Thanks for coming back for a new RETRO REVIEW. This week I found myself in the DC Comics section of the comic book vault, which is buried deep underground, in a secret location. And once I returned above ground and the vault door safely secured behind me, I discovered I had brought to light; Batman # 171!
So let’s take a look at what we’ve got here. First off, there is a brightly colored cover, featuring the Dynamic Duo, Batman and Robin, flailing away at a spinning and laughing Riddler. The cover is rather striking (and yes, I meant the pun!) and has a bright pink background that really makes the characters pop. Take a look:
This sweet cover is the work of Carmine Infantino (pencils) and Murphy Anderson (inks). This book is considered the first Silver Age appearance of Batman’s foe, the Riddler. As he had not been seen in a comic book since the Golden Age of comics.
Julius Schwartz, as current editor, must have decided to bring back a number of Batman’s old villains, as the Penguin had just reappeared two issues before this one, in Batman # 169. Though it could be argued that the Penguin had already made his first Silver Age appearances in a couple of earlier Batman comics. The first dating back to 1956. But issue # 169 clearly featured his first appearance battling the “New-Look” Batman, with the yellow circle with the Bat symbol within, on the front of his uniform.
But let’s get back to the comic at hand. The story within is entitled; “Remarkable Ruse Of The Riddler!”. I’m not sure why the word, the, wasn’t used, as it seems clearly missing in the title, but it wasn’t. The story was written by Gardner Fox. The pencil art was by Sheldon Moldoff, though it has the Bob Kane signature on the splash page, as per usual. And the inks were supplied by Joe Giella.
The story gets under way with Edward Nigma (or rather, if you prefer, E. Nigma) being released from prison. Once out, he decides to assist Batman and Robin in catching the Molehill Mob, who have been committing crimes, that so far, Batman and Robin have not been able to stop.
Fox supplies us with the Riddler’s backstory and even shares a couple of brief synopsis of a couple of battles between Batman, Robin and the Riddler (though it could be argued that these earlier battles were actually between the Earth-2 Batman & Earth-2 Riddler). Anyway, with the Riddler’s help, Batman and Robin are able to capture the Molehill Mob over a four page battle royale in their headquarters.
But the seemingly newly reformed Riddler appears to be up to his old tricks, as he leaves Batman and Robin a new riddle, which they solve and which leads to the attempted theft of the “Black Pearl of the Pacific”. Or does it? It actually turns out that the Riddler purchased the Black Pearl from it’s previous owner, leaving Batman and Robin with egg on their faces, or maybe that should be clam chowder on their faces!
Needless to say, they have to let the Riddler go and of course, he leaves them with yet another riddle. Which leads them to the Peale Art Gallery, where they witness the Riddler stealing a gem encrusted cross at gunpoint. They rush in and stop the Riddler from making his getaway, yet again.
But hold on! The owner of the gallery tells them that the Riddler bought the cross and that the gun they saw him brandishing was one of those trick cigarette lighters that the Riddler used to light the gallery owner’s cigarette. Once again they must watch the Riddler walk away. This time without leaving a new riddle.
When Robin asked the Riddler about no new riddle, the Riddler tells them they already have the next riddle. Batman and Robin put their heads together and not only identify the hidden riddle, but solve it, as well. They rush to the Ox Club, where they uncover the Riddler’s men robbing the guests at the club and the Riddler himself, robbing the club’s safe.
Batman and Robin make short work of the Riddler’s men and rush to tackle the Riddler, where we, the readers, finally get to see the cover action reflected in the actual story. Batman and Robin again and again strike a spinning Riddler, but can not bring him down. Eventually, Batman solves the Riddler’s defensive trick and once again the Riddler is sent back to prison.
A pretty nice story, all in all, with very good art, so I definitely recommend it. My personal copy is very “well-loved” (read beat to s**t), which must reflect how many times I must have read this comic book “back in the day”. But it’s been many a year since I last pulled it out. I guess I really should look into buying a better copy, but sometimes it’s also nice to pull out a book that I obviously loved from when I was only ten or eleven years old and bought off one of those great spinner racks of old.
Thanks, as always, for stopping by and reading my column. I appreciate your interest. So with that said, please come back next week for a new Fabulous Find, and of course, I’ll be back in two weeks with another RETRO REVIEW! Be seeing you …