about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
In honor of today being 2/22, the intrepid [livejournal.com profile] lego_joker decided--for whatever inspired reason--to throw together collages of every single time that Harvey got hit in the face with acid. The result is oddly compelling in a way that's both hilarious and horrible. The colleges in question only cover the comics in the regular continuity, and he has plans to eventually put out a fourth collage of "Elseworlds/Impostor/Rescarring/Other Media stuff" once he figures out how they'll all be put together. I, for one, cannot wait. For now, I'll let [livejournal.com profile] lego_joker take over with his collages and notes.

Behind the cut, all of your favorites: 'Ugh! My face!' 'Aaghh! My face!' 'AARRRGGH!! M-my face--!?!' 'GAAHH--' 'YAAARGHH!!' 'NAAAGGGHHHH!' And many more! )
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Well, I was going to post the finale of Two-Face, Part II today, since I had the whole thing ready to go, but LJ ate it. Not all of it, but at least a day's work. Since I'm too tired and too upset from the setback, it'll be another day or two before I get that rewritten and posted. It's fine, it'll just give me a chance to do it better this time! Oy, I'm gonna throw up.

In the meantime, please accept the following from an issue of The Amazing World of DC Comics, 1975, wherein writer/editor Jack C. Harris (self-proclaimed creator of Arkham Asylum, as well as a Two-Face fan who shares my initials, so I feel some kinship there) proves his geek cred by describing step-by-step his methods for Two-Face cosplay! Bear in mind, this appeared shortly after Harvey's return from years of obscurity in O'Neil and Adams' Half an Evil," so the character was still relatively new to many readers! Plus, bonus Sergio Aragones! Everybody wins!





Oh, he is adorable. And priding himself on taking second prize for his Two-Face costume? Yeah, definitely feeling a kinship there!

A couple years after this, Harris would prove his devotion to the character a second time by rewriting the entire character's origin for the Bronze Age! I've reviewed that story here, and if you'd like to read the entire thing, it's all been posted up here by the groovy guy Diversions of the Groovy Kind. It's a neato attempt at developing the origin that never quite panned out, but I rather enjoy it for all that. I think that it fits nicely in the Bronze Age universe right along with Duela Dent being his daughter.

As if that weren't enough to solidify JCH's cred as a major Two-Face fan, I found the following buried in the back of The Art of Walter Simonson, a trade paperback dedicated to stories by the legendary artist. It was too tricky to crop on its own, so as another bonus, you get cool concept art for a Green Lantern film that never was! Because I'm generous (read: lazy and lack photoshop) like that!



So yeah, I think it's safe to assume that JCH is a fan, which is awesome. For these alone, he deserves to go into the Two-Face creator Hall of Fame, if such a hall existed. Maybe I should get on it. Who else would deserve inclusion? I'd vote for Andrew Helfer, Ty Templeton, J.M. DeMatteis, and maybe Judd Winick. But even still, aside from maybe Ty coming the closest, I can't think of any creator who has achieved the heights of passionate geekiness that Jack C. Harris did in the above essay. So to JCH, my brother in fandom and initials, I salute you, you great big geek, you!

Okay, sleep now. Tomorrow, rewriting the post. As always, thanks for bearing with delays and long-windedness, folks.
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The Bronze Age of comics is considered by many to be the Golden Age for Batman. I can certainly understand why, as it may be my very favorite Batman era.

That's not to say the stories then were necessarily any BETTER than the ones in other eras (since every era has its ups and downs, with the ratio heavily tipped towards the mediocre and the crap), but I absolutely adore the sensibilities of Bronze Age Batman. Moody without being excessively dark, gritty without being grimy, simultaneously more realistic and more ambitiously fantastic, grounded in character without too much soap opera, Bronze Age Batman was the raw, uneven template for Batman storytelling that would be polished, surpassed, and perfected by Batman: The Animated Series.

Is it fair to say that we pretty much owe it all to Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams? If nothing else, that legendary writer/artist team popularized the dramatic shift away from Adam West Silver Age into a new era for the Dark Knight. Again, that's not to say that their stories were always good--sacrilege as it may be to admit such a thought--but while I personally prefer the art of Jim Aparo to Adams, and while I think Bronze Age Batman reached its epitome with the Strange Apparitions run by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, O'Neil and Adams delivered a few genuine, timeless classics.

