13 QUICK THOUGHTS: A Birthday Salute to FRANK GORSHIN

Riddle me this …!

Frank Gorshin was born April 5, 1933 — 85 years ago.

To this day, his performance as the Riddler remains one of the very brightest highlights of Batman ’66.

Here are 13 QUICK THOUGHTS on why Gorshin, who died in 2005, was so great:

1. That laugh. That maniacal, sinister laugh. Few could match it. None have surpassed it.

2. Growing up, his Riddler episodes were like special occasions, in the same way Batgirl episodes or Julie Newmar Catwoman episodes were. Gorshin was tuned to that special frequency that mesmerized kids.

3. I like the jacket-and-tie look…

4. … but I still prefer the jumpsuit:

5. Gorshin was nominated for an Emmy in the best supporting actor in a comedy category. He was up against Werner Klemperer from Hogan’s Heroes; Don Knotts from The Andy Griffith Show; and, Morey Amsterdam from The Dick Van Dyke Show. Who won? Answer below.

6. In those childhood years, my love for the Riddler translated to comics too. Eventually, I came to understand that it was the Joker who was Batman’s Big Bad, but these remain some of my all-time favorite issues:

7. Same went for Megos. The funny thing is that when I did voices, my Mego Riddler sounded like Ted Knight’s Filmation version. But then Knight was just doing a riff on Gorshin. So go figure.

8. This:

9. Sure, Ring Around the Riddler is a soft episode, but I still think it’s a hoot to see Batman and the Riddler in the ring, going toe to toe.

10. Don Knotts won that Emmy, by the way. I suppose it’s hard to argue. He was pretty damn funny on Andy Griffith. (But he was no Gorshin!)

11. Like several of his castmates, Gorshin came to define his character for generations — and his portrayal is still the best version of the Riddler in any medium, whether it’s movies, TV, animation or, yes, comics. I’m a fan of DC’s contemporary comics, but nobody’s written a decent Riddler in a long, long time. All of Gorshin’s manic kineticism has been stripped away because, I think, editors don’t want him to seem like Joker Lite. But if Gorshin made it work then, it’ll work now.

12. When I was Young Dan, the Riddler was it. Batman’s baddest adversary. But in the subsequent decades, I’ve come to better appreciate Cesar Romero’s Joker and, to an even greater extent, Burgess Meredith’s Penguin. And Newmar’s Catwoman was another animal entirely. So it’s hard for me to say now whether Gorshin’s Riddler still tops them all…

13. … though that kid in me whispers in my ear, “Yeah. He was the best.”

MORE

— BATMAN ’66 TOP 13 EPISODE COUNTDOWN: Hi Diddle Riddle. Click here.

— 13 QUICK THOUGHTS: Why the RIDDLER Was the Perfect Childhood Villain. Click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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3 Comments

  1. Great post! Mr. Gorshin elevated The Riddler to A-level status. I never knew the character was a comic book B-level. The Riddler was my favorite rogue because of Gorshin.

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    • Excellent point. The Riddler was a minor villain until Gorshin portrayed him. The Joker, Penguin, and Catwoman were all major league villains (although Catwoman had disappeared after 1954 due to the Comics Code, only to be revitalized by the TV series)

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