Detective Comics #140: "The Riddler!"‏

Detective Comics #140
"The Riddler!"
October, 1948

Bill Finger: Script
Dick Sprang: Pencils
Charles Paris: Inks

This one is for puzzle fans! There are three riddles to be solved! Who
is the newest costumed character to match wits with the Dynamic Duo? Who
is the criminal mastermind who uses the likes of riddles, jigsaws,
acrostics, and other types of puzzles to challenge Batman and Robin? Who
has designed a maze of doom where the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder
are soon trapped? The answer to all of these riddles is... "The

The criminal career of Edward Nigma began with the announcement of a
school history contest. Each student would receive a jigsaw to assemble,
with the first one to do so winning a prize. Priding himself on his own
name of E. Nigma, the student thought that this would be a sure thing.
After school had let out for the day, Edward Nigma unlocked the teacher's
desk... and saw what the assembled puzzle would look like. The following
day found Edward Nigma the prize winner in his class, and he was
determined to learn how to solve other puzzles. Nigma soon gained a
reputation as a puzzle expert among his fellow students, who were unaware
that he cheated. When a friend is unable to solve the bent-nail puzzle
in five minutes, Edward palms the rigged puzzle, and uses a regular
puzzle to solve it. The lad who cheated at puzzles grew up to become a
puzzle expert... who still cheated. A customer is asked to solve a
Chinese puzzle for pay, and if he doesn't solve it, he must pay E. Nigma.

Unbeknownst to the player, each piece was marked with invisible ink, and
by wearing dark glasses, Nigma is able to see where each piece fits.
Being a carnival player soon loses its attraction for Edward Nigma, who
decides to baffle the likes of the police and Batman by committing puzzle
crimes. Each of his crimes will be a battle of wits between him and the
law - with the puzzles fixed as always. The first thing to do is to find
the right costume. The birth of one of the strangest criminals, the
treacherous trickster known as the Riddler! That evening, the Gotham
City crowd are watching the new advertising sign, presented by the Cross
Cleaning Co. with crossword puzzles. Inside the sign's control room, the
operator prepares the No. 1 horizontal clue about a wingless Australian

The hapless operator soon finds himself caught in the knots of the
Loudini Rope, as the Riddler arrives to present the Caped Crusader with a
puzzle guaranteed to make him cross. The Dynamic Duo are patrolling the
city when they see the Riddler's challenge on the advertising sign. 1
Horizontal - a water utensil. 2 Vertical - a public way. 1 Vertical - a
formal dinner. When they enter the control room, they find the bound
operator, and the Riddler is long gone.

Accepting the challenge, Batman knows that a five-letter word for a water
"utensil" is a basin. Robin knows that a six-letter word for "a public
way" beginning with S is street. The Boy Wonder tries to solve the
seven-letter word for a formal dinner, starting with B. The Caped
Crusader knows that it's a banquet, and this would mean the Basin Street
Banquet as the Riddler's crime clue. The civic charity banquet is being
held in a hotel on Basin Street, and Robin is pleased that they've solved
the puzzle rather quickly. The Mayor of Gotham City is delivering his
speech, when the Dynamic Duo enter in search of the Riddler. While they
confer with Hizzoner, a policemen tells them about a burst water main
flooding a nearby bank. Batman knows that a flooded bank means a
bank-wet, and that they've been tricked. With the bank only a few doors
away, they may be able to stop him.

A diver has been seen in the vault, with the Caped Crusader ordering the
exits to be guarded. When he surfaces, the Riddler will be caught.
Underwater, the costumed criminal pays no heed to the alarms, and is able
to unlock the combination to the vault door. After opening the water
drain, he is swept along the sewers, leaving the authorities to find his
escape hatch when the water's receded. At the Riddler's lair, he
concocts a plan to baffle the Batman. The following day finds several
trucks parked outside police headquarters, with a letter for the

A giant puzzle contains the clue for the Riddler's next crime, if they
solve it in time. The crew received a phone call and picked up their
loads at a vacant lot. The giant pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are
uncovered and are to be assembled at the football stadium. The Caped
Crusader directs the police officers in the assembling of the giant
puzzle. After a time, the assembled answer is before them. "Tonight I
Shall Rob The Eagle's Nest. The Riddler!" The picture is of an eagle's
eyrie, and Batman knows about the Eyrie nightclub atop a downtown

