Batman Issue 171- “Remarkable Ruse of the Riddler!”
Published May 1965
Cover by: Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson
Writer: Gardner Fox
Pencils: Sheldon Moldoff
In this full length story, find out why the Riddler is spinning like a top and why he just won’t go down despite the punches that Batman and Robin keep delivering to his face. Okay… the real answer is that he’s high on drugs!
Edward Nigma is released from jail after serving a term that lasted 17 years, well at least since his last story which was published in 1948. The Warden of the State Penitentiary personally sees Mr. Nigma on his way but not before getting a riddle, “Why do the cons in this prison call it “Fiddler’s Hotel?” The Warden can’t answer, and the newly minted ex-con won’t give him a hint either. Anyway, the Riddler’s back in society.
Picking up a newspaper, Nigma learns that Batman and Robin are having trouble capturing the “Mole Hill Mob,” due to their quick escapes through the city’s sewer system. Having something planned for the duo, the Riddler decides that in order to get their full attention, he’ll have to team up with our heroes. The next day, he finds them and gives his spiel. Batman and Robin are instantly leery of him due to the memories they share, where he threw rings at them and made them run around in a glass maze. The caped crimefighter pauses, thinks for a moment about the current case, and allows Nigma to come along, even if he’s wearing his Riddler costume. The job will begin at 8PM, near the square.
Later that day, Dick is manages to use up all his letters in Scrabble, spelling (you guessed it!) “Riddler.” The last time I saw all letters used was “actress,” and I didn’t play it. Urgh…
At 2000 hours, the Riddler greets the duo near Washington Square and opens up a manhole for them. They enter, eventually finding the Molehill Gang’s hideout, furnished with a table for lying down. The criminals rise in attention and activate a trap for the trio. A lot of electronically controlled manhole covers come shooting at Batman, and a wall of cables start whipping around in a frenzy. Robin and the Riddler are attacked by a rolling cable drum, and the Boy Wonder kicks it into a circuit breaker. With Batman trying to hold onto the cables, the thugs start ganging up on him.
Batman releases the cables and they snap at the molehills, striking three down to the ground. The Riddler cheers on the masked manhunter, happy that he’ll be ready to take him on mano a mano soon enough, while Robin goes after the last gang member. All four of them are quickly disposed with a few punch and kicks, and Nigma parts way with the duo for now.
Two days later, at the Police Athletic League Picnic at Gotham Park, Robin opens his lunch basket to find a riddle: “What’s the longest word in the world?” The answer is “smiles,” as there’s a mile between the first and letter. Batman and Robin rush to check on the millionaire “Smiles” Dawson, who is at his yacht in the City Marina, believing that the Riddler is after the Black Pearl of the Pacific. They find his car and open the trunk, unleashing a load of puzzles, tricks, and rings. They get tangled up, but manage to catch up with the Riddler who drives away. The trickster is confronted, and he reveals that he bought the pearl from Dawson, this is corroborated by the previous owner.
The Riddler apologizes to Batman and Robin for making them worry over him and gives them a present in the form of a riddle and a sheet of paper. The riddle goes:”There are three men in a boat with four cigarettes but no matches. How did they mange to smoke their cigarettes?” It’s an old joke, as the answer is they tossed a cigarette overboard making the boat a cigarette lighter! Another riddle is revealed after putting the paper under chemical solution: “Why is an orange like a bell?” Because both must be peeled (pealed, as in ringed). The next location is the Peale Art Gallery.
They arrive to find the Riddler pointing a gun at the curator, who’s smoking a cigarette of all things. The puzzler flees from Batman, carrying a jewel encrusted cross, and knocks over a suit of armor, but his pursuer still catches him. The curator comes out and tells the two what’s going on, as Nigma did buy the cross legitimately. The gun is actually a cigarette lighter, as the barrel pops open with a flame. The Riddler leaves the two, telling them that everything he has given the two were all clues to another puzzle. I would really love to see a Professor Layton vs. the Riddler game.
The final riddle is revealed, as the clues are: the black pearl, the white cross with red rubies all over it, making it “what is black and white and read all over?” It’s a newspaper, meaning that the Gotham Times 100th anniversary party is the ultimate target for the Riddler. With the many celebrities and rich guests at the event, there will be plenty people to rob. Over at the Ox Club, while partygoers are too busy dancing, the Riddler crashes the event with his entourage, holding up everybody. The Riddler heads to the manager’s office to empty the vault, and the duo arrives to catch him red handed.
Batman places a hand on the Riddler’s shoulder, and gets zapped, meaning that he can’t very well punch him in the gut as often as he would like. The gang comes in and in a matter of minutes they are defeated, with only a member of their rogues’ gallery left. The Riddler stands up straight like a punching doll and no matter how many times our heroes try to push him, he keeps bouncing up. They punch him, and he spins like a top. They punch him at the same time, and yet the Riddler feels nothing. They can’t touch him unless they figure out a way to disable the electricity. Batman remembers that the Riddler made a strange gesture as soon as he saw them, and figures out that the dot on the topmost question mark is the electricity switch.
The Riddler is defeated, and he congratulates the two for figuring out the correct riddle, not the newspaper one. Robin answers that the clues were not the colors but the shape of the objects: circle (pearl), cross (ivory relic), combine them and it’s OX, as in the Ox Club. He’s sent to jail again, along with his cronies. Back at the Batcave, Robin asks how the Riddler could withstand all those punches. Batman replies that he was probably on painkillers to dull the pain.
For an epilogue, the answer to why a prison is called the fiddler’s hotel is because it’s… a vile inn!