'The Batman': Riddler Was Inspired by an Infamous Serial Killer

Most fans have seen The Batman by this point, judging from the box office returns. With that comes fans digging through to uncover references, Easter eggs and other topics of interest. Matt Reeves' take on The Dark Knight is no exception, with tons of references to the classic Batman comics and a few terrifying bits of reality too.

The film's take on The Riddler is a prime example, far different than the comic book counterpart. One of those reasons is the inspiration for the character, torn from a slice of terrifying American history. Spoilers ahead for The Batman, so continue reading only if you're prepared.


The Batman features a version of The Riddler that uses extreme measures in an attempt to "save" Gotham from corruption. But to do this, the body count has to rise and this places him in the direct path of The Batman. And while there's plenty from Batman's storylines to support this version of the character, a lot of the inspiration comes from the infamous Zodiac Killer.

According to Den of Geek, The Riddler and The Zodiac parallels don't just stop at similar costumes. Their motives are pretty different, but their methods overlap quite a bit. Taunting letters, ciphers and puzzles, and Riddler's manner announcing himself at the start of correspondence are all aspects of the Zodiac case that sticks out over time.

Reeves confirmed the Zodiac influences, according to Den of Geek. He saw the film's serial killer influences from the beginning, referencing the book Mindhunter and how it led him to Zodiac.

"I read this book, Mindhunter, which was profiling all of these serial killers," Reeves said. "And then of course I revisited the Zodiac story and I thought, 'gosh, when you look at the Zodiac who was leaving all of these ciphers and puzzles and taunting the police and the newspapers...that sounds like the Riddler'...That idea came very early on and I knew it was important that he not just be a serial killer. I knew that this character had an agenda too...like a political terrorist and the target was a city, because he felt that this place was unjust. So he was both a terrifying killer who was toying with people with his puzzles, that clearly meant a lot to him, but he was doing it for an agenda, which was to reveal why this place was so corrupt. So I thought, this could be a larger than life, terrifying character who has echoes of an actual serial killer. That's kind of how that was born."

There is also a bit connected to Dennis Rader, the BTK Killer, and his time on the run from the law. He taunted the police and seemed to use some of the methods that The Riddler adopted in the film. If that's not enough true crime connections, there's plenty of Jack the Ripper tossed in for good measure. BTK was the only one of those murderers who ended up behind bars, so he shares that with The Riddler in the film. But Zodiac never had Batman to contend with, instead managing to fool the splintered police districts in California. As we well know, Batman has no jurisdiction and can go where he pleases.