Tag Archives: edward nygma

Batman: The Animated Series – “What Is Reality?”

What_is_RealityEpisode Number:  48

Original Air Date:  November 24, 1992

Directed by:  Dick Sebast

Written by:  Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir

First Appearance(s):  None

After having escaped both Batman and the Gotham PD, The Riddler (John Glover) is back to erase his criminal history and likely get some measure of revenge against Batman and Robin for ruining his prior plans. It’s a rare example of the show having a direct follow-up to a prior episode as villains are often captured and released from Arkham or jail offscreen. It’s not often we have a villain escape and then make reference to their fugitive state, but that’s what we have here in what is only the second appearance of the quite popular Riddler character.

The episode opens with a jogger running through the Gotham night. He decides to withdraw some money from an ATM only to find it’s spitting out riddles instead of cash. Not only that, it shows his balance as zero which enrages the man. The scene jumps to Gotham’s version of Wall Street where investors are being taunted by the scroll not by failing prices, but by riddles. We then see the Gotham Department of Motor Vehicles suffer a similar fate as Dick and Alfred wait in line to dispute a ticket of some sort. All of this brings us to Gotham PD where Batman and Gordon are discussing the obvious – this is the work of Edward Nygma, aka The Riddler. He’s been on the run ever since the events of “If You’re So Smart Why Aren’t You Rich?” and has so far managed to illude capture. Gordon then notices that all online records of Nygma’s very existence are being deleted at an alarming pace to make it appear like he does not, and has never, exist. Before Batman can ask about the hard copies of his records, they’re informed that a package has arrived at headquarters and it’s ticking.

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The shipping on that must have cost a fortune.

Gordon is apparently comfortable with letting Batman and Robin handle this potential explosive device as the two are seen examining the rather large package. Robin notes that the blocky structure is a puzzle and boasts that he was able to complete a Baxter’s Box puzzle in record time, so this should be no problem. A Baxter’s Box, as best as I can tell, is this world’s version of a Rubik’s Cube. I guess even referencing that famous toy could fall into a copyright area? Robin is able to get the box to open and inside they find a large console complete with a monitor, two seats, a massive keyboard, and a pair of headsets. Not knowing what to immediately make of it, Batman leaves Robin to check it out. Meanwhile, some cops have stolen the hard copies of Nygma’s records and are shown delivering them to Nygma himself who is watching all of this via a monitor in an undisclosed location.

Batman looks to the various riddles that Nygma left behind via the ATM, stock market, and DMV. They’re simple riddles, so Alfred and he deduce they should focus on the numbers contained in the riddles, which when translated to roman numerals, leads Batman to the DMV. There he finds some goons accessing the hard copy records there, likely searching for Nygma’s files. Batman engages them which leads to the action spilling outside where a Riddler Van tries to run down the caped crusader. When Batman winds up on the hood of the vehicle, he finds it’s being driven by a robot with a camera for a head. Nygma is able to taunt him as well, and points out the vast amounts of explosives in the back of the van. Batman is able to avoid a rather explosive demise, but not without detonating the van making quite the mess. Riddler is able to leave him another clue though, because that’s what he does, about where to turn his attention to next.

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Riddler’s virtual world.

At Gotham PD, Robin has discovered that the console delivered there is actually a virtual reality machine. He demonstrates how it works to Gordon before taking off for a snack leaving Gordon plugged into the machine. Once gone, Riddler appears in the virtual world and is able to trap Gordon. When Robin returns, he receives an electrical shock from Gordon’s headset when he tries to remove it. Batman soon arrives as Riddler’s most recent riddle directed him to Gotham PD headquarters. Robin gives him the rundown and Batman is left with no alternative but to enter the VR machine and rescue Gordon. Riddler has placed Gordon in a high velocity device within the world similar to what astronauts use to train for the force of space travel. Riddler claims Gordon’s heart can’t last in the machine indefinitely injecting a time component into the situation. Robin warns Batman that he’s basically entering a world controlled entirely by The Riddler which prompts Batman to insert an ear piece into one ear so he can maintain a link with Robin while inside the game. Robin is also able to watch what is going on via the rather large monitor Riddler included.

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If you’re going to call yourself the Dark Knight then you should look the part.

