Batman villain profile: The Puzzler

Maurice Evans as the Puzzler

The Riddler has long been one of the top villain's in Batman's gallery of rogues. But what happens when the actor that plays him walks away and a script is already written? Enter the Puzzler!

In 1966, during the production of the second season of the Batman television series, the fantastic Frank Gorshin temporarily left the show. Gorshin had hit the stand-up comedy circuit and wanted more money from the superhero show, as he had received an Emmy nomination for his performance in the first season. Batman was unable to lure him back. 

The writers had a quick fix for a finished Riddler script titled "A Penny for Your Riddles" — basically replace "riddle" with "puzzle." The series nabbed British thespian Maurice Evans, a man steeped in Shakespeare, and wrapped him in a dapper lavender suit and billowing cravat. Voila! A new Bat baddie was born in "The Puzzles Are Coming."

True to the actor's skill set, the Puzzler was fond of quoting Macbeth. He also had an obsession with aviation — dirigibles, toy rockets and the like — but especially balloons. He (lovingly?) dubbed his prime henchman "Blimpy." 

The Puzzler kicks off the chase with this clue: "I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, inside out the puzzle goes." So, yes, it's a riddle. No jigsaws or crosswords.

The concept of the Puzzler goes back far in DC Comics history. A different iteration of the villain first appeared in 1942, squaring off against Superman in Action Comics No. 49 (see below). But that crook hardly had the same sartorial flair. 

John Astin would step into the role of the Riddler later in Season Two of Batman. Gorshin returned for Season Three. In modern DC Comics, the Puzzler is a young woman made out of puzzle pieces on an alternate Earth.

Catch the Puzzler on Batman this Saturday at 7PM | 6C on MeTV.

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