Riddle me this: what wears green and purple, and hates the Batman? When it comes to the Caped Crusader’s villains, the colors green and purple usually bring to mind the image of a psychotic laughing clown, but the dual colored Joker isn’t the villain we’re talking about today. No, as the corny joke at the start would suggest, this list is about the neurotic mastermind known as The Riddler.
The Riddler certainly ranks up there with the Dark Knight’s most memorable bad guys, but for some reason, he’s often not taken as seriously as some of the others in Batman’s rogues gallery. People are quick to claim that Joker’s erratic behavior and fiendishly twisted plans could easily put Batman out of commission, or how Bane has broken the Bat in the past and could totally put him down for good if he tried, and even that Two-Face is just a coin-flip away from killing him, given the right situation. But all too often, The Riddler is left out when pondering which villain might finally be the one to defeat the Bat.
As it turns out, The Riddler is much more qualified to conquer Gotham than most people realize, possibly even more so than any of the other Bat baddies. Don’t believe it? That’s why we’ve put together 15 Reasons Why The Riddler Could Totally Defeat Batman.
15. He’s Been Honing His Skills Since Childhood
While some of Gotham’s most famous baddies didn’t delve into a life of crime until adulthood (Two-Face, Harley Quinn), Riddler knew exactly what he wanted to do even as a young boy. Back when Edward Nigma was just in elementary school, it was clear even at such an early age that he was a genius. He attempted to prove this during a school contest involving a logic puzzle. Unfortunately, due to having an abusive father and his own desperation to gain the approval of his classmates, he resorted to cheating in order to win. Edward’s plan would backfire, his victory causing his father and other classmates to abuse and bully him even more. This would be the seed of Riddler’s narcissistic personality and obsession with riddles.
Some kids dream of being firefighters when they grow up, others aspire to become astronauts; The Riddler was a little different. While most children’s first dream jobs eventually fade away as they mature and find other interests, Nigma’s youthful fascination with puzzles and his desire to be the smartest person in the room stuck with him throughout the years, eventually turning into a psychotic compulsion.
14. He’s Skilled With Weapons
The Riddler isn’t really known for his fighting prowess, and he’s usually depicted as being fairly scrawny compared to most of the bad guys Batman comes up against regularly. This makes sense, considering that the crazed villain is known for using his brains over his brawn. It may be surprising to note, however, that while Riddler may not look too formidable physically, he can actually put up a solid fight when he needs to.
The Riddler’s cane isn’t just for show, and he knows how to use it, usually going for precision strikes when his opponent least expects it. The same goes for just about any blunt object that he can get his hands on, such as the time he saved Harley Quinn by striking her scaly assailant from behind with a dumbbell, neutralizing the threat in a single blow. His skill doesn’t just end with melee weapons either, one example being when he fired a perfectly aimed flaming arrow shot to the back of a coconut-armored murderer (but that’s a story for another entry).
13. He’s A Great Engineer
One of Batman’s most well-known features is the number of gadgets and inventions that he’s created to help him combat crime and escape most of his skirmishes unharmed, but Riddler is no slouch himself when it comes to inventing. From the Adam West Batman series where he invented a sticky spray (Dr. Riddler’s instant forever stick invisible wax emulsion) to glue his caped rivals’ feet to the ground, to the TV mind-draining device in Batman Forever, The Riddler always seems to have some gadget up his sleeve, no matter where he’s featured.
His most impressive inventions, however, are his mechanical ones. Besides building some of the greatest and most elaborate traps that Batman has ever had to escape from, his greatest technological invention would have to be his Riddler Robots, as seen in the Arkham Knight game. Not only do these robots have the sentience of an average thug, but the red variety actually electrocutes Batman if he even attempts to hit them. Because of this, the Dark Knight ends up having no choice but to use Catwoman’s help to survive this battle with The Riddler.
12. He Amassed His Fortune All On His Own
There’s no doubting that Bruce Wayne is a successful businessman. The fact that he was able to keep his family’s company up and running for so long all by himself is quite impressive, but let’s be honest – if he wasn’t born into such a rich family and left the entirety of their inheritance, there’s no way Bruce Wayne would be where he is today. On top of that, Batman wouldn’t even exist in the capacity that he does now, since he wouldn’t have been able to afford all of the gadgets he uses on a daily (or nightly) basis. No Batmobile, no Batarangs, nothing.
Then, we have The Riddler – a self-made man through and through. Born into a household with less than supportive parents, he had only himself to depend on. So, with nothing but his brains and some narcissistic ambition, he became one of the most successful criminal masterminds in Gotham, becoming quite wealthy in the process. Oh, and for all of you skeptics out there saying it’s no big deal since he stole all of his wealth, he also got rich another time, legally. (We’ll get more into that further down the list.)
