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Two-Face... FOREVER!!!
When it comes to the famous Batman villains, few have gotten less respect over the years than the Riddler.

Only the Penguin surpasses Eddie in terms of being scorned by writers and fans alike, and that disdain seemed to reach its greatest heights around the late 80's, early 90's. In this period, we saw Riddler stories that saw him as a has-been (Neil Gaiman's When Is A Door?), a never-was (Denny O'Neil's Riddles), and a never-will-be (the newspaper comic strip), with the apparent consensus being that he was a poor man's Joker, a toothless leftover of the campy show who used a annoying gimmick that supplied his own defeat every time.

And yet, this very same period gave us one of the very greatest Riddler appearances ever, one which should still be a guideline for all writers as to what makes the character tick and shows just why he is uniquely great. So why does no one ever remember this story? Why does no one ever talk about Gerard Jones and Mark Badger's Batman: Run, Riddler, Run?



Well, one big reason why this story has fallen under the radar could be the art. Personally, I avoided reading this book for years because I couldn't stand Badger's artwork. He comes from the same school of 80's artists whom I normally love (like Mark Badger, Kyle Baker, and Bill Sienkiewicz, just to name a few), but his artwork is far more angular and abstract to the point of nearly being grotesque. That said, I've since gained an appreciation for his work partially thanks to this great interview with Badger conducted by the great Michel Fiffe, and partially because of my late-blossoming love of this story. Well, the Riddler of this story, at any rate.

The story itself is a bit more wonky, but that's to be expected of Gerard Jones: author of my all-time favorite run on Green Lantern, as well as... lesser works like Batman: Fortunate Son. Yes, the "Batman thinks rock 'n roll is the Devil's music!" comic. Jones and Badger's first Batman collaboration, Batman: Jazz, was a similarly oddball affair, focusing on Batman's search for a missing jazz legend. That story felt very much like Batman awkwardly wandering into an abstract 80's-tastic jazz battle, which led to things like our hero fighting evil sax-playing monsters known as the Brothers of the Bop.

... On second thought, that's kinda so ridiculous that it's awesome. It sure as hell ain't boring.

Which finally brings us back to Run, Riddler, Run. Much like Jazz, it features Batman awkwardly inserted into areas outside of his expertise. For Jazz, it was a whole culture of music. For B:RRR, it's the class war between homeless squatters and the rich people with the cops on their side. It's usually thorny to mix real life issues that challenge popular conceptions of law and ethics with the black-and-white morality of Batman comics, and it doesn't help that the villain is very dated for directly after the Cold War. It's a mixed bag of a comic by one of the oddest creative teams ever to tackle Batman, and it'd still be worth reading on those merits alone even without the Riddler.

But with the Riddler, it's a must-read refutation to everyone who misunderstands the Riddler. Jones and Badger, to their credit, don't try to counter this with the contrived tactic of trying to make the Riddler a #1 arch-villain badass. Instead, they take a more subtle approach, making Eddie a wild card with a game all his own...





Batman: Run, Riddler, Run begins by introducing us to Donna DiForza, a wealthy businesswoman with a dream:



You'd think that Bruce would be playing up the Idiot Playboy angle, all while quietly ticking off all the red flags that Donna's plan is raising. But no, Jones opts to have Bruce completely buy into her ideas, possibly because she said the magic words "free of crime" (which seems the be the only part of her speech to which he actually paid any attention) and also because he may genuinely be attracted to her. He has plot-related reasons for this which will soon become apparent. In fact, he seems to become even more interested when she informs him of the obstacles in her way.

"The buildings slated to be razed for New Gotham are infested by criminals."

"Criminals," Bruce echoes. Ohhh, that magic word.

"Well... squatters," she clarifies. "No doubt dealing crack or... or... whatever those people do. That's where you can help, Bruce: to relocate those people."

Again, you'd think this would be raising all sorts of red flags, but Jones doesn't have Bruce question her shaky assessment of the squatters as possible drug dealers (it's cute how that's literally the ONLY thing she can conceive of the squatters doing) because as far as this Bruce is concerned, "criminals=BAD" and "pretty lady who no like crime=GOOD." And just as Bruce is all ready to punch some homeless people in the face for Donna's approval, the party screeches to a halt when one woman's wrap dress outfit suddenly becomes unraveled. And who, oh who, could have done such a thing?



Oh Eddie, you dashing, garish asshole, you.



I should mention that another reason I hated this art was because I first tried reading this during my super-anal-retentive fanboy period when I couldn't abide by the fact that there was no purple in his costume. Even today, few things distract my enjoyment from a Riddler story like giving Eddie a green mask.

As Bruce attends to his bleeding hand, a very embarrassed Donna explains that Eddie is on parole, and she hired him because "who's know security better than a reformed master thief?" Yeah, Bruce ain't buying that Eddie's "reformed" one bit, and what's more, he's displeased to see Eddie involved at all since, "I just have a problem... with criminals."

Since he can't beat up the Riddler, Bruce takes this time to go after those other criminals, the damn dirty squatters and their mysterious leader known only as "Bob."





Yeah, not since Denny O'Neil's Green Lantern/Green Arrow has a writer turned their star character into a bigger establishment toolbag strawman than Jones does with Batman here (see again: Fortunate Son).

