about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
While I'm older and wiser enough to know that McDonald's is shit that will kill me, I still have a great deal of fondness for the Happy Meal toys I had collected over the years as a kid growing up in the 90's. Of course, when it comes to which line of tie-in toys were my favorites, you can probably guess:





As you can see, the line was divided into four basic action figures and four characters riding their own personalized gimmicky vehicles, which always struck me as being like something out of Gotham's own version of Wacky Races. My favorite toy of the whole line was not the flippable Two-Face car, but rather the Riddler figure, which is still one of my very favorite plastic embodiments of Eddie.


I wish I could find a better picture of this. What I especially loved about this figure was how he had a half-smirk which gave him a different mood depending on which side you looked at him. Look at him from one side: frowny Eddie! From the other: smug Eddie! Look at him face on: snarky Eddie! Who knew that a Happy Meal could convey versatile personality?


Yes, I loved these toys, but more than that, I loved the Happy Meal boxes they came in, at least one of which featured original art by that MVP of DCAU Batman comics, Ty Templeton. Like coloring and activity books on crack, these were packed with games, puzzles, and awful jokes which must surely have been used by many a child to torment many a parent. To see what I mean, here’s the one that’s definitely by Templeton, which I know because he posted it over at his own blog. That's as official as it gets!



I don't know about some you young'un snappers of whippers, but this box gives me such a 90's nostalgic flashback. It's the little details I also love, like the fact that the Joker has a trunk full of stolen kittens. The only thing that bugs me is that Catwoman is more interested in stealing the bejeweled cat collars over saving all those cats from the clutches of the goddamned Joker, but maybe that's her ulterior motive to this ill-advised team-up. At least, I think they're teaming up.

I also love that Harvey (who always looks great under Templeton's pen) is apparently trying to woo Catwoman with an entire serving tray of stolen jewels, the only one of which that entices her are the "purrrr-ls!" Maybe it's just the fact that I'm now a Dad and therefore terminally uncool, but I am such a sucker for horrible puns like that.

So lucky me, I've found scans of all the other Happy Meal boxes (including the other half of the one above), all of which are filled with more lousy jokes and wacky character moments! Whee! With the exception of the next scan, which is also from Templeton's own blog, the rest of these are from the eBay store of D&K's Treasures from the Vault, which is selling each of these boxes for about ten bucks each.

Oh, and if you want to see the original artwork of the Templeton pieces, Ty the Guy's blog has also got you covered. Just in case you want to break out the Crayola and color them in yourself.

Learn the horrible secret of why the Joker loves to make eggs for breakfast, behind the cut! )

Of course, no mention of Batman-related McDonald's tie-ins would be complete without a quick mention of my very favorite items of all: the Batman Forever collector's mugs!


Source: X-Entertainment


I recently found all of mine during one of the several times I've had to move over the past year, and they're still as cool as I remember. Also, I apparently own two Riddler mugs and three Two-Face ones, because why wouldn't I? I hope you won't blame me, especially considering the awesome handle of the Two-Face mug in particular.



Sadly, I have been hesitant to use the mugs ever since those stories broke out about lead being found in pretty much all McDonald's glasses ever made. Does that extend to the Batman Forever glasses too, or just the glasses that had paint on them? I haven't been able to find out either way, but better safe than sorry. Oh well, at least they'll be safe high up on a shelf, away from the grabbing hands of my susceptible child.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Another quick post today. Real life is too busy and hectic with the holidays coming up, and all my free writing time has been devoted to working on something more personal over at my neglected original LJ, [livejournal.com profile] thehefner. Sadly, I fear that I may not be able to whip together a Batman Returns review in time for Christmas, as I'd hoped! Well, until I can pull together anything new, let me at least tide you over with something cool and mysterious I've found, with the hope that maybe some of you might be able to shed light on this.

In my search for rare art by artists like the late, great Marshall Rogers (Strange Apparitions/The Laughing Fish, the Batman comic strip, Dark Detective), I've found four pieces of what is clearly concept art for a Batman project which never happened. More than just art, they include liner notes which hint at story details and show how this take on the characters stands out from the rest.



Thing is, though, I have no idea what the hell this project might have been! There are no details online, no clues, no hints. The only possibility that comes to mind is that maybe they were for the Dark Detective sequel which Rogers had only started at the time of his death, but nothing about these images really jives with the scant info that Steve Englehart himself has provided. So what the heck was this? Let's try to figure it out together!

Four large scans behind the cut! )
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Since real life has once again become far too real to allow free time for the usual in-depth bloggery, I think it'd be neat to post a gallery of Batman villains as drawn by a single artist of note, someone who has an amazing style of their own who also brings something unique to the Rogues. Today, I'd like to dedicate this post to Chris Samnee.



