This past October, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Jacob Javits Center to attend the New York City Comic Con. While browsing through some bins filled with old comic book art, I stumbled upon some of the original panels of Detective Comics #362: “The Night Batman Destroyed Gotham City!”
In the comic, Batman and Robin are pitted against The Riddler (aka: Edward Nigma). In one of the panels I found, the Riddler and his trio of henchmen, who he dubs his ENIGMEN, gloat over their stolen money.
Now to you, this may seem to be no big deal. Why share this, right? Well, to my amazement, and possibly yours, the scribbled, hand-written notes of writer, Gardner Fox, and illustrator, Sheldon Moldoff, were on the back of the panel. The two engaged in a written exchange on the back panel of the comic book regarding the naming of the Riddler’s henchmen.
It appears that Fox originally intended to name each of the ENIGMEN (above) after their real life co-workers: Karsten Olson, a janitor (top right); Justin Camp, an accountant (bottom left corner); and Chet Watkins, a mail-room employee (bottom right corner).
Moldoff, however, vehemently nixed the idea emphatically writing in a firm hand that he didn’t want to “give these bozos any recognition.” He added that he hoped the three co-workers would “spend the rest of their lives in obscurity” and that the trio could “all die tomorrow and I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.”
Fox relented to Moldoff’s strong wishes, yet had a softer, more professional, tone. It seems he came to senses and pointed out the obvious in that the ENIGMEN were depicted wearing crossword-puzzle leotards and giving the henchmen real-life names “would not fit with the Riddler’s M.O.” and would “seem out of place” and “jarring” to the reader. The Riddler, Fox added, was “a true professional” and “a villain who would only hire thugs who had names that reflected his riddle-themed motif.” This, I would imagine, could be challenging, so if they didn’t have these odd names (like, John Question or Kelly Query), the Riddler would without a doubt re-name them. And so, giving the henchmen the names of the three co-workers was cut and instead the ENIGMEN were born!
Sadly, Chet Watkins missed out on his chance of having a cameo in a Batman comic where mid-way through the issue he would have been drop-kicked in the head by Batman and defeated. Instead, he would remain working in the depths of the DC Comics mail room for years where he would be remain in obscurity for the rest of his life. It seems Moldoff got his wish after all.