On one hand, you might think that this works for Batman, who's a rich boy with issues and a hardline black and white mentality. But just a few pages earlier, the story showed Batman making it a point of leaving Donna's tower of wealth and privilege--where Bruce Wayne himself lives his own charade--to be down amid the "real Gotham City" below, which is the territory of the Batman. He has first-hand experience of these people's lives that Donna lacks, and what's more, he's also known his fair share of unethical businessmen and corrupt cops. All of this is thrown out the window to make Bruce more naïve so characters that Bob can "open his eyes, maaaan," and in the process, they can preach to some of the comic readers who might be inclined to side with Donna themselves.

This scene reminds me a lot of the anarchist comics work of Seth Tobocman, particularly his squatters-versus-cops graphic novel War in the Neighborhood. His work is outright propaganda in narrative form, and I have to wonder if any of it (or the real-life events which inspired it) influenced Jones and Badger's story here.

As the building burns to the ground, Batman and Bob struggle to save as many people as possible, but they themselves are saved by what appear to be giant pink robots. Because comics.



And now we've met Donna's new ideal force for public security. Seems spiffy and not at all incredibly suspicious. Say, I wonder how well her private security is looking?



Hee! Once a Silver Age overly elaborate deathtrap villain, always a Silver Age overly elaborate deathtrap villain! But y'know what? Jones actually makes it work:



There is so much I love about this Riddler right away. While cheating has been a part of the character from his very beginning, this is a fantastic argument for the character playing fair, because that genuine risk is key. This Riddler isn't just out to prove that he's smarter than everyone else. He's in this for the fun.

And when Donna shut him down, we see one of the only times in the entire story where he actually frowns. Is it the frown of a petulant child or something far more unsettling, something directly tied to the kind of mental illness befitting an Arkham resident? Keep that in mind as the story progresses. Either way, his snap back to being playful and smirking shouldn't be taken lightly, nor should his little parable.



Meet Friedrich "Fritz" Olmstedt, Donna's head of security and former member of the Stasi, the East German Secret Police.

So yeah, Fritz is a peach. After fleeing Germany following the Berlin Wall's collapse, he was hired by Donna because "he still believes that society needs central planning to take care of its people," but that "he now knows that the private sector should be doing the funding, not an oppressive government," and that she wants to give him a second chance to prove himself. Yeah, and you thought she was short-sighted for hiring the Riddler.

Fritz subsequently shows just how redemptive he is by unleashing fire hoses on peaceful protestors, including Bob. Later, an embarrassed Donna tries to excuse Fritz to Bruce:



While it's clear that she doesn't wish genuine harm on the protestors as Fritz does, she's still puzzled and exasperated by them, completely unable to grasp their perspectives. "These people!" she says earlier on to Bruce, "Don't they know that what we're doing is for them too?!" To elaborate on that, she even tries appealing to them by explaining how there will be available housing to "everyone" in New Gotham, provided that they're "willing to work in New Gotham's retail hub... to abide by community rules... and to live a constructive lifestyle according to New Gotham standards!"

While Fritz is a stock fascist villain, Donna feels refreshingly, frustratingly realistic as a well-meaning person blinded by arrogance and privilege to an astounding degree of naïveté. She's a classic case of "You poor dears, I know what's best for you all, why can't you understand that?" She truly thinks that her plan will benefit everyone, and fundamentally cannot comprehend why anyone would want otherwise, nor can she figure out just why that bothers her so.

The fact that it nags on her indicates to me that she might be able to come around if she ever gets a good double dose of reality and compassion, neither of which would benefit an outright villain like Fritz. And thank god, because in a story with all these issues of legality and ethics, we need the plot-driving power of a Grade-A asshole:



Again with the jazz...!



Yeah, in all the goings-on, one almost forgot that Eddie was still there. He sends a note along to Commissioner Gordon which reads, "The German's going out tonight, but he can't get the sitter because she's too high. Who does he get?" The answer, Batman deduces, is "He gets the squatter." Batman races to the tenements just in time to see one of the squatters dead, Bob's car blown up, and Fritz's goons arresting her for murder:



Because he's not a complete tool, Batman glares down Fritz, knowing full well that something stinks here. Realizing that Perfect Security needs public sympathy, Fritz stages a confrontation between one of his men and Batman, rigging his underling's suit to explode. Fritz records the whole thing and leaks the tape to the press, thus framing Batman for murder.
With Batman disgraced, Perfect Security ends up getting formally deputized by the city, much to the chagrin of Commissioner Gordon. It's so effective, even Batman himself fears that he misjudged his attack and was thus responsible for blowing up the man. But one person sees through Fritz's charade:





He built a gigantic slide that ejects people like a human Pachinko machine. I goddamn love Eddie Nigma, and I have to say, I really do love the Riddler delivering little parables. They aren't exactly riddles, but they're just as befuddling, frustrating, and annoying to those around him.

In Shakespearian terms, he's somewhere between the King Lear's truth-telling Fool and the sociopathic trickster Puck. Of course, that makes him sound like he's dangerously close to Joker territory, but as you can see, there's no way the Joker could have worked the same way for this story. No, the Riddler's games are too orderly, even if he's the only one who understands the rules. Well, not the ONLY one. There's also Batman, the one who "makes" Eddie rise "to his true level," just as Eddie's planning on returning the favor. Eddie needs his Batman, and this time, he knows that the Batman's going to need him. Love it!