Before he became the artist of such celebrated titles as the late, lamented Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Mark Waid's current Daredevil run, and The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom (which I haven't read but obviously must), Samnee first caught my attention with the above Two-Face piece, which instantly became one of my very favorite portraits of Harvey. It doesn't hurt that Two-Face is Samnee's favorite Batman villain, something I learned from over at his blog. From there, I scoured through his archives, and quickly fell in love with his artwork.

Like Alex Toth, David Mazzucchelli, and Michael Lark, Samnee's style is elegantly minimalistic, able to say a lot with a little. As I've said many times in the past, I'm a sucker for artists who can pull that off, especially when it comes to characters. Samnee's portraits shine with personality, and combined with his clear affection for the Bat-Family and Rogues alike, I would dearly love to see him take on a character-driven Gotham Underworld maxi-series.



To get a taste of what that might look like, I've assembled every single villain portrait of Samnee's that I could find over at his blog and Comic Art Fans, an invaluable resource for rare original art. Thanks to those sites, I could easily have also included another thirty portraits of the heroes as well, but eh, maybe I'll just put my favorites in the comments or something. Here, it's evil ahoy!

Over thirty more portraits of the bad, the worse, and the ugly behind the cut! )

A great assortment all, but definitely a few notable absences, especially the Riddler and the Mad Hatter. I'd also love to see how Samnee would tackle Killer Moth.

Note: one Two-Face portrait by Samnee that I cannot include is the one which might just be the best of them all, but as you can see there, the image is teeny tiny and won't enlarge. Blast! I left a comment on Samnee's blog asking about it, but no reply has come yet. If one does and I can find a better version, rest assured that I shall post it!
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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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Hiya, folks, [livejournal.com profile] about_faces here! It's with great pleasure that I introduce today's guest review, courtesy of long-time commenter and seasoned critic, [livejournal.com profile] abqreviews! I'll warn you, this is a long one, filled with TONS of photos, but I promise you that all of it is very, very worth your while. I loved this post, especially since virtually all of it was news even to a great big geek like me. This post is a treasure trove of crack-filled delights, and I am honored to host it here. If you like this and would like to read more of the reviewer, you can do so at his blogspot blog, Out of the Quicksand. And so, without further ado, I bring you...

The Great Rogue Rip-Off!
Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love imitation Batman villains from the 40s."




Jokers, Cat-women, Clayed-faces, Two-faces, and more behind the cut! )
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So hey, remember when I said that I'd discovered an even-more-obscure Batman newspaper comic strip, one which featured what may well be the single rarest Two-Face appearance ever?

Well, good news, everyone! I have come into possession of several scans of the strips, including most of the Two-Face stuff! Not all of it, sadly, and I'm missing the surrounding strips, so the result kinda just feels like being plunked into the middle of a story. But the important thing is, hey, long-lost Two-Face appearance! What's more, as this pre-dates the O'Neil/Adams classic Half an Evil, this strip is actually Harvey's first true appearance during his seventeen-year absence in the Silver Age! So okay, it's crazy rare and historically important, but is it any good? Let's find out!



He was top of his class at Handsome Law School! )

And on that cliffhanger, I'm afraid I've run out of strips. If I ever get my hands on any other scans, I'll be sure to either revise this post or do a whole new, more complete version of this. So yeah, all in all, this strip is much more what I expected the 90's strip to be: an amusing and kinda cool little artifact with some neat bits, but ultimately nothing to write home about for any reason other than its sheer obscurity. Pretty much everything that I didn't include centered around 60's-style Batman detective work and riddle-solving, which didn't exactly make for compelling reading nor offer any character moments. Still, I'm glad to at least have found this much of something which isn't anywhere else on the internet! What think you folks?
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In 1996, trading card company Fleer decided that they wanted to release a different kind of card set for Batman. Inspired by the loose narrative of Topps' classic Mars Attacks! cards, the Batman Master Series set was the first series of cards to comprise a complete, original Batman storyline. The more cards you collect, the more parts of the story you'd have to piece together. And it was all written by none other than our old favorite, Doug Moench. Oh yes, we're in for a treat. :D


Source


The plot was simple: after the Joker once again escapes Arkham, Batman goes missing and is presumed dead, with the Joker being the likeliest suspect. Everyone posits their reactions and theories, including the Joker himself, who can't be sure whether or not he actually did it at all! This offered plenty of opportunities to hit all the big beats of the previous card series (major and minor characters, important events) plus create all-new settings for cards (scenes from the plotline, bizarre wacko takes on the rogues, the Joker popping up in classic Elseworlds). Along the way, we get TONS of cards dedicated to rogues, some of whom pop up several times. Visually, it's a feast of portraits, and that alone would warrant a master post here.

