Riddler’s Most Forgettable Comics Makeover Included a Tattoo

Today, we take a look at one of the Riddler’s oddest periods in his character history.

In Remember to Forget, we spotlight comic book stories that I wish I could forget, but I can’t, so I instead share them with you all, so you’re stuck in the same boat as me!

Something that has to be understood is that comic book writers are almost never working with a totally free hand. Sometimes they are forced to do an iffy storyline by an editor who is forcing their hand (Jay Faerber’s run on Titans is a famous example of something like that) and sometimes, their stories are attempts to make some sense of a previous writer’s (or editor’s ) bad idea. So it is important to note that when we look at the types of stories that I spotlight in this feature. For instance, in the last one that I did, I talked about how uncool it was of Spider-Man to just let Venom go during the 1990s, but that, of course, was dictated by Venom becoming so popular that Marvel gave him his own series of miniseries and so the writers had to make the best of a bad situation.


That was probably the case with the Riddler’s 2004 revamp in a story that, taken away from the weird revamp, is not a bad story in and of itself.

RELATED: Spider-Man Let Venom Go Free – and Betrayed His Great Responsibility Mantra

THE RIDDLER BEING THE MASTERMIND OF HUSH DIDN’T WORK OUT SO WELL FOR HIM

As I discussed in a recent feature, the Riddler turned out to be the secret mastermind behind the hit Batman storyline, “Hush,” by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee and Scott Williams.

As it turns out, the Riddler was dying of a brain tumor, so he sought out a Lazarus Pit and used it without permission. When he emerged from the Lazarus Pit, other people sort of went insane, but with the Riddler, it gave him some instant clarity and he realized that Batman was Bruce Wayne…



However, Batman cleverly counters that it doesn’t really do the Riddler any good to know Batman’s secret identity, as he can’t share it with anyone, as a riddle that EVERYONE knows is a worthless one…


Plus, Ra’s al-Ghul wants to kill whoever used his Lazarus Pit without his permission, so if Riddler reveals Batman’s identity, Batman can counter with mutually assured destruction…


So Loeb, Lee and Williams left the Riddler in a fascinating place in the comics…but it did not last that long.

In Batman: Gotham Knights #51 (by AJ Lieberman, Al Barrionuevo and Francis Portela), Hush figures out what the Riddler did and he comes for him and beats him nearly to death…



We’re talking about a trail of broken teeth here!


A month later, in Green Arrow #37 (by Judd Winick, Phil Hester and Ande Parks), Green Arrow tortures Riddler to get him to give him some information that he needs…


So…yeah, not a good time for Riddler. This led into a whole thing where Riddler turned to the Joker for protection from Hush and it was a whole to-do, but suffice it to say that Riddler was in a bad spot by the end of 2004. Enter Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #185 and the “Riddle Me That” storyline!

RELATED: Why Spider-Man’s First Love Suddenly Became…Rambo?

THE RIDDLER DEBUTS A NEW LOOK AND ATTITUDE

In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #185 (by Shane McCarthy, Tommy Castillo and Rodney Ramos), the Riddler starts a new sort of game with Batman and the Dark Knight knows that SOMEthing is up with the Riddler. He has changed somehow, but he isn’t quite sure HOW (by the way, this issue introduces a professor named after the awesome Jarrod Buttery who I’ve often quoted in articles from his excellent work for TwoMorrows, so, well, that was cool).


We see what’s up in the following issue, where Batman runs into the Riddler, who has now gotten dramatic plastic surgery to be almost a new man…


Rather than a costume, he just a prominent question mark tattoo on his neck…


It’s…a choice.

We learn through flashbacks that Professor Buttery had found Riddler and worked on him to build him back…


The key part is that Buttery revealed to the Riddler (who we learn here is really named Edward Nashton) that his original origin, which is that he cheated at puzzles to make himself so good at puzzles was a lie by his insecure father and in reality , Edward WAS always a brilliant codebreaker…



A new man, Riddler got his surgery and reinvented himself, but turned on Buttery, as it turned out that Buttery was really just trying to use Riddler to get himself work as a codebreaker and Riddler was now obsessed with punishing “cheats”…


The final issue saw Batman seemingly caught by the Riddler, who refers to himself as Batman’s greatest enemy now…


In the end of the story, after a whole lot of back and forth and double crosses and triple crosses and quadruple crosses, the Riddler seems to have bested Batman…


It wasn’t a bad storyline (perhaps one twist too many, but otherwise, still fien), but it really felt like a brand-new villain, to the point where it seemed odd to even use the Riddler for it. However, that was likely tied to the idea that the Riddler had fallen so far as to be almost unusable.

The Riddler then headed over to Green Arrow briefly in Green Arrow #49-50 to capture Roy Harper and beat him and then lure Green Arrow to try to save him, at which point the Riddler brutally attacked Green Arrow, as well, in Green Arrow #50 (by Judd Winick, Tom Fowler, Tommy Castillo and Rodney Ramos)…


And then just left them to be rescued, confident that he just provided himself (and avenged his earlier torture at the hands of Green Arrow)…


Again, barely even the same character.

However, before 2005 ended, the Riddler was back to his old costume in Infinite Crisis #1 (by Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez, Andy Lanning, Jeromy Cox and Guy Major)…


And then, in Infinite Crisis #7 (by Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez, George Pérez, Ivan Reis, Joe Bennett, Andy Lanning, Jerry Ordway, Sean Parsons, Art Thibert, Jeromy Cox, Guy Major, Tanya Horie and Richard Horie), the Riddler was one of the many villains who attacked Metropolis at the end of the storyline and the superhero, Shining Knight, brained the Riddler with a mace…


That was it for that iteration of the Riddler, as when he recovered from the brain injury (and more plastic surgery), he was a whole different person.

If you have a suggestion for another comic book plot that is probably best forgotten (but it is fun to revel in how much we can’t help but still remember it), drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com


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