An utterly ruthless villainâ€”an extortionist, kidnapper, and murdererâ€”whose diabolical crimes revolve around the symbolism of parlor games, tricks, and puzzle. His personal symbol is a bent nail, one-half of a commonplace nail puzzle, of the type that can be purchased at any novelty shop. Of himself, the Puzzler has made this comment: â€œA genius at solving puzzles, I decided to utilize the principles that win games to launch a crime campaign unrivaled in history. That Iâ€™ve been successful is a testimony to my brilliance.â€ The Puzzler is also fond of leaving complex clues to the whereabouts of his next crime and the location of his secret hideout, because, in his words, â€œIt tickles my vanity to think I can outsmart Superman!â€ (Act No. 49, Jun 1942: â€œThe Puzzler!!â€).
The Puzzler is an expert in games of all kinds, but, as in his battles with Superman, he frequently comes off second best. He fancies himself, for example, â€œthe worldâ€™s most brilliant checkers expert,â€ but Superman outplayed him in June 1942 (Act No. 49: â€œThe Puzzler!!â€). Similarly, although the Puzzler is adept at such varied card games as poker, rummy, blackjack, hearts, casino, and bridge, he is bested by champions in each of these games when he enters a card-playing tournament in January-February 1943 (S No. 20/4:â€œNot in the Cardsâ€).
â€œParlor games, tricks, and puzzles can be harmless fun,â€ notes Action Comics No. 49, â€œ- -but when a twisted intellect utilizes their principles to commit clever crimes, they can be dangerous indeedâ€ On one occasion, for example, in June 1942, the Puzzler kidnaps Lois Lane and spins a grisly wheel of fortune to decide her fate. â€œ. . . [ the indicator land on the red instead of the blue section,â€ gloats the villain fiendishly, â€œa strangling device will automatically put you out of your misery!â€ But the game is rendered even more diabolical by the fact that the Puzzler has rigged it in advance to stop on the red. â€œOne minute a gallant sportsman, and the next a double-crosser!â€ muses one of the villainâ€™s henchmen ruefully. â€œMust be something twisted in his natureâ€ (Act No. 49: â€˜The Puzzler!!â€).
On another occasion, in January-February 1943, the Puzzler deliberately sends a carload of his own henchmen hurtling off a bridge as a means of diverting Supermanâ€™s attention while he himself makes good his escape. â€œSo youâ€™re deliberately sending your own men to their deaths- -just to save your own miserable hide!â€ cries Superman. â€œAny thing to outsmart you!â€ replies the Puzzler. â€œIâ€™d like to attend to the Puzzler,â€ muses Superman grimly, â€œ- -but above all I must save human life.. - No matter how little those thugs deserve it (S No. 20/4: â€œNot in the Cardsâ€).
In June 1942, the Puzzler and his henchmen commit a series of heinous crimesâ€”involving extortion, kidnapping, and attempted murderâ€”only to have Superman pursue them finally to their secret hideout and rescue Lois Lane and five other kidnap victims from the villainsâ€™ clutches. The Puzzler, however, determined not to be taken alive, clambers up the cables of a high suspension bridge â€œin a frantic effort to escape,â€ and, cornered finally by Superman, tears himself free of the Man of Steelâ€™s grasp and, in an apparently suicidal leap, â€œplummets down--down toward the far distant water....â€ â€œI wonder if the Puzzler really perished,â€ thinks Superman to himself, after searching the river bottom to no avail, â€œor if he and Superman are fated to cross wits again?â€ (Act No. 49: â€œThe Puzzler!!â€).
In January-February 1943, after being narrowly defeated by champions in six different card games in a card-playing tournament at the prestigious El Dorado Club, the Puzzler angrily pulls a gun on bridge champion Morton Thornton, only to be apprehended on the spot by Superman, who has been covering the tournament in his Clark Kent identity. â€œDonâ€™t look so happy and relieved, you game champions,â€ cries the villain bitterly as members of the Metropolis police force prepare to lead him away. â€œSomehow Iâ€™ll escape. And every man who defeated me today will pay with his life for having damaged my pride!â€ With that, the Puzzler lunges for the light switch, plunges the room into darkness, and escapes.
In the days that follow, the Puzzler, true to his fiendish threat, sets out to avenge his humiliating defeat in the El Dorado Club card tournament by murdering the six men who defeated him in ways suggestive or symbolic of the card games in which they are expert, as when he bludgeons poker champion Harlow Gates to death with a fireplace poker and tries to kill bridge champion Morton Thornton by shoving his car off a bridge.
After thwarting all of the murder attempts but one, however, and apprehending the Puzzlerâ€™s henchmen, Superman pursues the villain to his secret hideout, where he finds the Puzzler seated in a large glass cubicle situated at the center of a gigantic maze. The pathway through the maze is fraught with deadly perilsâ€”including poisonous gas, red-hot flames, and a net of electrically â€œsuper-charged wiresâ€â€”but Superman easily withstands them all- Seizing the glass cubicle with the villain inside it, Superman flies the cubicle to the nearest police station, only to discover, upon his arrival, that the cubicle is empty and that the Puzzler has somehow escaped (S No. 20/4: â€œNot in the Cardsâ€).