about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)


Ty Templeton was the original DCAU Batman comic artist who returned to title when it was rebooted as The Batman & Robin Adventures, but it wasn't until issue #4 that he took over writing duties. His writing style wasn't quite as gracefully operatic as the Puckett/Parobeck era of The Batman Adventures, but he more than made up for that by packing each issue with character moments that expanded upon the lives of these heroes and villains between the televised episodes, as well as the comic appearances that the show would never end up acknowledge.

This was especially true in the case of Two-Face, especially in the aftermath of Paul Dini's Two Timer from TB&RA #1-2. As you'll recall, that story expanded upon both Harvey's rehabilitation and his relationship with Grace Lamont, only to destroy them both seemingly beyond repair in a soul-crushingly depressing ending. If that were an episode of the show, that would have probably been the end of it, considering how little interest the show had in exploring Harvey as anything other than a villain for the vast majority of his appearances.

Thankfully, Templeton--who was the artist on Two Timer--had different plans, and he wrote three stories which each respectively fleshed out Harvey's life, backstory, and psyche. With the first of these, Fifty Fifty, Templeton told an unusual Two-Face tale that explored the limits of Harvey's adherence to his coin, and in the process, he managed to bring Grace Lamont back to the DCAU one final time in a way that provided some small measure of closure to their broken love story.

Unfortunately, the art by Brandon Kruse and Wild Dog co-creator Terry Beatty isn't quite up to par with the likes of Parobeck, Templeton, and Rick Burchett, and it's easily the weakest part of this issue, but at least we're treated to Ty's fantastic cover. It's a beautiful take on Harvey, although some of you more observant Two-Face fans might notice something a bit off about the coin. Don't worry, unlike the show's weirdly inconsistent depiction of the coin, this time it's quite coincidental!



Harvey Dent is finally in control of his anger... )

Want to buy this issue? Well, if you want a digital copy, then you're out of luck. While DC's digital comics story at Comixology has been posting most of the DCAU comics, their run of The Batman & Robin Adventures cuts off at the issue RIGHT BEFORE this one! Argh!!! So keep your eye on Comixology, and maybe someday it'll be added. In the meantime, you totally should catch up on this great series, especially issues like the greatest Ventriloquist and Scarface story of all time, great slice-of-Gotham stories like Dagger's Tale, and this Riddler/Batgirl story, where Templeton proves his proficiency with neglected DCAU villains by writing one of the very best takes on the Riddler. Good stuff, all!
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!!!)
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. )
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Welcome to the final part of our triple-feature review of Harvey taking a supporting role in the show to pal around with his "fellow miscreants" in episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.

In the show's second and third seasons, when it was retitled The Adventures of Batman & Robin, there were a lot of episodes which felt like sequels, follow-ups, or spiritual relations to classic episodes from the first season. For origins like Two-Face and Feat of Clay, and Heart of Ice, you got sequels in the form of Second Chance, Mudslide, and Deep Freeze. In that sense, I've always felt like today's episode, Trial, was akin to Almost Got 'Im, partially because of a couple winks by writer Paul Dini.

And so, hot on the heels of that classic episode, let's see if Dini can recapture the same magic as he examines the fandom-old question of whether or not Batman's mere presence "creates" his own rogues gallery. And while we're at it, let's also examine just why it might not be a smart idea to put all of Gotham's worst insane criminals under one roof.



Wherein the Arkham inmates take over the asylum, put Batman on mock trial, and force the new bat-hating D.A. to defend him. Watch it here!

We got some legal business to settle first, behind the cut...! )

Next time, I shall tackle the second-best Two-Face story in all of B:TAS, which shall finally allow me to get us back to reviewing the DCAU comics by the likes of Dini and the great Ty Templeton. I'm really looking forward to getting to those after all this time.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Welcome to the next installment of my three-part review series which I have dubbed "Harvey and pals!" Why? Because calling it "Harvfield and Friends" probably wouldn't have flown with anybody. That said, now the theme song is stuck in my head...

