Each day in February, Dibbs is showcasing iconic comic book issues that you should collect! Today’s comic is Detective Comics #140! On the heels of the new Batman movie, we take a closer look at the first appearance of The Riddler!
More comics are coming to the collectibles digital asset marketplace in the coming months, but be sure to grab some fracs of The Incredible Hulk #181, the first appearance of Wolverine now available on Dibbs!
An Enigma in the Rogues Gallery
When locking away criminals, you’re bound to make an enemy or two. When you’re Gotham’s most famous crimefighter, that list gets a lot longer. While the number of Batman’s enemies only continues to grow, none of them really compete with the classic rogues gallery. Characters like The Joker, Bane, Catwoman, Penguin, Poison Ivy, Two-Face, and Scarecrow have all cemented themselves in history as Batman’s greatest villains. But in 1948, Detective Comics #140 introduced Batman fans to Edward Nigma otherwise known as The Riddler. Since then, the mastermind villain has become one of DC’s most loved Batman enemies.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to pick up on the obvious pun in The Riddler’s real name. Ed (Edward) Nigma is a clear pun of the word “enigma”, which is an allusion to the essence of character. The Riddler uses his intelligence and love for riddles and puzzles to make Batman and friends life a living hell. Unlike most criminals, the Riddler actually leaves clues and gives ways for the Gotham City Police and Batman to catch him. His games of cat and mouse are less of a want and more a need with his compulsion to leave coded bread crumb trails every time he commits a crime.
Like with all good stories, this one starts off with the origin of a mastermind criminal. Edward Nigma starts his love for puzzles thanks to a puzzle competition held by his history teacher. Before the competition, Edward sneaks into his teacher’s desk and successfully cheats. From then on, Edward was known as an expert at solving puzzles by his classmates but would always find a way to cheat. His love for puzzles and dishonestly led Edward to becoming a carnival conman, tricking people into wagering the money on unwinnable games and puzzles. After finding no one in the world he couldn’t fool, Edward decided to try his luck with Batman. He put on a costume, and called himself the Riddler.
His first crime was hijacking a giant crossword puzzle advertisement and using it as a clue for an even larger crime for Batman and Robin to thwart. The crossword puzzle reads:
1 Horizontal - A water utensil
2 Vertical - A Public way
1 Vertical - A Formal dinner
The dynamic duo didn’t take long to solve the puzzle. Their answer was “Basin Street Banquet”, which led them to a charity banquet that the mayor was attending that night. Batman and Robin learn that they were in the wrong place after a police officer interrupts them to notify the mayor that the bank was flooded. The Riddler had cleverly tricked them into assuming “banquet” was to be taken literally. Instead, The Riddler had completely flooded the bank a few doors down. Equipped with a special scuba suit, the Riddler easily breaks into the bank's main vault and steals its cash. Batman and Robin arrive just in time, but are unable to stop the crime due to their lack of aquatic equipment. The Riddler easily escapes.
The next crime involved The Riddler shipping an oversized jigsaw puzzle to the police station, for Batman and Co. to solve. After the puzzle's completion, the clue left on the puzzle indicated that The Riddler was going to rob the “Eagle’s Nest”. This leads Batman and Robin to The Eyrie, a nightclub in Gotham. Unfortunately for them, this was another trick. Batman quickly figures out that the Riddler’s real crime was robbing a local millionaire, Harrison Eagle. As Batman arrives, he finds Mr. Eagle trapped in a metal puzzle that is slowly killing him. Batman solves the puzzle, but is unable to catch the Riddler who escapes via a smoke bomb.
The next day, we see a giant cob of corn on the back of a runaway truck headed towards a crowd of innocent bystanders. A sign on the corn reads “ Why is corn hard to escape from”. Batman is able to stop the truck by hitting it with his Batmobile, and determines the riddle's answer is “a maize”. Batman and Robin race over to the Pleasure Pier amusement park, which has a fun maze. The Riddler has rigged explosives and traps inside. Batman uses fire to expand the building's metal frame and escape the Riddler’s deadly maze. The Riddler isn’t so lucky and is knocked into the nearby water by his own explosion.
There is no sign of the Riddler, only a single question mark floating in the water below. Batman believes he survived the blast, and this won’t be the last time they see him.
The Riddler legacy truly lives on with iconic performances by actors in several Batman related movies and television series. Frank Gorshin would be the first actor to portray the mastermind mad man in the 1960s Batman TV series. His performance was nominated for an Emmy, and would help garner the Riddler as one of the most popular Batman villains. Jim Carrey also took over the mantle of the Riddler in the 1995 movie Batman Forever. Carrey, who is known for his whacky, over-the-top antics, fit the character like a glove. Lastly, Paul Dano will be taking over as the Riddler in the upcoming 2022 movie The Batman. This version of the comic character is heavily influenced by The Zodiac Killer. Needless to say, we are all VERY excited for its release on March 4th!
Read More Batman and the Riddler
Batman: Arkham: The Riddler by Scott Snyder and Sheldon Moldoff