Once in the world, the episode’s perspective shifts to that. It’s mostly a world depicted in shades of red not unlike a Virtual Boy, but with some black and white as well. Riddler pushes Batman along via clues which leads him to a chessboard. Batman is forced to literally adopt his Dark Knight persona to sneak past which just leads to a constellation based puzzle for him to solve, with Robin’s help (he’s big on astronomy apparently). Eventually, Batman finds himself face to face with The Riddler and a giant version of a Baxter’s Cube. Not wanting to waste more time in figuring out the puzzle, Batman realizes he has some control over himself in this virtual world and imagines he has mallets instead of hands. He bashes the cube, which just prompts the Riddler to attack. He splits himself into multiple Riddlers, and Batman responds by doing the same. As they engage in a competition of who can create more versions of themself, Batman points out how hard it must be for Riddler to maintain control over his virtual world when splitting his focus amongst the many duplicates he’s made. Just pointing this out causes the world to collapse, and the Baxter’s Cube breaks away revealing Gordon.

many riddlers

Well this presents a problem.

Batman and Gordon are able to escape the virtual world. Once outside, The Riddler returns to the monitor to taunt them and leave them one final clue about where he could be. Just after doing so, he lets out a horrible scream indicating he’s in some trouble. His clue was enough for Batman to figure out his location, and when Batman, Robin, and Gordon find the Riddler he’s still connected to his game unable to remove himself much in the same manner as Gordon previously. Batman remarks getting him out of there may be a riddle no one can solve (spoiler: this isn’t the last we’ll see of The Riddler!) as the credits roll.

“What is Reality?” is a decent follow-up the The Riddler’s debut. It doubles-down on Riddler’s fascination with video games and virtual worlds, which is an interesting take on the character, and one that feels very of the times. I mentioned previously how I liked that this episode directly deals with the fallout of the previous one, even though it isn’t a two-parter. The writers seemed to not want to really bother with riddles this time around though, opting to deliberately have The Riddler use simple riddles but with a bit of a convoluted message hidden in each one. I’m not particularly good at riddles so I feel a little uncomfortable for criticizing the episode for going easy on them, but maybe they should have hired somebody who could craft a good riddle? As a result, The Riddler seems rather stupid as his efforts are not even remotely challenging for Batman to figure out. Batman also easily bringing an end to the VR world is rather underwhelming, but maybe they wrote themselves into a corner since they gave Riddler complete control over the world. The ending is kind of chilling though. After almost rooting for The Riddler in his debut he’s a bit more of a conventional villain here, but his actions never make us desire a fate like that for him.

riddler trapped

Riddler’s in a rather sorry state at the episode’s conclusion, but he’ll bounce back.

This episode marks the final contribution from Akom Productions. They were let go after the some-what disastrous “Joker’s Wild” episode. Perhaps because of this they did an especially careful job with this episode. It looks fine and I have no complaints about the animation. There are some very minor errors, but most episodes contain one or two. It’s not a hugely ambitious episode, though some fun things were done with the virtual world. I’m glad only a few minutes are spent there though as that red palette gets kind of irritating to look at.

This isn’t the last we’ll see of The Riddler, which I can’t imagine comes as a surprise to anyone. It is the last we’ll see of him for a while though and his last appearance of season one. Unfortunately, his next appearance doesn’t mirror this one by dealing with the fallout. He’ll just be his normal self leaving us to wonder how he extricated himself from the VR world. I guess for them not to tell us means it wasn’t a very interesting story. I bet they just unplugged the thing, that seems to be the solution for most electronic mishaps.


Batman: The Animated Series – “If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?”

If_You're_So_Smart,_Why_Aren't_You_RichEpisode Number:  40

Original Air Date:  November 18, 1992

Directed by:  Eric Radomski

Written by:  David Wise

First Appearances(s):  The Riddler

 

It only took 40 episodes, but we’ve finally made it to the debut of what I would consider the last of Batman’s most famous adversaries:  The Riddler. Thanks to his inclusion in the 60’s television series as well as Batman:  The Movie, The Riddler (John Glover) was a very well known villain and was so well known that it was basically considered a given that he would be the featured villain in the sequel to Batman Returns. And it turns out he was! That version of The Riddler, played by Jim Carrey, ended up being very similar in character to the one from the 60’s most famously portrayed by Frank Gorshin right down to the green spandex. For Batman:  The Animated Series, a more cerebral version of the character was chosen. Clad in a green and gray suit with bowler hat, he’s not very much like what we had seen before in popular media. He still is all about riddles though and the essence of the character is preserved. He’s also given an interesting motivation, and he’s yet another villain who was wronged in the past, but flouts the law in order to rectify what happened bringing him into conflict with the one and only Batman.

