When The Batman arrives in theaters next month, the highly anticipated film will bring to the big screen a version of The Riddler unlike anything we’ve seen before. Played by Paul Dano, the film’s take on the villain is one that a far cry from the prankster on the pages of DC Comics or the larger-than-life, spandex-clad trickster Jim Carrey embodied in Batman Forever. Dano’s Riddler seems darker in just about every aspect and now, thanks to a new tie-in novel for middle-grade readers, new details about the character’s tragic origin have emerged.
Published by Random House, Before the Batman: An Original Movie Novel (The Batman) takes young readers into the early years of Bruce Wayne and in the process gives new details about the Riddler (via The Direct). The book sees the Riddler—as Edward Nashton—and his formative years alongside Bruce Wayne. The story then shifts to several years after high school and sees Nashton having shifted his interests from music to puzzles, something that saw him bullied by others and the cruel nickname of “Ed-weird”. Adding to that, Nashton works hard and begins to develop a resentment towards Bruce Wayne for how wealthy his fellow orphan is and even though Nashton works hard to secure his own future—he’s even noted as planning to study forensic accounting because it sounds like solving puzzles—he can’t stop thinking about the lucky rich kid Bruce.
The book seems to paint a portrait of a Riddler who is driven by jealousy and anger and it’s something that feels like it blends well with the serial-killer inspiration filmmaker Matt Reeves has previously spoken about.
“Early on, this idea of doing a serial-killer story popped into my head, and I started thinking about superheroes; the idea of wearing costumes,” Reeves said. “I read Mindhunter. It made me think of the Zodiac killer, and how he actually wore this primitive costume that really is a primitive superhero costume… a rogues’ gallery costume. And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s really scary, the idea of people really wearing masks, and withholding their identities, and terrorizing people, and how scary that is.’ And so, I started thinking, ‘Well, it could be an origin tale for the Riddler, and it could be an origin tale for some of these other characters.'”
In The Batman, “Two years of stalking the streets as Batman (Robert Pattinson), striking fear into the hearts of criminals, has led Bruce Wayne deep into the shadows of Gotham City. With only a few trusted allies—Alfred Pennyworth (Andy Serkis), Lt. James Gordon (Jeffrey Wright)—amongst the city’s corrupt network of officials and high-profile figures, the lone vigilante has established himself as the sole embodiment of vengeance amongst his fellow citizens.
“When a killer targets Gotham’s elite with a series of sadistic machinations, a trail of cryptic clues sends the World’s Greatest Detective on an investigation into the underworld, where he encounters such characters as Selina Kyle aka Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz), Oswald Cobblepot/aka the Penguin (Colin Farrell), Carmine Falcone (John Turturro), and Edward Nashton/aka the Riddler (Paul Dano). As the evidence begins to lead closer to home and the scale of the perpetrator’s plans becomes clear, Batman must forge new relationships, unmask the culprit, and bring justice to the abuse of power and corruption that has long plagued Gotham City.”
The Batman opens in theaters March 4th.