lego has too much time

6

Lego Presents: A Brief History of Riddler’s Family Life.

Just something I threw together to make up for the fact that I’m still procrastinating on my “Brief History of Mr. Zsasz” post. Feel free to use as RP material, whatever.

So. The Riddler. While he had a surprisingly in-depth backstory in his Golden Age debut, which has since then been retold and updated quite a few times, explorations of his family life tend to be far rarer. But it has been brought up by several writers, and like pretty much everyone in Gotham, general consensus seems to be that Eddie had a pretty sucky childhood.

(Disclaimer: I don’t claim to have found every discussion of Riddler’s family life, but I think this arrangement provides pretty in-depth look at the (d)evolution of said family life’s portrayal. Heck, these aren’t even the only moments in their respective stories to talk about Riddler’s family life - I’ve only picked one moment out of each that I think best exemplifies each writer’s take.)

(Disclaimer the second: I haven’t included anything from the DCnU due to my reluctance to start reading whatever the hell Snyder’s been doing with Eddie for this past year. If someone requests it, though, I’ll think about putting it in.)

Fig. 1: As far as I can tell, “Dark Knight, Dark City” (Batman #452-454) was the first comic that ever discussed Eddie’s parents. This little bit from Jim Gordon about Eddie hating his mother is all we get, but mightier oaks have grown from smaller seeds. Or something. (Writer: Peter Milligan; Artists: Kieron Dwyer and Dennis Janke.)

Fig. 2: The Riddle Factory tried to be a follow-up to Neil Gaiman’s “When is A Door” in many ways, including offering an explanation for why this take on Eddie so often tells nonsensical, Mad Hatter-esque riddles. This Eddie had a trickster-like father who refused to give his son any easy answers - apparently, it was all an attempt at stealth-mentoring his son’s intellect - and all things considered, his family life is/was probably the most functional one in this lineup. Also, this father let eleven-year-old Eddie keep a pet snake (which Eddie fed peanut butter), so there’s that. (Writer: Matt Wagner; Artist: Dave Taylor.)

Fig. 3: Things took a turn for the darker with “Questions Multiply the Mystery” (Detective Comics Annual #8), which you’ve probably all heard me praise as the one and only Riddler origin a dozen times now. In this version of events, both of Eddie’s parents were apathetic and neglectful (if not physically abusive) to him, and Eddie’s sad little monologue here encapsulates what his home life was like in the bad ol’ days. Seeing their ignorance (and lack of curiosity) about the world was part of what drove Eddie to become the Riddler. (Writer: Chuck Dixon; Artist: Kieron Dwyer.)

Fig. 4: “Riddle Me That” (Legends of the Dark Knight #185-189) was a very… ambitious attempt to reinvent the Riddler in the post-Hush Returns status quo. I personally don’t care for most of it (especially since its writer had previously written an entire story devoted to telling us why the “old” Riddler sucked), but as far as I can tell, this is the story that cemented Eddie’s father as physically abusing Eddie because he couldn’t stand the fact that his son was smarter than he was. That piece of backstory still floats around on a lot of Riddler profiles I see, so I guess it was this forgettable story’s proudest legacy. Also, we get to see Eddie cosplay Alan Moore walk around as a hobo. (Writer: Shane McCarthy; Artists: Tommy Castillo and Rodney Ramos.)

Fig. 5: In any case, Justice seems to have picked up on the above backstory and ran with it, but not without adding a twist of its own. This retelling (from what Batman’s cobbled together, anyways) hints that his father’s abuse is what drives Eddie to tell his riddles as a very warped form of honesty. Make of that what you will. (Writers: Alex Ross and Jim Krueger; Artist: Alex Ross.)

