The origin of the Riddler is the subject of Detective Annual 8 (1995), one of the Year One annuals released this year.
Chuck Dixon and Kieron Dwyer do an admirable job of being faithful to the original story, while expanding it to carry the length of the issue. Dwyer’s art captures some of the look of Batman: Year One, but in a way that the Riddler does not look completely out of place.
The story delves more into Edward Nigma’s neglected childhood, and his being bullied at school, to give more weight to his decision to cheat on the puzzle contest, and the brief burst of recognition that came with it. He begins a life of crime, but finds it no challenge. His first riddles are sent to the police in general, but it’s Jim Gordon who reads them.
His first encounter with Batman, which weaves away from the original tale, comes as a shock for the Riddler. He had assumed Batman was nothing more than an urban legend. But he has found his worthy adversary, and now his crimes would not be complete without a teasing clue sent to Batman beforehand.
The story weaves back to the original tale with the billboard and its crossword clues. Having had no success convincing any real hoods to join up with him, the Riddler’s first two sidekicks are women, Echo and Query.
While the police interpret the clues to mean that the Riddler is going to rob a banquet at the Basin Street Hotel, Batman suspects the clues may have another, less obvious, meaning.
The underwater bank robbery (Basin St bank-wet) is far more impressive than in the original tale, with the water being used to fool the hi-tech safe, and make the robbery far easier.
The Riddler and his sidekicks get caught, of course, and he winds up in Arkham, where he launches into his rant (the story we just read) to show the sanity behind his madness. Sadly, the doctor was on lunch break at the time.