Except it gets even better, because apparently the cards had enough of a cult following amongst collectors that the entire deck was given its own coffee table art book:



Not only are all the cards lovingly reprinted along with Moench's text, but the book's editors actually included commentary from the artists, thus giving a rare insight into the creative process! The combination of characters, art, story, and commentary make Batman Masterpieces a must-have, and to show you what I mean, I'm going to post just the villain pages, almost all of which are by the painter Dermot Power (Batman/Judge Dredd: The Ultimate Riddle, and concept artist for Batman Begins).

Who's Who (could have possibly killed Batman?) behind the cut! )

So what did you guys make of the art? Were they indeed "museum quality" as the ads touted, or merely a dated and grotesque assortment of 90's-tacular artists? I lean more towards the latter, but I love the collection of the cards nonetheless, and I very much recommend checking out the whole of Batman Masterpieces if you can find a copy.
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Back in the awful days of the 1990's--the era which DC, Marvel, and Image now seem hellbent on reliving in their own ways--superhero trading cards were prevalent, fitting in with the "EVERYTHING WILL BE A COLLECTIBLE INVESTMENT GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL" mentality that nearly sank comics as a whole. As with all things, most of these were crap, but there are a couple sets for which I still have affection, largely for how they introduced me to the greater world of comics. Yeah, I have nostalgic love for my gateway drugs.



For example, Skybox's Batman: Saga of the Dark Knight single-handedly introduced me to Batman's Post-Crisis mythos from Year One through Knightsend. It was a great idea to focus on Batman's history, big storylines, key moments, and major characters, and while it's largely dominated in the whole Knightfall mythos, it still holds up as a great overview of an entire era of Batman comics.

To give an idea of what I mean, let's take a look at the Harvey-related cards! )

Of course, those are just the Two-Face cards. I've found scans of the whole set over here, but be warned, they're of varying quality. More than any of the others, I really wish I had high quality scans of Rick Burchett's Year One cards, as well as the villain profiles. Thankfully, I've managed to find some great scans across the internet, including the original artwork for a few!



I'd hate Ponytail!Joker as an awful remnant of 90's-ness, except that his one story by Dixon and Nolan is fantastic. It is the ONLY good story to come out of Knightsquest. I defy you to name a better story, or even a decent one. But even if I didn't like that story, I'd still like this piece. He's just got flair, damn it.


MOAR VILLAIN PORTRAIT CARDS BEHIND THE CUT, INCLUDING AWESOMENESS FROM MIKE MIGNOLA AND MATT WAGNER! )


Since we're on the subject of villains (and when are we not?), this brings me to my other favorite cards: DC Villains: The Dark Judgement, a tie-in for the subpar Underworld Unleashed crossover event.



These cards were decidedly more grotesque, and much of the art is not to my tastes, but I still love any celebration of villainy for comics. Once again, you can find the entire set scanned here, which can give you a fascinating who's who of characters from the mid-90's, including forgotten villains from Fate and Guy Gardner: Warrior, as well as an astonishing number of heroes turned evil. Like Raven from Teen Titans. That's her up there between Mongul and Bane. What in the name of god is she wearing? I mean, she's nearly naked, so must clearly be evil now, because sex is bad, but still.


But of course, what interests me most are the Batman villains, whose own portraits run the gamut from awesome to WTF. )


That wraps up the Batman villains, but as always 'round here, it always comes back to Harvey Dent. If you read that promo sheet above carefully, you may have noticed something about a very rare "Two-Face Skymotion Card" which featured "cutting-edge technology" to show Harvey turning and shooting... AT YOU!



So what the hell IS this card? Quite simply, it's one of the coolest bits of Two-Face merch in existence... )


These images can't quite give the same effect as seeing it in person, but you get the idea. It's pretty damn cool all-around, and by far the most detailed lenticular effect that I've ever seen. I wish I knew who drew it so I could them proper credit, but information about these cards is scarce enough as it is. And that's a damn shame. Maybe it's just my nostalgia talking, but I love these cards, every last one: good, bad, and ugly alike.

Just like Who's Who, they were a wonderful sampler platter for the world of comics, and sometimes, the way I ended up imagining the characters and stories turned out to be better than the comics themselves! I do miss when everything was new and awesome, when possibilities felt limitless, and there was a wealth of stories out there for me to discover. At least with back issues, I know the last part is still true when it comes to superhero comics. Maybe someday I'll be able to feel that way about new comics again too.
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So here's something that I forgot actually existed until I found it hidden in a comic box. The first issue of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle's Shadow of the Bat was released in the full 90's "ZOMG COLLECTORS ITEM BUY TWELVE" treatment, sealed in a polybag along with other assorted goodies. These included two mini-posters, full blueprints to the then-new Arkham Asylum (wish I still had those), a bookmark, and this:



Huh. Well, that's... something. Okay. Here's what was on the other side of this thick, flat paper:



Oh! Okay, a list of the inmates. Well, that's nice. Heh, "Dishonor Roll," I see what you did there. Wait, whose heads are those supposed to be? Joker, Hatter, and Harvey? Wait, hold on, I think this thing folds out and OH MY GOD:



To thirteen-year-old me, this was one of the coolest goddamn things ever. And not just because my three very favorite rogues at the time were featured at the top!

