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Hefner's Preface: A detailed analysis of Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde is long overdue for this fanblog. When it comes to exploring the fundamental ideas of what Two-Face represents, an acedemic exploration of Stevenson's book viewed through a comics filter seems like a no-brainer, something which I should have done from the start.

But embarrassed as I am to admit this, I've just never felt up to the task of delving into that book with the attention it deserves, much less measuring how its ideas and title character(s) compares and contrasts with Two-Face. I read the book for the first and only time a few years ago, and at the time, there didn't seem to be anything I could say about it in regards to Harvey. I mean to reread it, but by this point, it's an intimidating prospect.

Besides, it's not enough to simply review the book itself, considering that there are over a hundred adaptations in film alone, most of which take liberties with the source material to explore Jekyll and Hyde through all manner of different social and cultural contexts! God, I'd love to review the Spencer Tracy version alone, but I know that's a controversial version, so I'd definitely have to see the Fredich March version, and before too long, I'd feel obligated to review everything from Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde to League of Extraordinary Gentlemen!*

But of all the adaptations, one version stands out: the Classics Illustrated version from the title's brief revival in 1990. This version was adapted and illustrated by John K. Snyder III, an artist who has never quite gotten the due he deserves. Coming from the same late-80's school of comics art as Matt Wagner, Mark Badger, Bill Sienkiewicz, Tim Sale, and Kyle Baker (seriously, did these guys all go to the same club or something?), JKS3 is a long-time great of comics who has never achieved the fame of his peers, which is a damn shame. Considering that I just wrapped up my review of Wagner's Faces, it's only fitting that we look at an actual Jekyll adaptation by one of Wagner's peers (and collaborators)!

Thankfully, our own intrepid Ed Saul, AKA the Gentleman Mummy, has graciously offered up his services to review JKS3's adaptation of TSCoDJ&MH himself! My gratitude is outmatched only by my excitement to read this examination of Stevenson's book as depicted by Snyder, especially since Ed is someone who definitely knows and appreciates what makes Harvey a great character. Take it away, Mr. Saul!

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Webster's Dictionary defines it as "For the love of God, stop calling us! Does a restraining order mean nothing in this day and age?!", and it's not wrong - but such an oblique clarification fails to capture the vast meaning and theme encompassed by R. L. Stevenson's great horror classic. Forward, then, the "Classics Illustrated" edition, published by those sons of fun, First Comics and the Berkeley Comics Publishing group, and adapted by John K Snyder III - he of Grendel, Suicide Squad and a short-lived Doctor Mid-Nite series (thank you so much Wikipedia).

Stevenson's book - first published in 1886 - still fascinates scholars today because of the numerous interpretations one can make of it -  the blindingly obvious upper class vs lower class, cities vs countryside, Darwinism vs Creationism, the Mind vs the Body, heterosexuality (and chastity) vs homosexuality (and promiscuity). According to one professor I've met, Hyde is obviously a metaphor for repressed homoeroticism due to his tendency to enter Jekyll's house "by the back door". Mind you, he was very nervous when he said this, so I didn't take him too seriously. 

According to most accounts, Stevenson dreamt up Hyde as 'a fine bogey' while having a feverish nightmare. Why is it, I ask you, that the most well-known horror writers come up with their great works purely by chance? Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe - even *shudder* Stephenie Meyer returns to the well of "I Had A Bad Dream This One Time". Bloody infuriating. The rest of us have to actually think up stuff.

Snyder, on the other hand, got the job on the back of First and Berkely acquiring the rights to the popularly vast comic book series "Classics Illustrated" and deciding to reboot it with an array of fresh new talent. The "Berkeley-First" series stuck to the originals' tendency to feature glossy, painted covers - notable exceptions being Gahan Wilson's adaptation of Poe's The Raven, P. Craig Russell's masterful version of that author's The Fall of the House of Usher, and this very volume.**


(Seriously, look at that cackling Maddie Usher. Brrr...)

Already we perceive in Snyder's cover a visual similarity between Stevenson's 'bogey' and our beloved Harvey - though, incidentally, he also shares more than a few similarities with Stevenson's other famous villain, Long John Silver - from the crippling mutilation to the wild mood swings to the shaky allegiances. Writers, take note: this is another good reason to revisit the possibility of Pirate Two-Face. Apart from, y'know, PIRATE. TWO-FACE. But you can also see how Snyder hints at the concept of Hyde representing the darker and less pleasant aspects of London itself, his twisted black locks and their streaks of yellow and blue blending in with the cityscape above.

And then there's the title page.

Read more... )

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Preface: This story deals with sensitive subjects, mainly concerning circus sideshow performers, and I'm not quite sure what the protocol is when it comes to discussing such people. Google didn't yield much in the way of help, so if I end up saying anything incorrect, inappropriate, or offensive, please let me know and I shall change the review accordingly.

Also, you may notice that this review has absolutely nothing to do with the American holiday of Thanksgiving, which is today. Regardless, I hope that you're having a good one whether you celebrate it or not, no matter your circumstances! See y'all when the tryptophan coma wears off!