Fig. 6: How do you know when you’ve really made an impact (or just got really, really lucky) with your reinterpretation of a character’s backstory? When gets filtered into a mainstream TV series, of course! Now, The Batman isn’t exactly held to be any kind of authority by most segments of the Bat-fandom, but it’s still rather impressive that Eddie’s “shitty home life” angle managed to make it into a Saturday morning cartoon. Here, Eddie’s dad is never depicted as outright abusive, but since he casually smashes up one of Eddie’s puzzles in an attempt to force Eddie to play sports, he’s not exactly Father of the Year material. The episode in question, “Riddler’s Revenge”, is regarded as one of the highlights of the series, penned by a writer with a heap of DCAU credentials on his resume - including “Never Fear”, “The Late Mr. Kent”, and “A Better World”. (Writer: Stan Berkowitz; Artist: I’m gonna assume they’re still working off Jeff Matsuda’s designs.)

On the Riddler

(Disclaimer: I do not pretend to speak for all Riddler fans, or all comic book fans for that matter. These are, above all, speculations from a single fellow’s mind.)

So. The Riddler. God bless ‘im, he’s probably the Batman franchise’s most high-profile punching bag - most fans these days seem to have grudgingly accepted Robin’s existence, the Penguin’s been hiding in the Iceberg Lounge for the last twenty years, and the “career” punching bags like Killer Moth and Kite-Man aren’t exactly high-profile.

Certainly, the backlash against the Adam West show (more accurately, an aftershock of that backlash filtered through the neon lens of Batman Forever) explains some of the animosity toward Eddie, however misguided it might be. And if you ask any Riddler-hater straight up, they might reply with “Well, what kind of idiot crook gives away clues to his next crime? Does he want Batman to kick his teeth in?”, but that sort of criticism can be leveled at virtually all of Batman’s top-tier foes (be it Two-Face’s adherence to a piece of metal, the Scarecrow’s super-flammable costume, or yes, the Joker’s downright suicidal bravado).

So let me turn the blame on a new theory: the Riddler is Batman’s most civilized enemy.

It’s not that the Riddler can’t pose a challenge to Batman. In a good writer’s hands, he can even pose a genuinely impressive challenge. But as portrayed by 95% of writers, that’s all he can do, and in this day and age, that’s not really good enough anymore.

It’s not so much that the Riddler isn’t bloodthirsty or ruthless enough (they’ve tried to up the stakes to his crimes several times already - surprise, it usually fails), so much as the fact that he can’t tickle our most primal emotions as the other rogues do. The Joker, in a good writer’s hands, makes us cringe and laugh in equal measure. Two-Face makes us wonder whether the line between good and evil is so solid after all, when a man who was once the former suddenly fell to the latter. Mr. Freeze earns both our sympathy and our awe with the depth and ruthlessness of his love for Nora. Bane, initially, was a mindless engine of destruction that disturbed and challenged the reader’s sense of dominance. Even the Scarecrow at least makes a good-faith effort to inspire fear in us (which is, I suspect, why so many give Professor Crane a pass even when the only “good” Scarecrow story they can name is those shiny Special Effects in Arkham Asylum).

(Once again, the Penguin is the other odd man out here, but again, he’s circumvented that by finding a new niche: the unobtrusive plot device who functions as a kind of underworld Jim Gordon while Batman goes out and fights the “real” villains.)

Certainly, Batman would throw himself into unraveling Riddler’s latest crime spree because that’s what a hero does, but I don’t think any of us readers would particularly care if the Riddler gets away with J. Random Millionaire’s priceless oil painting (hell, the fucker probably has it insured anyways). Even when there are lives at stake, there’s no real emotional or moral angle to be found in your average Riddler story - not even through the magic of fanwank - and that’s not a good place to be in a post-TDK world, where deconstructing Batman and saddling him with Pyrrhic victories has become all the rage. I’m not saying he needs to become Mr. Tragic Backstory (indeed, past attempts have proven that that’s not a terribly successful angle either), but as-is, even the best Riddler stories astound through how complex their plots are and how impressively intelligent Eddie’s latest scheme seems - entertaining, but rarely if ever “deep”.

