Doing Batman Right 4: Rogue’s Gallery – Catwoman and The Riddler

By Bob Case
on Nov 15, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

Over the years I’ve come to believe that you can gauge the quality of an ongoing fictional universe quite accurately by looking at the number of supporting characters it has. If, for example, The Simpsons had mostly been about the actual Simpsons, it wouldn’t have been half the show it was. It needed Chief Wiggum, Mr. Burns, Apu, Milhouse, Skinner, and all the rest to get to that next level.

So it probably won’t surprise you at all to learn that I think Batman’s villains are important, and almost as important to get right as Batman himself. In fact, even the tiniest, most insignificant-seeming error can be utterly catastrophic!

Clockwise from the top, this is Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, and The Scarecrow.

Clockwise from the top, this is Mr. Freeze, Killer Croc, and The Scarecrow.

Or maybe I’m exaggerating, but still, you should try to get them right.

I Have a Thing for Catwoman

That’s why I’m doing her first. That, and because everyone is probably expecting The Joker to be first, and I’m trying not to be too predictable.

I also ship Batman and Catwoman, because I’m a boring person who likes doing boring, obvious things, and this one is just too boring and obvious to pass up. To me, Catwoman, in her own way, works as well as a foil as The Joker does. That’s because the Batman-Catwoman relationship is based in mutual envy. Secretly, each finds the other’s lifestyle tempting.

The appeal of her life isn’t hard to figure out. Being Catwoman is probably a fucking blast. She’s a creature of unashamed appetite, quicker and cleverer than just about anyone else, languorously secure in who she is and what she does, and (mostly – see below) untroubled about her own darker side.

I was ten years old when Batman Returns came out. Not complaining at all, but Michelle Pfeiffer`s Catwoman was a very confusing thing for my ten-year old brain to process.

I was ten years old when Batman Returns came out. Not complaining at all, but Michelle Pfeiffer`s Catwoman was a very confusing thing for my ten-year old brain to process.

I don’t see how Batman – and particularly the Bruce Wayne side of Batman, which is never entirely an act – could look at Catwoman without a knot of envy forming somewhere in his stomach. For her part, she sees something in him she envies too: how thoroughly he’s able to indulge his protective side. For Selina Kyle, a protective side is a vulnerability to be avoided, and to see someone like Batman so willingly and thoroughly express one is something she grudgingly admires (and occasionally emulates).

I like coming up with rules for things, so I might as well come up with some “Catwoman rules.”

1. Catwoman is never entirely a villain. This one is pretty obvious and generally followed by all writers, but it’s important enough to list anyway. Catwoman, while often an antagonist, should never quite be a villain. That would cheapen both her character and, through his attraction to her, Batman’s as well.

2. Batman must have a sense of humor. If all Batman ever does is scowl and punch people, Catwoman has no reason to be attracted to him. There has to be something in him that she recognizes and can occasionally draw out. This is the secret to good Batman-Catwoman banter, by the way, and these two characters and banter go together like cream and catnip.

3. Get you a Catwoman who knows how to lounge. Eartha Kitt and Michelle Pfeiffer could both lounge like pros. Anne Hathaway, while she has many other talents, never quite got this aspect right in my opinion. (She got the “oops” right though. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.)

It`s surprisingly hard to find pictures of Eartha Kitt`s Catwoman.

It`s surprisingly hard to find pictures of Eartha Kitt`s Catwoman.

4. They must have real criticisms of each other. When it comes down to it, Batman doesn’t like Catwoman’s selfishness. And she doesn’t like his judgmental side, and the fact that Bruce Wayne is a rich brat who could grow up with the luxury of a conscience. There’s a reason there’s so much push and pull to the relationship.

5. Don’t have them hook up unless you really know what you’re doing. Better to err on the side of forever unconsummated. If they do end up together, make it at the very end or something, like the Christopher Nolan movies did.

Final tip: if Batman-Catwoman is too hard or played out, try shipping Robin and Catwoman. Tons of untapped potential there if you ask me.