Matt Wagner's three-part Two-Face story, Batman: Faces (1992), is a Bat-classic by a master comics storyteller working at the height of his abilities, one that's been hailed by the likes of Joe R. Lansdale and blogs like Comics Should Be Good. The latter particularly hailed it as "a great Two-Face story," and Mark Waid went one step further, listing it in the top four "Essential Storylines" for Harvey Dent. That lofty standard alone would have caused me to harshly scrutinize Faces, but the fact is that this story has never sat well with me when it comes to its depiction of Two-Face.

One way or another, there's just something about what Harvey does in this story that just seems fundamentally wrong for the character. I've theorized that if this had used the Oswald Cobblepot instead of Harvey, it would be one of the greatest goddamn Penguin stories ever published, which is a shame all the more because the Penguin needs more great stories! Croc would have also worked perfectly, especially considering that circus sideshows play a very large part, and it would have played with similar ideas as the B:TAS episode Sideshow.

But on second thought, perhaps I'm unfairly judging a great story--and it is a pretty damn great story--just because it doesn't fit my (admittedly-exacting) view of Harvey. For one thing, it's rooted to the popular idea that Harvey's insanity is directly tied to his vanity, which is one of my least favorite classic tropes about Two-Face. Regardless of my misgivings, the vanity aspect is a legitimate one depending on which canon you follow.

Taken within that context, is Faces a great Two-Face story even if it doesn't have my preferred version of the character? Or do the problems with Wagner's Two-Face go deeper than my superficial nit-picks? Are the flaws with this Two-Face merely skin deep, or does it go down to the bone?

How perfectly perfect... )

The trade paperback of Faces is commonly available, having just been reissued with a new logo to tie it in with Wagner's recent minis, Batman and the Monster Men and Batman and the Mad Monk. If you prefer digital comics, then all three issues are currently available for $1.99 each, so about $6.00 all told! Not a bad deal!
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There's a lot more to Billy Dee Williams' portrayal Harvey Dent from Tim Burton's Batman (1989) than you might have suspected. I know that I certainly didn't think there was much to say, which is why it's taken me this long to finally write about one of the most famous portrayals of Harvey in pop culture.


I'd wager that, for most people around 1989, this was their introduction to the character, even if they weren't yet aware that he was going/supposed to become a major villain. I would imagine that when most people--the non-comics fans whose experience with Batman came only from the Adam West show--were watching the film, their thought was less, "Hey, it's Two-Face" and more "Hey, it's Billy Dee Williams!"

Here's your opportunity to get all the references out of your Degobah system.

If the movie's Harvey didn't especially stand out, it's no surprise: he's kind of a nothing character, mainly there to represent the side of law and order who are there to get screwed with by the Joker. Oh sure, he's introduced as making a bold (but surely doomed) stand against the mob kingpin who has ruled Gotham for years, but that promise is quickly wasted in favor of turning him, Mayor Borg, and Jim Gordon into a three-headed representation of Gotham's ineffectual establishment.

In this scene from the rare Star Trek/Star Wars crossover, Lando is assimilated into the Borg. /rimshot /couldntresist

Almost immediately after his first appearance, Harvey spends the rest of the film as a bureaucrat and accountant whose only job is to make sure a parade happens. This could have worked if it were played for conflict, much like how Ned Stark in A Game of Thrones was brought in to be the King's Hand only to find himself having to scrape together funds for a pointless, wasteful tourney (no spoilers, please, I haven't even finished the first book!), but instead, Billy Dee's Harvey doesn't get to do anything at all except be shouted at by the Mayor and look official. As a result, Harvey Dent in Batman is so damn inconsequential that his role in the comics adaptation (written by our old pal Denny O'Neil!) is reduced to just two panels with no dialogue!

Source: Gotham Alleys

But if you look behind the scenes, you'll discover that this wasn't always the case... )

What could Billy Dee Williams' have been like as Two-Face? Hard to say. I haven't seen anything to indicate that he could go there as an actor, but if any of you know any performances of his that hinted at that kind of darkness, do let me know! Considering what happened with Tommy Lee Jones and Batman Forever (which I both enjoy on their own merits, mind you), I think that it's a shame that Billy Dee Williams never had a chance to prove himself with the role.

Nonetheless, Billy Dee Williams' performance of Harvey in Batman--truncated as it was--stands as a milestone for the character, paving the way for the character's fame in non-comics pop culture through B:TAS and beyond. Maybe he's the George Lazenby of Harvey Dents, but Lazenby has still earned his plance in the Bond mythos, and so too has Billy Dee with Two-Face. Not too shabby, when all's said and done.

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So some time back, I was toying with the idea of doing a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story with Two-Face where you could flip a coin to decide where to go. I came up will all sorts of scenarios involving a full cast of rogues and supporting characters, and I even had visions of publishing it and including a coin.

Then I started thinking about how to maybe doing an old-school text adventure version that would actually flip the coin for you, which would not only have made each game different but it would have also given players an understanding of what it's like to be be Harvey. That was one of my big goals here besides the gimmick: to really show people just how much choice Harvey does and doesn't have from situation to situation.