Unfortunately for Donna, all she saw was the "Fool" part, and thus she ejected him from where she could at least keep an eye on him, leaving the ex-con who was exposed to her secrets to his own devices. She REALLY doesn't think things through, does she? Even still, Bruce is still devoted to her, planning to continue offering his full support to her project while keeping Batman far away as he can.



"City-within-a-city"... oh god, it sounds like she's planning on building the rich-person version of Arkham City! If her dreams ever became reality, all I can imagine is the building from George Romero's Land of the Dead, where the "haves" are protected/imprisoned within their cushy mall tower while the "have-nots" and the zombies are locked out. I know that Bruce dreams of fighting crime, but I truly can't believe that there'd be a Batman anywhere who'd embrace such a plan so completely without sniffing SOME bullshit.

Batman's publicity gets even worse when Fritz gets wind from a cornered, compromised Commissioner Gordon that they were following a tip-off from the Riddler, which Fritz uses to his full advantage in the press:




The Riddler bluntly spells out one of the story's main messages. But then, as he's in full Foolishness, I think he's the only one who's allowed to do so. Thus realizing just how much of a threat the Riddler stands, Fritz chews out Donna for letting him loose (he may be a cartoon villain, but he's not stupid) and proceeds to hunt down Eddie. And Eddie, in turn, makes a move of his own:




Batman races to solve Eddie's riddle while Fritz and his men terrorize known associates of the Riddler for information. Batman deduces the riddle as leading him to a pop art sculpture of a giant rubber stamp (oh Gotham), which was made by a Dutch artist, but when he arrives at the scene, there's no Riddler.




That, right there, is some perfect Riddler. Even if the story ended right here, it would already be near the top of my list for ideal takes on the character, and a principle for other writers to heed.

That said, this is the only scene where Gerard Jones does use one of the Riddler's most annoying traits, which is giving riddles with answers that only make sense to people who know Gotham geography. Like, a giant rubber stamp sculpture made by a Dutchman? We never knew that such a thing existed until AFTER Batman deduced the clue. Me, I far prefer brain-teasers that the readers could theoretically solve for themselves.

I suppose it's similar to people who prefer to read murder mysteries that give the readers enough clues to figure it out, and people who enjoy murder mysteries that withhold information until the very, very end when the killer is revealed. Perhaps it's the difference between readers who want to participate and readers who just want to be entertained. Personally speaking, when it comes to the Riddler, I want to play along. Don't you?

Let's fast forward past the big fight scene: after barely saving the Riddler from Fritz' clutches, Batman takes Eddie somewhere safe where they can hole up.



... Damn it, Batman, don't admit that this isn't your sanctum and thus give Eddie anything he can file away for later. Spilling info like that is probably how he finally figured out you were Bruce Wayne! Also, if Batman has knowingly broke into private property with the intention to hide there, doesn't that make him a squatter too? Or at least, a damn dirty CRIMINAL? Man, Bruce is such an asshat.




Heh, I also love how Eddie's riddles are actually able to get under Batman's skin. The Riddler is usually at his best when he's pushing Batman's deductive reasoning to the limit, but here, he's able to hit Batman on a more personal, emotional level, screwing with his esteemed opponent's mind. There's definitely potential there for another writer to build upon.

Batman gets called away because Fritz is making his move on the squatters. Quick recap of what I've skipped: Bruce Wayne paid off Bob's legal fees and got her released, much to the displeasure of Fritz (who thought she was out of the picture) and Donna (who felt betrayed by Bruce). Meanwhile, Bob and the displaced squatters occupy one of the buildings slated for demolition: an old coffee factory which, according to Bob, "used to give real jobs to real people, but DiForza probably going to turn it into pet boutiques and condos for soap opera stars." I'm not sure that Donna is that tacky, but I'm not putting anything past her. Batman tries to talk them out of it, and when that fails, he gets them to at least consider having a face-to-face discussion with Donna DiForza.

Fritz tries to storm the building, but he's prevented by Commissioner Gordon, who is putting his own career at risk by defying the Mayor's beloved new security force. When Fritz furiously demands that Gordon now be investigated for "protective that rabble," Donna puts her foot down and dismisses Fritz, the tension between them finally reaching a fever pitch. Then Bruce makes his move:



In Donna's last gasp of defiance, she shows the full extent of her arrogance and superiority, but she has enough sense to realize that she's in a tough position. After Bruce points out that she employs people with minds like Fritz's, she capitulates and agrees to meet with the protestors. Fritz witnesses all this via the same security cameras that the Riddler used to spy on him, and he smiles in a sinister German way, hardly befitting the manner of someone who comes from the Land of Chocolate.

Batman rushes back to the hideout to get the Riddler, but what sinister machinations has Eddie been scheming in our hero's absence?



Oh Eddie. While the Joker is incredibly smart, I like to think that Eddie's own Eddie-logic can frustrate and annoy even Joker, just as the Joker's own "makes sense only to the Joker" not-logic would boggle and exasperate Eddie. Chaos and gamesmanship do not mix.

Meanwhile, Fritz sends his men after the squatters and Donna alike, both of whom are having their meeting.



