Thursday, February 25, 2010

OK, Riddler, OK, it's your story.

It's funny: I wouldn't have thought of myself as a Riddler fan, and I'm probably not: I don't have a proper Riddler action figure, although that's a distribution problem as much as anything...but, there's been more than a couple Riddler stories that I've liked, which is probably more than Joker ones. We'll start with this one: Detective Comics Annual #8, "Questions Multiply the Mystery" Written by Chuck Dixon, art by Kieron Dwyer.

DC's 1995 annuals were all under the "Year One" banner, which hadn't quite been used to death at that point. (Previously, we saw one of the Superman Annuals.) Luckily, even with four annuals, Batman didn't have to hash and rehash his origin; he could go back to some of his villains. Other annuals featured Poison Ivy, the Scarecrow, and Man-Bat; but this might be the best one.

In an observation room at Arkham Asylum, sick of what he feels is "obvious and tactless" needling, the Riddler finally relents to tell his story, "an epic of larceny and murder." His story, not the Batman's, even though the Batman has already foiled him more than once.

As a child, young Eddie Nigma had the typical child's questions; why is the sky blue, leaves green, and so on. Adults seemed to either not know or to have forgotten the answers, so Eddie determined to be "a guy with all the answers. Even if I had to make up the questions." When a puzzle contest is announced at school, Eddie is intrigued, but as a mediocre student, his chances are poor, until he discovers his calling in life: cheating. Eddie breaks into the school, practices the puzzle until he can do it under a minute, and easily wins the contest. The prize? A book of riddles...and the attention of the bullies. A lot of this may have been established before in earlier stories, but Dixon does a great job of showing Eddie's desperation for attention of any kind.

After school, Eddie settles into a workaday life, and is quietly going insane with boredom. When he notices a business with a safe full of cash, he starts working on how to get it, but even the theft doesn't thrill him:

As the Riddler, Eddie escalates his puzzles, finally getting himself the attention of the cops, but also of the Batman. Who is less than impressed at first:
Being asked 'who are you supposed to be' is always, always hurtful in this kind of situation.
More through luck than design, and a little bit from Batman's relative inexperience, the Riddler escapes. Refining his style and his puzzles, Eddie manages to pull a couple of big scores, before Batman brings him down. But his fall is a twist, and this issue has a good one. So more than that, I won't say; find a copy of this one yourself.
Three guesses how that goes over.
I will say, that Kieron Dwyer seems to have a handle on the Riddler, since he drew perhaps my third-favorite Riddler story, "Dark Knight, Dark City" with Peter Milligan. The last issue spins out a little for my tastes, but they do a good and crazy Riddler story. Maybe, we'll get to my favorite Riddler story later, though...


road waffle said...

I agree that this and "Dark Knight, Dark City" are fantastic Riddler stories. I look forward to finding out what your favourite Riddler story is - and hope it's not THAT one.....

Generic Viagra said...

I hate the Riddler, he has an ironic personality. Also he is not powerful, so why his attitude?