Well, of course, real life for the past couple years has been such that it's taking me longer and longer to even write posts for this blog, much less commit to any personal projects, so this lofty idea fell to the wayside. That is, until Henchgirl brought it back to life in a way that's most unexpected and utterly, utterly awesome. I'll let her fill you in:

I make neat stuff

So, Hal's had a really nasty fever going on for the past four-ish days, resulting in calls to doctors and emergency room visits and suchlike. He's much better today than he was even yesterday, but we're all really worn out and he's still cranky and snuffly.

Anyway. As always when he's sick, we're up all night keeping an eye on him. I can't usually make terribly coherent thoughts when I'm this sleep deprived, which is always made worse by the pain I'm always in because my body is suck, so I always fall back on diddling around with things that don't take much brain power to keep me busy during the long, exhausting night shifts.



Ooooh! )

So yeah, we're working together on plotting it out. As she puts it, I'm the Giffen and she's the DeMatteis. Definitely works for me! So yes, if we do manage to pull this off, you can bet that you folks will be among the first to know!
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This has to be the single most depressingly tragic tale in all of DCAU canon. It's also, not coincidentally, one of the greatest. But I'd be lying if I said that it was one of my favorites, or that I looked forward to posting about it here.

In the wake of Batman Forever, the second season of Batman: The Animated Series was renamed The Adventures of Batman & Robin, to emphasize the presence of that damn smartass boy hostage. Following suit, The Batman Adventures was canceled (ending with a wonderful Hugo Strange story) and rebooted as Batman & Robin Adventures. What's more, the TBA creative team of Kelley Puckett and Mike Parobeck (a stellar team who had, in my opinion, only begun to produce some of their very best work) were replaced by TAS co-mastermind Paul Dini and original TBA artist Ty Templeton, who took over writing duties from Dini after issue #3.

They hit the ground running with their first outing, the two-part storyline Two-Timer, which was released little over a year after the bittersweetly hopeful Second Chance first aired. Unlike most DCAU tie-in comics, which were largely self-contained and didn't/couldn't really alter the status quo, Two-Timer took the ongoing story of Harvey Dent to new depths of tragedy, apparently shattering the lives of several characters beyond any hope of repair.

So yeah, this story is a downer, but it's not without a certain amount of sadistic glee provided by--who else?--the Joker himself, whose actions here count among the worst things that the Joker has ever done. Which is to say, there's far worse that you can do to someone than just kill them. It's a lesson that far too few writers seem to understand.

Bruce Wayne has a weekly appointment to keep behind the cut... )

If you want to read this or other DCAU Batman comics, you're in luck! The digital comic shop Comixology has made a great many of these comics--most of which are hard to find--available for just .99¢ each! YAY! Their runs aren't complete (they're seriously lacking when it comes to their selection of the first series, The Batman Adventures), but they have ALL of Batman & Robin Adventures (Vol. 2) and Batman Adventures (Vol. 4), plus most of Batman: Gotham Adventures (Vol. 3)! Check out the full selection of them here, and again, they're only 99¢ each, which is a great price to own some of the best Batman comics ever published!

And, of course, if you just want to read both parts of Two Timer, you can find them here and here! Definitely check them out in full!
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Hefner's Note: All screencaps are either by me or have been taken from Worlds Finest Online's review and Two-Face bio page, as well as the seriously lackluster review up at ToonZone. Sadly, there are virtually no gifs from this episode floating around online, which is really disappointing. Between the lack of gifs and the superficial reviews, I can't help but feel like the episode I'm about to discuss with you today is one of the more under-appreciated ones from all of B:TAS. But you'll have to be the judge of that when all's said and done.

The third season episode Second Chance (which you can watch here) is, for all intents and purposes, the first true sequel to Harvey's origin two-parter. While Two-Face became a recurring villain throughout the series, this episode was the first since Harvey's fall, rebirth, and meltdown to specifically focus on the fractured psyche of Harvey Dent, expanding upon the few details that we already knew. Here, we finally get a good glimpse at what's going on inside the mind of Two-Face, and the findings may be worse than we'd feared.

But these elements are all secondary (hurr) to what the episode is really about, which is an exploration of friendship under pressure as examined not just between Bruce and Harvey, but also Batman and Robin. As I've noted in the past, writers have sort of unofficially given Harvey a strange status amongst the Robins, none of whom have ever quite seen eye to eye with Batman when it comes to his unyielding faith in Harvey Dent. Second Chance puts a different spin on that dynamic by setting it in a universe where Harvey was Bruce's best (only?) friend from way before Robin came along, thus creating the friendship equivalent of love-triangle between the three (or four?) protagonists.

All of this is told through a classic-style detective mystery plotted by the Pretty Poison team of Michael Reaves and Paul Dini, whose story contains loose elements of Doug Moench and Klaus Janson's Knightfall-era story Double Cross, both parts of which I've reviewed here and here. The actual teleplay is written by Gerry Conway, the comics stalwart who brought back Rupert Thorne and Hugo Strange and co-created Killer Croc and Jason Todd, a veteran who also has experience with writing Two-Face!