The first uniting of the Unholy Three ended, unsurprisingly, with defeat and arrest, but this doesn't prove to be the only time that Harvey, the Joker, and the Penguin decided to hang out in their downtime away from schemes and deathtraps. Maybe the events of the previous episode taught these rogues to enjoy (or at least tolerate) one another's company? To paraphrase a character from the wacky cannibal movie Ravenous, "It's lonely being a supervillain. Tough making friends." Perhaps that's what led to the scene of villainous socializing that occurred in one of B:TAS' best-ever episodes:



Wherein several of the rogues play cards and trade stories about how they each almost killed Batman, but there's more going on than meets the eye. Watch it here!

I threw a r... well, you know the rest. )

As a bonus, I am delighted to present to you something which I found whilst scouring for rare B:TAS/Two-Face memorabilia, especially limited edition collectibles from the late, lamented Warner Brothers Studio Store chain of shops. That store would often carry animation cels, lithographs, and other cool works of Batman art, and it's so hard to find good-quality scans of them anywhere online. Thankfully, I found a fantastic scan of this, one of my very favorites:



Man, forget dogs playing poker, I want this hanging in my den whenever I play cards and smoke cigars with the boys. Not that I play cards nor smoke cigars, nor do I even have boys anymore. Whatever, I still want it anyway. That and the other WB Studio Store sericels of the Rogues:



There is not a single one of these that I don't love. There were at least two others in this particular series of character line-ups, including one of the heroes (like Robin, Commissioner Gordon, Renee Montoya, and even Harvey Dent!) and a second one for the villains! Sadly, I haven’t been able to find the first one at all, and the only scan I’ve found for the second is this grainy, teeny one here:



So yeah, if you know where I can find better quality images of these awesome works of art, let me know.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Hello, hello! I am finally back, here to present a special three-part review over the next week!

I've been working on these for a while now, and since I have a lot of irons in the fire at present, I figure it's high time to look at some of Harvey's more notable second-string episodes before I get to the really meaty TAS-era stuff! So, over the course of the next few posts, I shall review Harvey's three biggest supporting-role appearances in Batman: The Animated Series and examine what they mean for the character himself! After becoming Two-Face, Harvey became a full-fledged member of the Batman rogues gallery, and he would sometimes be seen rubbing shoulders with the worst of the costumes rogues.


PALS.


While this fits the status of the comics--wherein Two-Face being held up as one of the most important and prominent rogues--it's still strange company for the former District Attorney to be keeping, even insane as he's become. Let's face it, even Big Bad Harv isn't the type to fraternize with the likes of the Joker and Poison Ivy under any circumstances, and yet, he's seen hangin' around with the Rogues on several occasions! How the hell does this work? Does the show even try to reconcile the Harvey that was and the Two-Face he's become with this newfound club of "friends" that he has every reason to loathe, or do the writers just shrug their shoulders and go, "Eh, he's evil now, let him hang with evil people"?

To find out, let's examine Two-Face's three biggest supporting appearances over the show, all of which involve him sharing screentime with the Joker and various other villains. Perhaps tellingly, all three of these episodes are greatly influenced by classic Bronze Age stories, which might account for their particular treatment of Harvey as Bat-Rogue member. And let's start with a review for an episode that's long, long overdue for anyone who's familiar with this blog.



Wherein Batman investigates the mad scientist, extortionist, and inexplicably-Russian Hugo Strange, who in turn subsequently discovers Bruce's secret identity and plans to auction it off to the highest bidder. Watch it here.

Full review with SPOILERS behind the cut! )
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
For seventeen years now, I've held a grudge against Shadow of the Bat, the two-part Batgirl origin episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Or rather, The Adventures of Batman & Robin, as the show was retitled in the wake of Batman Forever in order to capitalize on that damnable sidekick.

As you might be able to tell, I don't care much for Robin, and that apathy goes for the Bat-Family in general (save for Alfred), including Batgirl. Look, I've always liked Oracle, but I've always disliked teen heroes even when I was a teen myself. But while I've gained affection to Bat!Babs thanks to stories like the excellent Batgirl: Year One, I still never cared much for the episode, partially because it's the weakest of Two-Face's speaking appearances thus far. Besides being a one-note character, he's barely involved beyond simply being a villain, and not even the story's real villain.