I like how Penguin and Catwoman (in her gray Batman: Year One outfit!) are there, but on the outside of the building. It’s like, “Hi guys, we’re in this rogues gallery too, but we're not insane! Can we join in?” Also, I love you, Jervis, but honestly, what the heck are you doing up there alongside Joker and Harvey? Silly Jervis. I blame Grant Morrison. Finally, I love Croc peeking up over the roof. I’m not sure what the hell he’s supposed to be doing there, and I don't care. I approve of roof!Croc.

I was so glad to see that I still had this, even though I have no idea what I can do with it. I want to display it somewhere, but that's impossible. I guess it's just one of those little geek pleasures that must hide in a box until it's nearly forgotten, only to be rediscovered and dusted off every now and again.

So let this be a heads-up to Marvel, DC, and anybody else who is seemingly hellbent on reliving the dark 90's: if you're gonna seal up your comics in polybag, at least throw some cool swag inside. That would almost make the pathetic sales-desperate practice worthwhile. Because this? This is awesome.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)


As we've already learned, the original intention of the B:TAS writers was to establish D.A. Harvey Dent and the Batman as allies who become friends just before everything goes to hell, in keeping with the original Golden Age origin all the way through to Frank Miller's Batman: Year One.

While this never panned out, it was apparently decided to modify that element so that the friendship would be shifted to Harvey and Bruce, not Batman. This too was already done just a couple years earlier, and in both cases, it gave Batman/Bruce a much deeper level of personal investment in Harvey's loss and the hope for redemption. This wasn't just an ally, a casuality in the war on crime, this was Bruce Wayne's best friend. This is huge, because Bruce Wayne and friendships of any kind don't mix.


Apparently, Harvey REALLY likes pudding.


That friendship became the main focus of Harvey's only major appearance in the show before the Two-Face origin, overriding any other aspects of his character. We don't see the District Attorney in action, nor the man battling demons, and we only get a glimpse of the man as speechifying politician and crime-buster. Instead, the first real introduction that most got to Harvey Dent in the DCAU was that of the good-hearted (if short-sighted and oblivious) best friend. Of course, when it comes to the episode itself, the friendship is entirely secondary (no pun intended) to the plot, which introduces Poison Ivy to the DCAU.



If you haven't seen Pretty Poison or if you need a refresher, this episode can also can also be watched at theWB.com. It's not a good episode, but you might be good to get a more objective view of it before we launch into my own Harvey-centric review, since that's pretty much all I care about. That said, it will also be necessary to explore Pamela Isley's character and motivations. Or rather, the utter lack of both.

So hey, how about that time Harvey Dent wiped out an entire species of flower? )






Note: scans have been either made by me, or have been taken from World's Finest Online or Toonzone. Gif by BigBardaFree at Tumblr.

If you'd like to read the Gotham Girls comic mini-series, all five issues can be purchased digitally on DC's Comixology app for $1.99 apiece. I sure as hell wish I knew they'd do that before I shelled out fifteen bucks for the ultra-rare Harley Quinn issue.
about_faces: (Hugo Strange)
Okay. I've put this one off long enough.

One of the reasons why I've come to love Hugo Strange is because of how the character was uniquely developed over the decades by a handful of writers, each of whom directly built upon the previous stories. While Joker, Two-Face, Penguin, and other villains varied wildly in how they were written (Continuity? Character consistency? BLASPHEMY! MOAR EVIL PLOTS AND DEATH TRAPS!), Hugo was the only character to have a linear progression from the Golden Age all the way to the early 2000's! It was so rare, so precious, so goddamned unusual, that it was well past time for SOME writer to come along and fuck things up. That writer happened to be Doug Moench.

Now, I know I've ragged on Moench a lot, but until this point, his track record with Hugo Strange had been stellar! He wrote two fantastic Hugo stories, including one of the greatest Batman stories ever. I suppose it was only inevitible that his general Moenchness would catch up with him by the time he made the foolish decision to write a sequel to Prey over a decade after the fact, so he could properly depict the return of Post-Crisis Hugo Strange.


Yes, Catwoman, spines work that way.


Here's a thing, though: Devin Grayson already told Hugo's return a few months earlier in the pages of Gotham Knights, in her fantastic Transference storyline. That story, set in modern continuity, made it clear that Hugo hadn't been seen since the events of Prey way back around the Year One continuity. Got all that? Well too bad, because Doug Moench decided to make that even MORE convoluted with Terror, which clashed with established continuity!