Slashy-slashy? Well, Bob is gay, or at least that's what I assume the none-too-subtle pink triangle she wears throughout this story is meant to indicate. In all seriousness, I'd much rather see that relationship than Donna and Bruce, who seems more interested in her for how she appeals to his "RARGH CRIME BAD" sensibilities. But the meeting--and any subsequent potential for slashiness--is very short-lived, thanks to the arrival of everyone's favorite wall-hating asshole:



Batman arrives--with the Riddler on the sidelines--and helps the protesters escape, but he fails to save Donna, and he seemingly perishes in the struggle. Oh noes! After subsequently blackmailing Donna into silence and forcing her to play along with the pretense that she was kidnapped, Fritz assumes his newfound power, as according to him, "Whoever works hardest to protect a system will eventually control it." Social commentary all up in this Bat-Book!

So, now that evil has seemingly triumphed, it looks like back to business as usual for Eddie, who has a very important appointment to keep:




This is why Eddie's parole officer drinks. Also, seeing him in that awful 80's-tastic outfit only makes me further lament that Badger didn't draw him in the suit and bowler derby. Why the hell did it take comics over twenty years to start drawing Eddie that was on a regular basis? Even then, people keep sticking him in the spandex! Who the hell really prefer the spandex, I ask you?!

With the Riddler back in his hands, Batman confers with Eddie about storming DiForza's tower, which will involve navigating past Riddler's still-intact "all death traps all the time" security system. When it comes to bringing down Fritz and clearing his own name, Batman is willing to do whatever it takes, and he's well aware of the costs:




Once again, the Riddler (now with Batman at his side) delivers the moral on a silver platter, along with a bit of foreshadowing for what's coming up at the end. Well, the end of this particular game, anyway.

Let's skip forward past the scenes of Batman defeating Fritz's henchmen, of Commissioner Gordon defying Fritz and quitting in front of the Mayor, and of Bruce vowing to save Donna and be her "knight in shining tuxedo," not even making that up, and let's go straight to Batman and Eddie breaking into Donna's tower to find the Riddler's tape which will bring down Fritz:




After that narrow miss, they have to navigate the next trap: the dreaded Sliding Blocks! It should be easy, but as the Riddler says, "Hopefully they haven't changed THAT one too!" Batman, meanwhile, is all like "Uh huh. Sure."




I really like the marriage of Badger's art with Willie Schubert's lettering. I always associate Schubert's work with Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!, so the combination of him and Badger really make this such a perfectly 80's comic in all the best ways.

After surviving, they have one more trap ahead of them, the very worst of them all. What, oh what, could the worst Riddler deathtrap be like? Well, naturally, it's...





Oh Eddie, you fanboy, you. It's moments like this where I dearly want to hear John De Lancie (Q from Star Trek fame) voice the Riddler, because it amuses me to think of Batman being his own Jean-Luc.

They find Fritz, who is searching for the missing tape, and a merry chase begins! Meanwhile, Bob and the protesters take the fight directly to the tower outside, and reporters soon follow. Between the press, the "rabble," and the idea of those records coming out, Fritz begins to panic and fall apart ("just like the Wall!" he says, because yay for obvious metaphors!) as he frantically tries to clean house. Listening in on Fritz's ravings, Batman soon becomes alarmed when he figures out the next target.



Yes, send the Riddler. Great idea! Man, maybe Bruce and Donna really are better suited for each other, since they both put too much stock in the Riddler carrying out their orders as they'd intended. Eddie complies, rushing to find a broken, defeated Donna, who is in even less mood to play along. Not that that'll ever stop Eddie.



Oh Eddie, you bastard. Unable to figure out his riddle, she refuses to play the game at all, and instead relies on her own judgement. Whuh oh. I mean, her reasoning is relatively sound, right? She takes the stairs because in case of emergency, use stairs. What she doesn't take into account is that someone else might have the same idea:



Jesus. She survives this, but only barely, as Batman arrives just in time. Fully pissed off, Batman attacks Fritz and a huge damn fight commences. Over the course of the battle, Fritz gets more and more unhinged, until by the end, he's started to sound like the Hamburglar.







Om nom nom. Well, you just knew that shark had to be put to good use somehow, didn't you? It's like Chekhov's Gun, only with a goddamn shark, which is thus more awesome. Personally, I think Russian plays could have used more sharks. Welp, all's well that ends well... right? Oh, right. There's still the matter of Donna.





Batman, you dick. And that's how the Riddler misses his meeting with his parole officer and ends up back in jail. No, really, that's what actually happens. Dick move, Batman! Dirty, cheating dick move, because it's not just the game he's cheating, it's the system of law and order itself! Legally, Eddie has won, and Batman sabotages that. This is one of those cases where Batman's methods of delivering justice are even sketchier than usual, and it makes his hardline anti-"criminal" stance all the more worthy of side-eying.

Recovering from her injuries, Donna steps down from the New Gotham project, passing it over to Bob and the squatters with Bruce's financial backing and Eddie goes back to prison for failing to meet with his parole officer. A happy ending for all, right? Sure, let's go with that.

Still, not a bad story when all's said and done. All in all, Run, Riddler, Run was less concerned with the Riddler himself and more in social commentary about class warfare, with Batman written as being substantially more naive so that his eyes could be opened to the world around him. When you think about the real plot, the Riddler himself almost seems tacked on, a living subplot run amok.