But that alone isn't why I resented SotB. No, you see, back when WB first released a series of B:TAS home videos, they dedicated each tape to two episodes featuring a single villain. For the Riddler's tape, they included If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich? and Riddler's Reform. The origin and his best episode, that's probably the wisest pairing you could make. For the Joker, it was Christmas with the Joker and The Laughing Fish. Okay, a classic-but-weak episode paired with one of the best, fine. You get the idea. And then, there was Two-Face's tape, which had some pretty great cover art:



Love it. So! For Two-Face, you'd think that the only obvious two episodes to include would be his two-part origin, right? That's just obvious, right? Ha ha, nope. Instead, they went with Shadow of the Bat: the Batgirl origin with Harvey as a minor supporting villain. Rassum frassum!

... Well, okay, I suppose that fifteen years is long enough to hold a petty grudge against an innocent cartoon episode with never did nobody no harm. Besides, I've come to better appreciate this story thanks to the YA novelization Dual to the Death, which combined this with Two-Face, Pts. I and II into a pretty seamless single epic: the fall of Harvey Dent, and the rise of Batgirl. What's more, combining those two episodes made me realize how even his minimal involvement here contains important continuity for his character development.

But most of all, I found myself fascinated by SotB's TRUE villain: Gil Mason, a corrupt cop who seems to be an alternate-universe counterpart to Harvey himself. Seriously, whether it's intentional or not, Gil seems to be the evil mirror-universe version of Harvey Dent, a true Two-Face who doesn't even have to get scarred. It's the parallels between Harvey and Gil which I find fascinating, all the more so because they're in cahoots.



But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's finally get to the damn review already, and maybe I'll even acknowledge Batgirl's existence along the way! No promises, though.

Would it have made a difference, Gil? )

While I'm still not crazy about the episode on its own merits (although Babs really won me over this time around), I now enjoy it way more when I take the details and motivations of the novelization into account, so much so that I now wish I would see Harvey's reactions to learning about how he was manipulated by Gil from the very start. Even if Gil did come out of the coma, he wouldn't be long for this world now that he's on Harvey's bad side, which would resolve that plot hole rather nicely.

What I'm basically saying is that I like SotB far more for what it could have been rather than what it was, which is still a pretty mediocre Two-Face appearance. But in my own head-canon, it's a GREAT episode, and I think I can deal with that. Old VHS tape, you are forgiven.
about_faces: (Default)
Hey everyone. I'm not dead, just moving for the third of what will be four times within the past year. As usual, I'm working on several posts at once and not getting too much headway on any of them. But since the place in which we're currently living has a scanner, I can finally post this photo which I've never seen anywhere else, and it's pretty much the greatest thing I've ever seen:



This is from the Hero Illustrated magazine (the poor man's Wizard) Batman special, 1994. I should note that this article was shitilly written and edited, as evidenced by the fact that Paul Williams III is credited as "Andy Williams," who was a totally different singer altogether.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Or "REVIEW ALL THE EPISODES!" I was originally going to include his larger supporting roles in here as well, but I'll save those for later.



So: with Harvey's origin as Two-Face out of the way, he went from being a little-seen heroic supporting character to joining the villain ensemble right alongside the guy who tried to kill him on live TV and his poisonous ex-almost-fiancée. It's not exactly the sort of company you'll expect to see Harvey enjoy no matter the mental state. But then, one has to imagine that it initially wasn't his choice, given that he was sent to Arkham Asylum. We first see Harvey at his new locale in the episode, Fear of Victory, as Batman goes to Arkham to find Scarecrow and has to pass a gauntlet of his biggest enemies at this point in the series:



Source: afiveseven


He just sits there, heedless of Batman, staring at nothing and flipping his coin. Is he just passing the time? Is he thinking, brooding, and/or scheming? I sometimes like to think that both sides are arguing, and the coin is the arbiter between them, but this isn't apparent to any outsider observers.

