Frank Gorshin –Batman (1966 TV Show)
Eccentric. Crazy. Goofball. Yes, since the beginning of his inception, the Riddler has been portrayed as a diet caffeine free version of the Joker. And, as vice versa, the Joker has been portrayed at times to follow in the footsteps of the Riddler – but that’s alright because the pure insanity of his persona allows that. Frank Gorshin made the Riddler an over the top criminal who got insane pleasure out of leaving riddles at his crimes… that literally make no sense.
Granted, the Batman television show wasn’t the greatest stage to put the Riddler out there, but his performance was still memorable. Personally, I feel as though the glimmer of the true character shining through is what popularized the character. Leaving clues to see if anyone can catch him is the Riddler’s M.O.
The only reason he thieves is to get someone’s attention. The problem that lies in this characterization is that 9 times out of 10, the Riddler’s clues are figured out within 30 seconds of Batman arriving on the scene. Hell, most of the time, it’s Robin who figures it out. Boy, that makes him appeal as a brilliant mind that only Batman could catch.
The uniform is just as it is in the comics, a green leotard covered in question marks. Occasionally he’ll break out into the green suit, which I personally prefer, with the question mark bola hat. All in all, I don’t blame Gorshin for the counter-progressive performance that he gave because of the perspective it’s in.
John Glover – Batman: The Animated Series (1992)
Once again, the Batman animated series from the early 90’s takes my vote for being the most accurate and engaging portrayal of comic book characters from the Batman mythology. John Glover, a Tony award winning Broadway actor, starred as Lex Luthor’s father on TV’s Smallville and actually played an insane scientist in 1998’s Batman & Robin that created Poison Ivy. Needless to say, this man has talent and experience in the DC Comic book work.
His mentality was always out to torment and hurt those who had wronged him. He didn’t want to kill them right away, he wanted to drag out and prolong their misery just as they had attempted to do to him. For this reason, he felt the need to continually boast and brag about his exploits and prove to his aggressors that he was the superior person. Couldn’t have been done any better in my opinion.
His Riddles where much more difficult than seen before. Granted, as always, Batman and Robin would solved them almost instantly – but there’s only so much you can in a half hour television show for kids and young teens. Regardless, his uniform was also much more well thought out as the show went on. Yes, he starts out with the typical cliché bandit eye mask, but eventually that was transformed into purple sunglasses that work much better.
The real thing I love about this Riddler, is that he doesn’t bust out laughing after he does something – ala the Joker. He’s very methodical, focused and complex. A complete departure from before that works in making him more diverse and original in the villainy archives.
Jim Carrey – Batman Forever (1995)
And just when you think you’re out of the woods, they pull you right back in. When Carrey’s name was announced, we knew what we were in for. His first true dramatic role wouldn’t be another 3 years in the Truman Show. And perform to expectation he did.
Carrey’s Riddler drew heavily from Gorshin’s. Granted, the whole film was weighted towards the 60’s television show so it’s not much surprise. Something interesting was brought up during this film that has forever been harped on since – the Riddler in search of Batman’s true identity.
This created an interesting struggle between the two as Batman would be trying to stop the Riddler’s plans and capture him, all the while the Riddler would be toying with the hero in his usual manner and trying to figure out his identity. The only cop out was that the Riddler is sucking thoughts out of people’s brains with some super technology that he created. This is completely against character and makes him incredibly lazy and boring. Yes, it’s still Carrey, the whole guy in the world who’s energy could rival Robin Williams, so he does hold your attention through the film.
However, after the film is over it’s really just a boring memory. They did integrate some of the aspects of the animated series, combining the Riddler’s vendetta against corporate tycoons against Bruce Wayne, but that just feels rushed and untrue. The basis of Carrey’s Riddler falls flat in the writing, stealing and conjuring up great ideas and then falling short of their potential.