The Riddler: Still Somehow Underrated

The Riddler, to me, is a case study in how brazenly foregrounding genre conventions can actually work.

Want to show off Batman’s deductive and detective skills? Why not have a villain who obsessive-compulsively leaves elaborate riddles to be solved at every crime scene! Want a dramatic death trap? Why not have a villain who can’t stop himself from designing them, and the more elaborate and impractical the better!

And instead of glossing over these questions, Batman’s collective brain trust wrote them into Edward Nigma/Nygma/Nashton’s backstory. He’s driven to tell the truth (hence the riddles), and also to prove himself smarter than his opponents (hence, again, the riddles).

He`s probably gonna touch something, that rascal.

He`s probably gonna touch something, that rascal.

The Riddler, unlike Catwoman, is an actual villain, but (and this is hardly unusual in Gotham City) a tragic one. His gimmick of leaving clues and riddles is now presented as a compulsion rather than a choice, and not a healthy one either. I personally feel there’s a truly whizbang Riddler story to be told, one that will do for him what The Killing Joke did for The Joker. Someone should hurry up and get on that.

The Riddler-Batman relationship is more one-way than the Catwoman-Batman one. The Riddler wants to prove himself smarter than Batman. What Batman wants is unclear, which may be the missing secret sauce here. There needs to be something in The Riddler that challenges Batman. I don’t mean that challenges his riddle-solving or face-punching abilities. Something that challenges who he is as a person/superhero.

This is a difficult thing to explain, but the Bat-vulnerability that The Riddler is particularly equipped to target, in my opinion, is his arrogance. Batman has a noblesse oblige that is at least partly rooted in the belief that he’s better than everyone else, and succeeds because he deserves to.

What if he failed, though? What if there was a riddle that went forever unsolved, even by Batman, and even by the audience? Shakespeare used something like that trick in Othello. Iago’s final act of villainy was (spoiler alert) denying the audience the satisfaction of knowing his motives. The reader’s craving to understand is an expectation to play against. Just a thought.

I only have one “Riddler rule”:

1. The Riddler must have a bowler hat. Because why on earth, given the choice between a bowler-hatted character and a bowler-hatless one, would you ever pick the latter?

The hardcore Batman fans out there may already know that there are more than two recurring villains. Don’t fret – though I won’t cover the entire Rogue’s Gallery (it’s just too big), there’s more to come next week.

 

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MrBtongue is the Pele of complaining about videogames and will soon be the Garrincha of complaining about TV shows. You can find his Youtube channel at youtube.com/user/MrBtongue.

2020201575 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

From the Archives:

  1. Viktor says:

    With me, part of the key to Catwoman is that you can’t do her in a single movie. Doing Catwoman without a decent Batman/Catwoman romance just leaves people wondering why you bothered. A standard romantic movie is as long as a movie(give or take). A Batman movie has a runtime of approximately one movie. And a decent Bat/Cat romance needs to be at least as complex as your usual rom-com or dramatic love story. There’s no way to make Batman and a criminal fall for each other over the course of 2 hours without either making the movie exclusively about that or damaging Batman’s character, and making a Batman movie where romance is the A-plot will end with rioting in the street. You either make Catwoman a recurring villain over the course of 2-3 movies, or you find someone else(NOT BATGIRL/BATWOMAN) to be your arm candy.

    • Arakus says:

      There actually sort of is a batman movie where romance is the a-plot, and it’s really good (and was received really well by the fanbase). (Name in spoilers since the fact that the romance is actually the main plot and not the extended side plot it appears to be makes the main twist really obvious. It’s Batman Mask of the Phantasm .)

  2. MichaelGC says:

    I personally feel there’s a truly whizbang Riddler story to be told, one that will do for him what The Killing Joke did for The Joker. Someone Rutskarn should hurry up and get on that in the fullness of time; in due course; at the appropriate juncture.