11. He out-acted Batman on the small screen
One huge reason that The Riddler is still such a memorable comic book villain to this day is largely thanks to Frank Gorshin, the actor who played him in the 1966 Batman series. Debuting in the very first episode of the series, Gorshin absolutely killed it playing the egotistical criminal, appearing in 10 episodes overall. Oh, and then there’s the little fact that Gorshin also ended up being nominated for an Emmy for his role as Batman’s giggling adversary!
Now, you might be wondering, “Is that really that impressive? Surely Adam West, the actor who played Batman in that same series, was nominated as well, right?” Well, actually no, he wasn’t. That’s right, The Riddler was solely chosen to be nominated for such a great performance, out-staging Batman on his own TV show. Ouch.
10. He’s a Master Escape Artist
Yet another one of Batman’s lauded attributes is his ability to slip out of nearly any sticky situation he finds himself in. Traps, cages, you name it – the Caped Crusader will surely find a way to escape from it. But once again, this isn’t a trait unique only to him. When Joker hijacks Arkham Asylum and starts releasing inmates, he’s able to get a confession out of the imprisoned Riddler that he could have escaped at any time if he wanted to. Later on, The Joker himself locks the various rogues in traps, and the Clown Prince of Crime tranquilizes Riddler to force him into proving that he’s already devised a way to escape.
Don’t take Joker’s word for it? Then look at the episode of Young Justice entitled “Terrors” where Riddler is an inmate at Belle Reve Penitentiary, a super-prison designed specifically for metahumans and supervillains. Basically, it makes Arkham look like a daycare center. Not taken seriously by the other villains attempting their own escape plans, Riddler eventually becomes the first (and only) inmate to break out of the facility.
9. He Has More Allies Than Batman (In Gotham)
Sure, Batman may have plenty of super-friends around the world (when he isn’t giving them the cold-shoulder) but when it comes to the city of Gotham itself, he’s severely outnumbered. When it comes to superheroes, the only two that really have his back regularly are Batgirl and whatever current version of Robin he’s with (unless he’s the one actively trying to kill him). Other than that, he has Catwoman, but her alignment is neutral at best, so it’s not like he can really rely on her for every occasion.
Compare this to The Riddler, and… well, there is no comparison. The Joker, Harley Quinn, Two-Face, Killer Croc; the list of people Riddler has teamed with and is on good terms with goes far beyond Batman’s range. Their shared hatred for the Dark Knight has amounted to a villainous kinship that Riddler could easily use to his advantage. (And he has.)
8. He’s A Manipulative Mastermind
It’s never a bad idea to have friends in high places, but who needs friends when you can have puppets? It’s not unusual for some of the more major bad guys of Gotham, such as Two-Face and Penguin, to have a small army of goons to boss around – even the demented Joker has his own followers – but Riddler doesn’t just settle with having ordinary lackeys.
In the Batman: Hush comic book arc, Riddler shows the full extent of his manipulative powers when he orchestrates possibly the most elaborate scheme that Batman has ever faced. During all of this, Riddler manages to reduce the majority of Batman’s greatest enemies to mere pawns, from Poison Ivy to even The Joker. Most surprisingly of all, however, he somehow manages to get Superman involved with his fiendish plans as well. It’s not every day you see someone using the Man of Steel as a chess piece.
7. He Beat Cancer
Cancer sucks. Like seriously, there’s not many things in the world that can compete with it in terms of suckage levels. Even some of your favorite comic book characters have been afflicted with the horrible disease. Eddie Brock (the first person to bond with Venom) suffered from cancer, and his symbiote counterpart was the only thing keeping him alive. The philosophical super slueth known as the Question would also succumb to the disease. And, making another surprise guest appearance, Superman was also unable to conquer his bout with cancer in All-Star Superman.
When The Riddler was diagnosed with brain cancer, with no cure in sight, the egomaniac took things into his own hands and decided to take a bath in the regenerative pool that is the Lazarus Pit. Sure, this sounds simple enough, but somehow being able to even use the heavily-protected pit and getting away without Ra’s al Ghul catching you is pretty darn impressive.
6. He Knows That Batman Is Bruce Wayne
Oh-ho, now we’re getting to the good stuff. If there’s one thing that Batman wouldn’t want his enemies to know, it’s what lies underneath his famous cowl. To be fair, for someone that’s so protective of their true identity, this is far from the first time someone has discovered it (Robin, Batgirl, Talia al Ghul, etc.), but the idea that one of his most regularly-occurring enemies might know it must be a disturbing one for the Bat.