More importantly, though, is the fact that Terror sucks. The main problem is that Moench tries to cram in several plotlines--all of which he's regurgitated lazily from earlier in other, better stories--and falls flat in every instance. But I don't want to undersell its quality, nor conversely, oversell its entertainment value for awfulness.

Behold the ill-fated team-up of two fear-based psychology-driven mad professors, behind the cut! )



If you'd like to read Terror in full--including the extensive Catwoman subplot and full details of the Scarecrow's revenge campaign--both it and Prey are finally being collected in one single volume. It's probably the smartest thing to do, even if the sequel is vastly inferior, but the whole collection's worth tracking down for the first story alone.
about_faces: (Default)
Whew, made it! And just in time for Twelfth Night, too!

Doing this series of posts has been one of the most exhausting, draining, frustrating, and goddamned fun projects I've ever done on this blog. It's a shame that it has to end this way, with an assortment that largely covers some of my least favorite Batman eras and characters.

That's not to say there isn't anything I love about Batman from 1997 to 2006. Sure, the days of the great Bat-trio of Moench/Grant/Dixon were starting to wind down, with many good stories hindered by one big crossover after another after another. The fact that they were all fired to make way for the next big crossover would haven been bitterly misguided if that crossover hadn't been No Man's Land. Far as I'm concerned, NML the highest achievement for Batman since Batman: Year One, since it was an event that was mostly focused on character rather than... well, events. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than any other major Batman crossover I have ever read, and thus I was greatly excited with the prospect of NML mastermind Greg Rucka continuing to write the ongoing Detective Comics.

While I loved Rucka's run, as well as Brubaker's Batman and Devin Grayon's Gotham Knights, the changes they made to Batman's character and supporting cast led the series down a path that I didn't necessarily like, but stuck with because I trusted the creative teams involved. And then they were all gone, with Loeb and Lee giving us Hush. After that, new writers followed the threads left by Rucka, Brubaker, and Grayson, and it all went to hell. The stories that followed left me cold, and much as I rag on Grant Morrison's run, I think I might honestly prefer it to the era of Black Mask. Don't force me to choose, please.

So now, at the end of a project that I started to celebrate the characters I love, I shall see if I can muster any of the same kind of enthusiasm for some of my favorite and least favorite eras alike.


Rassum frassum get off my lawn behind the cut )


So here's to another year for about_faces. The output will be infrequent, but I'm not going anywhere. There are too many stories left to look at, too many stupid things to rant about, too many comics and characters and ideas worth celebrating. Hope you'll stick around, and as always, keep the comments coming. You're the smartest damn bunch of fans I know, and that's no lie, no flattery, it's the damn truth. So thank you, and be seeing you.
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By 1990, I suspect that DC was tired of the increasingly-crappy printing quality they were giving to their Who's Who books, and probably wanted to step things up for the collector's market. This is pure speculation on my part, just going by the fact that the new editions of Who's Who were a much higher quality, with better coloring and slick, glossy paper. The biggest change for these profiles was that they came in looseleaf tear-away binding with holes so you could organize them in a three-ring binder any way you wanted: by character name, by heroes and villains, by all Batman/Superman/cosmic characters, etc.

While we had snazzy new updated Who's Who profiles, very little actually happened to most of the characters since they were last written about in previous entries. Aside from the art, the written entries (many by Mark Waid!) were largely identical. Bear in mind, this is just before Batman: The Animated Series, Knightfall, and other stuff which would have greatly affects the biographies of the Batman villains. If DC had waited another year or three, the many profiles would have had more to say rather than pretty much rehashing everything we know already.

Nonetheless, the new art makes the lack of new information plenty worthwhile. Many of these portraits and stellar and timeless, perfect for use in your average wiki entry as a definitive take on these rogues.


A spiffy new bunch of Who's Whos, plus a couple new Who's Thats, behind the cut )

Man, I didn't intend to begin and end this part with Grant/Breyfogle creations! Maybe it's a sign that I need to finally collect that entire run and read it through, as well as the early Shadow of the Bat stuff. Grant's work is rarely what I'd call stellar, but it's proving more interesting, remarkable, and entertaining than I used to believe. If you folks have some favorite Alan Grant stories, let me know if the comments!
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Though his signature has been erased by DC's marketing stooges, that magnificent cover was drawn by Dick Goddamn Giordano.



While Two-Face is my favorite character, I love all of the Batman villains. I think that they're the greatest rogues gallery ever created in any medium, a remarkably diverse and complex array of men and monsters, of the evil and the insane, of mirrors into Batman and humanity itself. That said, there have been a LOT of villains, some more enduring than most, with many getting lost in the cracks of continuity and apathy. But I love them all. I even kinda love the ones I hate, because fandom is a complicated thing that way. And since I love characters above anything else in superhero comics, I have a special fondness for old issues of Who's Who and, to a lesser extent, the Secret Files and Origins books from the 90's-00's.