I have mixed feelings about Conway's story because--fun as it was--it disregarded Harvey's previous appearance where he seemed to be on the verge of redemption and reconciliation with Gilda. That was a great, moving story with a potentially happy ending, but a couple years later, Conway brought Harvey back with no mention of Gilda, and he even threw in a blond love henchgirl love interest to boot! Was Harvey's return (and subsequent disregard of the character's own events) Conway's own idea, or was it mandated by editorial who just wanted to have everyone's favorite scarred number-themed villain back with an unchanged status quo? Heck if I know!

What matters is that Conway has experience not just with writing Batman and Robin, but also with making life suck even worse for poor Harvey Dent. A noble tradition, that! Combined with a plotting team whose previous take on Harvey had him as an oblivious romantic fool who spent most of the episode in a coma, these three writers unite to tell the second best Two-Face episode of B:TAS, and one of the key stories when it comes to the conflicts that Harvey represents. Both of them.

Gif by tokomon. Sadly, this is the only gif from the episode that I've been able to find.

You hated Harvey Dent. You would have done anything to destroy him. )
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First off, thanks for the good vibes, everyone! Against all odds, we managed to dodge a bullet with the Frankenstorm. We got seriously lucky, and while we're not out of the woods yet, it looks like everything is more or less okay.

Unfortunately, like many, we missed Halloween entirely. So much for my hopes of finally sucking up the guts to review Batman: The Long Halloween this year! Heck, we were in such a rush yesterday that I couldn't even post two wonderfully Halloween-themes Bat-villain things that were pointed my way by a couple different awesome readers! First off, holy crap, these pumpkins:

And here's what the same artist's Joker pumpkin looks like! )

The Joker's pretty amazing, but that Two-Face... wow! As [livejournal.com profile] captaintwinings remarked, "That looks better than most actual comic art!" I have to agree, that scarring is rendered gorgeously in its grotesquery.

The other big bit of news comes courtesy of comic artist Dustin Nguyen (Detective Comics, Batman: Streets of Gotham), who has spent the last five years pitching DC an idea for a whole Tiny Titans style series called Li'l Gothams. Finally, all his efforts have paid off with a standalone Halloween story released exclusively in digital form for just 99¢!

Here's a large image of the cover! )

If super-cute chibi-like things are not your speed, you may want to avoid this. Otherwise, I can promise you that this story is an absolutely delightful little treat (hurr) involving Batman teaching Damian the true meaning of Halloween and the rogues celebrating a night out to dinner where they can be left alone. This is to be the first of a year-long series of one-shots which Nguyen and writer Derek Fridolfs are calling, The Calendar of Small Events, with each story taking place around a different holiday.

This project promised to be a super-exciting project not just for fans of the classic Bat-Family and Rogues, but also for a few fan-favorites who haven't been seen for a while, such as Cass Cain and Stephanie Brown! Although then again, that could be subject to change at any moment. Depending on just how deep DC's obsessive erasure of Steph, Cass, Renee Montoya, and other fangirl-favorites goes, we might just see a decidedly altered version of that above promo piece when all's said and done. I don't even like Steph, but something seriously stinks at DC, man.
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Hey everyone, posts here are further delayed due to the fact that we live on the east coast, right where the storm is at its worst.

We've evacuated and (mostly) everyone is safe, but our home, cats, and stuff are all in major jeopardy. If you'd like more details, you can read my latest post/rant over at my personal LJ, but the short version is that we're far away from the worst of it and we'll be okay. Hopefully I'll be able to calm down enough from worry to crank out a review or two while I'm here!

In the meantime: if any of you are getting a taste of this storm, I hope you're safe and sound with plenty of food and supplies to get you through the next few days. Or longer, god forbid, depending on the damage.
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Preamble: While I will be discussing this book to the best of my abilities, I know that there's nothing quite like seeing a work that's being critiques yourself rather than just hearing the critic's description. As such, if you're interested in checking this book out for yourself, I have found three separate extensive previews of this book: two over at Google Books here and here, plus this preview over at Scribd.

Each of the previews even include some pages that the others omit, including some that are relevant to this review, so try checking them all out for your perusal. Plus, all previews include links to where you can purchase the book if you're interested to read the whole thing. If you'd like to just purchase the book directly from Amazon.com, here you go. Otherwise, let's press on!

While I've always had little use for those unauthorized books that try to examine Batman through the lens of philosophy or religion*, I was really intrigued by the prospect of Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight by psychologist and Batman fan Travis Langley.

Behind the cut, I attempt to criticize the analyses of an licensed psychologist. Sure, why not? )

What do you think, folks? If you've read the book or even just a few excerpts online (see Preamble), do you agree or disagree with Langley's analyses? How would you diagnose any of the Rogues? Let me know in the comments!

Also, if anyone thinks that the links I used for psychological terminology are inaccurate or outdated, please send me along links to better articles and I shall edit accordingly!

Note: *Footnotes are now found in the comments! The second one became a long rant about Nolan's The Dark Knight that I needed to get off my chest. Think of it as a bonus tirade!
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My favorite new DC release this whole year has been Walt Simonson's new graphic novel The Judas Coin. However, I'm not quite sure how to recommend it to anyone, since my enjoyment is based on several factors beyond the face-value of the story itself. Or rather, the stories themselves. Ahh, yes, you see what I did there! Unless you didn't, in which case, how awkward.