But that's not a bad thing. Like the Joker, the Riddler works as a character who can wander into pretty much any event, whether he "belongs" there or not, to be the wild card. But unlike the Joker's terrifying presence, everyone underestimates Eddie as being a nuisance or a fool, just like so many writers and readers do. A great Riddler story shouldn't try to defy these expectations directly by making him "cool" or "badass." No, Run, Riddler, Run proved that Eddie can be at his strongest when Eddie plays these expectations to his own advantage.

As I said before, this Riddler is something of a trickster, but he's no chaotic Joker nor Puck. His games have rules, even if no one sees them or wants to play by them. What makes him truly dangerous is that he doesn't CARE if you play along or not, because according to him, you're still playing by his rules. If you lose, you lose, and he'll shed no tears because, well, you just weren't smart enough.

As a bonus, here's a recent commissioned piece of the Riddler by Badger, which I found on ComicArtFans.com. Badger still hasn't lost his touch, I see. Whether that's a good or bad thing, however, is entirely up to your own tastes.

Comments

( 55 comments — Leave a comment )
psychopathicus
Apr. 22nd, 2012 12:39 am (UTC)
One of the things, for me, that make the Bat-books so appealing is the unique relationship Batman has with his foes, something this seems to dip into very well. Most heroes have a simple 'I is good, you is evil, derefore we is enemies' way of looking at their rogue's gallery - or, at the more ideological end of things, you have characters like Superman, who would really be happiest if everyone would just get along, but they're still bad guys so yeah, sorry - off to jail they go.
Batman, on the other hand, has this weird thing going with most of the people he fights on a regular basis - not all of them, but a fair chunk. They are enemies, yes, but in a strange looking-glass-land sort of way, they're also his peers. They get him in a way that nobody else, not even the rest of the Bat-clan, really does - they're on the same basic wavelength, and on the rare occasions when he works alongside them, he actually gets on fairly well with them. Hell, his relationship with the Joker is something like the world's most twisted bromance. Robin, Nightwing and the rest may be his family, but when written well, his enemies are the closest thing he has to real friends.
Personally, I like both Riddler outfits, but they work better in different circumstances. The suit and derby work best when he's being a master schemer, while the tights are more for when he's entered into "let's get nuts!" territory, as in here.
Oh, and sorry for not getting back to you sooner about this, man - I've been a bit distracted lately - but I'm afraid I can't follow through on my Ka-Zar offer. I downloaded them as files in a folder, and I thought I could E-mail them in the same way, but no - folders and Yahoo Mail don't mix, apparently, and trying to send them as a group of individual files gave my computer the screaming heebie-jeebies, so I had to stop. If you're still interested, though, they can be found fairly easily - just type in 'Ka-Zar the Savage' on Google. You should get plenty of download links.
about_faces
Apr. 22nd, 2012 03:58 am (UTC)
I totally agree about Batman's relationship with the rogues, especially the bigger ones. They're as part of his life as the Bat-Family are. And yes, they're on the same basic wavelength, which is something that's lacking when the same rogues face off against Dick or Tim. When anybody else faces off against the rogues, it's just hero versus villain. With Batman, that shared wavelength is a different--and far more interesting--thing altogether.

Yeah, I suppose there is a good argument for Eddie having different outfits for different moods/occasions.

Aw nuts. Oh well, I'll keep an eye out.
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abqreviews
Apr. 22nd, 2012 12:49 am (UTC)
I'm still set on the Riddler being portrayed as a cheat like in his early appearences, but I agree with most everything else, particularly that Nygma should be portrayed as doing it all for fun and seeing Batman as his only equal. Perhaps a way to have our cake and eat it too would be to have him play dirty with everyone else, but play (more or less) fair when it comes to Batman.

Man, I hate when Batman himself is written like this, it just gives all the critics fuel for their fire. Ambiguity about the morality of what he does is fine, but...jeez. I do like how Donna is written though, not often you see characters like that portrayed as well-meaning.

If you hadn't mentioned that this was written by the guy wrote Fortunate Son I would have thought Badger himself had written it, as he used to shoehorn a lot of politics into The Mask (when it was called "The Masque"). His art is love it or hate it as always.
psychopathicus
Apr. 22nd, 2012 01:44 am (UTC)
The way I look at it is that the Riddler is perfectly willing to cheat when it comes to other people's games - he is, after all, a criminal; that's a large part of what crime is - but never his own, because then he wouldn't have the satisfaction of knowing that he beat the Batman legitimately in a hard-fought battle of wills. If he achieved victory through cheating, it wouldn't be the same - he wouldn't have won; his opponent would have lost. There's a very definite difference.
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killermoth
Apr. 22nd, 2012 01:10 am (UTC)
I meet Mark Badger at an NYC con when this came out. He was nice enough to do a sketch of Eddie on the inside front cover of the first issue. Very nice fella. I'll have to dig that out.
about_faces
Apr. 22nd, 2012 04:04 am (UTC)
Niiiiiiice! I'll be sure to bring along my copies if I'm ever heading to a convention where he'll be. I'd also be curious to see what kind of Harvey he'd draw.
vw_tb0
Apr. 22nd, 2012 01:24 am (UTC)
I basically agree with your assessment, about-faces. Crappy artwork but a greatstory. Bob is awesome! And I love the sharks and the scene where Riddler and Joker talk on the phone. I gotta say, I don't think Batman would bother with squatters unless he had proof that they were dealing drugs or something. With all the crap that goes on in Gotham, I can't see him getting all uptight about a few people living where they're not supposed to be, even if they were technically breaking the law.
about_faces
Apr. 22nd, 2012 04:05 am (UTC)
Like I said, the art isn't for all tastes. I like it now, but I can easily understand why someone else wouldn't, since I sure didn't, once upon a time.