But then, I've always loved character profiles. I think one reason I loved G.I. Joe action figures as a kid was because they used to print the character's bios and stats right there on the package. Like they were actual people with personalities and history and stuff! Who's Who allows one to see the character distilled, free from stories to play in one's own imagination. They let you relive your favorite stories and moments. They show you tons of characters you never knew existed! They're fascinating time capsules from the period they were written! They give you many new and awful costumes to snark about! All in all, they provide a wonderful tour of the good, the bad, the ugly, the dated, the timeless, and the gloriously misbegotten.

So I want to look at them with you. All of them.

For the next twelve days, I shall be posting a handful of profiles with commentary. I don't promise that any of it will be insightful, since it's the holidays on top of everything else in my life, but the profiles are the important things. This year, I plan to extend About_Faces to occasionally looking at the other villains besides Harvey, partially because I'm running out of good Two-Face stories and partially because I've been itching to write about Ozzie, Eddie, Crane, Pam, and more.

So since DC' original Who's Who profiles from 1985-1989 all had the same format, let's start by looking at them, accompanied with the revised profiles when applicable. Here, you'll see a lot of old favorites accompanied by the obscure, the unloved, and the downright forgotten, drawn by some of the greatest artists that the 80's had to offer. And who knows, maybe you'll find a villain who has untapped potential? As I've always said, when it comes to superhero comics, there are no bad characters, just bad writers. That said, some characters really test that mantra's limits.

Well? The nice cover asked you a question! Dare you prowl the Dark Knight's rogues gallery behind the cut? )

Okay, that's enough for now! Tomorrow, you get to find out just how many Batman villain names start with the letter C! Hint: it's a lot!
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Today, I bring you a post which I fear may be unreadable. At least, if you don't own old-school 3D glasses. And even then, can 3D be viewed on a computer screen? Either way, I'm gonna ask you to bear with me as we look at selections from Batman 3D: Ego Trip, a graphic novel by comics legend John Byrne with effects by 3D master Ray Zone.

I enjoy Byrne's story and art here quite a lot, but I had a damn hard time settling into it in either two or three dimensions. Obviously, 3D isn't meant to be viewed without glasses, and while the actual 3D effects are often spectacular beyond the sheer novelty value, my eyes can't really handle it for long stretches. I wish they'd rerelease this story in 2D with coloring, so Byrne's story and artwork could be appreciated on their own merits, even with all the panels of various objects COMIN' RIGHT ATCHA!

So as I'm going with the assumption that we're all here to focus on the story, let's squint and try to take a look at Ego Trip, a Batman caper written in 1990 but with a distinctly old-school feel, guest-starring four of his greatest villains (including, naturally, Two-Face, who gets a slightly tweaked origin here) as they torment Batman and cause him to trip balls:




IT'S LIKE YOU CAN TOUCH THEM behind the cut! )

As a bonus, Batman 3D also included a pin-up gallery by an all-star roster of artists. Because I love Batman pinups, here's the whole lot!

Toth, Adams, Zeck, Gibbons, and more! Holy crap! )


As always (well, as usually), I've made certain to post no more than 1/3rd of the graphic novel's content, so there's plenty more to read for those who can track down this hard-to-find book. It's available for pretty cheaply used on places like Amazon.com, although there's no telling whether any copies will still have their glasses. Proceed with caution! If you have a local comic shop that might carry it, always try for that first. It's definitely worth checking out in whole. Hopefully someday, it'll find a new audience. In either dimension.
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Someone (forgive me for forgetting who or where, but the baby stole my brain... was it [livejournal.com profile] yaseen101, maybe?) was wondering if there has ever been a female Two-Face.

Appropriately enough, there have actually been two! Naturally, they both appeared in Elseworlds stories, the first in 1998 and the second in 1999, so I guess there was just something in the air at that point. The first, Jenna Clark, is an oddball of a half-baked character from Mike W. Barr's Batman: Dark Knight Dynasty, whereas the second, Darcy Dent, is a magnificent trainwreck courtesy of Moench and Jim Balent in Catwoman: Guardian of Gotham.




A Tale of Two Female Two-Faces behind the cut! )


Oh, Moench. Oh, Balent. Oh, god. It's definitely in keeping with their work on Catwoman, so I can't fault them for playing to their strengths. Nonetheless, I just find Balent's idea of sexiness to be so... obvious. It's about as clever as making your female Two-Face a smooshed-together version of both Sugar and Spice from Batman Forever. Ultimately, when it comes to a female Two-Face who's both awesome and hot, I'd prefer the likes of Meagan Marie any day. Funny how a cosplayer did it better than any actual comic writers to date!
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Let me get my bias out right away: I think Batman: Year One is one of the greatest comics ever made.