My lengthy, tangent-filled introduction behind the cut! )

Or if you're thinking, 'Dammit, Hefner, I don't want your long-winded ramblings! Just show me the review, already!' then just click here. )

If you're interested in buying The Judas Coin, you have several options. As I've said before, I think that the cover price of $22.99 for a slim 94-page hardcover is outrageous. Thankfully, there are cheaper options, with print copies going for $13.77 on both Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, which also offers it for Nook for $12.64. Other ways you can get it digitally include Kindle for $9.99 (the best deal of them all), and $12.99 for iBooks for iPad/iPhone. Few are talking about this book and DC has done nothing to promote it, so check it out however you can. And if you are willing to spend the full cover price, then hey, go support your local bookstore/comic book shop!
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For the past couple weeks, I've been working on my review of Walt Simonson's new graphic novel, The Judas Coin, watching my post get increasingly long-winded as I filled it with more scans, tangents, links, gifs, and all manner of distractions until the actual review itself was dwarfed by everything else! The post is currently huge, and I haven't even gotten to the book itself!

How did I manage to pull this off, you ask? Well, because I realized that it was impossible to talk about The Judas Coin without talking about all of the characters involved. One of the biggest hang-ups some readers are having with The Judas Coin is the cast of D-list Silver Age characters who are so obscure here that they didn't even appear on Batman: The Brave and the Bold! And that show had EVERYBODY! Sure, a couple of them appeared on Justice League Unlimited, but I can attest that nobody who saw those episodes remembers those characters if they hadn't already been familiar with them going in. Those were great treats for fans, but generally insufficient intros for n00bs.

So this is "Flower Cowboy," got it.

Personally, I don't think you necessarily need to know anything about them to enjoy Simonson's stories because Simonson is just that good of a storyteller who knows how to play up their archetypical aspects to make them pretty much accessible to everyone. But even still, a bit of familiarity with these characters couldn't hurt. Speaking personally as someone who was at least familiar with most of these characters and completely ignorant about one of them, I enjoyed the story on the first go-round, but I've come to love it even more after researching these characters for the past week!

So before I post (or even write) the review itself, I'd like to examine the characters involved first in their own post, just to give everyone--including me--a crash-course tour of these obscure heroes of yesteryear, and the subsequent attempts to make them relevant in the decades well past their prime! There's a lot of history behind the cut, so grab a snack and let's dig in!

What do an ex-slave warrior soldier, a warrior seafaring prince, an ex-slave antihero seafaring pirate, an antihero gunslinger/gambler, and a gunslinging, gambling, spacefaring, pirate-hating, ex-slave bounty hunter have in common? I mean, besides all that... )

By the way, would anybody be able to provide scans from The Judas Coin? I don't have a scanner at present, and while I have several of Simonson's sketches, there are some parts that I really want to actually show those of you who aren't able to get the book immediately. Obviously, the Two-Face section especially takes priority, especially the last few pages. The climactic moment was ambiguous enough that it got me and Henchgirl into a briefly-heated debate over how we interpreted it, so I want to run it by you guys and see what you make of it.

If I have to settle for taking a blurry photo from my iPhone camera, I will, dammit! But nobody wants that! So be a pal and help your old buddy Hef out, if you can!
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So hey, guys, remember that review of Batman: Run, Riddler, Run I wrote back in April? You know, that Riddler story by writer Gerard Jones and artist Mark Badger, the one which I now love but which I'd resisted reading for years because 1.) I didn't like the art at the time, and 2.) I was so nit-picky and anal-retentive that I was annoyed by the fact that the Riddler's didn't have any purple in his costume, but he was all green? Remember that? Because Mark Badger just commented on that review, and he even included a special surprise:

... I have no words for how delighted this makes me. Mister Badger, you're a-okay in my book. Man, I really need some kind of "holy crap a comics creator noticed me aaaaa" tag of some sort.
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Hey, everyone! Life has been pretty crappy over the past few days, so I haven't been able to finish any new reviews just yet, much less respond to the epic discussions in my last Rogues Gallery post, but I just wanted to write a quick round-up of remarkable tidbits that've come my way recently!

First off, I want to thank writer Jonathan Larsen for his generous and gracious response to my review of his Two-Face brain surgery story, Together. At his suggestion, I bought the other issue of Legends of the Dark Knight he wrote, which also happens to be his first-ever comics work. The standalone story in LotDK #2, entitled All of the Above, is about Batman versus Amazo, the android who can replicate the powers of the entire JLA, and the two of them battling alone on the League's satellite HQ.

It's a simple story executed eloquently, and Larsen manages to do more with it than just show how the guy with no powers takes down the guy with all of the powers. It's also helped by the artwork of J.G. Jones, thus reaffirming my belief in the review for Together that Larsen's writing would benefit from a cleaner style of art. This story is only 99¢, so definitely pick it up! And speaking of new comics you should buy:

So Walt Simonson's graphic novel The Judas Coin is finally out, not that you'd know from the complete lack of publicity it's gotten. Over the course of a week, the post I was working on has evolved into way more of a long-winded essay regarding the genesis of the graphic novel and the histories of the characters involved rather than a straight-forward review/analysis.

