Why the Robert Pattinson Batman needs the Riddler – DC FanDome 2021
The Batman franchise is rebooted on the big screen once again, this time with Robert Pattinson taking the cape and the hood. The Batman appears to be darker and more violent than even Batman Begins or Batman v Superman. But there is an important difference this time around. Batman’s first major enemy isn’t the Joker or Ra’s al Ghul – it’s Paul Dano’s Riddler.
You might think you know this colorful and flamboyant trickster, but how well do you really know about Edward Nigma’s story? And what made him the natural choice to be Batman’s first major enemy? Let’s dive deep into the complex puzzle that is the Riddler. And for more on the movie, check out all of our DC FanDome coverage!
The origins of the Riddler
The Riddler first appeared in Detective Comics # 140 of 1948. While he’s not as old as Batman thugs like Joker and Catwoman, he’s still a part of that classic first generation of Gotham villains. More contemporary Batman comics have even reworked Riddler’s origins to show that he was among the first to fight the Caped Crusader, even before Joker himself.
Given the fluid nature of DC’s continuity and Riddler’s rambling wit, little is known about the origin of his criminal career. We don’t even know if his real name is Edward Nygma or Eddie Nash. There is one constant, however. Since childhood, Riddler has been fueled by a compulsive need to prove that he is the smartest person in the room. He’s thirsty for intellectual validation, and he thinks Batman is his only truly worthy opponent.
This is the heart of all the crimes Riddler committed in Gotham. He’s not really there for wealth or the love of killing, although he and his gang have certainly left an account over the years. Riddler just wants everyone to know how smart he is. He can’t help but create intricate puzzles and leave clues for Detective Dark Knight to solve. To his eternal shame, Riddler has never been able to hatch a mystery Batman cannot solve. But that never seems to stop him from trying.
Year zero of Gotham City
2013 Batman: Zero Year offers a drastically revamped version of Batman and Riddler’s first battle, and it’s the one that re-established Edward Nygma as one of Gotham’s most dangerous super-criminals.
Similar to Batman: Year One, Zero Year features Bruce Wayne’s first months in Gotham City after his travels around the world, as he strives to establish himself as a costumed vigilante. But where Year One is essentially a noir crime with Batman fighting gangsters and the police, Zero Year features an intricate plot with Riddler at its center.
The name “Zero Year” comes from the climax of history, as Riddler floods Gotham and turns the city into a lawless wasteland. During these few hellish months, the survivors are stuck living out of time. That is, at least, until Batman solves Riddler’s puzzles, restores power, and is revealed to be Edward Nygma’s intellectual superior.
A later storyline called The War of Jokes and Puzzles revolves around the idea that Joker and Riddler are the only two villains truly worthy of killing Batman. Naturally, this means the two are waging a war for privilege, forcing Batman to face the hundreds of corpses left in their wake.
Ultimately, Riddler manages to hurt Batman in a way that even Joker never could. Batman and Riddler form a temporary alliance to stop Joker, only for Batman to find out just how twisted his new partner really is. Batman slams and tries to stab Riddler, only for everyone’s Joker to save Nygma’s life. Batman has always managed to keep himself from killing the Joker, but somehow Riddler knows how to press buttons on the Dark Knight like no other.
Solve the ultimate mystery
In many Batman stories, Riddler is consumed by what he sees as the ultimate mystery: Who is Batman in mask? This is the basis of the version seen in the graphic novels Batman: Earth One, where Riddler is portrayed as a sadistic serial killer obsessed with this mystery.
Ultimately, Riddler is too smart not to finally find out the truth. It’s the revelation at the heart of a comic book storyline called Batman: Hush. As the titular villain of this curvy murder mystery turns out to be Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend Tommy Elliot, it’s ultimately Riddler at the center of the web.
Batman’s smartest foe uncovering his secret identity may seem like a recipe for disaster, but Batman reminds Riddler that knowledge isn’t always power. After all, what good is the world’s most precious secret if everyone knows it? Even Riddler has no answer to this riddle.
Luckily for Batman, Riddler quickly forgot about this secret after a convenient case of amnesia.
Hush was later adapted into an animated film, with one key difference. In this version, Riddler himself is revealed to be Hush, part of his ploy to elevate his status among the villains of Gotham. In this case, Riddler is killed by Catwoman before he can share his secret with the world.
Riddler’s role in The Batman
Based on these storylines alone, it’s clear why Riddler is worthy of becoming Batman’s first nemesis in the new movies. He’s not only smart enough to give Batman a run for his money, but he can compete with Joker for collateral damage when he has the right motivation.
Focusing on Riddler also makes sense given that the new series appears to take inspiration from Batman comic book writer Scott Snyder, who wrote Zero Year and several other key stories. One telling clue is Batman’s gauntlets, which look a lot like those worn by the Heels. These undead assassins serve the Court of Owls, another of Snyder’s DC creations. This underground organization existed in Gotham long before Batman arrived, and some fans believe Pattinson’s Bruce Wayne may have trained with the Court the same way Christian Bale’s Bruce was a member of the League of Shadows.
The Batman – Official Trailer 1
The Batman trailers reveal that Dano’s Riddler is a terrifying serial killer with a deep interest in Gotham’s secret history. This version of Riddler looks more Zodiac Killer than the campy DC villain, and his full leather costume is a far cry from the bright green, question mark-heavy costumes we’ve seen in the past.
Based on these trailers, Riddler appears determined to expose a vast conspiracy deep within Gotham City, and he leaves a trail of bodies to help Batman piece together the clues. It targets everyone from the mayor to the district attorney to the police. He even broadcasts his crimes live for good measure, because what’s the point of an enigma without an audience?
But where that trail ultimately leads, we’ll just have to wait and see when The Batman hits theaters in 2022.
Do you think Riddler is a worthy villain to kick off the rebooted Batman franchise? Let us know in the comments. And for more on the upcoming film, check out our breakdown of The Batman trailer where we explain why the Robert Pattinson Dark Knight might be the craziest yet.
Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by follow @jschedeen on Twitter.