With all the crap that goes on in Gotham, I can't see him getting all uptight about a few people living where they're not supposed to be, even if they were technically breaking the law.

Exactly. But, y'know, CRRIIIIIIMINALLS.
mothy_van_cleer
Apr. 22nd, 2012 02:23 am (UTC)
I'd like to think most writers are perfectly aware of the crypto-fascist interpretations that can be applied to Batman's charitable vigilantism, but it's just such a pity that the only stories ever to touch on this deliver their aesops with the force of a sledgehammer.

I mean, seriously? Referring to the residents of the slums as "those people", said in a tone that borders on sneering contempt? Either that's some very unsubtle dog-whistle racial elitism, or she's gunning for the title of Daniel fucking Plainview in the "greedy misanthrope" category at Forbes magazine. And yet Bruce swallows it - hook, line, and stinker - just because he has a burning desire to see justice done at any cost. Jesus wept. Say what you will about the flaws of Arkham City, Hef, but at least Batman was against its construction from the very beginning. (Nygma, coincidentally, also happens to be one of the most interesting characters in that storyline, too - irony!)

But, well, this does happen to be from the man who gave us Batman fighting a giant green zoot-suit jazz elemental, so... I guess I'll let this one slide. After all, there's been worse Riddler stories touted as "recommended reading" in the past.
about_faces
Apr. 22nd, 2012 04:10 am (UTC)
I'm actually more and more fond of Arkham City as time has gone by, partially thanks to my enjoyment of the not-at-all-bad-and-certainly-better-use-of-the-rogues-than-anywhere-else Batman: Arkham Unhinged digital comics, which are now coming out as paper comic. It's good stuff. I want to review several stuff from it, but I can't without catching up with the Hugo stuff. Damn my desires to be all chronological and shit!

Ughhh, that story. Funny how the 90's and early 00's gave us better and better takes on the Riddler that indicated that people had forgotten the whole "he's a loser" thing, and then Loeb comes out to be all "WELL OBVIOUSLY EVERYONE STILL THINKS HE'S A LOSER BUT NOT ANYMORE HUH HUH WHATTATWEEST!"
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surrealname
Apr. 22nd, 2012 08:11 pm (UTC)
this art grew on me very quickly. i will read the whole thing in depth later, and then give you more thoughts.
about_faces
Apr. 22nd, 2012 09:28 pm (UTC)
I figured you'd appreciate it. Badger seems to be an artist's artist, know what I mean?

Here, just for you, a two-page spread I didn't include:

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(Anonymous)
Apr. 22nd, 2012 09:17 pm (UTC)
You had me at "Gerard Jones: author of my all-time favorite run on Green Lantern". I though I was the only person alive who even remembered that run, much less holds it as my all time favorite! At least The Road Back is available as a cheap (almost newspaper grade) trade. Love Pat Broderick on that.

I hand it to Jones for writing three very distinct different GREEN LANTERN books (alongside Guy Gardner and Mosaic with John Stewart) that all worked as Green Lanterns, but were totally different books. It was hard to believe they were written by the same person (and that's a good thing).

Having Guy Gardner, POWERLESS, take on Lobo and the entire Weaponers of Qward just to steal the ring off of Sinestro's corpse (fighting his ghost in the process) and having him pull it off believably, was pure genius and a great Guy story. While I loved the Sinestro Corps War....if old Sinestro had a bone to pick with a Lantern, it really was Gardner, not Jordan or Rayner.
about_faces
Apr. 22nd, 2012 09:33 pm (UTC)
One of the big reasons why I loved Hal Jordan as much as (and on occasion, more than) Harvey Dent back when I was a teenager was because of Jones' run, which I had to pick up in bits and pieces through back issues. Know what sucks? Old-school GL fans hate and ignore that run because it's the one that turned him into a gray-templed alcoholic (Geoff Johns outright said at one point that he hadn't read that run! Holy shit, seriously!), and new-school GL fans hate that run because it's the one because it's inferior in their minds to Marz' Kyle run, because OMG Kyle. Blah.

I hand it to Jones for writing three very distinct different GREEN LANTERN books (alongside Guy Gardner and Mosaic with John Stewart) that all worked as Green Lanterns, but were totally different books. It was hard to believe they were written by the same person (and that's a good thing).

That's a fantastic and very astute observation.
(no subject) - vadvaro7 - Apr. 28th, 2012 04:18 am (UTC) - Expand
lego_joker
Apr. 23rd, 2012 02:34 am (UTC)
On RRR itself:

I have little to say about the story or the creative team; my familiarity with Gerard Jones mostly comes from him being the English translator for the Ranma One-Half manga.

However, being the continuity geek that I am, I am afraid that I will have to deem this story non-canon where the DCU is concerned. Various stories and bits of dialogue by both Doug Moench and Chuck Dixon at the time implied that Riddler had stayed under the radar from Dark Knight, Dark City (still not having gotten over the whole Barbathos thing) until his resurgence shortly before Knightfall (where Bane turned him into a hulking bruiser because Comics).