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Enter The Riddler.

Edward Nygma is a computer game designer who’s latest creation, The Riddle of the Minotaur, has become exceedingly popular. He works for Competitron, a company owned by Daniel Mockridge (Gary Frank), and unfortunately for Nygma all of his work has come under a work for hire agreement. He enters his office one day to find that he actually has no office. Mockridge is there gleefully waiting for him to let him know he’s being terminated. Nygma, irate at this treatment, points out how much money he’s made the company while Mockridge dangles his contract in front of him essentially boasting that he’s completely right, but there’s nothing he can do about it. Because he’s essentially a contractor, he receives no royalties for the game (or if he does, they’re not large) and no creative control. As a parting shot, Mockridge throws the episode’s title right in his face, “If you’re so smart, then why aren’t you rich?”

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Mockridge being taunted as he makes his pitch to Wayne and Fox.

The episode jumps forward two years and Mockridge is pitching Competitron to Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox. Mockridge is looking to sell and cash-out of his growing business while Bruce is interested in moving the company to Gotham to create more jobs. As Mockridge is making his pitch, a word crawl on a building across the street (like one you would see outside a stock exchange) taunts him with a riddle and makes a reference to the big deal he’s trying to negotiate. Mockridge is unnerved, though Wayne and Fox aren’t aware of the message since it’s behind them, and are rather confused when the pitch is cut short. After Mockridge leaves, Wayne notices the riddle and begins reading it aloud while the shot transitions to the Batcave for Batman to finish the riddle. It’s a neat little trick as it points out how voice actor Kevin Conroy portrays Wayne and Batman just slightly differently.

Dick is also in the Batcave and he just so happens to be playing The Riddle of the Minotaur on the Batcave’s computer (which Alfred reveals cost 50 million dollars) which features sound effects lifted straight out of Super Mario Bros. Since Bruce Wayne had to pour over documents relating to the sale of Competitron to Wayne Enterprises, he knows about the creator of the game, Edward Nygma. The riddle also made reference to The Wasteland, which is both a region in the game and a night club owned by Mockridge. Batman decides that’s the most logical place to check-out and declares that Mockridge is in danger.

SR_33_-_Riddler

There’s something “off” with how Riddler’s expressions are animated. It’s animation more befitting Tiny Toons or Animaniacs.

It turns out, Batman was correct. Mockridge arrives at his club’s office and finds Nygma seated at his desk. He’s now The Riddler and he taunts Mockridge with a ring puzzle. He also has help in the form of two very large goons. Batman and Robin soon arrive, dramatically crashing through a stained glass skylight, but they find no one. The Riddler soon appears to let them know they’re too late, and Mockridge is bound within the ring puzzle The Riddler had been playing with. They have a scuffle with the hired muscle, who put up a pretty good fight. Robin is rather proud of himself when he literally kicks one of them in the rear. The Riddler eventually traps Robin in an over-sized finger trap as a fire breaks out, forcing Batman to either save Robin or pursue The Riddler, who flees with Mockridge. Batman obviously decides to save his ward, allowing Riddler to escape.

As the dynamic duo speed away in the Batmobile, Robin notices all of the lights in the city are flickering on and off. Batman, affixing some sort of mini computer to his glove which looks kind of cool, recognizes that the lights are flickering in a pattern indicating Morse Code. The code contains a riddle, because what else would it, who’s solution leads them to a maze in a closed amusement park. During the prior confrontation, Batman revealed that he knows The Riddler’s identity, so The Riddler determined that he needs to take out Batman to protect his secret. By luring Batman and Robin to his maze he hopes to do just that while also taking care of Mockridge.

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The Riddler welcoming Batman and Robin to his maze.

The maze is a literal recreation of the one from Nygma’s game. Robin, having played it quite a bit, is familiar with it and Batman is gradually brought up to speed as they go along. Nygma has made this version of the maze much more lethal than the video game counterpart, and Batman and Robin have their hands full. The Riddler is able to taunt them from various video screens throughout the maze and he lets them know they only have a few minutes to make it to the center and save Mockridge, who is gagged and bound beneath the blade of the Minotaur. The problem is, no one has ever solved the riddle of the Minotaur and made it through the maze, meaning Batman and Robin will have to be the first if they want to save Mockridge and apprehend The Riddler.

