The Riddler: Who is the Prince of Puzzles? – Movie Rewind Backstory

Hey Diddle Diddle, Time For a Riddle

Riddler:Ready for your next riddle?
Detective Yin:No. No more riddles! Tell me what you want, you maniac!
Riddler:I prefer “brainiac.” As you’ve been learning, knowledge is power.

The Batman “Riddled” (Season 2, Episode 2)

A young woman wakes up in a graveyard. The last thing she remembers is someone grabbing her from behind and smothering her with a smelly rag. She feels awful, but notices a green envelope with a question mark seal in front of her. She opens it and finds a letter.

You’ve been poisoned, but don’t you cry.
You’ve got one chance before you die.

Come on now, cheer up, be brave!
You must find an empty grave.

Through the dead, you’ll search and roam.
You’ll find the cure when you come home.

The woman blindly rushes through the graveyard and trips over an exposed root. She sees her father’s grave. The woman, his caretaker, allowed him to die so she could get his inheritance. She claws at the ground, but her movements slow as the poison takes hold. The woman dies in a shallow grave. The Riddler observes, amused that she forgot her father was cremated and his ashes were scattered. Moonlight shines on a vial of the poison’s cure atop the tombstone.

The Riddler is one of Batman’s smartest foes, no mean feat when most of his rogues’ gallery are doctors. He mixes a plethora of puzzles and devious death traps into schemes that push the World’s Greatest Detective to the brink. So who is he? How did he become a criminal? Why is he obsessed with riddles? Let’s find out.

Mystery: The Riddler’s Backstory

The Riddler: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 debuted in Detective Comics #140 in 1948. He was created by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang. Originally a run-of-the-mill villain, The Riddler rose to prominence following Frank Gorshin’s eccentric portrayal in the Adam West Batman series.

Edward Nygma was a genius student from an abusive home. His school hosted a puzzle-solving contest, which Edward wanted to win to show off. He broke into the school the night before the contest and practiced until he could solve the puzzles in seconds. The cheater was given a book of riddles for winning the contest and swore to master each.

Edward realized that he could prove his superiority to others through crime. He taunted police with nearly unsolvable riddles as The Riddler. Batman solved his conundrums and arrested him. Riddler was delighted to find an opponent who could keep up with him and escaped from prison to continue their game.

Conundrum: Riddler’s History

The Riddler:There were all these people you never see anymore. King Tut, Bookworm, Marsha: Queen of Diamonds, Egghead… [sighs] 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 was hurt, not really. Nobody died. Now 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?

Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?

The Crisis on Infinite Earths changed Riddler’s reputation. While most of his compatriots became darker and willing to kill, he remained a mostly goofy nuisance. He was treated as a joke by other villains and an easy foe for the Bat-Family to defeat.

Things changed again when the Riddler learned that he had brain cancer. Luckily, he discovered one of Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits, where he found a cure. The temporary insanity side effect allowed him to deduce Bruce Wayne was Batman. 

The Riddler orchestrated a plan to kill Wayne with new villains Hush and Red Hood. Batman defeated the other villains and convinced Riddler to keep his identity a secret because if everyone knew who he was, knowing the answer to the world’s greatest riddle would be meaningless.

During a battle with Shining Knight, The Riddler was hit in the head and fell into a coma. When he awakened, his psychosis had been cured. He renounced crime and became a consulting detective a la Sherlock Holmes to entertain himself.

E. Nygma: The Riddler’s Powers and Personality

[Batman has followed Riddler’s clues to his hideout]
The Riddler:I did it. I DID IT!
Batman:Are you OK, Nygma?
Riddler:No, I’m not. 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.”

Batman: Gotham Adventures #11

Riddler is like many of Batman’s foes who lack superpowers but remain formidable threats. He is a genius who wields a question mark-shaped staff, uses puzzle-themed weapons, is fond of death traps, and has been written akin to Jigsaw, the villain of Saw.

The Riddler struggles with a mix of narcissism, megalomania, and severe OCD. He physically can’t stop himself from leaving riddles to prove his superiority, even though he knows that Batman will solve them. Nygma has even subconsciously left clues for heroes while consciously trying not to.

An insufferable genius par excellence, Riddler is smarter than most people in the DC Universe and needs everyone to know it. He usually acts like a sore loser if someone solves his riddles, but may also consider the solver a worthy opponent if his mental illness doesn’t interfere.

The Actors Who Play The Riddler

Frank Gorshin – Batman (1966), Batman: The Movie, Legend of the Superheroes
Michael Bell – Challenge of the Super Friends
John Glover – Batman the Animated Series, Superman: the Animated Series
Robert Englund – The Batman
John Michael Higgins – Batman the Brave and the Bold, Scooby Doo & Batman: the Brave and the Bold
Dave Franco – Young Justice
Brent Spiner – Justice League Action
Jim Rash – Harley Quinn
“Weird Al” Yankovic – DC Super Hero Girls, DC Nation Shorts
Matthew Gray Gubler – Batman: Assault on Arkham
Conan O’Brien – The Lego Batman Movie
Wally Wingert – Batman: Return of the Caped Crusader, Batman vs. Two-Face
Jim Carrey – Batman Forever
Paul Dano – The Batman (2022)

Didya Get All That?

Gotham City’s most brilliant villain

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