Eddie is doubly damned when his stories are thrown onto the screen, whether small or big. More intellectual readers might at least have fun with solving his riddles on the printed page, where they can pour over a specific page as long as they like without disturbing the pacing, but a TV show or movie needs to zip along and create at least the illusion of constant, frantic progress. The inevitability of Riddler’s defeat only gets hammered in even more, as the right deductions drop into Batman and/or Robin’s lap at utterly predictable intervals.

(I don’t believe it’s coincidence, for instance, that the Riddler was quietly demoted to an extra when Batman: The Animated Series became The New Batman Adventures. The new art style emphasized dynamism and fluidity of motion, and so the rogue who couldn’t offer much of either got the shaft.)

This isn’t a call for the Riddler to change; I know that plenty of people like him the way he is now, and really, there’s nothing wrong with being “merely” an entertaining rogue and facilitator of complicated plots instead of another bringer of heavy, doom-and-gloom themes. Heck, the “Being Batman should be FUN!” faction of the fanbase (chaired by one Chris Sims) outright embraces villains like him. More power to them, then.

Some Reflections Upon Man of Steel

I’m genuinely curious here - was the backlash against Man of Steel primarily concerned with how Superman the character was portrayed, or against the kind of world that the narrative built? I’ve seen quite a few opponents of the necksnap-scene say that they understand how any version of Superman would be driven to kill in a moment like that, but at the same time, that kind of moment should never appear in a Superman story.

If your story has a character named Kal-El, rocketed from Krypton to Earth, grows up to be an all-around nice guy with a desire to see justice done and godlike powers, but the Earth in question is a craphole where the residents will pick on anyone who’s different, even if that anyone has saved their ungrateful hides a dozen times over… does that count as a Superman story, or not?

In which I probably make a lot of my Internet friends less than comfortable and make Hefner look bigheaded.

As mentioned, this was originally meant to lead into the TLH mass review, but that seems to have been put on hiatus for now. All of our Internet circles have grown since then, so this is also probably out of date - I might add to it later.

Needless to say, none of the names here are anyone’s real names. I only know a handful of real names where y'all are concerned, and I know better than to splash them across the Internet. Instead, I cobbled the names together from each person’s fandom interests, along with their alternate Internet identities (if they have one).

The key on the bottom serves its own purpose: anyone without an asterisk next to their names is someone slated to do the TLH mass review. The rest are incarcerated, and thus can’t participate (in this round, anyways). And I’m the only one who’s deceased, since a mob story is just no fun without a corpse or two, but I was uncomfortable at the thought of killing anyone else off.

(BTW, if anyone’s uncomfortable with this, I’ll remove it posthaste. Also, several of the folks here don’t have tumblrs.)

Watching that Buzz Lightyear show that Disney put on in the early ‘00s

For a shameless cash-in on Toy Story, it’s actually holding up surprisingly well. Maybe the episode I’m watching is just the exception, though. It’s got this motherfucker for the main villain:

And he’s surprisingly creepy and fun to watch at the same time. Gotta be the British accent. I’ve got a feeling juliandroid would really like him.

The action clips along at a nice pace, and there’s a surprisingly low amount of plot holes and idiotic moments. Plus, if nothing else, you get to see Kronk’s VA play a meatheaded action hero. What’s not to love?

Question to my better-educated followers...

Is there some classic literary character or reference that’s become a synonym for “one who wanders the Earth and leaves virtually every place he visits worse off (usually through no fault of his own)”? I keep thinking it’s on the tip of my tongue, but all I’ve come up with so far is “albatross”, which doesn’t really fit.

Because YOU demanded it: my version of the Pokérap, Batman-style!

Back in the day, I threw this together for Hefner’s LiveJournal as a guest post. Based on the fact that half of you who asked me for this actually knew me from my LiveJournal days, I can only suppose that it was so horrible it actually made your memories blot it out seconds after you read it.

But whatever. In celebration of the fact I’ll almost certainly fail another Stat exam tomorrow, let’s bring this sucker back! Anyone who can actually claim familiarity with all of these guys gets a solid gold NERD medal.