This scene has a personal bit of "Cool story, bro" significance for me, since this was the first time that I saw Harvey as Two-Face. Either I missed the two-part origin episode when it first aired (which is bloody unlikely even for me at ten years old, since I watched this show religiously), or more likely, Fox did what Fox always does and aired the episodes out of order. I mean, it's just a kids show, who the hell's gonna notice, amirite?

As such, this scene from Fear of Victory was the very first time I saw Harvey—good ol’ Harvey, the idealistic lawman, romantic idiot, and best friend—fully transformed into Two-Face. Even as a kid with limited comics knowledge, I knew what Harvey was going to become, but the shock of suddenly seeing him already there (along with the show’s unique design of that black-and-white suit and that strikingly sickly blue scarring) is forever burned into my memory. It gave watching the actual origin episode another layer of tragic inevitability.

But was that the only cameo? No sirree! In fact, the others echo this one in their own ways, the next of which is decidedly disturbing:

Nightmares, gods, and questions behind the cut! )

Yeah, that's it for the last Harvey cameo. Kind of an anticlimactic ending, ain't it? Well, that's the hand I'm dealt, as there are no more cameos after this. Well, no more that take place in Arkham, anyway. There's one more major cameo in Batgirl Returns, but I'll save that for the Shadow of the Bat review.

To make up for that, here, have an encore presentation of the best gif in the world right now, just for the benefit of those who aren't going to read past the cut:



It's hypnotic. Like a lava lamp.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Harvey Dent's final appearance in the DCAU (and Two-Face's first appearance in The Batman Adventures comics) coincides with the brief, remarkable tenure of new series artist Mike Parobeck. Taking over from Ty Templeton and joined by original inker (and all-around all-star of Batman comics) Rick Burchett, Parobeck's pencils helped shape The Batman Adventures from a fun tie-in kid's comic into a series which felt every bit as sweeping, cinematic, and animated as the animated series itself.

For a perfect example, let's first take a quick look at issue #9, The Little Red Book. While this was Parobeck's third issue of The Batman Adventures, it was the first to really showcase his considerable talents for action. Considering that Kelley Puckett's story this time around was rather paper-thin, Parobeck's art really was the whole point... well, except for a cameo from Harvey, but who cares about that sort of thing other than me? Answer: hopefully some of you too!

The "little red book" in question is the MacGuffin which drives this story's action, as Batman proceeds to chase down some nondescript mobsters in pursuit of the book. It's only when the book is seemingly destroyed that we learn its significance:




Lookin' back on the track for a little red book... )

I should mention that this issue came out in the summer of 1993, almost a year after the Two-Face origin episode (which was also Thorne's first appearance) went on the air. Since it's likely that Kelley Puckett wrote this issue after seeing the episode himself, I have to wonder if this story was intended to give a bit of history between Thorne and Harvey, who had previously been written as a happy-go-lucky dope more interested in press conferences and hot redheads than in tackling organized crime.

As such, this issue was the very first to actually flesh out characters and events from B:TAS. Up to this point, Puckett's stories in TBA were great fun but less than supplemental, especially since his takes on Joker, the Penguin, and Croc didn't quite match up with their animated counterparts. I strongly suspect that Puckett was working from the original TAS Writer's Bible, which contained many huge differences from the produced episodes. After Little Red Book, Puckett and Parobeck's stories not only better matched the show, but they also followed up on events in the form of character development and sequels.

Which brings us to TBA #22, which stars... well, who else?



Full disclosure: right up until I reread this issue for this review, I used to think that The Batman Adventures #22, "Good Face, Bad Face," was the weakest of the major Two-Face appearances in all of the TAS comics. But then, generally speaking, I always viewed Puckett's stories over the majority of these stories was vastly inferior compared to the work of Ty Templeton and Paul Dini. To me, Puckett's work was fluff, comprised of big empty panels with one or two lines of dialogue with little in the way of story or character depth, mainly serving as a template for Parobeck's wonderful art.

Or so I thought. It was only as I was forced to sit down and study his work like the series finale for TBA with Hugo Strange that I truly came to understand the subtle talents of Puckett's stories. What I took for simplicity, I now see as something that--at its best--was more akin to graceful superhero haiku. As such, I hope that I can be forgiven for posting a bit more than the usual scan limit of 1/3rd an issue. If anyone has a problem with this, let me know and I'll trim or delete accordingly.

