The Riddle Keeper Cometh! (And Go-eth…)
I want to begin with this. I always liked Frank Gorshin’s Riddler, in the Batman ’66 Television series.
This post grew out of my thoughts on DC Comics, and Batman in general. I found myself asking people, almost at random…”so you’re Batman, right? The commissioner calls you on the red phone, because the Riddler has dropped off another @#$% riddle. Are you pissed about it, kind of frustrated, or what?”
I think that your really @#$%ing pissed. For a number of reasons. The first one being…it never seems like any of the police in Gotham even try to solve the damn riddle. You get a letter with a question mark on it, you just pick up the red phone. They often aren’t all that hard…so I’m thinking you’d be annoyed at having to schlep all the way to police Headquarters, solve the riddle, and THEN go to wherever the riddle leads you. Heck…you can just tell Batman the riddle over the phone. It’s a secure line. I think that when the riddle comes via HenchMail, you just know there’s going to be a lot of needless driving around town.
Secondly…you kind of already know where the whole thing is going. Solve the riddle which usually isn’t all that hard, and heck…you can Google them now. Then you’re going to have to fight a lot of Hench People wearing green jumpsuits with question marks on them, while the Riddler high tails it someplace else, leaving you another riddle and MORE driving around. Possibly a question mark deathtrap. You deal with this at least once a year, so you know the quality of Hench People, and probably deathtrap budget. In other words, you are just going through the motions.
Batman villains (pre 1990’s and New 52) always have a theme, like a good Bar Mitzvah. The first time you go to a Bar Mitzvah with a decor theme, it’s fun. Hugely fun. The second time you show up to a Bar Mitzvah with a baseball theme…the decor and stuff is still interesting, but you’ve dealt with it before. The ninth time? You are BORED.
In today’s art…our hero isn’t even dealing with the Riddler, but a Hench Person who is running with the schtick. Kind of like you go to a Bar Mitzvah…you’re not a creative or interesting person yourself, so you just JACK THEIR THEME. That would definitely create some kind of super frustration, especially when you’re an Alien american with Silver Age Superstrength.
I watched a few episodes of the Superfriends online, and the Riddler is part of the Legion of Doom. Seriously, the Riddler. Superman and Wonder Woman are fully prepared to roll out after you, and the Riddler is the guy that you sent out to Get Stuff Done. Seriously, Superfriends directly tells us that he is the A-List of evil, and regularly is in situations where he is completely shafting superheroes like the Flash and Black Vulcan, who both can travel at the speed of light and pretty much make the rules of physics do what they want. It’s bizarre.
That being said, I’m assuming that a Hench Person running with that schtick could be pretty annoying to the protagonist.
Still…this kind of retro, cheesy idea is very much what was the hallmark of DC’s approach to comics for some time. A sort of hugely positive world view where the stakes were “high”, but not the really disturbing stakes that we found in the New 52. That run introduced the idea that somehow the Joker’s face was cut off, and eventually thrown in the sewer…where it is eventually found by a homeless woman who wears it as a mask and becomes a @#$% up terror/crime clown.
It’s harder to imagine a bigger shift in tone than that.
For today’s strip, we know certain, basic things. One…that Hench Person is going to get Laid Out, because the protagonist is pissed about her T-shirt being really dirty again. Two…question mark shaped gas guns do very little good against superheroes that don’t need to breathe. Three…that Hench Person is going to Crime Jail Crime Jail, incidentally, is under the ocean.
What we don’t know? Will our hero get the stain out of her T-shirt? If this were a modern DC Comic, that question would be answered in a four part miniseries.