One of their most famous stories appeared two months after the introduction of the Ra's al Ghul and two years before the brilliant The Joker's Five-Way Revenge (which redefined the Joker, although not enough to surpass Ra's as the decade's Greatest Batman Villain ZOMG, apparently). In August 1971, O'Neil and editor Julius Schwartz decided to bring back Two-Face after seventeen years since his last appearance:



But while this was one of the most important Two-Face stories ever published, not to mention supposedly one of The Greatest Batman Stories of All Time (see links at the bottom), it's ultimately a very standard Batman detective story. There's a crime, there's a fight, there's a villain, there's another fight, there's detective work, there's Batman out-thinking the villain, and there's Batman winning. Yadda yadda, yay. But what it DID have was atmosphere and mood out the metaphorical wazoo:




Come lurk with us for a while, won't you? )


All in all, though, I like this story much more now than I did when I sat down to write this post. I love how I can find little things to appreciate in these comics by writing about them than I did just reading them. Nonetheless, when it comes to O'Neil and Two-Face, I greatly prefer his wonderful story with Irv Novick from three years later, Threat of the Two-Headed Coin. Then ending is very similar, with Batman using Harvey's coin (and "pride?") against himself, but it featured a wonderfully melancholic touch which I adore. Definitely check that one out if you already haven't. It's a fave.

Scans from this story were generously provided by Joe Bloke at Grantbridge Street, the best goddamn blog for comic scans out there. If you'd like, check out his blog to read all of Half an Evil. Either way, put aside an hour or two to scour through his great blog for all sorts of treasures.

If you'd like to own this great story, well, you have two options. I greatly recommend going the first route and buying the old The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, which is where these scans came from. It's a great collection anyway, and it's the best-colored version I've read. Otherwise, you can pick up Batman VS Two-Face, a frustratingly crappy collection which reprints Neal Adams remastered and recolored version of the story that originally ran in this hardcover collection. Squint and you can see a tiny comparison between the original published page and the touched-up version by Adams:


Image source.


Yeah, the new coloring isn't bad, but it feels a lot like a Lucas-ization of something that was already fine in the first place. The extra softness and dimensions of the computer coloring are just unnecessary, in my opinion. When it comes to older comics, give me gritty newsprint or solid, muted colors any day. But then, I'm the kind of guy who utterly loathes all the CGI additions in the remastered Star Trek: The Original Series, so what do I know?
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Sometimes, I just don't know where to begin writing a post. Such is the case when talking about Duela Dent.

You know, the Joker's Daughter, who was actually the daughter of Harvey and Gilda Dent, except no wait, what, that makes no sense but CRISIS! and now it makes even less sense and COUNTDOWN and what? Exactly. You have one of the muddiest clusterfucks of a character this side of Zero Hour Hawkman. Maybe not a clusterfuck, exactly, but more like a character who went through several reinventions in rapid succession while making no impact and being met with resounding apathy. She's kind of the Madonna of failure.

But for a second, let's not forget that there was a time when she actually was meant to be Two-Face's daughter, for reals. Even though she was introduced in 1977 as a criminal dressed as the Joker and calling herself "The Joker's Daughter," it was quickly revealed that she was actually Harvey Dent's long-lost child, and that her crimes were more along the lines of "malicious mischief" to prove herself worthy of joining the Teen Titans. Because Dick is apparently a good-hearted idiot, this plan works and he vouches for her membership, which she wins (although Speedy don't trust that dame one bit, no siree).

I should probably mention that I haven't actually read those issues, and am just going by 1.) what I've learned on the Duela's profile on TitansTower.com, and 2.) the following storyline, wherein the big confrontation finally happens:





Daddy's Little Crimefighter (hey, don't blame me, that was the actual story's title!) behind the cut )
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One of the few Two-Face appearances I don't own happens to be a collector's item: Batman #260, which featured the first appearance of Arkham Asylum dash it all, I completely forgot, that was another issue, and one I'd already posted! Ugh, stupid me. Guess I'm still brain-fried from the long drive back from Orlando. Then damn, why the hell is THIS comic so expensive in every back issue bin?! Harvey's appearance in this comic is just a cameo, but even though it's one of my favorite cameos, I didn't want to shell out $20+ for a single comic, and I don't ever download torrents of comics, partially because I never could figure out how.

Thankfully, I just discovered this seemingly-abandoned Picsaweb account with quite a few classic Batman scans, plus some recent stuff from Under the Hood and Batman R.I.P., about which I couldn't give a pair of pears. And there, among many neat and never-been-reprinted treasures, I found scans of that issue I was looking for, the first scene of which I present to you here:


At the edge of Arkham, New England, stands the asylum of the criminally insane... )
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
This time around, I seem to start talking less about Harvey and more ranting about comics in general. So this should be fun!