While I used to see Good Face, Bad Face, as a blandly standard Two-Face story (Harvey's committing crimes! Batman wants to save his friend! Two-Face breaks down without his coin and goes to jail! Repeat!), I was amazed upon to discover that it actually has a compelling insight into the nature of Harvey Dent's insanity, and what the coin-flipping truly represents. In keeping with the ending of Two-Face, Part 2, it's tragic but not without hope, however distant.

I have to save him, Alfred. He's my friend. )




Purchase info: As I said before, The Batman Adventures is largely out of print, but the first twelve issues have been collected here and here (which is the one with #9, Little Red Book, if you want to read the whole thing). The first twelve can also be found up for digital purchase on DC's Comixology app for .99¢ each, including Little Red Book. As for the rest, let's hope that DC someday finally puts the rest of TBA in print.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Previous entries: Part I, and most of Part II.



Sorry for the long wait. This was the hardest post of all to write, and not just because I had to rewrite half of it from scratch. Be warned, I go really in-depth with the speculation on this one. This review will either be the culmination of all my analysis from the two previous posts, or it will be the moment when I utterly disappear up my own ass. YMMV.

Since I'm forced to give this scene its own post, we might as well take a moment to contextualize these events. By the time this episode of Batman: The Animated Series first aired, there had been two stories where Harvey Dent had been redeemed through the power of love (which is itself, as I understand it, "a curious thing"). The first resulted in a happy ending for all, while the second was uncertain but optimistic... at least, until the next writer decided to ignore it entirely.

At the center of both these stories was Harvey's fiancée/ex-wife, Gilda. She was featured in a third story from 1989 that also dealt with similar themes of redemptive love, ending on a note that was bittersweet, but not without hope amidst the tragedy. Except in that story, Gilda was renamed "Grace." All three of these stories influenced the emotional core of Two-Face, Part II, especially in the big reunion in Act 3. While Grace Lamont is a rather vapid character, she serves the same classic Gilda role of being Harvey's moral compass. As such, she's still the second most vital character to this episode, more so than even Batman himself.



Something I've neglected to mention: Grace is voiced by Murphy Cross, a TV actress so obscure that she doesn't even have her own Wikipedia page, and someone with no voice acting experience at this point. So why did B:TAS casting director Andrea Romano hire Cross for the crucial role of Harvey Dent's fiancée? My best guess, after viewing Cross' IMDB page, is because she appeared on one episode of Night Court, playing opposite Richard Moll's trademark character, "Bull" Shannon.



Naturally, being the obsessive that I am, I tracked down and watched the whole episode on YouTube. Much to my surprise, it was not only thoroughly enjoyable, but also... not entirely irrelevant to what Harvey and Grace are about to go through in their big reunion scene. I actually wrote several paragraphs dedicated to analyzing their scene, and how it relates to Harvey and Grace, but thought better of it. I've already spent way, way, WAY too long on Two-Face, Part II as it is. Adding analysis from an episode of frickin' Night Court is just ridiculous.

That said, I did save the analysis, so if anyone actually WANTS to hear my ridiculous views on the Night Court/Two-Face reading-too-much-into-things comparisons, just ask. Just don't say that I didn't try to spare you!

So without further ado, let's finally review the final act of Part II where everything comes together before falling apart, and let's see if anything can be salvaged from the wreckage.

Chance, Grace. Chance is all there is. )
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Part I reviewed here!

Two-Face, Part II is a decidedly different beast from the first episode, one that feels more complimentary than a proper continuation. And not to make it sound like I dislike the episode--because I don't, I love it--but nonetheless, it's largely inferior.

Part I was both a refreshingly psychological take on Harvey's descent into madness, as well as a powerfully tragic horror story which focused far more on character and mood than action. Even in its attempts to be made "kid-understandable," it was a moody, mature episode with depth and details crammed into every frame and every second of soundtrack. Part II, on the other hand, is just a really good--but rather standard--Two-Face story.



