The Riddler might be a genius super-villain, but even when he worked out Batman’s identity, the Dark Knight beat him with one question.
While Batman has many dangerous foes to choose from on any given day, none asks quite as much from the Dark Knight on a mental level as the Riddler. Riddler is so dedicated to proving that he can out-think the Caped Crusader that he even tried being a heroic crimefighter once just so he could beat Batman at his own game. But even when Riddler thinks he has Batman cornered, the Caped Crusader can still dismantle Riddler’s entire plan with a single question – “What time is it when an elephant sits on a fence?”
The now beloved Batman: Hush by Jeph Loeb, Jim Lee and Scott Williams introduced the titular Hush, who has now solidified himself as one of Batman’s most dangerous foes. But while Hush was an extremely personal foe for Batman and the face of the story, the comic ultimately reveals that Riddler was pulling the strings all along. This is because Riddler had finally solved Gotham City’s greatest mystery, becoming one of the select few who knows Bruce Wayne is Batman. Discovered, Riddler threatens to reveal what he knows to the world, which is when Batman asks the simple question that utterly defeats the villain.
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For the Riddler, this was to be his greatest moment of triumph. Knowing Batman’s secret identity was Riddler’s trump card, and with it he could finally claim to have outsmarted Batman once and for all. But Batman was never worried about Riddler exposing him. That’s because Batman understands Riddler’s biggest weakness better than he does himself. So he asks Nigma a simple riddle of his own. Riddler declares the challenge worthless, since everyone in the world knows the right answer, and Batman replies, “That’s why I have nothing to fear from you… A riddle that everyone knows the answer to is… ‘worthless.'”
Batman knows the Riddler is obsessed with mind games and riddles, and he also knows that Nigma loves to view himself as superior to everyone else. So by asking Riddler such an obvious riddle, Batman proves to him that the question of “who is Batman?” is only interesting if it’s a mystery, and that if Riddler ever told people the answer, the riddle would lose all its power. Riddler has no answer to this line of questioning, and he’s forced to silently admit defeat.
Batman is an expert at a great many things, but the one thing he’s better at than anyone else is thinking like a villain. While any other Gotham criminal working out his identity would be a problem, the Dark Knight is able to quickly paint Riddler into a corner, neutralizing him with a simple logic puzzle that plays to Edward Nigma’s obsession. Despite his vehicles, gadgets, and fighting skills, Batman keeps his villains in check by always thinking several moves ahead. That’s why he’ll always beat Riddler – not because he’s necessarily smarter, but because unlike Eddie, he looks at every situation from his opponent’s perspective. Riddler might know Batman’s real name, but Batman knows Riddler.
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