(The surgeon general recommends that you listen to the actual Pokérap before singing this aloud in your head: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxyEdt-TakI)

(Okay, you guys, we gotta rap some Bat-villains!
You take care of the singing, I’ll take care of the hard part…
Let’s get it on!)

I want to crush the rogues… plaguing my city…
Hunt them all down… and make them bleed…!

Joker, Man-Bat, Orca, Grundy,
Cavalier, Polka-Dot, Red Claw, Ivy,
General, Charlatan, Tweedledum, Tweedledee,
Clock King, Kadaver, Doctor Death, Harley!

Catch ‘em, catch 'em, gotta catch 'em all…
Gotta catch 'em all… Bat-villains!

It won’t matter where…
They try to flee…
The safest of lairs…
Won’t stop me…

Two-Face, Zucco, KGBeast, Gearhead,
King Snake, Zeiss, Bookworm, Deadshot,
Gorilla Boss, Vulture, Farmer Brown, Flamingo,
Killer Croc, Maroni, HARDAC, Scarecrow!

Catch 'em, catch 'em, gotta catch 'em all…
Gotta catch 'em all… Bat-villains!

Jim Junior, Spook, Tally Man, Shiva,
Tzin-Tzin, Scarface, Monk, Film Freak,
Penguin, Falcone, Sewer King, Magpie,
Signalman, Lock-Up, Gunhawk, Firefly!

Gotta catch 'em all! Gotta catch 'em all!
Gotta catch 'em all! Gotta catch 'em all!
Gotta catch 'em all! Bat-villains… ow!

Maxie Zeus, Zombie, Phosphorous, Milo,
Crazy Quilt, Red Hood, Blockbuster, Thorne,
Nocturna, Chechen, Killer Moth, Riddler,
Outsider, Fox, Night-Slayer, Hitler!

At least 150… or more to beat,
To toss them all in Arkham is my… destiny!

Black Mask, King Tut, Doctor Moon, Talia,
Roadrunner, Scratch, Copperhead, Zarbor,
Calendar Man, Nyssa, Stirk, Mayor Hill
Spellbinder, Ragdoll, Egghead, Joe Chill!

(Woo! We’re at the halfway point! Doin’ great so far!
We?! What’s all this we stuff?! I’m doin’ all the hard work!
Break time’s over! Here we go!)

Mad Hatter, Shreck, Amygdala, Reaper,
Music Meister, Great White, Calculator, Sleeper,
Shark, Prometheus, Crime Doctor, Trogg,
Death Man, Baby Doll, Johnny Witts, Bob!

Gotta catch 'em all! Gotta catch 'em all!
Gotta catch 'em all! Gotta catch 'em all!

Karlo, Hagen, Payne, Fuller,
Cassius, Malley, Williams - Clayfaces!
Mime, Firebug, Corrosive Man, Bane,
Bus Driver, Anarky, Mr. Nice, Cain!

At least 150… or more to beat,
To toss them all in Arkham is my… destiny!

Dracula, Holiday, Catman, Galvan
Daka, Phantasm, Black Spider, Squid,
Idiot, Steeljacket, Ten-Eyed Man,
Perfesser, Bird, Daggett, Pieman!

(Whoa, catch your breath, Batman! Flex out those Hammers of Justice!)
It’s downhill from here, just 24 more to go!
Now it gets tricky, so listen real good!)

Roxy Rocket, Mr. Freeze, Double-X, Wrath,
Mastermind, Ratcatcher, Silversmith, Zsasz,
Electrocutioner, Mirage, Hangman, Sin Tzu,
Abattoir, Cluemaster, Loeb - We’re almost through!

Ra’s al-Ghul! Catwoman!
Hugo Strange, Pyg, NKVDemon!
Carpenter, Jane Doe,
Hurt, Hush,
That’s all, folks!

Now, in case your brain cells haven’t run away screaming already: I’ve been tempted at various points to actually sing this and put it on YouTube. If anyone could point me to a source of the Pokérap’s background music, I might actually do it, too.

lego_joker song parodies, inc. presents: Blackgate's Greatest Criminal Mind!