Seven covers from the Bronze Age right up to the Crisis reboot of continuity )

Finally, I think this cover deserves to be outside the cut:





Really, I love superheroes dedicating a room to their arch-enemies, whether it in their headquarters or in places like the Flash Museum. Really, why wouldn't Batman create an entire "Hall of Infamy" in the Batcave, with framed portraits, no less? Do you think he painted them all himself?

I've always loved that cover, particularly for how innocent and friendly the Mad Hatter looks. Have I mentioned how much I love the Mad Hatter in TAS, but hate him in comics?

It's all Grant Morrison's fault, because ever since Arkham Asylum, Jervis is now always considered a pedophile. It's the same kind of late 80's-early 90's mentality that turned Toyman into a child murderer (and then also a pedophile). I hate it so much, and between Jeph Loeb bringing back Jervis as a little man who speaks nothing but quotes, it's pretty much ruined the character. I was hoping Gail Simone might revitalize the character, but instead, now he also fucks hats.

Let me say that again. He. Fucks. HATS.

NO.

I still plan to do posts dedicated to each of the rogues, especially the ones who deserve better writing. Jervis, Ozzie, and Eddie have all been victims of terrible writing and wildly inconsistent characterization. Nobody seems to know what the hell to do with Poison Ivy, ever since they forgot her original origins centering around her obsession with Batman. What's her motivation? What actually drives her and why? We still don't know, and no one seems to care, because why should Pam actually get character development when most people aren't really interested in her as a character?

Also, I imagine Killer Moth being all flustered and flattered to learn that he's included. "Really? I'M there? He... he considers me as bad as them? Oh, I have to call my Mom!" I kid, because I love the loser. But y'know, consider this: Killer Moth has, in recent years, proven himself more enduring as a loser and a joke than he ever has as a badass 90's-tastic man-eating bug creature.

The lesson here? A villain doesn't have to be a grim and deadly threat to be enduring and enjoyable. Hell, in Batgirl: Year One, he was even kinda interesting! Comics dearly need to get back a sense of fun, even in Batman. Especially in Batman.




Next post is Post-Crisis, a post which will culminate in three of the greatest Two-Face covers of all time. Give you a hint: the artists are Perez, Bolland, and Adams.
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One of my favorite Two-Face stories barely features the character at all. But much like Orson Welles's Harry Lime, whose five minutes of screen time dominated the whole of The Third Man, the threat of Harvey Dent looms throughout the Batman/Green Arrow team-up story from 1973's The Brave and the Bold #106.

Written by Bob Haney and drawn by the great Jim Aparo (who got top billing!), "Double Your Money... and Die!" was the second story to feature Harvey since Denny O'Neil dusted off the character after seventeen years in obscurity. It's pure Bronze Age Batman, too: a murder mystery filled with action and intrigue, building up to an epic ski chase in Switzerland. Plus it's fun, thanks the humor both intentional (Ollie's wisecracks) and unintentional (dated lingo, clothes, Batman uttering "Ye gods!", etc).

Told in one single issue, the story was so densely packed that DC actually sacrificed the letters column to let it run twenty-three and one-third pages instead of the standard twenty-two! Either they really wanted to do justice to Haney and Aparo's story, or they wanted avoid printing the letters for issue #103. Either way, Haney and Aparo make use of every single panel, and modern comic creators would do well to follow the economy of Bronze Age writers like Haney.

Also, Jim Aparo. It's Jim Aparo drawing Batman. On skis, no less!





Death on skis (and I don't mean the Black Racer) behind the cut! )

If you'd like to read this story in whole (which I recommend, as there's much more I had to cut), it's collected in the black and white collection, Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold: The Batman Team-Ups, volume two, appropriately enough!
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I love old comic covers. The great J.M. DeMatteis recently described the allure of classic covers as being "like cosmic portals, opening up doorways to other dimensions; colorful parallel universes far preferable to the one I inhabited."

Two-Face is a natural feature for covers, as he's a character who is so striking, so iconic, that even people who know nothing about him can instantly get a good idea what he's about. And once Denny O'Neil dusted off the character at the birth of the Bronze Age, he soon made regular appearances on covers.