Since this Eddie makes no mention of Barbathos and seems right as rain, we must conclude that this is an out-of-continuity tale.
about_faces
Apr. 23rd, 2012 06:07 am (UTC)
Yeah Ranma seemed to be his main career in comics once he was unjustly ousted from the Green Lantern books. Ugh, Emerald Twilight, how I loathe your rushed, desperate, contrived wannabe Death of Superman/Knightfall status.

Non-continuity, perhaps, or earlier in Batman's career. That itself might account for his "You're breaking the law!" naïveté.
martin_l_gore
Apr. 23rd, 2012 04:07 pm (UTC)
A great treatment of Riddler in a fine story indeed. Although, on the nitpick-side of things, I'm pretty sure security systems aren't allowed to be lethal, you know with sharks and stuff... Maybe DiForza had extremely loyal employees who just wouldn't become whistleblowers no matter what. As with most of my other favorite uses of Eddie he's not a direct antagonist to Batman here, just jazzing around in the outskirts of being an ally/competitor with a strongly implied history of putting Bruce through bizarre deathtraps, endless Riddle-hunts and all that... It worked espeially well in Dini's Detective-run, where he atleast in the beginning kept it ambiguous wether Eddie actually had amnesia or still knew about Batman being Bruce Wayne and was hatching some kind of elaborate masterplan of how to use that info. That particular plot thread fizzled out before the end (and, of course, the return of the status quo) but it lent an interesting dimension to that particular run.

Incidentally, since GL is being discussed, have you had a chance to watch the new Animated Series yet? Although I'm not that much of a fan of that part of DC mythology, I'venjoyed GL: TAS quite a lot despite the cheap CGI look.
about_faces
Apr. 23rd, 2012 04:53 pm (UTC)
Pshh, putting it down just because it's lethal and an incredible waste of energy, not to mention almost certainly inhumane to the animals. Details!

Oh man, I'd actually forgotten about the amnesia plot thread. Yeah, I really do wish he was going somewhere with that. I was hoping that maybe it would become a Thunderbolts type situation for Eddie, where he played the legitimate amnesiac hero to work his way into the city's (and Batman's) good favor, only to gradually learn that he actually LIKED being the good guy. Or at least, not being the out-and-out villain getting punched in the face and instead putting his talents to better use. Maybe that wouldn't have worked, but I basically just wanted something other than him going crazy evil again, which of course is exactly what Tony Daniel did. In an awful way too.

I'm really, really like the GL animated series far more than I thought I would. It's the first GL property I've enjoyed thoroughly in a long time. It's not brilliant (yet), but it's very good, and I'm consistently amazed and frustrated by all the people who don't like the show at all. I enjoy it far more than Young Justice, for example, which annoys me due to its bland animation, blander voice acting, and obnoxious teenage angst-ridden character types (shut up, Superboy), although the recent JLA/Savage episode was quite good.
(no subject) - martin_l_gore - Apr. 23rd, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Apr. 24th, 2012 03:32 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh! I remember buying the third issue of this when I was 12 (it had an awesome cover, hard and plasticy so I had to have it), but I never really understood what was going on! I picked it back up about a year ago and kind of figured out the plot, being much smarter than my easily won-over-by-the-cover 12 year old self. Still can't get over that ART though! Seriously the Riddler has never been lumpier! Glad to see the whole story finally, and as always, great review :)
about_faces
Apr. 25th, 2012 06:29 am (UTC)
Thank you very much! Glad I could help you find a bit of comics closure after all these years! :)

Yeah, now that you mention it, the subject matter isn't exactly the sort of thing that would be accessible to most kids. Yet another reason why it never caught my attention until recently!
charada13
Apr. 24th, 2012 04:22 pm (UTC)
Well, you had me at "Riddler". LOL. I'm such a big Riddler fan, and yet I must confess I did not remember this story.

My personal favourite is the one early on the B:TAS comics, when he chose to give up crime if the Bat figured his newest riddle. He didn't, but arrested Eddie anyway. For the Riddler, that counted as a victory.

Another one I liked, and most people didn't, was one in which the Riddler started working as a hitman, asking the riddles to his future victims. The Bats figures it out due to a sheer coincidence, and the Riddler's sent back to Arkham.

Edited at 2012-04-24 04:22 pm (UTC)
about_faces
Apr. 25th, 2012 06:41 am (UTC)
As an Eddie fan, what did you make of the story?

The B:TAS comic really are brilliant, as I've said so often, and the Riddler stories there count as some of the best Riddler stories I've ever read in any medium.
(no subject) - charada13 - Apr. 25th, 2012 03:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
box_in_the_box
Apr. 25th, 2012 05:29 am (UTC)
In a way, the Riddler is the opposite of Two-Face, in terms of their respective relationships to Batman.

We've seen several times how Bruce Wayne has been willing to risk everything if he's had even a hope of redeeming Harvey Dent, which makes Two-Face perhaps the one rogue that Batman most wants to see go straight (arguably even more than he does Catwoman), but Eddie?

Eddie is perhaps the one rogue that Batman DOESN'T want to see go straight, which is a feeling I've gotten from pretty much EVERY story I've read in which the Riddler was a law-abiding citizen, who was nonetheless still doing his THING, because much more than committing his crimes, the Riddler pisses off Batman simply by being THE RIDDLER.