Because I have too much spare time and Internet on my hands, I give you: the villain song of Disney’s most underrated movie, re-mixed for Batman’s most underrated foe!

For reference, the original song is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP8QdFttugg.

(Note: anything in italics is sung; anything not in italics is spoken. Anything in bold is sung/spoken by Penguin’s henchmen.)

Here comes the bird feared by every District Attorney
Who put thirteen cops into hospital gurneys
And went to six banks for this month’s withdrawal,
Leaving each one of them stripped to the walls!

Soon will come a most perfect time
To pull off the crime of all crimes!
Those earlier schemes had worked like a dream
But now I want something more…
Bigger and better, to soar unfettered
To heights never witnessed before!

Even bigger?
You mean it?
More than the time that you stole the Wayne jewels?
Oh, who else can be so smart, yet cruel?
O Cobblepot!
O Cobblepot!
So great, so refined!
To Cobblepot!
To Cobblepot!
Blackgate’s greatest criminal mind!

Thank you, thank you… but it hasn’t all been champagne and caviar. I’ve had my share of adversity, thanks to that musclebound, slow-witted “detective” known as the Batman!

Booo! Boooo!

Ever since that lucky neanderthal managed to disturb one of my minor operations, he’s been after me like a rabid animal, and I haven’t had a moment’s peace of mind…!

Awwww…

But that is all ancient history, friends. This time, not even the Batman shall impede my plan! No one will stop the march of the Penguin!

O Cobblepot!
O Cobblepot!
What truths you speak!
To Cobblepot!
To Cobblepot!
To Cobblepot, Blackgate’s cleverest freak!

*Spit take*

What… was… that?!

*Hic*

What did you just call me?!

He didn’t mean it, Mr. Cobblepot!

I AM NOT A FREAK!

‘course you’re not!
You’re criminal royalty!

SILENCE! Oh, my dear Partridge. I’m afraid you’ve upset me. You know what happens to hatchlings that upset me…

*One horrific bird-related execution scene later*

Now, as you were singing…?

Even louder!
We’ll howl it!
None of the cops have a single damn clue!
Even the Bat can’t capture you!
O Cobblepot!
O Cobblepot!
The rest are but slime!
To Cobblepot!
To Cobblepot!
Blackgate’s greatest criminal mind!

For anyone that liked this: I’m thinking about combining a few more Bat-villains with Disney villain songs. What would you like to see? “Be Prepared” for Ra’s? “Hellfire” for Harvey? “Friends on the Other Side” for the Joker?

Alan Moore encapsulating in one panel what too few Superman writers employ. And, arguably, why the idea of shared universes is bullshit, especially where Batman is concerned.

The Superman/Batman dichotomy, for me, kinda works on a personality level (though I see no reason why Lois or Power Girl or someone can’t be his cynical foil instead), but completely falls apart at the skills level. Superman should be able to pull off detective feats like the above - and better - on a regular basis; what being with his senses couldn’t? There should be few, if any, things Batman can do or think of that Superman can’t.

Instead, pretty much every time Batman teams up with Superman (or anyone else in the League, really), everyone else’s IQ drops a hundred points so Bruce can stay “relevant”. In other words, employ common sense, because that’s the average comic book’s idea of “smart”.

The problem goes deeper than that, though. This entire issue was partly written as a way of getting the DCU’s bigger heroes out of the way, but even Moore can’t quite convince me that Swampy is literally the only being on Earth who can handle the Woodrue crisis. There’s a fuss made about how the plants aren’t feeling very diplomatic right now, but it feels very much like a band-aid and it suffers from some serious “tell over show”. More to the point, I’m 99% sure that someone who dug deep enough into Superman’s back issues would find a story where Big Blue did handle a crisis similar to this one - and possibly Hal, Barry, Zatanna, and the rest as well.

(From Saga of the Swamp Thing #24.)

tl;dr standard continuity isolationism whining from Lego.