In Memory of the Real Riddler - Frank Gorshin


Written on 9:07 AM by Jack B.

With Batman Begins opening tomorrow, I though I'd reflect on the death of Frank Gorshin a few weeks ago. Gorshin was a talented actor, comic and impersonator who was on Broadway just a little while ago in a one-man show as George Burns (and portrayed himself in a cameo in the season finale of C.S.I. that aired just after his death). But he will no doubt be associated forever with a role he played just a handful of times - that of "The Riddler" in the Batman TV show starring Adam West (and the movie of the same name).

Unlike almost every villain on the show such as Caesar Romero's "Joker" or Burgess Meredith's "penguin", Gorshin didn't over-play the role to make what was literally a comic book villain into even more of a caricature. Gorshin's Riddler had a hidden steel and menace not found among other enemies of TV's Caped Crusader. Unlike the others, Gorshin didn't look like he was playing dress-up in a costume ball but actually looked and sounded like a real criminal - and a dangerous one at that.

Today, even people who don't read comics know that the Riddler is one of Batman's arch-foes, but that wasn't always the case. It was the TV show's producers who rought him back after an absence of many years in the comics - he had become too ridiculous for even the comic books to take seriously and so what better place to use such an absurd character than a show that made its name (and ratings) based on how over-the-top camp it was.

Yet Gorshin made the Riddler such a believable and (better yet) interesting foe for Batman that he became a viable member of Batman's Rogues Gallery and remains there to this day (almost 40 years later) . As a matter of fact, the comic-Riddler of today is largely Gorshin-esque in mannerisms rather than Jim Carrey's more recent cartoon-ish turn as the character (the fact that so many comic writers and artists of today probably grew up with Gorshin's interpretation probably had a lot to do with it too).

It wasn't an accident that of all the big name guest stars during Batman's two-year run, Gorshin was the only one to receive an Emmy nomination. And still all these years later Gorshin's acting still holds him in a show that has been mocked and abused and parodied into the ground. Of all the actors who have played Batman's villains on live-action TV or film (well I haven't seen Batman Returns yet so the jury is still out on that) including Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito and Governor Arnie, it is Frank Gorshin who set the standard. Frank Gorshin WAS The Riddler. You were one of a kind, Frank. . All Batman fans will miss you. But at least you leave us Edward Ngma (aka The Riddler) behind as a legacy.

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