It's deserving of every bit of praise it receives, and maybe even more, as Frank Miller has done everything in his power to make old fans forget what so many new fans don't realize: he used to be fucking brilliant. But then, working with a masterful artist like David Mazzucchelli (whose recent Asterios Polyp is a modern comic masterpiece) certainly didn't hurt.



While I find that Frank Miller's more-celebrated opus The Dark Knight Returns seems to get uglier and more dated with each passing year, B:YO still shines as a powerfully humane story of crime and heroism. More than that, it's also an incredibly minimalistic comic that represents the antithesis of how bloated and empty most comic storytelling is today.

Whereas most comics are filled with pointless splash pages and two-page spreads to pad out fluff stories to fill trade paperbacks, Miller and Mazzucchelli could tell entire scenes in just a couple panels, or sometimes even just one. Every single line of dialogue mattered. Every word counted. As a long-winded bastard myself, I admire the hell out of anyone who can tell a powerful story by saying very little, or even nothing at all.



So yes, I hold B:YO very close to my heart. As such, I admit that I was prejudiced against the mere prospect of a Batman: Year One animated film, particularly as I've been underwhelmed by all of DC's animated features over the past few years. Even their best adaptations--Justice League: New Frontier and All Star Superman--play like rushed Cliff's Notes of much better graphic novels. Considering that this is largely due to WB Animations' stupid and arbitrary 75-minute running time limit, I was especially dismayed to learn that Batman: Year One would run at little over an HOUR. No way in hell they could do justice to B:YO in that little time!

Except then I read this interview with Bruce Timm, where he said, "When we the finished and timed the storyboard for Batman: Year One we found it came up a little bit short. This was a new one for us! We’d put pretty much the entire comic in the movie and didn’t want to pad it and create new scenes that weren’t in the comic." So I didn't know WHAT to think anymore. Could they have done it? Were they able to tell the entire graphic novel in just an hour? Would they do it justice?



Well, we watched it last week. To be perfectly honest, I don't think I can give this an objective review. I have no idea what someone would make of this if they haven't read the original graphic novel. I don't know how well it would hold up as a film on its own merits. The worst part is, I can remember the last time I felt this way: when I tried to review Watchmen. By which I mean, Zack Snyder's Watchmen movie*.

I imagine some of you are already going, "Oh dear."

What the movies of Watchmen and Batman: Year One have in common is that they're both technically very faithful. Often times, a bit TOO faithful, where it's clear that they virtually used the comic as a storyboard. This would be bad enough, since you can't tell the same story the exact same way across two different types of media, but the changes/cuts they DO make miss the point again and again and again. Because the original comic is so tightly written, the removal of a single line can cut out the entire heart of a scene.

Case in point: the very first scene (and WARNING: SPOILERS FOR A NEARLY-TWENTY-FIVE-YEAR-OLD COMIC CLASSIC BEHIND THE CUT )

And yet, after all my complaints, I should stress that this isn't a bad movie. I'm sure it'd be enjoyed by someone who never read the comic. In fact, based on the reviews I'm seeing from people who HAVE read it, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm in the minority of those bothered by these changes. But personally, I see absolutely no reason for this film to exist if they didn't really do it right. The original comic is a nuanced, layered look at two heroes who complement each other, who face their own flaws as well as their enemies, and ultimately change the course of the corrupt city around them. The movie is about two good guys who show up and beat the bad guys. The comic is a masterpiece of comics art and writing. The movie features standard animation and mediocre voice acting, with a couple great exceptions.

It's a good movie based on a GREAT comic, and there's no reason to watch it as anything other than an interesting experiment. If you haven't read the comic, I say just do that instead. Otherwise, Batman: Year One is worth a rental, if only so it can encourage you to reread the comic, which everybody should do. It's a story which deserves to be reevaluated for the modern era, as it's too often misunderstood by fan and filmmaker alike.






*Here's the thing: I admire what Snyder did (and what he attempted to do) with Watchmen. It was an impossible task, and I think he gave a legitimate interpretation of the source material, which is such a rich and complex work that literally no one can agree about what's really important in that story. It's truly a rorschach test for readers, and the film was simply what Snyder saw in the inkblot. Even still, it was only a fraction of the original story, and like B:YO, was hindered by its slavish adherence to the source material without fully understanding the story. There's a reason why Snyder's brilliant opening credits sequence--which wasn't adapted from any part of the comic itself--was a better Watchmen movie than the film as a whole.
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From what I've read of Devin Grayson's Batman: Gotham Knights, it strikes me as an incredibly underrated series that focused on character first and foremost.

This isn't surprising, as I recall reading that Grayson was introduced to Batman via The Animated Series, and I suspect that she brought that show's character-based aesthetic to comics better than any of her contemporaries. Her treatment of Poison Ivy and the Scarecrow in that series as are as good as anything from the TAS comics, and she wrote one of my very favorite Two-Face appearances with just one poignant page.

