The Riddler is among the most formidable foes of Batman and has outsmarted him many times in their encounter. Whenever you see a riddle or the riddler question mark in any of the Batman stories then it means trouble. The Riddler is often portrayed as someone who suffers an extreme case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. And can not stay without leaving riddles or clues at the crime spot. This compulsion is due to the fact that Riddler needs to prove his mental superiority over his opponents.
Ultimately, these same riddles or clues that he leaves for the authorities or Batman become the cause of his capture. Due to this compulsion of leaving clues, The Riddler has become an adept escape artist. And has even out-witted the Caped Crusade multiple times due to his escapist talents.
The Riddler’s compulsion is so severe that he can not even simply kill his opponents even when he has outsmarted them. He needs to put them in death traps to see if they can solve his riddles and escape to boost his sense of superiority.
Origins of The Riddler Question Mark
The real name of The Riddler is Edward Nygma or Edward Nashton. And he suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder because of the parental abuse he endured when he was a child. His father used to beat him up because of his jealousy towards his intelligent son.
This disorder manifests itself in the form of his desire to always tell the truth. And he uses riddles to do so. And because he never got approval from his father. This caused him to yearn for approval from the public in general and come out of anonymity. Ultimately, causing his descent into the life of crime.
In his early years, he became an employee at the carnival opening a crooked carnival booth featuring a puzzle or riddle. Failure to solve the puzzle would result in the customers paying a small participating fee in the greed of a greater prize. For this reason, Nashton had always rigged the puzzles and never allowed any customers to win. But soon he wanted more money getting fed up with his small-time earnings.
In order to do so, he took on the persona of a masked criminal and called himself the Riddler. And uses the tagline “Riddle me this”
Riddler is famous for using the Riddler Question Mark in all things associated with him. His clues, his staff, and his clothes all include a question mark symbol. He mostly appears in a green-colored unitard or a one-piece costume with a purple domino mask with the question mark printed on the suit. He also appears in a green-colored suit with a purple tie and purple gloves with a tie supporting his visual motif “The question mark”.
The question mark is actually the physical representation of the riddles asked by the Riddler. Or in other words, the question mark also symbolizes the tagline of The Riddler which is ” Riddle me this”.
Riddler is also known for using different gimmicks to reinforce himself which include question mark shaped guns and bombs etc. A cane with a question mark on top is also part of his costume.
The Riddler has always been considered as somewhat less lethal than other criminals to appear in Gotham city. He restrains himself and does not commit murder. And is very flexible in his crimes. His compulsion to leave riddles gets him caught more than usual. He has tried not to leave clues but he just can not stop himself due to his severe OCD.
The Riddler has been a regular feature in Batman stories and has proven himself as a dangerous criminal mastermind time and again. He first appeared in Batman: The Long Halloween but did not have a major role in the storyline. And when he does don the costume to become a true villain he gets success initially.
But Batman figures out that the new criminal is leaving clues leading to his next crime. Following these clues, Batman and Robin try to apprehend him inside a maze built by the Riddler. But bombs planted by the Riddler go off. And the leading explosion knocks him off the pier to his apparent demise. Both Batman and Robin successfully escape the explosion.
The Riddler again resurfaces within the next two months and resumed his crime spree. He was finally caught red-handed when he left two sets of clues for Batman. But Batman figured out that one set was very easy to solve and must be the false one. And finally caught The Riddler while trying to steal some Egyptian artifacts from Gotham Museum.
In the storyline The Question he was riding the bus and was seated next to a prostitute, who motivated him to become a bigger villain. He started asking riddles to other passengers and would shoot anybody who could not answer his riddles. He was neutralized by The Question. This is the first time that the Riddler was involved in killing directly.
In this storyline, Hush it is revealed that The Riddler has terminal cancer and uses a Lazarus pit of Ra’s al Ghul to cure himself. In this story, he is hired by Thomas Elliot who is actually the villain Hush. But The Riddler faced a severe psychotic breakdown after using the pit. And in this condition, he even deduces Batman’s secret identity along with that of Jason Todd.
He hires clayface to torment Batman and also threatens to reveal his secret identity. But Batman laughs it off and says if he ever does so the Ra’s would find out that he used the pit without his approval. And will cause the league of shadown to retaliate against him.
The fallout is played in Batman: Gotham Knights when hush nearly beats The Riddler to death.
The Riddler is a very intelligent villain who often puts Batman in very difficult situations. But his threat is very inconsistent over different stories. In some stories, The Riddler is portrayed as a flamboyant and ostentatious person who depends on his gimmicks rather than his intellect for putting on a show rather than posing an actual threat. This approach has been criticized by the readers.
His most well-received stories are the ones in which Riddler uses his intellect and nearly out-smarts Batman like the Hush storyline.