The short version is that I adored it, but it's not going to be for all tastes. Until I can go into details in my review, I'll just say that you'll probably love it if you already love Walt Simonson and/or classic DC historical adventure comics from the Silver and Bronze Ages. If that sounds at all up your alley, I urge you to buy it so we can hash it out in my eventual massive review/essay/rant thing.

That said, it is with great reluctance that I concede one big problem: it's way too expensive at cover price. $22.99 for a slim 94-page hardcover? Yeesh! Even though Simonson made the most out of every page, that's still WAY too much, DC. Thankfully, there are cheaper options, with print copies going for $13.77 on both Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, which also offers it for Nook for $12.64. Other ways you can get it digitally include Kindle for $9.99 (the best deal of them all), and $12.99 for iBooks for iPad/iPhone. Few are talking about this book and DC has done nothing to promote it, so check it out however you can. And if you are willing to spend the full cover price, then hey, go support your local bookstore/comic book shop!

As a further incentive, here's an awesome Harvey sketch by Simonson.

And speaking of comic book shops (he said, trying desperately to come up with a relevant segue), I've just learned that I need to track down old back issues of Comic Shop News. You know, that freebie newspaper that many shops give away that features solicits, reviews, etc, that everyone probably just glances at and throws out? Well, I'm hoping that not everyone did, because guess what ran in the back of several issues around 1989-1991?

That's right: CSN ran color Sundays for the Batman newspaper comic strip in each issue! Egad, look at the quality of that! That's probably better looking than anything I might find at the Library of Congress archives! But argh, even if I could find back issues (roughly around issues #150-215), I couldn't afford them under the present financial circumstances, so I guess that will just be something to look out for once IRL things get back into shape for me. In the meantime, if anyone knows where I can find scans of these color strips, please do point them my way! I want to be able to include as many color Sundays as I can for The Daily Batman!

Okay, that's enough of an update for now. I was originally going to end with my quick thoughts on the animated Dark Knight Returns movie, but they soon took on a life of their own, so I'll give them their own review later. For now, I'll just say that I liked the film way more than I thought I would, and that it caused me to completely reevaluate my previous views on Harvey Dent's subplot. Pretty impressive feat, that.
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I finally picked up a copy of Rogues Gallery, a collection of DC villain pin-ups to coincide with their potentially-great-but-terminally-mediocre crossover event, Underworld Unleashed.

For those who haven’t read UU, you’re not missing much. Essentially, it was about a tedious Satan stand-in named Neron (DC's answer to a poor man's Mephisto) who offered to give villains an extreme 90’s makeover and power-boost in exchange for their souls. Well, they weren’t using those anyway, right? As a result, we got such silliness as Killer Moth turned into a man-eating mutant monster who caccoons his victims (something so lousy that it was actually a vast IMPROVEMENT when it was adapted for The Batman) and Mister Freeze got actual freezing *powers* (something which was promptly forgotten). Also, UU opened with the Flash’s Rogues getting killed off, solely because Mark Waid genuinely couldn’t figure out how to write them, something which he admitted in a Wizard interview in ‘98. Man, thank god for Geoff Johns, at least when it comes to the Flash's rogues. Basically, the entire UU event was by and for people who mistook scary/extreme/overpowered villains for interesting characters.

That said, Rogues Gallery was still a cool collection of pin-ups by some great artists, especially for the Bat-Rogues. Unfortunately, I’ve been able to find no scans online. I’ve found pin-up scans for other DC villains at a Martian Manhunter blog, a Wonder Woman blog, and a Firestorm blog, but NOTHING at *any* of the Bat-blogs, nor anywhere else teh interwebs! What the hell, Bat-fans?

So, naturally, I’m rectifying this. Here are all of the Batman villain profiles, complete with inane and annoying commentary by Neron that I really wish I could erase.

Look into the face of insanity behind the cut! )
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Note: LJ has introduced some new updating software that seems to be screwing everything up, cutting off whole chunks of text and doubling up others for no reason. My apologies if there are errors in this review. I will strive to fix them, but if I cannot, then I will just delete this entry until LJ gets their shit together. Unless they won't let me delete it. In which case, I'm screwed. Yay!

So! A flawed but fascinating new Two-Face story has just come out in the online pages of DC's digital relaunch of the venerable Batman title Legends of the Dark Knight.

Has anyone been reading the new LotDK? I've been curious to check it out, as that's a title which is very close to my heart. I was intrigued by the fatally-flawed-but-well-written first issue written by Damon Lindelof of Lost and Prometheus fame/infamy, and I was curious to read the other stories. I had hoped it would yield a neat mixed bag of interesting stories by different creative voices ala the original LotDK and Batman: Black and White, but I also feared that it'd just end up being a dumping ground for misfit stories, ala titles such as the late and unlamented Batman Confidential and, well, what LotDK itself eventually became.

