batman convinced him that Ra's would kill him for using the Pit and because of his own personal stake in Batman's secret not getting out. More recently, he knows but has a mental block keeping him from remembering.
  • 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.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Depending on the Writer his riddles may be written in an overly verbose manner, sometimes just to be extra confusing, sometimes just because he wants to show off.
  • Shadow Archetype: He's a reflection of Batman's nature as an intellectual.
  • Slimeball: Has this characterization in Catwoman: When in Rome, being portrayed as particularly sleazy spending most of his spare time perving on Selina. Even his design is meant to invoke as he's drawn like a scrawny, weasely little twerp.
  • Sigil Spam: Often leaves behind a green or purple question mark at his crime scenes, to signify he's the one responsible and that the heroes are taking part in his "game". Sometimes even his own clothing is completely covered by his question mark sigil.
  • 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. He is competent Evil Genius, but his ego makes him think he's actually the World's Smartest Man and he often reacts poorly or with disbelief when his Evil Plan is foiled.
  • Sore Loser: Often suffers a Villainous Breakdown if someone is about to solve one of his riddles, going as far as to accuse them of "cheating".
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Is it "Nigma" with an "I" or "Nygma" with a "Y"?
  • Spirited Competitor: Depending on the Writer he is a partial example; he lives for the mental challenge of his and Batman's battle of wits, but he also hates to lose.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Once towards Bruce Wayne, and later, Dr. Chase Meridian in Batman Forever and another towards Miss Kringle in Gotham.
  • Super Intelligence: He is a genius whose intellect rivals that of Batman, but he suffers from a Complexity Addiction and Super OCD that manifest in his Criminal Mind Games. Nygma has to leave cryptic clues and puzzles for people to solve, because he has a pathological need to both tell the truth and show off his brains to others (what's the point of being a genius if you can't show off?).
  • Superhero Sobriquets: He knows as the Prince of Puzzles, the Count of Conundrums, the Duke of Dilemmas, the Wizard of Quiz, Mister E.
  • Super OCD: A rather interesting example that developed over the years.
    • In his initial appearances, and especially the Adam West TV show, his constant riddling seemed more like a choice than anything else; he only added puzzles to his crimes to taunt the police, and even, on one occasion, deliberately gave riddles with false answers to throw the Dynamic Duo off his trail. As the decades progressed, though, his leaving clues became a genuine compulsion that he has to act on; he also gained a Freudian Excuse in the form of a father who would beat him for (supposedly) lying about his intelligence, leaving Edward with a fanatical need to tell the truth in every situation, albeit cloaked in cryptic references and puzzles. All told, it's a surprisingly well-researched look at obsessive-compulsive disorder and malignant narcissism.
    • As noted in the quote under Tragic Villain below, he once decided to find a work-around in his disorder by leaving clues to other villains' plots. That way, he can satisfy his need to give puzzles and get away with crimes of his own. It seems like the perfect arrangement—until Batman hunts him down anyway and reveals that the clues he wrote actually contained a secondary hidden riddle that led the Caped Crusader right to him. And Edward didn't even realize he was writing that riddle; his need to give himself away is so deeply ingrained that his subconscious mind will act on it if necessary.
    • Riddler's OCD is taken Up to Eleven in Batman: Hush. After successfully working out Batman's identity and pulling off the biggest crime spree in Gotham's history, he's sitting pretty and thinks he has Bruce Wayne totally in his power...until the Caped Crusader poses a question—"What time is it when an elephant sits on your fence?"—that everyone knows the answer to ("Time to get a new fence"). Batman then weaponizes Riddler's disorder by pointing out that, if he goes public with his new information, the question "Who is Batman?"—a true Riddle for the Ages In-Universe—will become a worthless puzzle...and Edward's mind is so fundamentally damaged that he's physically unable to let that happen.
  • 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: Once, with the help of the Lazarus Pits, he found out Batman's Secret Identity, but he couldn'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.
  • Too Clever by Half: His Fatal Flaw. He's a genius by any standards, far less psychotic than most of Gotham's criminal elite, and has even shown himself to be an excellent detective in his own right. So why can't he just put his intellect to good use and live a life of comfort and fame? Because he would have to accept that he is Gotham's second most intelligent inhabitant. He NEEDS to prove that he is smarter than Batman, so he keeps needlessly challenging him and losing.