  3. Ardis Meade says:

    To me, the deal with the Riddler is; He looks like he could be helped, but he can’t. Some villains are just too broken to really think of saving (Joker), some want to go straight but circumstances keep screwing them over (Freeze), and some are just greedy (Penguin), but Riddler is just broken enough to fool you. He’s sympathetic and his motives seem to make sense. It seems like with the right treatment he could be fixed. However, no matter how much he ever seems to improve, he always backslides. He’s the continual recidivist, challenging the idea that criminals can be shown another path. At least that’s the roll I tend to assign him.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      At least part of that’s because Riddler seems like he’s having a blast most of the time. Batman’s other villains don’t really seem like they’re having pure, earnest fun the way Riddler does. Right up until he’s enraged, insulted and cowed by being outwitted, it’s pretty clear that being a Batman villain is Riddler’s answer to the old saying, “If you do something you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” You couldn’t ever convince him to stop playing his favorite game in the world without convincing him he’ll never win at it, and you’ll never convince him of that.

    • BlueHorus says:

      He could very easily be written with a sort of loop: the very act being understoond would, to him, be a defeat. He can’t allow himself to be understood or comprehended – but, being human, he instinctively wants to be…
      Any person – psychologist, friend, lover, whatever – who got close to understanding him (or just close) would cause him to hate them and lash out. So endlessly riddling Batman and getting punched in the face for it is the most stable relationship he has, because he oscillates between being understood and being mysterious.
      Man, that’s cliched, XD
      Presumably it’s been done before?

      But related: the Riddler could have an awesome version of Harley Quinn. Someone he cares about to much to hurt, who cares about him, but can’t actually accept or return the affection. Has that been done before?

      • Nick says:

        I think you may want to reexamine the relationship between Harley and Joker if you think he could never hurt her. (Depends somewhat on version of course)

        The Gotham TV series (enjoyably as long as you accept it’s an Elseworlds style story that can and will not be able to square the circle back to the batman status quo in any sensible fashion) has done a really long development on their Riddler. After almost dying, he’s revived by his superfan who’s got her own costume ready and everything. She doesn’t last the episode.

        I think the main issue with Harley-esque sidekick and Riddler is that he fundamentally would want his ego upheld as the smartest one in the room at every turn, but is repelled by obviously dumb people. A smart woman who could actually challenge him would need to play the line of how smart to appear very, very carefully to survive.

        • RCN says:

          Just need one who’s smarter than him but keep making him think her ideas are his ideas, while genuinely caring for him and his goal of outsmarting Batman.

          So Batman finds himself in a situation where he actually has some trouble going past the riddler’s challenges. And in the end it’d be tragic if he revealed to the Riddler that the only reason for his recent successes were his new sidekick’s intelligence.

        • BlueHorus says:

          Yeah, you’re right – Joker’s more than happy to hurt Harley. But could he kill her?
          Lose his toy? His adoring punchbag who loves him regardless and has the same nihilistic view of life as he does?

          My take on Riddler’s version would be dumber than him, but also genuinely appreciative of his riddles (and him). The adoring fan who’s just smart enough to see his genius but doesn’t threaten it.
          Of course emotional intelligence and riddle-solving intelligence aren’t the same thing…so while she’s clearly not as clever as him, he’s got the sneaking suspicion that she’s worked him out. But he loves the attention regardless and so doesn’t want to think too hard about it.
          Or is she just lying about how smart she is? He can’t tell; no matter what he does to find out he never gets a definite answer. And she’s always appreciative.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yeah, you’re right – Joker’s more than happy to hurt Harley. But could he kill her?
            Lose his toy? His adoring punchbag who loves him regardless and has the same nihilistic view of life as he does?

            Yes.The very moment she crosses him* or loses her usefulness.Or if it would be funny to do so.