Hell, she's so good, she's actually been able to make me care about Dick Grayson and the Bat-Family in her four-part storyline, "Transference," from Gotham Knights #8-11. It's not a perfect story, undone in places by being a tad convoluted, but it's great nonetheless. Furthermore, it features a plot point which predates what Grant Morrison did with "The Batman of Zur En Arrh" several years earlier, and--in my HUMBLEST of opinions--did it better.

On top of that, it features one of the great "context is for the weak" panels:






Context for you weaklings (along with a pretty great story) behind the cut )


This story has never been collected in trade, but all four parts are currently available as a digital comic on DC's Comixology app site for $1.99 per issue. And if you'd like to read the very first issue of Grayson's Batman: Gotham Knights, it's up on the same site for FREE. I'm still not a huge fan of digital comics (maybe I'd like them better if I were using a tablet), but I'm glad to see them available in some form. Check out the free comic, at least. After all, it's the way of the future!

Way of the future. Way of the future. Way of the...
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While the risque Birds of Prey musical number from Batman: The Brave and the Bold has become a viral hit among comic sites (Birds of Prey + Gail Simone + dick jokes = success, apparently), the actual episode it's from, "The Mask of Matches Malone!" has still never aired in the US. This is supposedly because for some reason TV censors have some problem airing a kid's show with an entire segment devoted to dick jokes (plus a vagina joke in the opening sequence with Poison Ivy), some of which are so obvious that they're just single entendres. Go figure, right?





Personally, I don't care that much for the most part. I adore that show, but I feel like the musical number left me cold. No matter how effectively it's gotten stuck in my head (In my head right now: "Dum dum da dada, Birds of Preyyy, theoneanonly Birds of Pr--" DAMMIT! STOP THAT, BRAIN! DON'T MAKE ME PUNISH YOU WITH KE$HA!), I just kinda find it mildly irritating, less clever and more "tee-hee, we're being dirty!" As a sexy burlesque for superheroes, Red Hot Riding Hood it ain't. On top of that, I am in the extreme minority in haaaaaating every single musical number from The Brave and the Bold.

Thing is, I adore musicals, and I always wince whenever I hear somebody talk about how much they hate musicals, because while I can understand hating SPECIFIC musicals, I cannot wrap my head around someone hating an entire genre. The work of Sondheim, Rogers & Hammerstein, Webber, Kander & Ebb, Menken & Ashman, Trey Parker & Matt Stone, Seth McFarlane, and Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog are not all the same thing, yet they're cut from the same cloth. And chances are, most everybody loves some part of that... um... musical fabric. Yeah. *cough*

I swear, I'm going to explain why all this is relevant to Two-Face. I'm getting there. Promise. I just need to rant a LITTLE bit longer about musicals.

At the same time, there are parts of that (fill in additional awkward metaphor here) which I also loathe. Webber, for one. Fuck Webber. And man oh man, I hate the musical numbers from The Brave and the Bold almost as much as I hate Webber. Maybe moreso, because at least with Webber, there's no crossover in the comics world, where most of my fellow fans are head-over-heels in love with stuff like the entire Music Meister episode. Of course, having NPH doesn't hurt, but ugh, I detested those songs, just as I detested the scene in the otherwise-great "Emperor Joker!" episode, where the Joker sang this atrocity. The fact that it's entitled "Smile, Darn Ya, Smile," makes me wish to god that they'd actually just gone ahead and had him sing the actual fucking song, which would have given the scene fifteen more layers of sadistic delightfulness. You know something is bad when The Batman actually did it BETTER.

But eh, what do I know about music? I'm the guy who thinks the beloved theme song for The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes--which has been hailed as "epic" and "metal," actual quotes--sounds like mall-punk Hot Topic Nickelback claptrap. So YMMV.

Which FINALLY brings us to the actual Two-Face-related reason I am posting the entirety of "The Mask of Matches Malone!" here, for those who haven't seen it. I'm guessing that's most of you. As we've previously seen, the Two-Face of Batman: The Brave and the Bold is awesome. It's one of the very best takes on Harvey that I have EVER seen, managing to be poignant and tragic without ever being angsty or gritty. In TMoMM!, Gail Simone gives us the second major appearance of Harvey in B:TB&TB, using him in a way which...

... well... just watch it for yourself. And do it soon, before it's taken down by WB.







If this were any other comics site, I'd be all about discussing Gail, the Birds, the Bat/Cat sexual tension, and/or the musical number, because that's what most fans generally care about, and I'm sure those'll come up in the comments. But here? Yeah, screw all that.

As always, let's talk about Harvey.


Spoiler for THE MASK OF MATCHES MALONE! behind the cut )

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