Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I Wear Green And Purple And A Punctuation Mark. Who Am I?

original riddler

Guess who that guy is. Yup! It's the Riddler! Believe it or not. This image is from "Detective Comics Annual" #8 (1995) by Chuck Dixon and Kieron Dwyer. It's the story that made me love the Riddler. Which was a feat tantamount to sending a manned spacecraft to Pluto, since before I'd always hated the guy. Dixon and Dwyer managed to make the querying l'il irritant sympathetic with this origin story, which chronicles the Riddler's arduous journey from the small time to the big leagues. And it's reflected perfectly in his costumes.

That was his first attempt at a costume, up there. I love the stocking cap. So low-rent, it's kinda charming. And the question mark was painted on. Beautiful. It puts me in mind of the DIY badguys in Bob Burden's comics. It looks like any second now, Bondo-Man or Jumpin' Jehosaphat is going to plow into him and beat him senseless.

The Riddler tried a little harder for his next job.

2nd try

Here we have the introduction of purple into the Riddler's costume. And how 'bout those accessories? He's bolstered his confidence with not one, but two phallic symbols! (And he then touches the tips of them together. I don't think Freud had a chapter on that one.) But white for the question mark? Oh, honey, no.

And now a little sumpin' for the breeders!

3rd attempt

The Riddler's costume here -- *ahem!* Eyes to the center of the panel, buster! I'll get to the Skanks of Prey in just a sec. Anyhow, this is the first version of the costume that most folks associate with the Riddler. Thanks to the old TV show, natch. Although I'm pretty sure that one didn't have a big leather belt holding up the tights. Not seen in this panel: black boots with really thick soles. And you just know those gloves are Playtex. Like I said, first attempt. But the crudity of it all is almost sweet. If you're wondering about why the Riddler's nose looks so odd in this panel, it's because it's bandaged. Because it keeps getting broken, because the Riddler keeps mouthing off to brawny thugs and they keep punching him in the face. Example dialog from the previous page:

Denglar (brawny thug): The police will be on to us like stink on fish.
Riddler: Well, Denglar, I've got a riddle for you. How do you keep an idiot waiting?
Denglar: I dunno.
Riddler: I'll tell you later.

And then Denglar punches the Riddler in the face.

Still, I never cared much for this outfit, especially in its refined, unitard version. Maybe because it was almost too theatrical -- and I know it appeared in comics first, but it really seems to me like the product of somebody who never read comics, and it was their idea of a SUPER! (in a Big Gay Al voice) costume.

Oooohhhkay. How 'bout those floozies, fellas? The one on the left needs to unbuckle a couple of things, because they're cutting off the blood supply to her head. Nice heart-shaped earrings, by the way. This is what the Care Bears cartoon would have been like, if it had been produced by Vince McMahon. Also, check out the spiked thigh-band or whatever that thing's supposed to be. She'll puncture a vital artery if she puts her thighs too close together -- like that's ever going to happen! Nice Devo sunglasses on the other gal. Either that, or somebody pulled an "X-23" with Cyclops' DNA.

I tried to picture what these ladies would look like if they'd been drawn by Dick Sprang. It gave me a tummy ache.

final riddler

YEAH, BOY! There's the Riddler I love! Finally, a dapper, dandyish look to go with the cocky attitude! And so generous! When he was at the haberdashers and they gave him his bowler hat, he said, "Y'know what? I'd like to buy a round of bowler hats for the house! Bowler hats for everybody!" And then the place went apeshit.

It's a great look for the guy. Very crisp, very polished, and it's all about creating an impression -- right down to the painstakingly pomaded hair with a single loose forelock for a bit of boyish charm. (It worked for Superman and it works for the Riddler.)

His hench-gals still look like whores, but hey, whatever works for them.


Anonymous said...

"She'll puncture a vital artery if she puts her thighs too close together -- like that's ever going to happen!"

Oh, snap!

Still, they look relatively deskanked as his henchgals.

Looks like a fun story. I really like the first costume. You just know if Batman took place in the real world, Riddler would always look like that (and Batman would look similarly chintzy, rising from his HQ in the basement of his duplex and hopping into his used '89 BatIROC-Z 2.

Anonymous said...

The suits have always looked SO much better on Riddler than the bodystocking. Especially when they were drawing him with a receding hairline.
If you morally reassign him, you'll have to change the question marks to explanation points, you know. Because good guys are never in doubt.

The Riddler was almost spoiled for me by Matthew Lesko, the government grant guy. I used to work in a bookstore and the first time someone asked me for the book by the guy dressed as the Riddler, I asked "Frank Gorshin?" No, no, the guy who comes on TV and talks about the government! "President Bush?" I almost ended up looking like Eddie Nigma in that third panel, sans Motley Crue's backup singers.

Steven said...

"If you morally reassign him, you'll have to change the question marks to explanation points, you know. Because good guys are never in doubt."

The Riddler, as a good guy, is the Question. Just saying...

Yeah, bright green suit, bowler hat and PIMP CANE all the way! How can you not love the cane?

I always loved the fact most of Batman's villains wear suits and ties.

Joker: Zoot Suit and bolo tie
Penguin: Tuxedo
Two Face: The split down the middle number (though I prefer the b&w cartoon version to the color clash job)
Riddler: See above.
Ra's Al Ghul: Business suit... AND CAPE!

If only Catwoman and Poison Ivy went back to wearing dresses, they could be the best dressed rogues in crime. Show that tacky Giambi how it's done.

Anonymous said...

Great issue. Riddler keeps going back and forth (depending on who's writing him and editorial) between scary, competant psycho ; and obsessive-compulsive loser. With too much time, and a pile of back issues, you could probably chart out the relation between decent outfits and motivation...
But skanky assistants? That's the whole driving force behind becoming a Batman villain! (A good argument could probably be made why Poison Ivy or Catwoman don't get...I don't know, thugs in bikini briefs or something. Huh. Batman punches out skank, ok. Batman punches out greased up bodybuilder, well, I can see the humor it that.)

Anonymous said...

You mentioned that everyone associates the punctuation-studded spandex with the TV show, even though it first appears in the comiccs -- but the GOOD Riddler costume, the suit with the bowler, first appeared on the TV SHOW, because Mr. Gorshin loathed the unitard.

And thanks to Mr. Timm and company, it's become the Definitive Look for Mister Nigma.

Anonymous said...

Timm & Co. also created a subtler look for Clock King as I recall: A natty brown suit with tiny-clock-lensed spectacles, following the paradigm that Steven mentions above--snappy dressing!

Jeremy Rizza said...

Chawunky: Haw! And the Bat-Computer would be a Dell with a bunch of Halloween stickers on it. I liked the Clock King better with the black suit (second appearance). And his cane looked like the hand of a clock!

Constantine: Gotta love the retail work experience!

Steven: Holy cats, Batman does have a lot of snappy dressers in his rogue's gallery, doesn't he? Black Mask, too! I'll be darned.

Chuck T.: One of my favorite animated episodes pitted Batman against Calendar Girl and her bodybuilder henchmen. They were shirtless but had little bow ties around their necks, like exotic dancers. One of them even had Fabio hair.

Athelind: Oh, yeah! Man, I'd totally forgotten about that!