            And thats the point of their relationship:He is such a psycho that he doesnt care if his abuse ends up in her death,and she is so broken that she is willing to forgive even stuff that almost kill her.Its a sick,dysfunctional relationship,the only kind the joker would ever enjoy.Which is why it always bothers me when people think of the couple as cute or lovely or something to aspire to.Either they dont understand the point,or they are as twisted as one of those two.

            *Yes,she survived that,but only barely.If she werent a named character,that wouldve been the end of her.

            • Supah Ewok says:

              I seem to recall that some piece of Batman media implied that in its universe Joker kills and replaces his “Harly” regularly.

              • Viktor says:

                That…really doesn’t work for the vast majority of Batman media. Harleen Quinzel is a very specific person. Her psychology PHD and time as a doctor tends to get referenced on a regular basis whenever they do a story focusing on her. A new Harley wouldn’t have that, so “Joker kills and replaces her” falls apart basically instantly, because someone will reference Harley being a doctor the next time she shows up anyway. Whoever wrote that particular bit of darker-and-edgier schlock needs to stop.

              • BlueHorus says:

                “Oh My God! Joker! I’m such a huge fan! You’re so great, can I get your-
                “Yeah, yeah. Find a costume from the rack in the corner that fits and put it on. Your name’s Harley now.”
                “Um, no it’s not, it’s Jane-”
                “Be quiet! And call me ‘Puddin’ from now on.”

                Problem is there can’t be THAT many women in the world (fictional or not) who want an insane clown treating them like crap with no safewords in sight…right?
                I mean, after the death of the first two, even the most ardent of Joker groupies would be wary…

                Oh, and apparently Viktor replied to my deleted post below. See, I think that idea makes more sense – Either Joker deliberately gave her something to make her tougher/immortal so he just CAN kill her and she still comes back – or it happened by accident. It’s what I’d do if I was him.

                But sure, sense and comic books need not coincide… ‘she’s popular’ is the real reason she never dies.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Problem is there can’t be THAT many women in the world (fictional or not) who want an insane clown treating them like crap with no safewords in sight…right?

                  Twilight fandom says otherwise.

                • Ardis Meade says:

                  I vaguely recall this storyline. If I remember correctly it wasn’t just telling a fangirl that she was Harley. It was finding a new woman who kinda looked liked the old ones and utterly destroying her mind until she thought she was Harleen Quinzel. It’s been awhile though so I don’t remember details and could easily be wrong. Yeah, it was a stupidly dark story though.

        • Sunshine says:

          A smart woman who could actually challenge him would need to play the line of how smart to appear very, very carefully to survive.

          I feel that plenty of women would find that relatable on some level.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Im not sure riddler could ever get a real partner.If they are smarter than him,then his ego would make him always want to outsmart his partner,most likely to the point of wanting to murder them.If they are not as smart as him,he would not want to wast his time with them,and probably would never feel anything for them.

        A story could be made about such a thing,but it would never be something long lasting.At least joker/harley work because he is a sadist and she is a masochist,but for riddler theyd both have to be brilliant and egotistic,always leading to a clash.

        Though the riddler could have a frenemy.Someone who is constantly competing with him.

        • Nessus says:

          I now have this mental image of Nygma sitting in front of a fastidiously set-up chess board in the middle of the Blackgate prison yard, arms crossed and scowling as the other inmates mill around ignoring him. Every day he sets up the board and sits there in silence trying to passive aggressively dare anyone to play, but no one will even look at him. He simmers between smug surety that this means everyone knows they couldn’t beat him, and rage that no one will play him to find out.

          Years go by, and then, someone sits down. They play, and Nygma beats him, but it’s very close. So after some trash talk, they agree to go 2 out of 3, and this time Nygma loses. 2 out of 3 becomes 3 out of 4, and so on. This goes on, all yard break, every day, for another couple years.

