A Tribute to the of

It recently came to my attention that the 50th anniversary of the first Silver Age appearance of the Riddler is upon us. As long time readers may remember, Edward Nigma made a total of two appearances in the Golden Age as reported in Sage #295. The first was his debut in Detective Comics #140 and then a follow-on two issues later in #142 and then, much like the Scarecrow, he simply vanished until the May 1965 issue of Batman, #171 which actually hit the stands in March. “Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler!” was scripted by Gardner Fox. Cover art was by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson with interiors by Shelly Moldoff and Joe Giella. The Grand Comics Database reports that good ol’ Gaspar Saladino was our interior letterer, all under the watchful eye of editor Julie Schwartz.

As a quick side note/observation, it’s interesting to me that pink, of all colors, was used for the cover background. I’m sure it must have been done before, but off the bat the only other time I can recall DC using it was on Mystery in Space #80 [Sage #140] where Adam Strange was being attacked by his own shadow. Of course Detective #140 had a bright yellow background, too… Wish I could give Jack Adler a call and get a little insight. Things begin with (surprise, surprise) Edward Nigma being released from the big house. As the warden presents him with some cash to get him started, the Riddler cannot resist asking the warden why the inmates refer to the joint as “Fiddler’s Hotel.” The warden doesn’t know, but Nigma declines to tell him until and if he returns.

First thing, our recently freed felon purchases a newspaper and is dismayed at the headline stating that Batman has pledged a full out war on the Mole-Hill mob, crooks who use the underground tunnel system via the manhole covers to escape the law. Edward is concerned that his favorite foe will be too busy to note his own illegal maneuvers, so he hatches a plan and the next day greets the Dynamic Duo, helping them remember his identity by posing a riddle: “What occurs once in a minute--twice in a moment—but never in a thousand years?

A short flashback is then provided, including a reference to a prior match-up between the master of puzzles and Batman and Robin and Julie, as usual, offers a reference to Detective #140. Edward, however, proposes to assist the Dynamic Duo in bringing in the Mole-Hill mob. The World’s Greatest Detective is skeptical, but Nigma insists he’s gone straight and asks only to use his old uniform as he aids them. Batman cannot see any basis to object and tells the Riddler to meet them at the square at 8:00.

After he departs, Robin asks the answer to his riddle and Batman replies that it’s the letter “M.”

Later, the rendezvous takes place and the Riddler leads Batman and Robin directly to the gang’s hideout in the underground tunnel system. A fierce battle takes place with the Riddler cheering on the Masked Manhunters, who ultimately prevail.

A couple of days later, our heroes are guests at the Police Athletic League picnic in Gotham Park when they discover a note in their picnic basket. The riddle on the note says, “What’s the longest word in the world?” Robin exclaims that it’s “smiles,” which Batman confirms, adding that there’s a “mile” between the first and last letter. They then deduce that millionaire “Smiles” Dawson has a yacht docked at the city marina and that may be where the Riddler will strike.

Upon arrival at the city wharf, they see the Riddler running from the yacht with Dawson yelling for him to come back, that he can’t do this to him. The Riddler swiftly gets into his convertible and presses a button the dash, raising the top and also releasing a bunch of puzzles that begin to pummel the crime-fighters.

When they finally extricate themselves, they corner the Riddler, who insists he’s innocent. They find Dawson’s famed Black Pearl of the Pacific in Nigma’s possession and the Riddler insists he purchased it. Shortly, when conferring with Dawson he confirms Edward’s story. Apparently the Riddler has fallen heir to a late uncle’s fortune and he used some of the proceeds for the purchase.

When asked why the riddle and the puzzle booby trap, the Riddler said it was just his way of saying hello and that he’d forgotten the puzzles were in the convertible top. As he departs, the Riddler tosses the duo a wrapped present, containing only blank sheet of paper. While Robin had been unwrapping it, Batman questioned Dawson further about his shouting after the Riddler. “He had asked me a riddle—and was leaving without telling me the answer.” He then recites, “There are three men in a boat with four cigarettes but no matches. How did they manage to smoke their cigarettes?” Batman answers that they tossed a cigarette overboard—and made the boat a cigarette lighter!” Back at the Batmobile, which just so happens to have a portable crime lab, they manage to cause the message on the paper visible and it states simply, “Why is an orange like a bell?” Batman says because both must be peeled (pealed.) He then decides that the Riddler is guiding them to the Peale Art Gallery, so off they go.

Batman happens upon a scene that seems to be the undoing of the model citizen persona of Edward Nigma. He’s holding a pistol on a man at the art gallery as he hands over a jewel encrusted cross. When the Batman bursts in, Nigma pushes a suit of armor into his pathway, once again proclaiming his innocence, but the Caped Crusader tackles him, closing Part II.

