The Psychology Of Supervillains Club..May 2020 - The Riddler

Update: the dinner scene. It seems weird that the entire rogues’ gallery is present. I thought this is supposed to be early in Batman’s career. I guess right after collecting enough villains? I don’t think Maxie Zeus was there. Also, I am tempted to see where the Bat&Cat ship goes since he’s telling her the story.

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The Riddler (E. Nygma) is easy to write off as an OCD who deliberately foils his own plans through his Riddles. So we can write him off psychologically as an OCD with achievemephobia, the fear of success.

However, the arc in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (2012) Issue 77 , Issue 78 , Issue 79 , we see a different diagnosis put forward at the end of issue 79.
“His affinity for tactics and strategy is so high that he defies diagnostic quantification. To him everything is a game and he is extremely adept at playing it. This begs the question, then, as to why Nigma continues to “lose.” At the end of the day there is only one answer that makes any sense: He is playing a different game.”

We can look at several other comics and videos and we realize that one thing that he doesn’t take well is being called “crazy” or “insane”. Certainly once we move into incarnations from 2000 on, we see a character more inline with darker tactics and desires. Even in the 90’s via BTAS and Batman: Gotham Adventures (1998 -) Issue 11 We see his compulsion change from the person who wronged him, to the authority figure that put him away, and finally to Batman. In fact Riddler’s Reform - BTAS S2 Episode 14 1 and Batman: Gotham Adventures (1998 -) Issue 11 are in many ways similar stories, or at minimum a continuing evolution towards a need to battle Batman in a game of wits.

However, all of these takes, especially the ones after 2000, show him devoid of glee. As if he’s going through the paces.

Perhaps it is my age, but, I still find the Frank Gorshin Riddler from Batman ’66 to be my favorite and the best grasp of the character conceptually. It’s not the elaborate plans or wanting Batman and Robin dead. It is the sheer, truly sadistic and psychotic glee he has in doing what he is doing. For me, it is the deepest and psychologically darkest version, because he is having so much fun. Savoring the moments, so happy and full of manic energy. Not just the actions but the ideas themselves. I will go so far as to say it is an extreme form of fetishism, bringing Riddler to what can only be defined as a virtually orgasmic bliss.

To take joy in being “the smartest man in the room” and “out thinking your opponent” is one thing. To take those things and have them effect you as a complete sexually climactic action. That is a whole lot deeper and more disturbing than any other Riddler incarnation.

So at the end of the day, between the psych eval we get in Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (2012) Issue 77 , Issue 78 , Issue 79 & Batman ’66 Frank Gorshin, it becomes clear that Nigma is indeed playing a different game. It is a pity that now in an era of no CCA, nobody has yet to truly delve into that deep and much more disturbing incarnation.

I think they would find the dirty little secret of Batman comics. The Riddler is far more terrifying and emotionally disturbed than the Joker. It would elevate him to being Batman’s most dangerous foe as they are truly mirrors of each other at the most basic, fundamental core. True intellect against the “World’s Greatest Detective”. The Riddler, not the Joker, is the “Professor Moriarty” to Batman’s “Sherlock Holmes”.


Gorshin’s giggle fest kinds of distracts from the malevolence you are talking about. There is also an ego that is very impressed with himself.

Legends of the Dark knight 53 - 55 is about making a tactical choice which sort of backfires in the end. i must remember to read 77-79.

The War of Jokes and Riddles leans more toward the bat/cat relationship since the end of the arc is not the end of the war.

the movie Hush is also about tactics and manipulation but again the end of the story is more about the bat/cat relationship.


I definitely agree that the bat/cat relationship is holding the bones of those stories. But finding quality Riddler stories is hard. Nobody seems to be able to tackle the well. But maybe it’s because he really is the “smartest guy in the room” I think the reason he is usually foiled is because he is afraid of success.

We do disagree on Gorshin’s giggling. I can see how it could feel a bit OTT for some. For me it’s this manifestation of his sheer manic glee, and a great counter point to his, by and large, very slowly deliberate exposition. He is holding it back his manic joy until it just washes over him.

If anything, I think he’s described in Hush as a C lister because nobody can write him well.

I’m still working through the materials and am hoping to write more this afternoon, but I did see the ‘66 Batman eps.

His moments of manic joy, quick to turn to anger when things don’t go his way, and fits of giggles reinforced something I’ve thought about Riddler in the past: that he’s incredibly childlike.

The cruelty; the obsessive focus on games, regardless of their end value or consequence; the gleeful outbursts; the desperate need for acknowledgement; the tantrums.