          Nygma’s sentence ends, and Batman braces for another spree of having to rescue people from crazy “Saw”-ish puzzle traps, but it never comes. Turns out Nygma’s been going back to visit the prison every day to play chess. His apartment is overflowing with books on chess strategy, papers stuck to the walls describing statistics of thousands of games he’s played in his head in attempt to iterate his opponent’s mind. Oh, he’ll get back to the Batman, but first he just has to finish settling this pissant. Can’t just let a thing like that go, you know: it’s infuriating.

          Batman starts to wonder if he should talk to Gordon: get this chess guy some inside protection, maybe some special health care sponsorship through one of the Wayne foundation charities. See how long this ride can last.

      • Henson says:

        Riddler probably shouldn’t have a partner because his character doesn’t allow for it. If I think about it, it seems that the Riddler’s real adversary is himself. He needs to prove that he is the greatest mind, and Batman is simply the best way of testing himself. But in the end, it’s not about outsmarting Batman, it’s about being Number One. So having a partner would undermine the test.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems any time Riddler has teamed up with other villains, the factor that has ended the partnership is not losing to Batman, but rather personal drama of egos.

  4. BlueHorus says:

    As a romantic prospect, Catwoman seems to me to have a lot more going for her than Talia Al’Ghul.
    The dynamic Bob describes is great: compelling, understandable, tied to Batman’s principles and the fact they’ve both got superhero abilities and second lives as costumed characters. He probably would be tempted by just using his power for whatever he wanted to, like Catwoman does. They attract and repel each other in equal measure and there’s constant tension there.

    Whereas Talia Al’Ghul…wants Batman to join her ninja cult? Kill people? Give up his methods and join them in their convoluted city-manipulation plots with immortality serums?
    What’s the appeal here for Bruce?

    Possibly it’s just that I just don’t like the Al Ghul concept (Ras’ or his daughter) very much. Also, maybe there’s an amazing comic out there that explains their relationship. Let me know if there is.
    Talia just doesn’t seem as…interesting a love interest as Selina Kyle.

    • Syal says:

      What’s the appeal here for Bruce?

      Ninja Princess.

    • Nick says:

      I think the appeal for Bruce is in trying to save her from her father, and in particular becoming her father. He is the Dark Knight after all, and a Ninja Princess Damsel in Distress is still a Damsel in Distress.

      I do think their relationship is a lot less interesting than the Selina Kyle one, but then I’ve never read the comic arc where they get together so it’s possible I’m missing something

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      What’s the appeal here for Bruce?

      Dat ass

    • Nessus says:

      If I had to speculate: it’s because Talia sorta represents/appeals to the exact opposite traits Catwoman does.

      Catwoman is Batman’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s carefree where he’s responsible, expressive where he’s stoic. In her he sees the freedom he can’t allow in himself.

      Talia is Batman’s “sensible” girlfriend. She echoes and reinforces the traits he prizes in himself. Like him, she’s responsible and stoic. In her he sees an ally who makes him stronger, more stable.

      Both represent an offer of relief from the enormous pressure of his self appointed duty. Catwoman represents relief in the form of abandoning that duty. Talia represents relief in the form of a shared load being easier to bear.

      As the others above suggest, both could be framed as damsels Batman wants to “rescue” from the parts of their lives he disapproves of, but I don’t agree with that interpretation. IMO they are both women who get inside his defences in no small part because they are his equals. They are women he could “safely” get close to emotionally because he sees them as women who can hold their own as well as he can, and thus don’t need to be worried about as a vulnerability. That awareness is what makes him subconsciously drop his guard. If he saw them as damsels like some people are suggesting, that would keep them on the wrong side of the mental wall. He’d still care, but only in the way he cares about any victim.

      I think the reason why the relationship with Talia is less compelling for the audience is because in Catwoman’s case, the dramatic tension in their relationship is intrinsic to the characters themselves, whereas in Talia’s case, the conflict is incidental (It’s her dad and his cult that’re the sticky issue, not her herself, much less the very same parts of her that make her attractive to him). If Bruce and Selina were the last two people on Earth, they’d still spend a lot of time fighting when they weren’t making out. If Bruce and Talia were the last two people on Earth, they’d immediately settle into a contented and stable couple.