Part III opens with the curator assuring Batman that the Riddler did not steal the ivory and ruby cross. He then explains that the “pistol” Batman saw was actually a cigarette lighter (again with the cigarettes) and that he was giving the artifact to Nigma as part of his inheritance. It had belonged to his uncle and was on loan to the gallery. Edward says that he gave them a clue with his cigarette lighter riddle from before, but they didn’t pick up on it. As he leaves, Robin asks if they’re going to receive another riddle and Edward says that they already have.

Triumphantly the Riddler muses to himself that he’s set the stage for his real crime, but he’s confident they won’t figure it out in time. Elsewhere our heroes are trying to understand what clues have been left for them. Robin says that perhaps it’s the colors of the objects, the black pearl, the red and white cross, leading him to believe it’s the old chestnut about “What’s black and white and red all over?” Batman says that would be a newspaper and that the Gotham Times is having a 100th anniversary party that night with plenty of wealthy patrons ripe for the plucking, but he suspects it may be too pat an answer and suggests they consider the clues further as they drive off.

Meanwhile, at the Ox Club, a wild west themed establishment, the Riddler and his gang arrive to help themselves to the contents of the office safe. Smugly he thinks about how clever he was in diverting Batman and Robin, but they arrive just then. The Riddler strikes a pose with his right hand raised and his left on his heart as he proposes to surrender, but when Batman touches him he receives an electric shock. The rest of the gang enters the room and the brawl is on.

Shortly Batman notes that the Riddler has not moved from his spot, so the Gotham Goliath decides to take a swing, but the Riddler merely laughs and bounces back up from the floor like one of those inflatable clowns you punch and it pops right back up. Robin joins in and in a replica of the cover, the Dynamic Duo are striking the Riddler on either side, but he simply laughs and bounces back. Robin announces that he knows what to do and dashes away, promising to return quickly. The Riddler then says he’ll make a clean getaway, which triggers a thought in Batman’s mind. He realizes that when the Riddler made that odd pose he must have activated something in his suit by touching the dot in the question mark on his chest.

When Robin returns he sees the Prince of Puzzles slumped over and he says that his bluff worked, allowing time for the Riddler to give Batman a clue. Batman explains, “I recalled that he touched the dot part of the large question mark on his chest when he ran in! Immediately after that—he never moved from that spot on the floor he was on! I deduced the dot activated his electric suit and his roly-poly defense! So all I had to do was reach out and press that dot—the only part of his uniform that was not electrified—to deactivate the controls…” As the dazed Riddler regains consciousness he congratulates Batman on figuring out the riddle. Robin describes Batman’s deduction that it wasn’t colors, but shapes that they needed to focus on: “My first is a circle (the pearl), my second is a cross (the ivory relic). Join them together or be at a loss!” Joining a circle to a cross makes the word Ox—meaning you intended to rob the plush Ox Club!

As things are wrapped up, Robin asks Batman how it was that the Riddler withstood their blows so easily. “Knowing his wired uniform would induce us to go for his face—the only part of him we could hit—he anesthetized his face! Since it is shock that actually causes a person to be knocked out, the anesthetic prevented him from feeling any pain and experiencing any shock—so he couldn’t be kayoed no matter how hard we punched him!” The final panel wraps up the final riddle, when a newly incarcerated Edward Nigma faces the Warden and explains the meaning of “Fiddler’s Hotel.” “Because it’s such a ‘Vile Inn’” (Violin)!

So there was have the Silver Age return of the Riddler. Frankly, the story didn’t do a lot for me and you’d have to search quite a long way to find a bigger fan of Gardner Fox, but still, this wasn’t his finest story by a long shot. Still, it did bring back a classic rogue who would go on to bigger and better things, including a surprising key role in the amazing “Hush” storyline.

This one gets a middle of the road rating of 5 on the 10-point scale and I’m sure glad I didn’t purchase the original issue. Every copy I found on eBay was exorbitantly priced, doubtless due to the significance of the Riddler showing up almost 20 years after his last appearance. Fortunately the fine folks at DC have seen fit to include it and some other nifty stories in Batman: The Dynamic Duo Archives, Volume 2. Much cheaper and a great value.

April 1st may be April Fool’s Day, but it will also be the day the next edition of this ongoing feature hits the web right at this very URL, so don’t forget to come back and see what goodies we serve up. Thanks, as always, to my kind host and lifelong best friend, the webmaster for this little piece of the internet for my musings and if you have a suggestion or comment, let me know. You know my e-mail account is regularly monitored at: professor_the@hotmail.com

We shall return and, as usual…

Long live the Silver Age!

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