Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Curious Case of Edward Nigma

The Riddler hates two things - idiots, and dust on his suit.
As I hinted, this week, I will be talking about my favorite Batman villain - the Riddler.  Why the Riddler, instead of more famous villains like the Joker or Two-Face?  Well, for starters, I have gotten sort of bored of the Joker recently, due to his overexposure in media and culture.  Yes, the Joker is the perfect Batman villain, and maybe even the perfect villain, but there are just so many times you can see him that you can get bored of perfection.  I still think the Joker is the best Batman villain, but my favorite continues to be the Riddler.  As with Two-Face, I must admit that Harvey Dent is indeed the most tragic of Batman villains, but he is rather one note to me.   Harvey's internal dilemmas are always handled well, but considering the half dozen times his face has been fixed and then scarred again, it seems to me like writers don't know what to do with him.

So, if not the two biggest Batman villains, why the Riddler as opposed to other secondary Batman villains?  Well, to me, all great Batman villains test something in Batman.  Joker tests Batman's morality and sanity.  Two-Face tests Batman's guilt and conscience.  Ra's al Ghul tests Batman's dedication to his mission.  Bane tested Batman physically.  Even the Scarecrow tests Batman's phobias and the control of his fears.  The Riddler, however, is one of the few villains that Batman faces that truly tests Batman's intellect, and puts one of Batman's many titles, "the World's Greatest Detective," to the test.  He really is a niche villain.  And the fact that the Riddler focuses on brains over brawn, and is one of the few villains who is willing to admit he is bested without resorting to a fist fight, and that difference to every other villain, makes the Riddler just such a distinct and charming villain.  Like the Penguin, he's a gentleman in a villain role.

Ladies, please contain your orgasms.
Another reason I like him is because of his almost lovable despicableness.  He may be a gentleman, but GOD DAMN does he love being a villain, and this is infinitely more enjoyable to me than a tragic villain (sorry, Harvey).  A villain who has fun while he's being horrible has a certain charm to him, and the Riddler has this in spades.  For example, in the recent blockbuster video game Batman: Arkham City, Batman must solve the Riddler's challenges unless the police officers that the Riddler captured would face fatal consequences.  And, completely true to character, the Riddler cheats and has no remorse if Batman fails.  In fact, he responds gleefully to it.  It means that he WON, dammit, and that's all that matters to him.

But the problem that the Riddler has is that, in most media and even in the comics, he is presented as a doofus or just plain annoying and childish.  It's not a problem that he is arrogant and obsessed with getting attention; that is the flaw of his character that makes him easily defeated by Batman.  Like all classic villains, the Riddler often underestimates his foe, and that leads to his downfall.  (Another villain with this problem is Dr. Doom, who I will reference later.)  But this arrogance and desire for attention is exaggerated in the Riddler to almost childish degrees, leading to him acting like a buffoon.  Take a look at his trophy from Arkham City.  Does this look like a person who has one of the greatest intellects in the DC Universe?

Like I described, there is no problem with the Riddler having a flaw with his arrogance.  But Dr. Doom has this and still manages to be threatening.  I see the Riddler almost like a mix of Jigsaw from Saw films and a college professor.  He is menacing and completely sociopathic in his pursuit to prove he is smarter than Batman, but he still contains a certain elegance and chivalry in him that he acts like he is  superior to Batman, as if Batman is a neanderthal in comparison to the Riddler's classy ways.  I would also prefer if the Riddler really did seem like the genius that he is.  He should be like the villain in a thriller: always one step in front of the hero until his character flaw (arrogance), creates the opening for the hero to succeed.  

In other words, I want the Riddler to get the respect he deserves and could possess.  I honestly think that the Riddler could be one of the most feared villains in Batman's rogues gallery instead of just a joke character.  Some comics, like Batman: Hush, have hinted at his brilliance, but I think there is a long road for the Riddler to take in order to be up with the Joker or Two-Face.  Of course, he might have to lose the lame Green and Purple suit...would this be better?

  Oh yes...that would do quite nicely.

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