      • methermeneus says:

        both could be framed as damsels Batman wants to “rescue” from the parts of their lives he disapproves of, but I don’t agree with that interpretation.

        Can’t it be both? I mean, just because he sees them as damsels in distress doesn’t mean that’s what they are; Batman has his own mental problems and blind spots. For that matter, can’t he see them as both damsels in need of rescuing and equal partners, at least in part because they won’t let him “rescue” them from something they don’t see as durance vile?

        EDIT: Accidentally hit submit while in the middle of fixing a typo!

        • Fade2Gray says:

          I agree. Batman could easily see either woman as his equal in most ways but still feel the compulsion to be the hero and save them from themselves/their circumstances.

      • Leviathan902 says:

        This comment…

        It’s really freakin’ good

      • BlueHorus says:

        Well, there’s some conflict:
        He wants to take her away from the ninja cult she was born into and believes in.
        She wants to get him to give up a fundamental part of being Batman (and join her cult).

        They’re both trying to change the other in ways that the other won’t actually change.
        It’s not as dramatic as a relationship with Catwoman, but there’s still material there…

        Als, I’ll second Leviathan902’s comment above.

        • Khazidhea says:

          Pre-Lexcorp Talia is still my favoured pairing for Batman (I haven’t really cared much for her storylines/character development since then, but I haven’t kept up so much in recent years that I may well be missing something). Probably because to me it’s the least comic-booky pairing that could still work within the Batman mythos.

          Catwoman has been through many changes over the years, but her default as the thief with a heart of gold trope to me means she works well for the sizzle between her and Batman, but nothing more. She’d have to give up a major part of her foundational character to truly make it work with Batman (not a bad thing, there’s a lot to work with there), and I’m not sure how well she would work with the Bruce Wayne persona (fine for a time, but long term?).

          Talia however seems to work for both Batman and Bruce Wayne, in an extended capacity. If something more were to eventuate between the two I’d see her filling more of a complementary position in Batman’s life, (like Alfred): not actively going out on patrols/missions/adventures, for the most part, but able to hold her own and fill in some of the gaps in his overall life.

          Edit: Oh, and she gives the best gifts (just because I like the look).
          And Riddler is the best Batman villian.

          • Sannom says:

            She’d have to give up a major part of her foundational character to truly make it work with Batman (not a bad thing, there’s a lot to work with there), and I’m not sure how well she would work with the Bruce Wayne persona (fine for a time, but long term?).

            It’s probably why the two were closest during Ed Brubacker’s run, when Catwoman was a bonafide vigilante taking care of her little part of Gotham. That’s when he first revealed his secret identity to her.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    That’s why I’m doing her first.

    Ill try not to make a sexual joke about this.But its hard.Its just so very hard.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I also ship Batman and Catwoman

    Bah.Everyone knows that bats and wondy are the only true pair.

    • methermeneus says:

      Everyone knows that bats and wondy are the only true pair.

      Glad you agree. In an amazing bit of coincidence, I just started rereading that the other day.

      EDIT: typo fix. I gotta stop commenting from my phone; it keeps changing what I write, and I don’t always notice.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        EDIT: typo fix. I gotta stop commenting from my phone; it keeps changing what I write, and I don’t always notice.

        Turn on autocomplete and turn off autocorrect.Thats the way to do it.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      Hard NO. Steve Trevor+WW OTP.

      • methermeneus says:

        Idunno, I always thought of Steve Trevor as the same kind of non-character love interest as women often end up being in media. Maybe I just need to read the comics more often, but that’s what I get from being a casual reader plus a DCAU fan. I mean, it’s kind of cool that Wonder Woman gets one, since that’s one more thing that shows she’s the equal of any male character, but any character I care about I’d rather get a love interest who is also a real person.

        Actually, the image you shared proves the point, I think. Batman needs someone who can kick his ass if necessary.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Actually, the image you shared proves the point, I think. Batman needs someone who can kick his ass if necessary.

