Riddler’s Most Forgettable Comic Book Makeover Included a Tattoo

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Today, we’re taking a look at one of the Riddler’s weirdest periods in his character’s history.

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

What you have to understand is that comic book writers almost never work with a totally free hand. Sometimes they’re forced into a dodgy storyline by an editor 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 sense of a previous writer (or editor) bad idea. So it’s important to note that when we look at the types of stories I’m highlighting in this feature. For example, in the last one I did, I talked about how uncool Spider-Man was to let Venom go in the 1990s, but that, of course, was dictated by the fact that Venom became so popular that Marvel gave it its own. series of miniseries and so the writers had to make the best of a bad situation.


That was probably the case with 2004’s revamp of Riddler in a story that, stripped of the weird revamp, isn’t a bad story per se.

RELATED: Spider-Man Let Venom Loose – and Betrayed His Mantra of Great Responsibility

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

As I explained in a recent article, the Riddler turned out to be the secret mastermind behind the blockbuster Batman script, “Hush,” by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee, and Scott Williams.

Turns out the Riddler was dying of a brain tumor, so he sought out a Lazarus Pit and used it without permission. When he came out of the Lazarus Pit other people went crazy, but with Riddler it gave him instant clarity and he realized that Batman was Bruce Wayne…



However, Batman cleverly retorts that it’s no use for the Riddler to know Batman’s secret identity, because he can’t share it with anyone, because a riddle that EVERYONE knows is worthless…


Additionally, Ra’s al-Ghul wants to kill anyone who has 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 didn’t last that long.

In Batman: Gotham Knights #51 (by AJ Lieberman, Al Barrionuevo and Francis Portela), Hush finds out what the Riddler has done and he comes looking for him and almost beats him to death…



We are 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 into giving him the information he needs…


So… yeah, not a good time for Riddler. This led to a whole thing where Riddler turned to the Joker for protection from Hush and it was a lot of work to do, but suffice to say Riddler was on a bad streak at the end of 2004. Enter Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #185 and the “Riddle Me That” scenario!

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

THE RIDDLER LAUNCHES A NEW LOOK AND A NEW ATTITUDE

In Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #185 (by Shane McCarthy, Tommy Castillo, and Rodney Ramos), the Riddler begins a new kind of game with Batman, and the Dark Knight knows SOMETHING is going on with the Riddler. He’s changed somehow, but he’s not quite sure HOW (by the way, this issue features a teacher named after the brilliant Jarrod Buttery who I’ve often quoted in articles about his great work for TwoMorrows, so, well, that was cool).


We see what happens in the next issue, where Batman meets the Riddler, who has now had dramatic plastic surgery to almost be a new man…


Rather than a costume, he just has 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 rebuild him…


The key thing is that Buttery revealed to the Riddler (who we learn here is actually called Edward Nashton) that his original origin, which is that he cheated at puzzles to make himself so good at puzzles , was a lie from his insecure father and in reality, Edward has always been a brilliant decryptor…



A new man, Riddler had surgery and reinvented himself but turned Buttery on, as it turned out Buttery was really trying to use Riddler to get himself to work as a code breaker and Riddler was now obsessed with punishing the “cheaters”…


The latest issue saw Batman seemingly caught by the Riddler, who now stands as Batman’s greatest enemy…


By the end of the story, after a whole bunch of back and forth and double crosses, triple crosses and quadruple crosses, the Riddler seems to have beaten Batman…


It wasn’t a bad story (maybe one twist too many, but otherwise still fien), but it definitely felt like a whole new villain, to the point that it even felt odd to use the Riddler for it. However, this was likely related to the idea that the Riddler had fallen to the point of being nearly unusable.

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


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


Again, hardly the same character.

However, before the end of 2005, the Riddler had reverted to his old costume by 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 that attacked Metropolis at the end of the storyline and the superhero, Shining Knight, surrounded the Riddler with a mace…


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

If you have a suggestion for another comic book plot that’s probably best forgotten (but it’s fun to rejoice how we can’t help but remember), message me at brianc @cbr.com


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