If the Joker stops being homicidal and insane, he stops being the Joker; ditto Two-Face, whom Bruce still holds out hope could simply become Harvey again.

But Edward Nygma is the Riddler whether he's committing crimes or fighting them, and in a very real sense, he's violating Batman's boundaries by doing so, because while Bruce may have honed his body to the peak of humanly attainable perfection, the reason he's on the Justice League isn't because of his physical power, since just about everyone else there outmatches him to Hell and gone on that score, but because even on a team whose members have included a whole host of various genius scientists and engineers, Batman has ALWAYS stood out as the CLEVER one.

The Riddler OFFENDS Batman, on a MORAL level, because unlike someone like Lex Luthor or Ra's al Ghul, both of whom are essentially "evil Batman" in their own ways, the ONLY thing the Riddler cares about is being smarter than Batman. Lex may have his all-consuming petty grudge against Superman, but we've seen a number of occasions where he actually kind of regards Batman with an almost collegial respect, as a similarly DRIVEN individual, and while Ra's operates off a different moral code than Bruce, it's motivated by concerns that Bruce shares, so even if he doesn't AGREE with Ra's, then again, much like Lex, the two men can at least UNDERSTAND each other.

But Eddie has NO such drive. He's never sacrificed or sworn vengeance on anyone. Even his rivalry with Batman is because it ENTERTAINS him. On some level, Batman finds the Riddler even MORE offensive than the JOKER, because at least Batman has been able to get under the Joker's skin and piss him off by outdoing him in the LOL U GOT PUNK'D category. By contrast, Eddie doesn't even have to TRY to come up with his brain-twisting riddles, which necessarily means that every single second it takes Batman to figure out one of Eddie's riddles is one more second of EFFORT that he's having to invest in thwarting someone who expended almost NO EFFORT AT ALL in coming up with those challenges.

And the WORST part? The part that makes Batman HATE the Riddler? Unlike the Joker, who often sulks or throws tantrums when Batman defeats him, the Riddler's response is, "Ha ha! Great game, old chum! Looking forward to it again!" I mean, THINK about that. Your entire IDENTITY as a superhero revolves around being the most quick-witted dude in the room, because otherwise your teammates with the super-speed and the power ring and the Kryptonian and Amazonian powers could reduce you to catfood, and you have to bust your ass just to beat some smirking fucko who's treating your battle about as seriously as a secretary who's updating her Facebook status at work, and then, when you DO finally beat him, he doesn't even have the decency to feel HUMILIATED by it!
charada13
Apr. 25th, 2012 03:49 pm (UTC)
Ah, box. I always LOVE your commentaries. Why would one about my man Eddie be any different?
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vw_tb0
Apr. 28th, 2012 03:29 am (UTC)
There was a Batman: The Animated Series episode that dealt with similar social themes. Roland Dagget was going to tear down a tenement for a condo development. I believe it was called "Appointment in Crime Alley."
zara2148
May. 28th, 2012 08:43 am (UTC)
I'm trying to figure out why Fritz felt the need to change the riddles along with the traps. Seriously, why not change the traps and leave the riddles the same? (I'd wonder why he didn't just get rid of the trap altogether, but it's honestly too cool to consider such a thing. They probably also makes an excellent conversation piece: "Those your sharks?" "Yeah." "Hmm..." *sips martini*) That way, when Batman tries to solve it, he gets a faceful of incoming shark (whether or not a shark could kill this Batman is another question altogether).

We have many explanations in canon for that particular psychosis of Eddie's - what is Fritz's deal here? Of all people, why does he seem to choose to play by Eddie's game? It's hard to analyze a villain who's really nothing more than a cardboard cutout Boogeyman, though I suppose "bragging rights" works here.

I do love how Batman just seems to breeze through his riddles Really, Fritz, were you hoping to match wits with BATMAN? I laugh at your naivety.

Poor parole officer doesn't get paid enough for this...

And so with you on the suit. Maybe it's just how I've been influence by Btas, but that's what I see the Riddler in.
about_faces
May. 29th, 2012 03:26 am (UTC)
Hold on, maybe I'm forgetting something from my own review (it's possible, since I am a father now and I tend to forget most things in my exhaustion), but what's this about Fritz changing the riddles/traps? If you mean the bit at the end, with the sharks, blocks, and typewriter, the traps weren't changed at all. The Riddler was just lying and pretending that they were changed just so he could watch Batman solve them! Because Eddie is an egotistical jerk that way, dontchaknow. :)

And so with you on the suit. Maybe it's just how I've been influence by Btas, but that's what I see the Riddler in.

I know, right? Really, why would anyone go back to the spandex after seeing the suit and bowler combo?
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Mark Badger
Sep. 30th, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC)
Man you made my day, thanks for the nice review. And yeah my art is a little to wacky for kids reading comics

Mark Badger

about_faces
Sep. 30th, 2012 08:20 pm (UTC)
Hey, Mark! Holy crap! Well, consider the favor returned, because now you've made my day too! Sorry that your comment got hidden by LJ, but their spambots are twitchy when it comes to images being posted.

Thank you so much for chiming in, and for the Eddie! Well, purple DOES matter, dang it! ;) Would you mind if I ran that art as its own post? I know my followers would get a kick out of it!
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