          It also implies that the couple are into kink rather than that they cant be a pair.

          • BlueHorus says:

            “Alfred, Diana is coming over tonight. I’ll need chains, manacles, a gag and thirty-two live bats brought up to my room. Also, privacy for the next four hours. No interruptions.”
            “Wouldn’t dream of it, sir. Will you be needing the horsewhip this time?”
            “No. By the way, did the contractors finished soundproofing the room?”
            “Yes, sir. Thankfully.”

            Yep. Fits everything I’ve heard about Wonder Woman’s creator…

  7. Chad Kreutzer says:

    I totally mean this as a compliment: I did not realize until this post that this series was not Shamus.

    • Mousazz says:

      I figured it out in the last post, but was just as pleasantly surprised. Especially since Shamus had rather recently analyzed Arkham City, and he isn’t afraid of having multiple series going on, it wasn’t difficult to assume he’d start a new Batman-centric series.

      Guess some of us are not as great detectives as our discussed superhero, huh?

  8. Aevylmar says:

    This may be personal to me, but I actually consider the first Catwoman Rule to be “Catwoman is never entirely a villain nor entirely a hero.” Even when Catwoman and Batman are working together, she’s normally trying to figure out how to rob or (occasionally) destroy the villain of the week; Batman wants to bring him to justice. Which is one of the main things building the tension between them – in the same way that even when he’s fighting her he knows she may do good tomorrow, even when she’s saving his life, he can’t trust her not to do evil tomorrow.

    Which is one of the reasons why she works so well as a character.

    Edit – And as a foil to him, in particular, since his personal strictness – doing the Batman job even though he doesn’t want to, in less bleak portrayals; refraining from killing people even though he does want to, in more bleak ones – is one of his defining traits.

  9. Redrock says:

    The Hush storyline ending in comics handled both the Catwoman romance and Riddler perfectly, showing Batman’s inability yo actually have meaningful relationships in case of the former, and Riddler’s compulsions being his downfall in case of the latter.

    Also, not too long ago I think he was actually the major villain in a big story arc? And he also had a decently long period of being rehabilitated and actually working as a consulting detective of sorts. You can actually do a lot with the Riddler, much more so than the Joker, I think.

  10. Yerushalmi says:

    Because why on earth, given the choice between a bowler-hatted character and a bowler-hatless one, would you ever pick the latter?

    So why isn’t there a Bowler Hat Rule for Catwoman?

  11. Grudgeal says:

    Wouldn’t the compulsion be a good bat-flaw/bat-challenge for the Riddler to reflect? The Riddler can’t stop being a villain. Batman, or should I say Bruce Wayne, can’t stop being Batman. Obviously we know why they can’t from our POV — the writers won’t retire them — but in-universe they both have that common thread. Just as Two-Face reflects Batman’s conflicts between his civilian and superhero identity, and the Joker reflects Batman’s core consistent moral standard (the value/meaning of life and not wanting to see people hurt), the Riddler in many ways reflects how Batman can’t stop being Batman, continually challenging himself through a compulsive need to be the crimefighter who has to solve everything himself. A lot of Batman/Justice League stories, like, say, the Tower of Babel, shows this aspect of him.

  12. Zekiel says:

    I love this series :-)

    I’ve never really “got” the Riddler – he always just seems like a silly villain to me. (e.g. Batman Forever, Hush). I thought he worked pretty well in the Arkham games since (in a similar-but-different way to the Joker), his whole thing is basically playing games with Batman.

    What’s a good example of a story that does him justice?

    • Paul Spooner says:

      I think one of the points of the article was that there isn’t really a shining example of an all-around good Riddler story.
      There you go Bob! An idea for a long-form blog series. Write your ideal Riddler story!

    • Aevylmar says:

      I liked the Batman: The Animated Series episode “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?” I don’t think that’s really a shining example of brilliance, but I thought that (90s-ness aside) it worked quite well as a story and as a Riddler Story.