But just how did The Riddler figure out that Batman was Bruce Wayne? Interestingly enough, the answer came to him after bathing in the Lazarus Pit to cure his cancer. While most people that carelessly decide to take a dip tend to lose their minds (a notable side-effect), Riddler instead found himself realizing something in a sudden moment of clarity: of course Bruce Wayne is Batman! No unmasking or interrogating required; all it took was a maniacal super-genius to take a quick swim in a magic pool.
5. He’s Smarter Than Batman
Alright, this might be the most controversial item on the list, for the simple fact that Batman’s smarts are generally noted as being his greatest ability. After all, that’s how Batman is able to defeat opponents that are many times more powerful than him, right? And since the Dark Knight has defeated The Riddler (a villain solely reliant on his brains) many times over, surely that must mean that Batman is smarter than him, right? Wrong.
The Riddler has gotten away with just about every heist or plot he’s come up with; that’s the reason why he’s so successful financially. In fact, in his very first appearance in Detective Comics, he is able to escape his very first encounter with Batman without being captured. But wait, if he’s so successful, then how does he always get beaten? The riddles. Nigma is compelled to leave clues for Batman to find, to not only elude capture, but to humiliate Batman, and take credit for his crimes as well. This is his big downfall. Riddler’s plots are so ingenious, he’d never get caught – if not for his compulsion to leave clues behind…
4. He Lost His Compulsion For Riddles For A While
But what if Riddler didn’t have his compulsion to leave riddles behind for Batman to solve? What if somehow, he were able to get rid of the biggest flaw (besides his over-sized ego) keeping him from defeating Batman? Well, he has. Though not intentionally, The Riddler – after being struck on the head by Shining Knight – fell into a coma, and when he awoke, his obsession with riddles had vanished. Sure, he was still as egotistical as ever, and he did lose some memories as well (Batman’s identity grumble grumble), but ditching his biggest vice was more than worth it.
Luckily for Batman, however, with his compulsion gone, Riddler actually decided to reform himself entirely, becoming a private investigator. Yeah, remember earlier on the list when we mentioned Nigma making a fortune legally? Well, that’s how he did it. Surely, Batman was relieved with the ex-villain’s decision, since a Riddler with no compulsion to leave riddles likely would’ve been a bigger handful than even the Caped Crusader was ready for.
3. Bruce Wayne Actually Hired Him
Since Riddler was able to make such a successful career out of being a private detective, it can be assumed that he must have had quite the wealthy set of clients. They were wealthy clients alright, the most notable example of which being Bruce Wayne himself. Bruce hires Edward Nigma to find some experimental drugs that were stolen from Wayne Enterprises. The fact that Bruce went to one of his oldest archenemies for help on a detective case (something that a certain caped hero is especially known for) is pretty amusing.
After Riddler successfully returns the stolen goods, Batman would claim that he was just testing his competency and reliability the whole time and knew where to find the drugs himself, but come on – it’s so like Batman to claim to not need help with something. Either way, Batman hired The Riddler to do detective work, and he completed the task – easily.
2. He Easily Gained The Trust Of Gotham
One of the most unexpected outcomes of Riddler’s reform was the reaction of Gotham’s citizens after he took up being a private detective. Surprisingly – for an egomaniac that’s been terrorizing the city for years – people’s responses were quite positive. They loved the idea of the new detective Riddler, and basically treated him like a celebrity! Batman, however, was not so quick to forgive his ex-foe, and with good reason.
The Dark Knight wasn’t always lauded as Gotham’s hero. In fact, it was quite the opposite at first. No one had seen anything quite like Batman, people and police alike didn’t know what to make of him, he was so scary. So, the fact that The Riddler won over the very people who opposed Batman for quite a while must have really stung. Guess Riddler beats Bats when it comes to charisma. Besides, what if Riddler was playing a charade and was only acting reformed the entire time? Playing the part of a famous detective adored by his citizens would leave the city completely vulnerable. But then again, he’s just The Riddler right, what’s the worst he could do?
1. He’s Taken Over Gotham
If you’re still doubtful of Riddler’s ability to defeat Batman after all you’ve read so far, perhaps this can convince you – he already has! In Batman: Zero Year, not only does Batman fail to stop Riddler’s plans to flood the city and cut its power, he is defeated by the masked maniac twice.
Batman is beaten so badly, in fact, that he’s put into a coma for some time. Once he comes to, he discovers that Riddler has completely taken over the city, and is forcefully weeding out the inhabitants that aren’t able to pass his mental challenges (so, basically everyone). Riddler not only has the potential to defeat Batman, but in this instance, he did it with his riddle obsession still intact. He lost it once, so maybe it could happen again. And if it does, Batman’s in some serious trouble.
Excited to see Riddler go to war with The Joker now that you know what he’s truly capable of? Tell us about it in the comments!