As such, I've held off on reading the new LotDK, which I understand has been pretty much nothing but Joker story after Joker story. I also heard about a three-parter with Slam Bradley versus Black Mask, and as I loved Slam from Brubaker and Cooke's Catwoman, I'd like to read that at some point. Of course, when I learned that issue #15 featured a standalone Two-Face story, which you can all buy and read right now for just 99¢! Obviously, I had to make an exception and splurge, even though I had no idea what to expect.

The writer, Jonathan Larsen, is apparently a relative comics newbie who mainly has experience producing shows like Countdown and The Daily Show, as well as his current gig producing MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes. That's an impressive resume, but it didn't tell me a dang thing about what a Batman comic by him would be like. The art, meanwhile, is by Tan Eng Huat, whose work I loved in John Arcudi's little-read Doom Patrol run before it evolved into a more grotesque style in stuff like Andrew Helfer's (!) Batman: Journey Into Knight, a maxi-series which I really wanted to love more than I did.

Now, having read their Two-Face story in LotDK, I can't help wonder if I was too distracted by the artwork to enjoy the story, because I fear that it got into the way of my enjoyment of this one too. Not that the story itself is perfect either, but all the same, this is a surprising little story that actually treats Harvey with more respect than he's gotten in years, and it's one of the most interesting attempts to tackle Two-Face that I've read recently.

Note: I go really in-depth with this one, so you might just want to buy the issue for 99¢ and read it first, then join me to pick it apart. But I'll do my best to keep you up to speed about the plot along the way.

Don't do it. Please. Don't let him do this to you. )

Ultimately, I think the highest praise I can give this issue is that--with a different style of art and a bit of cleaning up--it would have been a solid story that could have fit right in with the wonderful DCAU Batman comics. But then, maybe I'm just thinking that because the issue reads like it was partially inspired by the great B:TAS episode Second Chance (review forthcoming soon, I swear!). As it is, it's flawed and rushed, but also promising and encouraging. As a Two-Face fan who so rarely gets to see stories where the character gets the respect he deserves, I really love what this story set out to accomplish, and that ambition alone makes it more interesting to me than most other comics out there now.

This standalone digital issue is on sale right now for just 99¢, so it's definitely worth picking up and supporting. And if you're interesting in reading any more of the new LotDK, do let me know what you think!
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Part 1
Part 2

Welcome back! No long-winded introductions this time, let's get straight to the grand finale of this Dark Detective review!

Fate is playing TRICKS, Batman! )

But what about poor Evan Gregory? Surely his own story isn't over, right? Well, this opens up a whole new area of controversy and contention Englehart's part. You see, he also noticed some eerie similarities between Evan Gregory and TDK's Harvey Dent, as played by Aaron Eckhart. And he doesn't think that's a coincidence at all.

Did Christopher Nolan rip off Englehart and Rogers? Englehart makes his case here behind the cut )

Again, Englehart sells comic scripts for $15 per issue over at his website, which means that the complete scripts for the Dark Detective sequel could be yours for $90! When I found out about this story, I was DYING to buy those scripts myself, because man, what a coup that would have been for this site! To actually be able to review a "Story That Never Was," and a sequel to a comic I love...!

But sadly, life has utterly gone to shit in our household over the past month, forcing us to cut back costs on everything, and that $90 would be better spent on baby food and a new dishware set. Man, being an adult sucks. But if any of you are willing to make that splurge, by all means, contact Mr. Englehart and ask for the scripts to DDIII. And if you're willing to share any story details with us, hey, I think we'd ALL be grateful for that!

Man, I just wish I could read it myself, almost as much as I wish Marshall Rogers could still be with us. Instead, we have a masterful artist taken from this world far before his time, and on top of it all, we have an interesting story lost forever in favor of an awful one. Perhaps Harvey was right after all. Perhaps fate is playing tricks. In any case, I'm nonetheless grateful that Englehart, Rogers, and Austin were able to reunite one more time to provide the fascinating, fun, flawed, wacky, wonderful romp that was Batman: Dark Detective.

If you liked this review and want to read the full thing (and you absolutely should, since there was so much more great stuff which I couldn't include), you can either pick up the Dark Detective trade paperback or the amazing hardcover collection Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers, which collected both Englehart/Rogers stories, plus Siege and more! I own almost all of those stories in some form or another, and I'm STILL sorely tempted to pick that one up myself!
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Welcome back! As I said at the end of the first part, the Two-Face subplot is Batman: Dark Detective is one of the oddest damn Harvey stories I have ever read. To this day, I'm still not sure whether I like it or not, which is one reason I wanted to examine this story in full. I just put it off for years because I expected that it would be a pain to parse out.

What I hadn't expected was that I'd also be giving Silver St. Cloud's subplot just as much attention, which is one reason why this review is spread out over three rather large parts. Why would I devote so much additional time and energy to a character and storyline which only drags down this story as a whole? Well, I recently discovered something about that storyline which is actually very relevant to our interests, but before I can explain what that is (and what could have been), we need to examine what Englehart was trying to do with his OC love interest and her bland but dutiful fiancé, Evan Gregory.

