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Riddler

Batman (Classic TV Series)
by yo go re

Riddle me this: There were three men in a boat with four cigarettes and no matches. How did they manage to smoke?*

The Riddler - you fiend! The confounding, clever criminal known as the Riddler is Batman and Robin's trickiest villain. Sending enigmatic clues to the Dynamic Duo, the Riddler subsequently leads them into an inevitable trap, but never fear - the Batman always outwits the mysterious madman!

Like Catwoman and the Penguin, Riddler is another villain saved from obscurity by the TV show. He first appeared in October, 1948's Detective Comics #140, then was reused two months later; after that, he disappeared completely for nearly two decades! He was brought back in 1965's Batman #171, just in time for producer William Dozier to see him while looking for villains to populate the TV show. Now, it's entirely possible Riddler would have had a full comeback without being on TV, but there's no question that the added exposure helped - it's definitely what cemented Edward Nygma as one of the "major" rogues. It catapulted him to the top.

Riddler was played by Frank Gorshin, a stand-up comic and impressionist. If there had been a Saturday Night Live in the '60s, he would have been its Phil Hartman or Darrell Hammond. Gorshin was a fan of the comics (a much rarer thing then than today, when every actor who gets a part in a comic movie can't wait to rave to the press about how much they love the series), so when he was offered the role, he jumped at the chance. His manic energy and bizarre - yet honest - laugh made the character a star.

Gorshin was a scrawny little guy, so the toy follows suit. The Batman (Classic TV Series) toys don't rely on reused molds the way Mattel's other DC lines do, so the Riddler gets a unique sculpt. There's not as much to it was there was to, say, the Joker, so the softness of sculpt that's endemic to this line isn't as much of a bother, here. He looks like a guy with an average build wearing a thin cloth jumpsuit, and that's what he's supposed to look like!

Side note: this figure does make us think that Mattel is going to announce more releases at Toy Fair in February. Like we've said before, Frank Gorshin didn't like wearing the tights, so he went to the costume department for a stylish suit. It's every bit as iconic as this costume, and Mattel would have to be nuts not to make it.

The leotard doesn't look too bad, honestly. It's a lime green, with slightly darker slippers, and is accented with purple gloves and a belt. There's a single large black question mark in the center of his chest, one on his back, four question marks around his wrists, a line of them down the outside of his legs, and a single one on the inside of the ankle. The paint on his face is a bit of a mess, though: the mask is splotchy and his eyes point different directions. Be sure to check before you buy, if you can (I got mine off Amazon, so no luck there - maybe I'll make a swap if these ever show up in stores). He has all the usual Mattel DC articulation, which is enough for the character - what we really miss here, like with all the Batman (Classic TV Series) figures, are accessories. The villains were constantly stealing fancy objects with silly names. Why can't we get any of those?

All he comes with this the same 4¼" x 2⅜" semi-circular display base that all the solo-carded figures come with. The sound effect sticker on top of Riddler's base is a hearty "KAPOW!" with a bullseye in the middle of the O. He also comes with the thick sheet of cardboard that's printed with designs on both sides: the front has a picture of the Riddler holding an aerosol spray can and a big book of riddles, while the back has a bit of the Batcave's various computers. Unfortunately, the Riddler portrait is sideways, so it looks weird if you insert it into the base.

Riddler, like all the best Batman villains, is a reflection of the hero himself. Think about it, what things define Bruce Wayne? There's his duality, his strength, his scientific ingenuity (and emotional distance), the use of fear, the desire to do good (as he sees it), a touch of insanity, the whole looking like a bat thing... and his intelligence. Batman may be smarter than the Riddler, but not by much - and maybe not at all. The TV series Riddler was camp, but Frank Gorshin grasped the character in a way few have, and this figure is a terrific representation of him.

-- 11/20/13

*Answer: They threw one cigarette overboard and made the boat a cigarette lighter.


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