    • shoeboxjeddy says:

      Batman Year Zero is neat. Riddler takes advantage of a weak point in Gotham (it is overrun by a different gang) and imposes martial law and a lack of electricity on the city. He claims he will rescind all these points once someone solves his riddles… and kills anyone who fails at them. It becomes clear later that he didn’t really want or expect anyone to solve his stuff, it was purely a way for him to teabag the community on a daily basis.

  13. Matt Downie says:

    My villain rule is: have a clear distinction between “mass murderer” villains and other villains.

    If Harley Quinn murders dozens of people, you can’t really go back to doing light-hearted adventures where she gets temporarily reformed, gets romantically involved with a hero, etc.

    Catwoman and The Riddler belong in the “not mass murderer” category.

    • Zekiel says:

      I’d say this is laudable principle but probably not workable for comics, since they go on literally forever, through multiple writers, who are going to want to do different things with iconic characters in order to keep them fresh.

      It’s definitely a very sensible principle for any limited work (i.e film series, TV series, game series etc)

  14. Dreadjaws says:

    The Riddler is a bit complicated. Even the animated series had trouble with him, giving him only a couple of episodes before shoving him aside. The Arkham series did a good job integrating him into the universe, but by God he became insufferable after Asylum.

    Catwoman, though, is much harder to get wrong. That’s why I’m still puzzled by the eponymous movie. They just couldn’t have gotten her so wrong without trying, so I’m blaming Stan Lee sneaking into WB’s screenplay storage vault.

  15. fartibarfslab says:

    Hey MrBtongue, I watched the new Blade Runner. I need to know what I think about it now.

  16. Viktor says:

    Edit: This was originally a response to someone asking if Harley Quinn had ever died. They seem to have deleted, but I’m not getting rid of this after typing it up.

    If she has died, I don’t recall it. She’s too popular for DC to kill her off lightly and the Joker/Batman conflict tends to dominate the large Joker stories in a way that doesn’t leave room for the death of Harley. She’s actually carried multiple titles on her own, and there’s not a lot of minor characters who can do that.

    In-universe, none of the non-Joker villains want to risk the Joker’s wrath by killing her. Joker has come close a couple times, but she always manages to pull through(Modern medicine as applied to a named character). That, plus her system has been boosted by Poison Ivy. They started hanging out together a while ago IRL and Ivy gave her an unspecified booster shot so being around Ivy/dating her wouldn’t kill Harley. That shot’s been used to justify Harley doing some unusually better-than-human feats.

  17. I think you could do a cool Christopher Nolen-style Batman story in which the Riddler is a double-agent/spy working for the main villain and leaving clues behind for Batman, who is trying to catch the main villain AND also support the Riddler.

    And, of course, the Riddler has his own agenda that is (sorta) revealed by a deeper viewing of the many clues/reports he sends in.

  18. Malimar says:

    I’ve heard that in the comics, in recent years the Riddler has reformed, and turned his intellect and ego to solving crimes instead of committing them. This is, of course, just a different way to beat Batman at his own game: if Ed beats Batman to solving a crime, that obviously means Ed is smarter than Batman.

  19. Duoae says:

    Really enjoying this series so far. Some really good ideas presented. :)

  20. JBC31187 says:

    The Riddler, unlike Catwoman, is an actual villain, but (and this is hardly unusual in Gotham City) a tragic one. His gimmick of leaving clues and riddles is now presented as a compulsion rather than a choice, and not a healthy one either. I personally feel there’s a truly whizbang Riddler story to be told, one that will do for him what The Killing Joke did for The Joker. Someone should hurry up and get on that.

    The Batman: Gotham Adventures comic had a nice story where the Riddler voluntarily returns to Arkham after subconciously leaving clues. Then he tries to go straight, becoming a private detective to show up Batman. I don’t think you can really do a tragic origin story for the Riddler without it turning ridiculous.

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