The odd man out of this story is the Scarecrow, whose inclusion here serves as more of a way of furthering the plot along rather than anything having to do with the character himself. Whereas Harvey and Silver/Evan's stories are seemingly-unrelated plotlines with connections I will eventually explore, Scarecrow is here solely to motivate Bruce. That said, Englehart does have a couple of his own... unique ideas of what makes Professor Crane tick, so let's look at that too, and then you can let me know whether or not you think Englehart's interpretation holds any water.

Two Faces Have I )

On that cliffhanger, I think this is the perfect time to end this review. In the next and final part, we'll take a look at Harvey's recovery from these events, plus we'll see what I consider to be some of the greatest Joker moments of all time. We'll also witness the literal fall of Evan Gregory, how it would have led to the sequel that never was, and how Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight might--or might not--have been "inspired" by this story.

Edit: Part 3 is up! Go go go!
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While there are many Batman stories which I adore, there are some which I would never, ever recommend to anyone else. Such is the case with Batman: Dark Detective, the long-awaited reunion of Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin, one of the the greatest Batman teams ever who produced one of the greatest runs of any DC Comics property in the company's history. Hyperbole abuse be damned, I firmly think that storyline deserves every scrap of praise it gets.

A brief overview of Englehart and Rogers' legendary story, and their respective failed attempts to create a suitable sequel )

So with the three big stars of the original band reunited, coupled with a first-issue Joker cover that guaranteed old-school awesomeness, it's obvious that Batman: Dark Detective was going to be perhaps THE must-read comic for fans of classic Batman... right?

Well... sorta. Look, I love this story, but I'll be the first to admit that it's not without flaws. And even its strengths are not all to everyone's tastes. Maybe what happened was that, in their attempt to recapture the traits that made them so beloved in the first place, they were perhaps a bit too successful. Batman: Dark Detective ramps up a lot of their... quirks, shall we say... to the point where it must seem weird and jarring to readers who aren't familiar with their work, to the newbies who are, in a sense, not "in on the joke." I think it's fair to say that B:DD is like porn for fans of Englehart and Rogers, a slice of pure crack that's largely off-beat, sometimes just plain off, sometimes COMPLETELY BONKERS, but it's never boring. Well, almost never, depending on your tolerance for the romance between Bruce Wayne and Silver St. Cloud.

Did you notice that this issue is where DC changed logos from the "bullet" to the "swish"? Maybe that was another sign of how the times had moved on from this story right out from under its feet. Also, I miss the "bullet," dammit. Hell, I had already gotten used to the "swish" before it too got replaced by the soulless corporate logo they're using now. Sigh.

Ultimately, I may just be really biased in my love towards Dark Detective for two reasons: 1.) it has one of the weirdest--and yet, most strangely charming--explorations of Harvey Dent that I've ever seen, and 2.) it has what I consider to be some of the best Joker moments of all time. Yes, the real focus is on Bruce and Silver's affair, but to quote Max Shreck, "Yawn." For me, Dark Detective is all about the perfect Joker and the wacky Harvey. So let's examine both, shall we?

And while we're at it, let's meet a brand-new character who will play a vital part in this story, someone who bears an eerie resemblance to a certain blond, doomed politician from a recent Bat-related movie that would come out three years later. Coincidence? We'll see...

Click this cut-tag OR I'LL KILL YOU )
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Before we return to our regularly-scheduled reviews and rants, I want to bring a couple more great articles by [livejournal.com profile] about_faces regulars to your attention. They're not technically guest posts since I'm not hosting them here but are rather linking to their own blogs, but they're still worth recommending!

The first is by [livejournal.com profile] vw_tb0, who has written a review of Mad Love with an emphasis on the abusive relationship subtext. It's one of the most fundamental aspects of that classic issue, and yet I feel like it's too often lost amongst many of the Joker/Harley shippers.

The other article is by [livejournal.com profile] psychopathicus, who examines the villains of the Batman movies, weighs their strengths and weaknesses, and talks about what he'd do with them if given the chance. I have to say, I don't really disagree with anything he says, there. It really makes me wish that more writers in general shared that kind of understanding of what makes these characters tick.

Wish I could talk more about both articles, but I gotta run. IRL stuff waits for no fan, and I have several more full reviews of my own in the pipeline!
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Hefner here again, with a new guest post courtesy of long-time contributor [livejournal.com profile] lego_joker! What he has to offer you today is... well, by own admittance, "I must be out of my freaking mind." I wouldn't say that myself, but I will say that this is an impressive work of complete, utter, truly *dedicated* geekery for those familiar with both Batman and classic Pokémon.

For my part, I haven't kept up with Pokémon since the first show and the Blue cartridge on old-school Game Boy, so I'm wayyyyyyy out of touch with the fandom, but I still have very fond memories of the tie-in CD, "2 B a Master," an album which is a guilty pleasure for me and Henchgirl to this very day. I'm not saying that we can, like, perform the entirety of the Team Rocket "Double Trouble" song by heart, and do the voices PERFECTLY or anything like that, heavens noooooooo. *cough* Um. So, [livejournal.com profile] lego_joker's post! Take it awayyyyyyy!

(The surgeon general recommends that you listen to the actual Pokerap before singing this aloud or in your head.)

Gotta catch 'em all! )


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