Rather than building upon their original character arc, Randy Rogel (and possibly Alan Burnett as well) instead devote much of the episode to rehashing the original Two-Face story by way of the Bronze Age Two-Face of classics like Half an Evil. It's like they really wanted to include all the classic Two-Face gimmicks (Crimes based on the number two! Scarred coin used to decide good or evil! An obsession with luck!) without coming up with any explanation for HOW he got there. It's like, why does Two-Face flip the coin? The mentality seems to indicate the answer would be, "Because that's what Two-Face does, a-duh!" but that doesn't explain why THIS Two-Face would become so dependent on the coin that it could single-handedly lead to his meltdown.

At best, it feels like there's an entire third episode missing between the two parts, something to bridge the gap between Harvey getting scarred and becoming Two-Face. Because if you recall the end of the first part, he WASN'T Two-Face as we know him, he only looked that way. And even then, his whole body wasn't scarred yet, so maybe a middle episode could explain away what was almost certainly an animation mistake. Six months pass between Parts I and II, and there's a lot of character study that still needs to be addressed before the Two-Face of Part II can make sense as a logical continuation of the first.

Regardless, this is still a damn good Two-Face story, one that allows Harvey to have more emotional depth than almost every other episode of the entire series. Furthermore, it has one-up on most other episodes and comics by giving Two-Face an actual motivation! Gasp! Sadly, this motivation will soon be forgotten in favor of randomly turning Two-Face into just another mob boss, "Because that's what Two-Face does, a-duh!"

So let's examine Two-Face, Part II, and study the state of a Harvey Dent who is over the edge... but perhaps not as far gone as one might think.

Warning for people with slow internet: TONS of pics and several gifs behind the cut! )

So hey, I've discovered that there actually is such a thing as an LJ post size limit. Holy crap. I know that my fic posts have been longer than this, but I guess all the pics and gifs took their toll on my wimpy little free account. So let's save the final act for a separate post, and maybe in doing so, it'll be less jarring when I go off to talk about an episode of Night Court for a few paragraphs. Trust me, it's relevant. I think.



Note: the vast majority of the screencaps are by me. A couple others (postly the long pan shots) have been taken from Worlds Finest Online. Gifs are all by GhostOfCheney.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
This is probably the single most overdue review I've written for this blog.

Of course, this isn't going to be a straightforward review where I discuss the highs and lows of the episode. Want the short review? Here: it's a fantastic episode, but not without its flaws, and I think the second half is a major dip in quality from the first while still ending on a powerful note. In terms of what the show was and what it set out to accomplish, Two-Face is an imperfect masterpiece, but a masterpiece nonetheless. If you haven't seen it yet, it can be watched for free at theWB.com.

But I can't just leave it at that. After all, this is me: your favorite long-winded, nit-picky Harvey Dent obsessive! No, with a Two-Face story and character this beloved, this popular, this definitive, I need to examine (read: nitpick) the hell out of every single aspect of the episode: plot, dialogue, score, design, and most of all, analysis of Harvey's character. I want to find out what makes this version of Harvey tick, what works and what doesn't, and explore the many unexplored areas of his character. Because I care, dammit.




For those who still have dial-up, be warned: tons of pics and gifs behind the cut! )




Note: All scans either made by me, or taken from World's Finest Online and ToonZone.com. Gifs taken from the Tumblr feeds for DCAU, BigBardaFree, GhostofCheney, and FuckYearBatmanGifs, via FYearTwoFace.
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: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Strange as it may seem, many people never even noticed Harvey Dent's first appearance in Batman: The Animated Series! I'm not just talking about people who'd never heard of the character before, but actual Batman fans who should have otherwise recognized the man who would become Two-Face! Seriously! How could this even happen?

Well, to be fair, Harvey's initial appearance was so brief, so blink-and-you'll-miss-it, that his debut feels less like a cameo and more like an easter egg. Also, never mind the fact that On Leather Wings isn't the most memorable episode either. While there's not much to discuss about this tiny appearance, it's worth noting not only as being one of the all-too-few appearances of Harvey pre-Two-Face, but also because his presence in this pilot gives Harvey the distinction of being one of the few characters whom we can say was in B:TAS from the very beginning.