To the best of my abilities, I've tracked down all the Two-Face cover appearances I could find (most of which I own and were thus able to scan), to post here with commentary and--if applicable--links to posts where I've looked at the stories in depth. So if you're new to [livejournal.com profile] about_faces, here's a chance for you to catch up on some stuff you may have missed!

For the rest of you, here's a bunch of neato covers to look at! And where better to start than with the start?







Behind the cut: TEN more great/cool/cracky Bronze Age covers by artists like Ernie Colon, Jim Aparo, and Jose-Luis Garcia Lopez! )




Next up: Part Two of the Bronze Age, with covers by Gene Colan, Tom Mandrake, Dick Giordano, and another by Jim Aparo! Because you can never have too much Aparo!
about_faces: (coin flipping through the air)
Right off the bat (hurr), I should say this: I haven't read the entire two-and-a-half-year-long run of Gerry Conway's tenure on Detective Comics. Which makes this post kind of a problem, because it concerns a subplot that Conway ran through 'Tec and occasionally Batman too for at least a year, maybe more.

It's a storyline about political intrigue and corruption, of ghosts and paranoia, and the arc I present here is one that starts in a political rally and ends right in the Batcave itself. Even from the issues here, I can already tell this this was a sprawling tale compared to the tightness of Englehart's Strange Apparitions, from which it cribs extensively to the point of plagiarism at times, as you might be able to tell right away:






But for all that, it's still an intriguing Batman epic, one which has been lost in the shuffle of fan memory between O'Neill/Adams and Miller. If any of you have read the whole run, do chime in and let me know how it stands in your memory. And for those who haven't, let's take a look at subplot which most concerns the theme of these posts...


The Haunting of Boss Thorne 2: Hunt for the Blood Orchid, behind the cut! )
about_faces: (coin flipping through the air)
Note: I started this post as part of the Hugo Strange series, but it became much more than that. I hope you'll indulge this extreme departure from the usual Two-Face topics, as this is a subject which has been haunting me for days now.




With "Interlude on Earth-Two," Alan Brennert was the first DC Comics writer to asked the questions, "If you go to a world where an alternate version of yourself got older, married, had a full life, and died... wouldn't that be kinda upsetting? Not just for you, but the people who knew and loved your alternate self?"

They're questions that no DC writer had considered by 1982, and Brennert answered them by throwing in an additional question: "What if that alternate Earth's Hugo Strange didn't escape unscathed from his final Golden Age adventure?"

This is one of the finest comics by Alan Brennert, who wrote only about nine DC stories over twenty years, including the wonderful Batman classic, To Kill A Legend.

It is a testament to his abilities that I've had an insanely hard time editing these scans, so while scans_daily shall receive a butchered edition of this post, you readers here shall get the expanded version which does better justice to the story. At least, until such time as DC reprints it someday (probably in a theoretical fourth or fifth volume of DC Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold).





When even the cover has to ask that question, you know it's either gonna be a confusing mess, or something awesome... )

As I said before, Alan Brennert only wrote nine stories for DC Comics over about twenty years. His career there rivals only Alan Moore's for most prolific body of work over a very limited tenure, and if there were any justice, fans would be clamoring for DC to publish a Complete DC Comics Stories of Alan Brennert collection. Doing this past makes me want to write about them all in a Brennert Master Post. Perhaps I will, once I've tracked down the last three I have yet to read.
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Two-Face's next major appearance not only ignored the climactic moment of redemption with Gilda, but it also threw in a brand new, never before (or after) seen love interest for Two-Face, a character who even serves to be the closest thing to his own Harley Quinn:





That said, their partner(relation?)ship barely gets much depth in this story. I'd be more critical of author Gerry Conway bringing a new romantic interest in right on the heels of Gilda's return, but it seems pointless considering that the story feels like a throwback bit of comic fun anyway.

So let's enjoy it for what it is once you discover the secret of Two-Face's Halfway House! )
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Back when I posted Two-Face: Year One--which entirely cut out the character of Gilda from the origin--one commenter asked if any kind of wife/finance is really needed for Harvey.

Me, I'd argue that Gilda is a character who is absolutely essential to displaying the humanity and core tragedy of Harvey Dent. Unfortunately, she's made very few appearances in comics, which I think is a major reason why Two-Face is so often written as a one-note monster with a cheap gimmick.

That said, Gilda can be a problematic character. When she first appeared in the original Harvey Kent trilogy way back in the 40's, her character was mainly there to be the weeping, faithful, fragile love interest, the pure-hearted woman who could redeem Harvey through the sheer power of lurve.

