A Tribute to the of

Batman has been much on my mind recently, probably in large part due to enjoying the midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." I enjoyed it quite a lot and would quickly recommend it to any fan.

July 28th was the birthday of the late Dick Sprang, one of the most prolific Batman artists in the Golden Age and as it turns out, co-creator of one of the World's Greatest Detective's earliest foes, the Riddler.

Let's take a peek at that original appearance of Edward Nigma, alias the Ridder from Detective Comics #140, the October 1948 issue. The cover was done by Win Mortimer. Interior art was, of course, by Dick Sprang with inking by Charles Paris. The tale was written by Bill Finger and according the Grand Comic Book Databse, Whitney Ellsworth is credited as editor, but apparently Jack Schiff actually did the detail. The story is called simply, "The Riddler!"

The tale begins with Nigma's backstory, where as a high school student he won a jigsaw puzzle contest (boasting that as E. Nigma, he was a natural), but he also had no qualms about cheating to win. As time went by his reputation grew as a master of all forms of puzzles, but he continued to stack the deck in his favor and even began to use his expertise to make a living for himself in carnivals and sideshows. Unsatisfied with that, his ego pushes him into using puzzles to commit crimes and match wits with the law and even Batman himself.

The first order of business is to design a costume and he comes up with the familiar green leotard covered with question marks and supplemented with an eye mask. His first challenge is directly to the Batman when he poses clues to a crossword puzzle that will also indicate his upcoming crime. The clues are: A water utensil; a public way and a formal dinner. They dynamic duo come up with "basin, street and banquet," leading them to a charity banquet on Basin street, but upon arrival there is no sign of their nemesis. Just then they get word that the nearby bank has been flooded, creating a "bank-wet."

The Riddler, using diving gear, cracks the flooded basement vault, then uses the sewer system to drain the water and himself right out of harm's way.

Another new day and a new challenge, this time in the form of a huge jigsaw puzzle, carried by multiple trucks to police HQ and Batman utilizes the assistance of the police and the nearby stadium to assemble the pieces containing the Riddler's clue. It ultimately indicates that he will rob the Eagle's Nest, which corresponds with an Eyrie, local nightclub atop a skyscraper.

As it happens, however, the Riddler has actually gone to the home of millionaire collector Harrison Eagle. Batman, however, has deduced the locale, but the Riddler has another puzzle to keep the Masked Manhunter at bay. Eagle has been ensconced in a massive bent nail style puzzle that is also choking Harrison. Just to up the ante, the Riddler lets loose with a smoke bomb, but once the smoke clears, Batman is able to discern that there are nicks in some of the rods, indicating the places where they should come apart and he is able to save the millionaire.

The next riddle to strike Batman and Robin is a massive ear of corn on the back of a flatbed truck with a sign reading, "Dear Batman: Here's a corny riddle to tip you off to my next job. Why is corn hard to escape from?"

The World's Greatest Detective deduces it's a play on words. Maize and maze and the nearest maze is at the Pleasure Pier Amusement Park. There, the Riddler has just relieved the gate of their receipts and has hustled inside the glass-paned maze.

Batman and Robin follow, but are instantly confused by the maze and the Riddler informs them that a bomb has been set inside. What he does not reveal is that he has successfully sealed the exit as he leaves. Our heroes soon understand their predicament and cannot break the shatterproof glass. Batman comes up with a solution, however, when he removes some of the carpet and ignites it, creating enough heat to expand the metal framework around the glass panes allowing them to push a panel out and escape. Shortly afterward the explosive goes off, blowing the Riddler off the end of the pier and into the sea. All that appears to be left of the criminal is one of his question marks from his costume that has floated to the surface.

Interestingly, the Riddler went on a very long hiatus, as did a few other of Batman's foes from the Golden Age. In Edward Nigma's case, he didn't surface again until 1965 in Batman #171, nearly 20 years after this initial debut.

Since then we've seen him in the old Batman television series, played by the late Frank Gorshin, the Jim Carrey version in the Batman film a handful of years back (certainly not my favorite) and in the animated Batman series with long locks and sinister motives. He had a particularly interesting turn in Mark Waid and Alex Ross' Kingdom Come as well, sans costume.

He was far from one of Batman's original foes, but continues to hold a particular place in the Dark Knight's rogues gallery and will doubtless continue to puzzle and perplex the Batman and Gotham City's finest for the foreseeable future.

While things have trickled down a bit, I do have another interview in the works and hopefully will be able to share it with you soon. Meanwhile, if anyone has a suggestion for another feature to review or interview, by all means let me know. You can reach me at the usual place: professor_the@hotmail.com

Thanks for joining us and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2012 by B.D.S.

This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by



The Silver Lantern Site Menu + Map & Updates

HomeThe SageSage Archives1934-19551956
1967196819691970GL Data

All characters mentioned, artwork, logos and other visual depictions displayed, unless otherwise noted, are © by DC Comics. No infringement upon those rights is intended or should be inferred. Cover, interior and other artwork scans and vid-caps are used for identification purposes only. The mission of this non-profit site is to entertain and inform. It is in no way authorized or endorsed by DC Comics and/or its parent company. The Webmaster assumes no responsibility for the content or maintenance of external links.