In which I find a way to analyze five seconds of screen time, behind the cut! )

Personally, I suspect that Dent there had no great personal interest in capturing Batman, so his casual line could easily be read as "Suuuuure, Bullock. I'll totally do that when you capture Batman, which I know you're TOTALLY capable of accomplishing, absolutely. Go have fun now!"

Of course, my reading of Harvey's words cannot be supported by these five seconds of screen time. For that, we have to go elsewhere for more insight about his feelings about both Bullock and Batman, to the story which is the single greatest appearance Harvey Dent in the DCAU. What may come as a surprise (or may be absolutely no surprise whatsoever), this appearance happened not in the TV show, but rather in the supposed "kid's comic" tie-in, The Batman Adventures.



I've said it before and I'll say it many more times: the TAS tie-in comics are brilliant, and collectively the best Batman comics published over the past twenty years. While TBA is my least favorite of the four TAS comic series, that's kind of like saying I have a least favorite kind of bacon: even when it's not as good as the others, it's still great. In later reviews, I'll elaborite further on the greatness of men like Kelley Puckett, Mike Parobeck, Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, and more. For now, I'll just say that TBA was pretty damn great, on par with any average episode of the actual TV show, and sometimes it even surpassed the show in terms of dark subject matter.

For example, take issue #3 (which conveniently just so happens to be the issue we're reviewing today!), in which the Joker kidnaps Commissioner Gordon. In a scene that would have been too violent for the Fox Kids TV censors at the time, the Joker proceeds to savagely beat Gordon with a baseball bat on live TV. You can see it yourself here if you scroll down near the very end of the article. It's a shocking scene thanks largely to Ty "The Guy" Templeton's chilling depiction of the Joker in the thralls of orgasmically evil delight. And again, this is meant to be, you know, for kids!

So who can possibly thwart the Joker and save the day?



Why, none other than Harvey Dent and his Action Bathrobe! Okay, not really. But kinda! Sorta. Really, you just have to see it for yourself.

Harvey and Batman hatch a plan behind the cut! )



If you'd like to read these issues of The Batman Adventures in full, the first twelve issues are 99¢ each up at DC's Comixology site, and you can even read the very first issue (with a fun but off-sounding Penguin) for free! Try out that issue to get some idea what digital comics are like. If you still prefer paper comics, then your course is going to be harder, since the first TBA trade paperback is long out of print. Why the hell doesn't DC keep these comics in print? Why have they NEVER reprinted the vast majority of the DCAU tie-in comics? Utter foolishness!
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)


Honestly, I could devote a whole separate fanblog just for the Harvey Dent from the various DC Animated Universe properties*, from B:TAS all the way to today, as that version of the character still manages to endure in fandom.

At first, I thought about doing like I did with the Who's Who posts and just writing about EVERYTHING there is about Harvey over fourteen daily posts in an event which I was going to call Two Weeks of Two-Face in the DCAU. Of course, I soon realized that such a project would not only be overload for everyone involved (especially me!), but it also wouldn't do the character justice. And if anyone deserves justice, it's Harvey Dent. /I see what I did there!

For a whole generation, the DCAU Two-Face was the definitive version of the character. Sure, the Nolanverse owns the current generation, but B:TAS seems to still have a healthy following nonetheless. At the very least, I'm certain that the DCAU Two-Face will continue to be more popular and influential than, well, any version from the comics. I dare say that'd be true even if we lived in a better world where comics would be as popular and well-known as cartoons and movie (*weary sigh*). But even as a fan, I never gave much thought about just WHY this Two-Face was so great, much less the work that went into making him that way, until I discovered the actual B:TAS writer's bible on World's Finest Online, the single greatest resource for all things DCAU and beyond.

Reading that writer's bible, you can see that so much of what made B:TAS in general so brilliant was no accident. It wasn't just that a handful of smart writers tried their damnedest to tell great Batman stories. These people had a vision, and set themselves with high standards right from the outset. Even though many of those plans in the bible were changed or scrapped before the first episodes even made it to air, the importance of that foundation cannot be understated, and you may be surprised just well the greatness of that show was planned from the outset.

