Bat Signal

Issue 493 – “Riddles in the Dark”


Well that’s kind of weird. I guess using the random number generator will make things like this happen, where I end up getting so close to an issue I’ve already done. But even though it’s only a couple years before the crazy issue where Batman faked his death to beat guys up, this one is very different. There were five stories in this issue, and while two of them were about either Robin or Batgirl, I’m only going to talk about the Batman lead story, because that’s more the focus of the project. So let’s dive into a super goofy Riddler story. As if there are any other kind.

The issue starts off with some rather bitter text boxes, where the narrator complains that Batman isn’t a lucky as Superman or the Flash, and he actually has to travel around Gotham to fight crime instead of being everywhere instantly. And when he’s looking for crime, he sees a man trying to break into a safe. So Batman jumps in the window, but finds it wasn’t a man, it was a dummy with a riddle pinned to it’s chest. So here comes a Riddler story. And the riddle Batman is left with is “Why is a cook’s brain pan like an overwound clock?” So Batman takes the riddle and heads to Commissioner Gordon’s office to talk about the riddle. Turns out the Riddler escaped earlier that night, and there are rumors that he’s giving up on Gotham, and moving to a new city to commit crimes in. But since the Riddler is insane, he had to leave one last little taunt to Batman before leaving. So he heads to the Batcave and starts trying to figure out the insane riddle, with no luck. He runs searches in his program, and tries to tackle the riddle from every possible angle, but has no luck. Then Alfred stops by and figures it out immediately.


That’s right, Alfred just saved the day thanks to his knowledge of Gilbert and Sullivan. He tells Batman that it’s an answerless riddle, but is said by a character named Jack Point. And Bruce knows right away that that means Riddler is planning on escaping Gotham from an airport in Jackson Point, so he heads out to stop the Riddler in a tiny helicopter. Unfortunately Batman is just a little too late, and the Riddler’s jet has already started to leave. But he’s able to toss a little tracker onto the plane. And lucky for Batman, Riddler decided he hadn’t left enough clues, since he didn’t realize Batman figured out the first one, so he drops another one from the plane that says “When is a horse most like a stamp collection?” Which of course is when it’s a Hobby Horse, and after Batman realizes Riddler’s plane is heading to Houston, Texas he finds that there’s a “hobby airport,” outside Houston. So Batman gets in his freaking jet and somehow gets to Houston faster than the Riddler. He surprises Riddler and his goons, who start to attack Batman while Riddler flees. But Riddler is stopped by some random dude who calls himself the Swashbuckler, who jumps out of the shadows and tackles Riddler.


I don’t know who this guy is, or if this was a weird introduction of the character that they hoped would be a big deal, but I doubt he went far, since he seems a little incompetent. The first thing he does is try and grab Riddler, who is apparently wearing a tear-away costume like he’s a stripper, so he gets away. Batman and Swashbuckler chase Riddler through an airport, but lose him, and Batman is pretty cool about the whole thing when he learns Swashbuckler is related to the cowboy hero called Vigilante that Batman worked with in the past. So the two start working together and track Riddler down to a sketchy RV lot that he’s hiding out in. But Riddler torches the place and escapes again to a nearby amusement park. Batman follows him and ends up on some weird knock-off of the Jungle Cruise from Disneyland before Riddler hits him with a tranq dart. So Batman and Swashbuckler go back to his sad little apartment, and try and figure out the last thing Riddler said, about him going to see a bigger Riddler than himself. They end up narrowing it down between some horse that solves trivia, and a rich man donating a golden sphinx to a local museum. Unfortunately it turns out it was a riddle with two false answers, and Riddler is just going to rob the guy before he gives the sphinx. Luckily they figured that out though, and Batman disguised himself as the rich guy so he can beat up Riddler and save the day.


And that’s the story of the Riddles in the Dark. The issue also had some boring stories where the Red Tornado meets black people, Robin thinks someone found out his identity, Batgirl saves people from a fire, and some story about a guy who is a detective/semi-truck driver, but I don’t need to talk about them. This was a pretty fun little story, mainly because I really love the Riddler. I feel like he should be the perfect villain for Detective Comics, having Batman actually use deduction to solve the clues the Riddler left behind. The character doesn’t have that many good stories, and I assume it’s because they’re probably incredibly hard to write. Coming up with so many good riddles that actually move the plot along must be so daunting, and I don’t fault writers from avoiding the guy. But as good as the Riddler was in this one, I really didn’t care for this Swashbuckler guy. The story just felt like a back-door pilot for the hero who protects Houston, which is so boring I felt like I could have fallen asleep tying that sentence. He’s just such a dud, and any story that spends so much time introducing a character that you just know is bound for obscurity is frustrating. But hey, any story with the Riddler is fun for me, so it was still enjoyable.

“Riddles in the Dark” was written by Cary Burkett and drawn by Don Newton and Dan Adkins, 1980.


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