Not only does he seem to lack self control, he often seems to be unaware of that lack of control (The Gotham Adventures issue touches on this). That’s also very childlike, to me.


Hiya @CynicalPink
This is a really interesting observation. :clap:
I seldom look for childlike-ness in characters, I just don’t see it, like I’m blind to it, probably because my own childhood was short and … interesting.

I hadn’t thought about it till you mentioned it, so thank you. I greatly appreciate the insight.

To me it makes the Riddler even more of a mirror of Batman. They are both emotionally stunted children. Stunted by different causes, but stunted all the same. We see this element of his childhood played out in, The Batman episode “Riddler’s Revenge”. (Season 4 Episode 09)

The more I look at them the more reflections of each other I see. Thanks again. :+1:


Welcome! I’ve still gotta read the titles that take a darker perspective on the character, so I’ll chat more then.

But yes! I can definitely see similarities.

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Something kinda funny that I just came across in Robin (1993–, #120) — Riddler was reading books about riddles for material.

So, question for you guys: How smart do you think the Riddler actually is? Is his ego justified?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anything specific regarding IQ or such, and in the older issues, his riddles weren’t always original.

Maybe it’s because I’m so used to seeing him on the losing side, but I think I tend to see Nygma as the type who believes he’s much smarter than he actually is. Like, is he really more intelligent than, say, Freeze? Joker?

Edit: okay, so I just started the 2013 Batman feat. Riddles and he seems significantly smarter — or, at least more tech savvy — than in the other materials.

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It has shown up that he is at least genius 160 IQ or higher. I am sure he’s always looking for information. I could see him looking at a book of riddles, to see what the standard answer is and how he can use it to have a double meaning or a riddle within the riddle, which he is known for.


Ah, that makes way more sense. And puts him past his more punny origin stories

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I could see it just being something he does in his off time, also. Like, you’ve defined yourself as “the Riddler”, what else are you going to do for fun? I don’t think he’d be reading science fiction or watching sports.


He is often depicted as being into crossword puzzles as well. I’m sure he does his in ink.


Initially I was going to say he probably wouldn’t be doing crossword puzzles, just as the first hobby I could think of he wouldn’t be interested in, then realized that actually, he probably would be into them.


Actually if you watch his first BTAS episode, it opens with him doing a crossword as he enters the office, up the elevator and to his office.

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When Batman disappeared “that time”, didn’t he open a detective agency?


I don’t follow Bats very much, if at all, so I’ve got no idea.

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Yes, the Riddler went legit for a minute and became a PI.


Ah…my bad, I thought @AntLeon meant Batman.
Yes, the Riddler has worked as a detective as @ralphsix pointed out.


Is that minute worth looking into? he asked as the month winds down.

I always felt that Riddler’s character boils down to how he cannot help himself with giving that clue, that it’s part of his pathology (sorry, too much Criminal Minds). I don’t see him as a brawler, which is how he’s depicted/drawn in the War of Jokes and Riddles. I did like his long con to try and get Joker to laugh (of which, I am not too keen on a frowny-face Joker). Even in the Batman '66 episodes, when it came to the final fight, he pushes one of his minions in front of him. And i don’t see him as a killer, as shown in Gotham. not he should avoid it, but given a kill, it would show more depth of character (and writing skill) if it bothered him.

the simplicity of the silver age version is somewhat lost to the ages: he likes to do heists, he cannot help that he has to give that clue. Batman 179 shows it best: He is convinced he can cure himself of his compulsion after freezing up on whatever job that he purposely didn’t leave his riddle. When he freezes, his first thought is “what am i going to do if i cannot rob?” His subconscious is so hard wired that he leaves clues without his conscious mind being aware of it and his ego is convinced he was successful in dealing with his compulsion.

I still have a couple of days before our next villain. I should make the time for both the more recent and any silver age that sticks out.


I feel like I am doing something riddler-ish (riddler-esque?) this week.

While work has a dresss code, it is not really enforced. For the most part, the shirts i wear are my heavy metal concert tess. And they spend most of their time under a lab coat, so i know they won’t get wrecked (vs my last place). Also, they are only seen during break and when out of the lab coat area.

This week I’ve decided to wear the following:
Tuesday: Heart (i know, not metal; a concert tee is a concert tee)
Wednesday: Iced Earth
Thursday: Judas Priest
Friday: Kreator

I’m sure you can see the pattern and it’s more for my amusement than some grand scheme.