  • Took a Level in Badass: He began as a relatively harmless, somewhat ridiculous Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, but over time escalated into a genuine threat, with stories treating him as a Not-So-Harmless Villain, with Batman: Hush being a particular turning point for him, as he turned out to be the Big Bad of the entire story. Also kind of applied In-Universe; throughout his criminal career, Riddler has felt the need to pull bigger, more dangerous and more complicated stunts mostly out of a compulsive need to "play" with Batman.
  • Tragic Villain: After getting high scores on some important tests, his father beat him in the belief that he had cheated. His father's jealousy at his intelligence started a need for Edward Nygma to prove his innocence and superiority. This need manifested as riddles and puzzles. 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.
  • Trap Master: Being a Non-Action Guy supervillain, he relies on constructing elaborate Death Traps in order to defeat his opponents. But given he's often a Fair-Play Villain he also designs said traps to be escapable, if the heroes are smart enough.
  • Thrill Seeker: The reason he does crimes? Merely for the intellectual thrill of getting away with them while matching wits with his pursuers.
  • 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.
  • Villain Has a Point: Sometimes he's actually right in his arguments against Batman.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Depending on the Writer, he has been this, having ascended to the high ranks of Gotham society because of his cunning manipulation of the media, and savored the role as Gotham's new "darling detective". Despite his numerous counts of larceny, complete disregard for human life, and the occasional murders of past days, his well-trained media circuits embrace him for his Sherlock Holmes-like method of deduction and flamboyant sense of personal theatrics. Outwitting the Gotham populace had never been so easy.
  • Villainous Breakdown: He's had a lot of these over the years, as it is his usual reaction when he's outsmarted and his plans are foiled.
  • Villainous Friendship:
    • Most of the other Batman rogues can't stand him, but he's genuinely close to The Penguin and even calls him "Ozzie" more than his actual name. When Penguin believed he was going to die in battle, he granted Eddie the key to the Iceberg Lounge, and Eddie clumsily if sincerely thanks Penguin for being the only person he can really talk to in their business. In Gotham, their relationship is... a bit more complicated, but still mostly friendly, especially by the end of the series where they're all but stated to be the other's Only Friend and True Companion.
    • Depending on the Writer he's good friends with King Tut, due to both sharing a love for puzzles and complicated schemes. But sometimes Riddler is petty and thinks of King Tut as a rival and someone who's trying to steal his gimmick.
  • Villainous Widow's Peak: Depending on the Artist he is depicted as having a receding hairline.
  • Villain Respect: Depending on the Writer, Riddler doesn't just have respect for Batman, but is driven by it. For Riddler, it's not about money; it's about matching wits with the World's Greatest Detective. In Batman: Zero Year, he even shows this for the few civilians who challenged him in Batman's absence.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: He declares himself to be one in Batman: Zero Year, as the way he sees it, him taking over the city is forcing people to smarten up in a world where intelligence is increasingly undervalued. Nobody takes that seriously though.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: On occasion, his hired goons will ask why he doesn't just stuff Batman in a death trap or steal a fortune in cash and be done with it. His answer? Riddles are the whole point of committing crimes! Depending on the Writer, this may actually be part of his Super OCD, being psychologically unable to simply kill his opponents when he has the upper hand, and instead devising a life and death intellectual challenge that the hero cannot escape, often in the form of a death trap.
  • Wicked Cultured: He's extremely sophisticated and very cultured, which is why he has such vast esoteric knowledge to use in his riddles.
  • Will Not Tell a Lie: Depending on the Writer, he'll act like a Fair-Play Villain who refuses to lie, since the whole point of his Evil Plan is to prove his superior intellect. But he will coat the truth in an enigma, wrap it in a riddle, and stuff the whole thing into a Chinese puzzle box.
  • Would Hurt a Child: In The War of Jokes and Riddles, he killed Kite-Man's son by poisoning his kite string.
  • Worthy Opponent: Considers Batman this, due to him being the only one smart enough to solve his riddles.


Alternative Title(s): The Riddler

Top