The War of Jokes and Riddles

The Joker is the quintessential Batman villain. The Riddler is my personal favorite Batman villain that is not The Joker. Recently, Batman writer Tom King has started The War of Jokes and Riddles storyline. Taking place in the early days of Batman’s career and details the gang war between The Joker and The Riddler. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense to have these two go to war with one another. Despite all his craziness, The Joker is a methodical villain with detailed plans on how to go about things. The Riddler with his vast intellect and narcissism makes him something of a thinly veiled villain. The two have a lot of similarities with one another and there have been frequent jokes about that fact also.

I’m always a big fan of seeing Batman’s early years as well. Typically you see his origin and then skip to the present. His intervening years are never really given much detail. So when stories like to go into those years, it’s fun to see a much more “green” Batman. I’m still not really sure as to when this story takes place but at best bet it seems to be a “year three” Batman. He already has most of his established enemies and familiar with those who operate outside of Gotham City. There have been a reference to Zero Year, because The Riddler is treated as a serious threat due to his machinations in that story.

The whole framing of the story is set against the backdrop of Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle post coitus. In the issue prior to the story, Bruce proposed to her. As of this post, we still do not know what she said. It would be hard to imagine that they would have sex and him detailing a very personal story to her if she had turned down his proposal. But King has done a good job of writing around the answer and keep an interesting story going on where you don’t really think about it either.

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The best issue so far was a simple one where Bruce Wayne has invited the two leaders over for dinner in an effort to end the gang war. This shows a different side to Bruce Wayne. One who is very aware of things that many who are not so privileged will not know about. A nine course meal that sees even someone like The Joker act civilized. This does play into my belief that The Joker is someone who just fakes insanity and is perfect nonchalant in his monstrous acts. Bruce even offers to pay off the leaders in an effort to end the war with the caveat that one takes out the other. Later it is revealed that this was a ploy but something tells me that if the war was guaranteed to end, he might have done it. 

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This is a Batman at his best and worst. Best because we get to see what kind of hero he is. Working himself to exhaustion and willing to play all the angles and just not as Batman but as Bruce Wayne also. It’s also his worst because we see how he beats himself up over things that he has no control over. Close to a breakdown at numerous points as he is being run ragged.

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 The story is still ongoing but I’m always anticipating the next issue in the story. The art is also fantastic. If you want to get into Batman comics, I’d suggest starting with this story. It is destined to be a classic. 

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Top 10 Batman: The Animated Series Episodes

If you ask me who my favorite Batman villain is outside of The Joker, it would definitely have to be The Riddler. When I was a kid and they sold VHS tapes (remember those?) of episodes of series, my parents bought me one from Batman: The Animated Series and it was his first and last appearance in the series. His first appearance encapsulates everything great and terrifying about The Riddler. From the beginning, we see Edward Nygma (get it?) finishing a crossword puzzle with relative ease. But after being locked out of his episode and fired by his boss, Daniel Mockridge, for suing the company for royalties on a game he developed, Nygma is furious.

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Cut to the present day, Mockridge is brokering a deal with Bruce Wayne when a threat appears on a news ticker outside. Hinting that Nygma has been threatening him for some time now. We later see Bruce suiting up as Batman and skulking around trying to figure out the riddle while Dick Grayson aka Robin is conveniently playing the game that Nygma developed. The two manage to discover where Nygma has his threat laid out where they come face to face with The Riddler…whom Batman immediately knows is Edward Nygma due to reading the company’s history.

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Within the episode, we really see the value in Batman and Robin. As smart as Batman is, he needs someone to bounce ideas off and there are just things he doesn’t know. Due to Dick being a young adult, he is familiar with the live action version of the video game that he was playing earlier, which Nygma has managed to weaponize. A musical puzzle later is also something that Batman knows nothing about and it is up to Robin to help solve it. Also being familiar with the maze due to video game, he is the key to Batman figuring out loopholes to stop The Riddler’s plan.

The Riddler in the episode shows why he is one of Batman’s greatest villains. Pushing his mental limits as he does not just keep to one type of brain teasers but instead mixes it up and almost everything has a secret meaning. Something that goes unsaid but every episode that features The Riddler also has Robin in it to help Batman. From the beginning, we see how smug and narcissistic Nygma is. Almost all his dialogue with other people has him mentioning how great his intellect is while belittling those he is talking to. But as Mockridge even asks, “If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich?” Nygma claims he is so smart yet he couldn’t comprehend that he signed a work for hire contract and while his lawsuit may be justified somewhat, it still seems like something he should have known before. Mockridge also firing him for suing the company also seems highly illegal yet Nygma does nothing about that and jumps straight to murder.

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The ending of the episode is also great as The Riddler manages to get away. While he is a wanted man, he did achieve a variation of his goal. While he did not kill Mockridge, Mockridge is a shell of his former self. Having to sleep with a shotgun in his bed just because of his fear of The Riddler. Even though Batman managed to save him, Batman himself does not seem to give the man much sympathy either. It really makes you think about how you treat people whether you are in the right or wrong or in the middle.