“Riddle me this, riddle me that, who’s afraid of the big, black bat?”
Q: Who’s green and purple, and never gives up in his war against Batman?
A: The Riddler.
Born Edward Nashton, the boy who would grow up to become the Riddler displayed a remarkably high intellect as a child, something that drew the envy of his abusive father, who accused his son of cheating on the tests he took, refusing to believe his son was that smart. That abuse would be a factor in cementing Edward’s future as a super villain, as it caused him to develop a compulsion to tell the truth.
When his teacher announced a school contest where students had to see if they could put together a puzzle the fastest, Edward decided to take the easy way out and cheat, breaking into the school late at night, taking the puzzle out of the teacher’s desk and practicing until he solved the puzzle. Winning a book of riddles as his prize, Edward soon developed an obsession with puzzles, and continued to cheat at them. Leaving home and moving to Gotham City, Edward got a job as a carnival performer, still using his cheating ways to rob people of their money (though one retelling of his origin has him working as a delivery man who stole money from his customers). Eventually, Edward decided he needed more of a challenge, and opted to use his intellect for crime, just for kicks. But that wasn’t enough; Edward needed to draw attention to his crimes. Putting together a flamboyant green and purple costume covered in black question marks, Edward dubbed himself the Riddler (and changed his last name to Nigma), and set out on a crime spree, leaving clues to where he would strike next in the form of riddles. However, his first attempt was ignored by the police, so he decided to up his game, making his intentions more clear, and even successfully getting away from Batman, developing a new obsession with matching wits with the Caped Crusader. In his second encounter with the Dark Knight, the Riddler began utilizing much more complex riddles and tricks, as well as employing two female assistants named Query and Echo. Though he got away again, the Riddler lost a good portion of the money he stole, but by then, he had already made a name for himself. Sadly, his luck ran out in his third encounter with Batman.
Through the years, the Riddler had proven to be one of Batman’s greatest enemies, but one of his more infamous plots was the “Hush” storyline. After being diagnosed with cancer, the Riddler used one of Ra’s al Ghul’s Lazarus Pits to cure himself. In doing so, he gain a brief moment of clarity, and managed to deduce the answer to the one riddle he could never solve: who was the man behind the mask of Batman? Working with and revealing this information to Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend, Dr. Thomas Elliot, now the super villain Hush, the Riddler set forth a plan to destroy Batman, even going so far as bring in Batman’s other adversaries, even bringing in the then resurrected Jason Todd to guilt trip Batman over his death, and trade places with Clayface. But when the Riddler and Hush’s plan backfired, the Riddler attempted to blackmail Batman with the threat of exposing his identity...until Batman revealed that if he did so, that information would be worthless to him, and would also let the League of Assassins know who used one of their leader’s Lazuras Pits. Realizing his nemesis was right, the Riddler was forced to keep this secret to himself...until a coma inducing blow to the head caused him to forget it, as well as cure him of his insanity and riddle obsession.
After a brief fling on the side of law and order as a private eye, even getting to work with Batman and Nightwing (the latter of whom he deduced the true identity of), the Riddler eventually went back to his old ways after being caught in a bomb explosion that restored his original mindset, and has renewed his adversity towards Batman.
The New 52 Edit
During the New 52, the Riddler (real name now Edward Nygma) was given a new backstory in the “Batman: Year Zero” storyline, where he was the strategist of Bruce’s uncle and former CEO of Wayne Enterprises, Philip Kane, until Philip learned Nygma had sent the Red Hood Gang to kill Bruce to keep the young billionaire from discovering his shady dealings, after Philip refused to orchestrate Bruce’s death. This story also establishes him as Batman’s first costumed adversary in this continuity.
- Criminal mastermind: Thanks to his genius-level intellect, the Riddler has proven himself to be an adept strategist and puzzle solver, to the point where he can manipulate other villains into unknowingly helping him.However, due to his obsession with riddles, the Riddler is psychologically compelled to leave riddles that reveal his next crime. If he can’t think of a riddle that goes with said crime, he abandons his plans for it.
- Escape artist: A fan of Houdini since childhood, the Riddler is well versed in escapology, being able to think up forty ways to escape Arkham Asylum, but waiting for the right time to execute one of them. He has also used this skill to build death traps.
- Staff: Nymga’s trademark weapon, his staff contains many weapons and gadgets, most notably a built-in taser.
In DC vs. Marvel Edit
The Riddler doesn’t partake in the main storyline, only having a cameo where he’s being defeated by Daredevil. This was the subject of one the installments in the trading card tie-in. He also gets a card where he battles the Marvel villain, Arcade.