Batman’s Rogue Gallery features some of the most intriguing villains to ever be created. From Ra’s Al Ghul to Mr Freeze, each foe represents a different aspect of the Dark Knight’s psyche. They test Batman and push him to be better superhero. When it comes to challenging Batman’s intelligence, The Riddler is the perfect foil. Obsessed with proving his superiority, Edward Nigma uses more than riddles to achieve his goals.
Riddler’s motivations make him fascinating as a solo villain and a supporting character to other rogues. I’m exploring the psychology behind his actions to see what makes him one of Batman’s deadliest enemies.
Addicted to the thrill
Nigma’s fixation with puzzles started from a young age. When he was a boy, his teacher announced a contest would be held to see who could solve a puzzle in the fastest time. Nigma wanted to prove he could win, so he broke into the school at night and stole it. Nigma managed to solve the puzzle in under a minute. He won the competition, earning a book of riddles. Addicted to the thrill of winning, Nigma embraced the world of problem solving.
When he grew up, Nigma worked at a carnival, cheating customers out of their money with his mind games. Eager to find new challenges, Nigma took on the identity of the Riddler. After meeting Batman for the first time, Nigma found someone who he thought could match him intellectually. His first battle with the Dark Knight involved Riddler using his double-entry Riddle Clues and a booby-trapped glass maze. Batman was able to solve the riddles, infuriating Nigma.
Matching wits with Batman
Riddler’s obsession with puzzles can be described as an extreme form of obsessive compulsive disorder. OCD is broken down into four stages: obsession, anxiety, compulsion and temporary relief. An obsessive thought becomes uncontrollable, causing a manic feeling. The emotion leads to repetitive behaviour, which gets rid of the anxiety momentarily. But the obsession comes back and the cycle repeats itself.
Nigma’s OCD compels him to create elaborate games, adding to his addiction. Outsmarting his opponents is Nigma’s way of getting high. Riddler’s intelligence is his greatest asset and it makes his relationship with Batman enthralling. Bruce constantly outwits him, leaving Nigma unsatisfied.
Riddler and Batman have worked together as well. After recovering from a coma, Nigma was cured of his insanity, but retained his genius intellect. He became a private detective, helping Batman solve crimes. Nigma’s reformation lasted until a bomb blast reawakened his psychosis. At the time, he’d been hired by Penguin to track down Black Mask. Riddler chose to terminate his contract with Penguin, demonstrating his unpredictability.
Riddler’s relationship with other villains
Nigma has frequently worked with villains such as Penguin, Joker and Hush. However, he has been an antagonist to them as well. A great example happened during Batman: Hush, when he decided to team up with Thomas Elliot to destroy Bruce. Riddler had deduced Batman’s identity and planned to use it against him. Nigma’s scheme backfired, which resulted in Hush retaliating and threatening to kill him. Seeking refuge, Riddler hired Joker to protect him. It shows Nigma is willing to work with others up to a certain point, but his loyalty will always be to himself.
In his quest for superiority, Riddler has refused to let family stand in the way. He had a daughter called Enigma and they were hired by Gilda Dent to recover Two-Face’s coin from Mario Falcone. They were successful, though Enigma called her father a has-been. Taking offense, Riddler didn’t hesitate to kill her.
With his intelligence and ruthlessness, Riddler is undoubtably a great Batman villain. If you’d like to see more content about the psychology of different villains then let me know in the comments!