Riddle me this

The Batman photo leak reveals the Riddler's terrifying real-life inspiration

Matt Reeves may be basing his villain off the closest thing we have to an IRL Riddler.

The Batman is re-inventing the gritty superhero movie — again. From campy TV to prestige Nolan trilogy, Batman has had quite the thematic journey, and that’s set to continue in The Batman, Matt Reeves’ upcoming neo-noir take on the Caped Crusader.

But while Bruce Wayne has always been the Dark Knight, his villains live on the more whimsical side of the Batman universe (even Nolan’s Joker was kind of a goof). Now, leaked images show how The Batman will transform one of Batman’s wackiest enemies into a far more mundane but even more villain by basing him on the closest thing we have to a real-life Riddler.

Redditor u/Samoht99 posted possible leaked photos from a The Batman 2022 calendar, featuring new images of Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne, Selena Kyle (aka, Catwoman), and plenty of glamor shots of the new muscle car Batmobile. But one image, in particular, shows a new glimpse at the classic villain The Riddler, portrayed in The Batman by Paul Dano.

While we’ve seen The Riddler in the trailer for The Batman, he was always cloaked in shadow. This leaked calendar shows his costume in detail, and it’s way more intimidating than we thought.

The image shows the Riddler wearing a leather hood with a panel over the mouth. Many have equated this look to fetish gear, but there’s actually a far more terrifying inspiration for this evil leather get-up: the Zodiac Killer.

The shadowy glimpse of the Riddler in the trailer for The Batman.Warner Bros.

On September 27, 1969, the Zodiac Killer attacked college students Cecilia Shepard and Bryan Hartnell near Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California. While Shepard succumbed to her injuries, Hartnell survived to give a detailed account of the attacker: a man wearing a black executioner-style hood with a crosshair symbol on it and sunglasses over the eye holes.

This description also closely matches Paul Dano’s Riddler, and the leaked image shows a crosshair symbol almost identical to Zodiac’s calling card. The only difference is a question mark in the middle.

The Zodiac Killer, the most famous unidentified serial killer, may seem like a strange inspiration for the Riddler, a villain best known for his technicolor costume and manic personality. But in a way, the Zodiac Killer is the closest thing the real world has to a Riddler.

Riddler’s cryptogram is eerily similar to the Zodiac’s MO.Warner Bros.
A message from the Zodiac Killer sent to the San Francisco Chronicle.Bettmann/Bettmann/Getty Images

Both have distinctive symbols — the crosshair and the question mark — and both are known for leaving cryptic clues about their crimes. The Zodiac released four different cryptograms containing symbols that could be decoded to reveal a message, but only two were ever solved.

The Riddler in The Batman sends his own cryptograms, but they’re not nearly as complex. One shown in a split-second shot in the trailer has already been solved. So while this villain may take his cues from the Zodiac, he’s no match for Batman or the puzzle enthusiasts of the Internet.

Considering the Zodiac’s long history as one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in our country, it makes perfect sense for The Batman to be influenced by him. We know the film will take after the film noir genre, and one of the greatest modern examples of that tone is none other than Zodiac, the 2007 film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Mark Ruffalo. While the Zodiac’s identity will remain cloaked in mystery, his actions are set to be immortalized on screen for eternity.

The Batman premieres March 4, 2022 in theaters.