I like superheroes a lot but they sometimes hold onto some really weird things.
Last year, Adam West died. And his death brought with it a lot of nostalgia. The Lego Batman movie hit streaming services, so I got to watch it. Twitch advertised the living heck out of a game about Gotham Villains, and in it all I kept noticing people bringing up shots of some real classic heroes. Cesar Romero’s excellent Joker; Eartha Kitt, the most legitimately criminally threatening Catwoman; Burgess Meredith, who breathed new life into the Penguin.
But there’s the Riddler.
This isn’t my critique, not really; it’s an idea that was brought to my attention years ago in a stranger, brighter, more 90s internet, by the infamous Seanbaby. The Riddler, Seanbaby pointed out, was a criminal who was slightly easier to catch than normal.
I don’t really like The Riddler as he’s represented in a conventional Batman story. The purpose behind him back in the Adam West show and early comics was that he could change the kind of story into a puzzle that the audience could try and go along with. That’s why he posited his riddles as really conventional riddles, things that a kid might have read. Here are some from the old Adam West show, for context.
What does a turkey do when he flies upside down?
He gobbles up
What weighs six ounces, sits in a tree, and is very dangerous?
A sparrow with a machine gun
What has yellow skin and writes?
A ballpoint banana
What people are always in a hurry?
What goes up white and comes down yellow and white?
How do you divide seventeen apples among sixteen people?
Why is an orange like a bell?
Because they both must be peeled
There are three men in a boat with four cigarettes but no matches. How do they manage to smoke?
They throw one cigarette overboard and made the boat a cigarette lighter
None of these riddles really are going to give you any insight into what the Riddler is doing. You’d need to be Adam West’s Batman with his level of moon logic intuition to be able to get from the answer to the riddle to the next step in the investigation.
When the comics or the show put that puzzle out there, and then usually take a break, or give you a moment to consider it, you’re left with the sudden moment when this comic book or tv show becomes a game.