While the Boy Wonder heads for the nightclub, the Caped Crusader heads
off to check on something else. There is no sign of the Riddler at the
Eyrie, but at the mansion of a rich art aficionado, there is much to be
found. The "eagle's nest" clue referred to the home of Harrison Eagle,
the millionaire collector, who has just been collected by the Prince of
Puzzlers. Batman had figured out the crooked game, but the Riddler has
left him a puzzle to remember him by. Mr. Eagle is being slowly
smothered by a gag, and unless the Caped Crusader frees him, he'll die.
A smoke bomb delivers the punch line for a departing riddle, "Where was
Batman when the lights went out?"

When the smoke clears, the Caped Crusader heads for the puzzle, knowing
that he may not find the solution in time. Seeing the nicks on some of
the steel rods surrounding the captive millionaire, Batman follows the
pattern, and finds his way to Harrison Eagle. On a rooftop, the Dynamic
Duo compare notes on their latest adversary. At the Higgins Canned Corn
Company, the Riddler is readying another clue for our heroes.

The following morning finds an out-of-control truck making its way down a
Gotham City street with amazing speed. The Batmobile manages to cut off
the runaway, with the Dynamic Duo surveying the giant corn cob for a
clue. "Why is corn hard to escape from?" The puzzle reminds the Boy
Wonder of cornmeal, bad jokes, and maize. The Caped Crusader knows that
maize is another name for corn, and that a maze is hard to escape from.
The glass maze at the Pleasure Pier Amusement Park will be their next

On the pier, the Riddler is stealing the receipts with the aid of an
a-cross-stick. The costumed criminal dashes off into the maze, with
Batman and Robin in pursuit.

Within the glass labyrinth, the Boy Wonder encounters pain when he runs
into a pane, and the Riddler slips out by the trail he's marked. Now out
of the maze, he seals the exit, and leaves the Dynamic Duo with no way
out. The gloating Count of Conundrums has hidden a bomb with the maze,
with the fuse set to go off in half an hour, and the Dynamic Duo with it.
Unable to break through the shatterproof glass, they must find the
original entrance. The Caped Crusader uses his belt-buckle to mark the
glass panels they've been through. Minutes later, they have searched
through the maze for an exit which no longer exists. Robin sees that the
Riddler is enjoying their predicament.

They have one chance left. Batman tells Robin to gather up the carpet
from the floor, and place it against the panel. After using a match,
they watch as the fire's heat expands the metal frame, and the pane is
pushed out. With the bomb about to go off, the Dynamic Duo dive for
safety, but the Riddler finds himself trapped at the other end of the
pier. He has lost... he has lost the game! After the explosion, a
question mark from the Riddler's costume is found floating in the water.
The Boy Wonder believes that he's drowned, but Batman figures that this
is a puzzle to tide them over until next time.

This story was reprinted in Batman From the 30s To The 70s, which I got
as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. Thanks, Jen!

Bill Finger used his love of puns to come up with Edward Nigma, the

Although Nigma used crooked puzzles on his friends, they couldn't nail
him for it.

As an adult, he continued his shady dealings at a carnival.

Thanks to some careful puns, the Riddler leaves the Dynamic Duo all wet,
and vaults to safety.

A giant puzzle provides Batman and Robin with an eagle-eye view of the
Prince of Puzzles next crime.

In "A Riddling Controversy" (2/9/67), the Dynamic Duo must free the
wealthy exiled dictator Anthony Aguila from an explosive puzzle set by
the Riddler (John Astin).

One for corny conundrums, the Riddler can't resist playing "cob and
robbers" with the Caped Crusader.

A variation of the corn clue was seen on the "If You're So Smart, Why
Aren't You Rich?" episode of Batman: The Animated Series.

With his deathtrap in pieces, the Riddler soon found himself without

In Detective Comics Annual #8: "Questions Multiply The Mystery!" (1995)
by Chuck Dixon, Kieron Dwyer, Richmond Lewis, and Albert DeGuzman, the
Riddler got revamped.

He failed to keep his friends in the palm of his hand, and got nailed for

His puzzle crimes were met with indifference, until the arrival of Batman
caught his attention.

This Review Is Dedicated To The Memory Of Frank Gorshin, R.I.P.

Steve Chung
"The Review!"