Is everybody in? Can we get a head count? Is it—are we all here then? OK, let’s get started then. There’s coffee over there and I had Jennifer put out some fresh bagels. Are there enough chairs? Raise your hand if you don’t have a chair. No hands? OK. Before I get to anything else today, I want each of you to know how much I treasure you. To be able to lead a team of henchmen as dynamic and loyal as you people, it’s really been a tremendous … ah … thing to … OK, wow, sometimes the heart gets in the way. But I will not weep today. Not today. All right, boys, I’m just going to say it.

I’m retiring. I’m committed to supervillainy until January 1st and then I’m hanging it up. This will be a shock to some of you, perhaps not a surprise to others, but there it is.

Now let me just say it has been one hell of a run, people. Each of us has always been there to help one another execute a perfect heist or spring one another from jail or just be there to listen and share a cup of tea and be a friend. The times we’ve all had together, the friendships we’ve formed, the valuable items we’ve stolen, no one can take those things away from us. Not even Batman.

So why am I hanging up the big question mark? Oh, I could dance around my reasons, dropping a few hints in the process and let you piece it together yourselves. But that would be both unfair and in direct violation of our company regulations against self-riddling.

Truth is, there are several reasons. To begin with, crime today is just different. Most of the young punks working the game attack it with a drug-addled desperation and a brutality that makes me dread even calling myself a bad guy. Perfect example: I was coming out of Bed Bath & Beyond last week, picking up some new dish towels, when I spied a hooligan breaking into cars. I approached him to talk a little shop, you know, and ask him if there was perhaps a valuable jewel in the car or the crown of a visiting head of state. I know that if an esteemed senior supervillain had taken an interest in me at that age—Dr. Kraut or Professor Atom, for instance—I would have been thrilled to acquire their tutelage. But this little bastard just stabbed me and ran away. No sense of history in him, no desire to advance in the business. If that’s where the industry is going, it will have to go there without the Riddler. I’m fine, by the way, thanks to our outstanding company health care package.

But age is not the only reason I’m walking away, lads. There is mental fatigue as well. As you know, we insist on quality in our felonious activities here in this organization. And it takes tremendous effort to work exclusively in crimes that also facilitate good riddles. There needs to be symbolism, there must be irony, and there must absolutely be exquisite drama. It’s been thrilling, every minute of it, but such creativity, stretched out over decades, can be exhausting.

And I don’t think most people understand that like we do. It’s odd, I still meet people when I’m giving interviews or talking to a school group or what have you who say, Why not just rob a bank? Or pull off some insurance fraud or hijack an armored car or something? And I say, just as I’ve been saying since the Eisenhower administration, Where’s the joy in that? Where’s the beauty? Or they say to me, Well, maybe you shouldn’t leave so many clues around all the time, since they serve no benefit in committing the crime and, if anything, make it easier to be caught.

But a life without poetry is a life squandered, yes? Still, it wears on me.

Finally, I’m afraid I must admit that one of my reasons for shutting down operations is economic in nature. There are some 65 of you henchmen currently based here at the lair, most of you with advanced degrees in English. I realize many if not most supervillains do not employ a full-time librarian to provide source material and catalog every caper to insure against repetition. But we do. You, all of you people, are the soul of the Riddler operation. You lift this above thuggery and into the sublime and I insist on compensating you accordingly. The company jet-powered cars you each have and the free postcaper massages are evidence of that, I believe. Still, that’s a lot of overhead and the Gotham museums only have so many valuable artifacts to be stolen, right? And Lord knows there’s plenty of competition for those.

Now I don’t want you to worry about me. I’ll be dividing my time between the condo here in Gotham and a summer place in Provence that Terrence and I acquired recently. As for your future, it’s a little murky, I’m afraid. I’ve had an offer from a Lex Luthor, guy from out of town, who may be looking to expand. Presumably, he’d need help, but I’m not sure you’d be interested. He’s awfully dour, to be quite honest. I’ve also phoned Joker and Penguin and raved about all of you. Jennifer has a sign-up sheet to meet with recruiters from their organizations. I know you’ll land on your feet. You’re just too good not to.

So take some time today, maybe take a dip in the pool, relax a while, and get ready for the next steps in your brilliantly evil careers. And I’m told that the Gotham Art Museum heist is still on for tonight at midnight, velvet eye masks only please.

Thank you. I love you all.