Friday, April 3, 2020

Retro Review: Detective Comics #140 (1948) - "The Riddler"


Written by: Bill Finger
Art by: Dick Sprang, Charles Paris, and Jack Schiff
Cover Price: 10¢
Release Date: October 1948

I am going to continue my focus on villain first appearances with Detective Comics #140.  Simply called, "The Riddler", it isn't much of a surprise who is featured in this one.  So, how was the issue and did the Riddler make his mark right away?  Let's find out...

We start right off the bat with the origins of the Riddler...basically he was a lousy cheat!  Tep, he only became interested in puzzles by cheating in a school contest and went from there.  Though we are told that he was a puzzle king, he still cheated every step of the way.  I guess he was writing the Bill Belichick playbook way before there was a Bill Belichick!  Zinger!!!

Of course, like a lot of criminals, Nigma got tired of small-time wins and was gunning for the big leagues.  That's basically the gist of his character as he transforms himself into the Riddler and goes after Batman.

I love the classic Riddler costume with all the question marks, but I really thought there would be a bit more to it.  Nope, just one panel to the next and Bam...Riddler!  Still, it always makes me smile seeing it, especially that it makes me think of Frank Gorshin.

For the Riddler's first big show, he hijacks a local crossword puzzle billboard and makes Batman and Robin play along.  It's not very hard for the Dynamic Duo to figure out the crossword, but it was only a ruse and while Batman and Robin head to a banquet, Riddler has flooded a nearby bank to rob it.  Get it?  Bank-Wet!

It seems that the Riddler has really gotten a taste for the game here as he sets up another elaborate riddle for Batman the very next day.  It's a giant jigsaw puzzle that points to the Riddler's next crime...except this time, Batman is on to his game and doesn't go to the obvious place.  Nope, he just sends Robin there!  Poor Robin!

The Riddler gets away using a smoke bomb and forcing Batman to save a life rather than chase him, but the next morning, on cue, another Riddle pops up.  It's a giant ear of corn on a runaway truck with a sign, "Why is corn hard to escape from?"  That points them to the Fun Maze (get it...maize) where Riddler has set up a big trick.  He traps Batman and Robin in it and planted a bomb as well.  If they don't find it...boom!

Batman uses his knowledge of heat and metals to get the two out of the maze, but when the bomb goes off, the Riddler is thrown into the ocean to drown.  Or did he?  I really think he survived!

This issue is a ton of fun and one of the best reads of these early villain origins.  The puzzles were goofy yet clever and Batman and Robin solving them did remind me of how Adam West and Burt Ward would do it twenty years later.  I love the Riddler when he is just in it for the game of tricking Batman and that's pretty much how it all started.  Plus, if you don't cheat, that means you aren't trying hard enough, right?

I also enjoyed Dick Sprang's art a whole lot.  He crams a lot of characters in each panel and the facial expressions he gave the Riddler were great.  Plus, he gave us the question mark suit and so I am forever in his debt!

Bits and Pieces:

A classic issue for a classic villain.  The Riddler is just here to trick Batman by any means necessary and does it with style.  It's all here...question mark costume, giant jigsaw puzzle, goofy riddles and more.  I loved it!


1 comment:

  1. Too bad we don't see Riddler again for nearly two decades.