Batman is willing to play along only so much, but when they make a wrong move The Hand of Fate is sprung on them. We saw the video game version earlier in the episode as The Hand of Fate is a game mechanic that punishes wrong answers by bringing the player back to the maze’s start. In the real world, it’s a literal flying hand that Batman and Robin are able to avoid. When it becomes apparent that they have no chance at making it to the center of the maze in time, Batman intentionally makes a wrong move to draw the hand to him. Using a piece of shrapnel from an earlier trap (The Riddler made them leave their utility belts outside the maze in order to gain entry), Batman is able to hack The Hand of Fate, and together with his little glove computer, is able to pilot the hand to the maze’s center. It’s cheating, but effective. There they have to answer one final riddle in order to prevent the Minotaur from killing Mockridge, and it’s actually a pretty simple riddle. Not content to make it so easy, The Riddler springs the Minotaur on them as one final obstacle that Batman is more than capable of dealing with, in his own way.

batman-the-animated-series-if-youre-so-smart-why-arent-you-rich-3

A confrontation with the Minotaur awaits at the center of the maze.

With Mockridge saved, the only thing left is to catch The Riddler. Unfortunately for them, he’s no where to be found. He’s been speaking to them from aboard an airplane and he’s now long gone. In the episode’s epilogue, we find out the deal was completed and Mockridge came away with a cool ten million. Dick is kind of disappointed as they’re well aware that Mockridge is a creep who took advantage of Nygma’s genius, but Bruce points out that all the money in the world can’t buy a good night’s sleep as we’re shown a very paranoid Mockridge locking his doors at night and keeping a gun by his bed as he shivers in fear.

This episode very much reminded me of Mr. Freeze’s debut, “Heart of Ice.” The only difference is that Freeze’s adversary was a criminal himself, while Mockridge is just your typical corporate sleezeball taking advantage of a system that’s rigged in his favor at the expense of someone much poorer than he. Mockridge hasn’t broken any laws, but he’s obviously a morally bankrupt individual. It’s not that surprising to see a show who’s origins stem from a comic book incorporate such a villain into an episode as Mockridge’s tactics are similar to the ones comic publishers used to box out the artists and creators that made the comics successful. It would be many years later that we would find out a similar travesty occurred with Batman as Bill Finger never received credit for his contributions to the character during his lifetime. Finger, appropriately enough, was also the creator of The Riddler.

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Mockridge “enjoying” his money.

As a result of Mockridge being such a lame person, we’re in essence rooting for Nygma during this episode. In reality, he probably could have filed a lawsuit against Mockridge and Competitron and possibly could have won. For all we know he did during the two year time-jump and maybe lost. He chose to take things into his own hands though and turn to crime to exact revenge against the man and company that wronged him. How he was able to finance that ridiculous maze is not explained and I suppose we’re supposed to just ignore it so the episode can work. Even though we’re supposed to disagree with The Riddler’s methods, I have to assume we were supposed to take some satisfaction in his escape at the episode’s conclusion.

This episode is one of two animated by Blue Pencil, S.I., and it’s not a particularly strong episode. A lot of new backgrounds had to be utilized so there was some cost there, but the animation is inconsistent and there are numerous visual errors. The Riddler’s mask at one point changes from pink to gray and a key re-appears on a wall when it shouldn’t be there, among other little flaws. That stuff was common in a lot of kid’s cartoons of the era, though not so much in this one, so it stands out more. The Riddler himself is also some-what toon-like in his movements and mannerisms with his face stretching and contorting into odd shapes as he speaks. It looks out of place, and there’s some odd shots of Batman as well. The Minotaur at the episode’s conclusion, who is supposed to be a robot, also moves like this making it seem like he’s more flesh-like than steel. Blue Pencil only worked on one other episode, which we’ll get to in about a month from now, and I wonder if it’s because the quality wasn’t up to par.

The Riddler is not a villain we’ll be hearing from very much. It’s kind of a shame because John Glover’s take on the character is quite good and I much prefer it to the Gorshin and Carrey portrayal. I do wonder if he was avoided because it’s pretty hard to come up with clever riddles to dot his episodes with. The ones in this episode are kind of weak, but not embarrassingly so or anything. I can definitely see it being a very intimidating task to write a Riddler episode. I always liked The Riddler though and I kind of wish we saw him in the Nolan trilogy as I think he would have made his Riddler similar to this one. We had to wait awhile for him to show up in this series, but it would seem he was mostly worth the wait.


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