Two-Face eventually returned, but Gilda did not. At least, not until 1980, after a thirty-six year absence, in the story I bring you today. In this overly-convoluted mystery entitled Double Jeopardy/Twice Dies the Batman, Gilda meets a new love interest with a shady past, and unwittingly becomes involved in a web of lies, murder, and revenge. Why can't there ever be webs of nice things, like puppies and pie?





Plastic surgery does not work that way behind the cut )

In the near future, I'll post the one other story to actually make use of this refreshing new direction for Gilda before she's relegated back to her previous characterization... or worse, in the case of the story from which she's now, regrettably, most famous.
about_faces: (OMG!)
Ah, Two-Face and the Joker: the Itchy and Scratchy of Gotham's Rogues Gallery.

Really, of all Batman's enemies, no two characters better personify the masks of comedy and tragedy. It's no wonder that they've been known to spar over the years, usually with the Joker somehow managing to make Harvey's life even worse. Really, I could do a whole post of the top five ways the Joker's screwed over Two-Face.

One of their earliest games of cat-and-dangling-bit-of-string occurred in the first issue of the Joker's own short-lived solo title:





I don't own this issue, so therefore I could not scan it for you guys. Thankfully, you can read the whole thing here, at the Grantbridge Streets and Other Misadventures, a great blog that regularly features wonderful comic and art scans.

There's not much to say about the story itself, other than it's pretty much just pure fun. I also appreciate that, while Two-Face is ultimately trumped by the Joker (as always), he actually makes for a formidable antagonist against Mr. J, to the point that their climactic battle could arguably be called a draw.

That said, my favorite scene of these two (hurr) facing (double hurr) off occurs earlier in the story:

A pair of pages behind the cut )
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So I have a specific reason for wanting to post the cracktacular Bronze Age epic, "Where Were You the Night Batman Died?" But the problem is, I can't say what the reason is without spoiling the major twist.

Written by 50's-era Batman author David V. Reed (creator of Deadshot), WWYTNBD? is a Bronze Age tale that still feels distinctly Silver. The result is a story that feels less timeless and more awkward in either era, but it's fascinating and fun nonetheless.

Batman is believed to be dead, so the underworld (including all of Batman's rogues) decide to hold their own trial to determine who deserves the credit for snuffin' the Bat. Ra's al Ghul is the Judge (see what I mean about the Silver Age touch?) while Two-Face is given the perfect role as the prosecutor! The testimony of each villain gives me the impression that WWYTNBD? was the main inspiration for the classic B:TAS episode, "Almost Got 'Im."

Rather than scans and crop these issues myself, I'll instead ask that you either buy the collection yourself, or check out the following links from the blog Blah Blah Blah, which posted all four issues of this story. And after you've read the story, click the cut-tag to discuss spoilers.

You ready?






Part 1: The Testimony of Catwoman


Part 2: The Testimony of the Riddler


Part 3: The Testimony of Lex Luthor


Part 4: The Testimony of the Joker


Finished? Read all four parts, or at least pretend you did? All righty then...


SPOILERS behind the cut, namely the reason I'm posting this in the first place! )

If you'd like to read this and other great Batman almost-deaths, they can be purchased in the trade paperback collection, The Strange Deaths of Batman.
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One of the most distinctive aspects of The Bronze Age of Comics (early 70's to mid 80's) was how it mixed classic superheroics in a greater sense of realism.

Or at least, that was the attempt, more often than not. Even those results that were groundbreaking at the time now read as dated, ham-handed, and/or just plain silly. I mean, I know it's blasphemous, but have any of you recently read the O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow run?

Due to the popularity of James Bond and other Cold War spy adventures, Batman's stories took on a more global scope, most notably once O'Neil brought in Ra's Al Ghul. Even the classic Rogues got into the espionage game, including Penguin, Joker, and, of course, the focus of today's story:





The surprise identity of today's mystery guest villain behind the cut! )

So obviously Two-Face survives, but we're never given any explanation to how. In fact, this was at least his second sure death during the Bronze Age, the first of which I still have yet to post, and that one wasn't explained away either!

Instead, Harvey returns a mere year later, with no mention of this story whatsoever, in another Novick-drawn tale that not only brings back Gilda, but also directly spins out of the Dave Davis origin. It's Gilda's first appearance since the Golden Age, and the first truly interesting look at the character and why she's so vital to Harvey as a character.

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