In a recent interview, Paul Dano revealed that “he had several near-sleepless nights while filming The Batman” to portray the upcoming film’s main threat: the Riddler. Let’s face it, when it comes to villains, it’s obviously clear that Batman has one of the most iconic baddies in comic book history.
For more than 80 years, Gotham’s Cape Crusader has faced numerous worthy foes. When talking about Batman’s Rogues Gallery, perhaps the first name that comes to mind is, of course, The Joker, The Clown Prince of Crime. Others identify criminals like Bane, Two-Face, and Gotham’s Sirens (a.k.a. Catwoman, Harley Quinn, and Poison Ivy).
However, other Batman major foes haven’t shared the same spotlight as the ones mentioned before. The Riddler, also known as Edward Nygma, is one of Gotham’s most intelligent criminals— after all, he has a genius-level intellect!
Yet, despite having appeared in some of Batman’s movies and tv series, The Riddler has been considered by some as an underrated villain. Perhaps Reeves’ film will finally do this character justice since, as Dano mentioned, it’ll be “the most real, potentially the most terrifying” portrayal of the Riddler.
In the meantime, here are a few examples that demonstrate the Riddler’s true potential and why he shouldn’t be underestimated.
Fair warning: There’ll be comic book spoilers discussed in here.
He terrorizes Gotham City during Zero Year
Comic storyline: Batman: Zero Year
In Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Zero Year, we see the beginnings of Bruce’s career as a vigilante. Because of this, one of the first costumed foes that Batman had to face was none other than the Riddler.
And boy, was he a tough challenge for the Dark Knight! Zero Year’s storyline proves Nygma’s deadly skills when using his intellect at its best (or rather worst?). To sum up, he unleashes some kind of apocalypse on Gotham City where only the clever citizen would survive by answering his riddles.
While doing so, the Riddler managed to beat Batman twice, allowing the villain to run the city for a whole year. Now that’s a way to start a terrifying career as one of Batman’s nemeses!
The Riddler figures out Batman’s identity
Comic storyline: Batman: Hush
To make things clear, I’m talking about the comic book, not the animated movie. In the now-legendary Hush storyline, by Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, the Riddler teams up with a new and secretive criminal, Hush. Their goal? Take down the Dark Knight.
Even though Nygma doesn’t appear a lot throughout the story, what made him stand out was that, during a confrontation with the superhero, the Riddler reveals to Gotham’s vigilante that he has figured out Batman’s real identity. Because of this, the Riddler was able to help the sociopath Hush layout challenging schemes to make Bruce Wayne’s life a living hell.
And, of course, he does it with an enigma! “Riddle me this…,” says the villain, “…who is that under Batman’s mask? And now, the world is my oyster. Right, Bruce?”
The Riddler’s darker version
Comic storyline: Batman: Dark Knight, Dark City
If there’s a comic book that proves once and for all why Edward Nygma shouldn’t be treated as a “butt of a joke,” that was Peter Milligan and Kieron Dwyer’s Dark Knight, Dark City.
The Riddler has always been an above-average criminal. But in this storyline, Nygma was turned into a more ruthless and bloodthirsty foe. Dark Knight, Dark City shows the Riddler’s darker version as he leads Batman into a series of deadly rituals to control a supernatural demon god called Barbatos.
With Milligan’s writing talents and Dwyer’s haunting drawings, they created a supernatural story and starting point that redefined both Batman’s mythology and the Riddler’s persona.
Rivals Batman’s detective skills
Comic storyline: Detective Comics #822 (Vol. 1)
Though a bit short, Paul Dini and Simone Bianchi delivered an intriguing tale about the Riddler. Also known as E. Nigma, Consulting Detective, the issue gave us a newly reformed Edward Nygma that now uses his brilliant brain for crime-solving.
To the surprise of Batman and the Gotham Police Department, they couldn’t help but acknowledge that the Riddler was a darn good detective. Hence, a reluctant Batman forges a wary alliance with the former criminal to track down a mysterious murderer.
The fact that the Dark Knight had to team up with the Riddler tells us that the latter could match Batman’s wits— which was Nygma’s reason for giving up his crime days since he wanted to prove his deductive superiority over the Dark Knight.
The Riddler manipulates other villains
Comic storyline: Detective Comics #705 (Vol, 1)
The Riddler isn’t the only Gotham villain obsessed with clues and hints, for there is also Cluemaster, a costume foe who uses puzzles to commit crimes and gain Batman’s attention. And this is not to the Riddler’s liking.
So what does he do? Team up with Cluemaster to conspire against Batman in Detective Comics #705. But here’s the plot twist! It turns out that it was a trick for he wanted to get rid of Cluemaster. The Riddler is known for manipulating other criminals for his interests.
In this case, after doing the dirty jobs, Cluemaster ends up with an explosive vest that will activate if Batman doesn’t solve, you guessed it, a riddle.
“I never saw you as a competition, Cluemaster. Strictly bush league. Puzzles were just a cheap gimmick for you. But they’re my life. You play at conundrums. To me they’re art. But I’m about to make you part of my master crime,” said Nygma.
Lesson: Don’t try to steal the Riddler’s mojo. He’ll end up outsmarting you.