Which, naturally, brings us back to Harvey. Before we look at any of the DCAU episodes, comics, toys, merch, Happy Meal boxes, and so on, let's look at the roots of Two-Face in the DCAU--the design, the groundwork, the plots, the voice, and more--as we examine what was planned... and what was changed.

Behind the scenes, behind the cut! )



Next time: Harvey's very first (and very brief) appearance in On Leather Wings, followed by a major role in The Batman Adventures comics, which I consider to be the very best appearance of pre-insanity Harvey in the DCAU.







*Honestly, I could write a couple hundred posts just about the DCAU villains in general. I'd love to look at all the Mister Freeze stories, since the DCAU comics fill in the gaps between episodes and Sub-Zero that, combined with his finale in Batman Beyond, make for a powerful tragedy in epic scope. I mean, even more powerful than the one people already know if they've just seen the episodes. The comics, as I was reiterate throughout these posts, are THAT good.

**The fact that Harvey, Thomas Wayne, and the Bat-Computer all have the same voice raises a few questions about Bruce. Did he pattern the Bat-Computer to sound like his father or Harvey? Is he friends with Harvey because the latter sounds like his father? INQUIRING MINDS THAT READ TOO MUCH INTO THINGS WANT TO KNOWWWWWWWW.
about_faces: (Default)
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.
about_faces: (Default)
One of the (unsung?) greatest talents to work on Batman comics in any format, Ty Templeton, has started posting unused cover and concept art from his work on the various Batman: The Animated Series tie-in comics. If you're like me, each of these posts are a little Christmas.

So far he's only done a couple, starting with the early drafts of the cover for the greatest Ventriloquist and Scarface comic ever made (man, I got hyperbole out the wazoo today, don't I?), and it's hard to tell which cover I like best. Ultimately, I think he made the right choice, but dear god, I want to see the rest inked and colored for proper pin-ups! In the comments, I of course put in a request for rejected Two-Face drafts, a request which was seconded (hurr) by the next commenter.

Today, Ty posted original cover drafts for Batman: Gotham Adventures #2, a story which I've actually posted at my regular LJ, but not here yet, which I should properly do at some point seeing as how it's frelling fantastic.

I'd like to think that maybe my comment inspired his next post, but it's just as likely that he was going to do it anyway considering that he writes: For the time I was on the various Batman books, I tried to make sure all the #2 issues (including #12 and #22) were Two-Face stories. Not just because of the obvious connection to the #2, but it allowed me to write a Two-Face story at least once a year. Considering he’s one of the best characters in fiction, I’m no fool, and I wanted at him as much as I could.

As I've always considered all of Ty's Two-Face stories to be among the very best ever written, it's fantastic to outright hear that Ty loves the character. For a villain who doesn't get much love in fandom (Henchgirl's talking me into starting up the first and only Two-Face-centric art collection group on DeviantArt), Harvey's really loved by a discerning handful of fans and creators. That love isn't usually expressed loudly the way Harley and Joker fans express their passion, so it's cool to see it mentioned by a master like Ty in such a matter-of-fact way. Like, "Yeah, he's one of the best in fiction. It's a fact. Moving on."

As for the rejected covers themselves, I think the very best was the fourth one, with Harvey in the background dominating the light and shadow while Batman and Batgirl fight thugs in the foreground, but I also have great fondness for the fifth, with the full-body shot of Two-Face. That one looks like a movie poster, one that could out-Scarface Scarface. What all these covers have in common is how they play with light and shadow, and in that respect, the final used cover works beautifully even if it's the blah redesign of the character for The New Batman Adventures.

Sadly, the BTAS comics are still out of print, most of which have never been collected. But for anyone who wants more Ty Templeton goodness, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out his Vertigo graphic novel, Bigg Time, a scathing and hilarious satire on fame, the film industry, and guardian angels. And check out the rest of his blog too! I don't know why the hell I don't visit it regularly, as I would have missed posts like these above!

As such, I'd like to thank the wonderful Michel Fiffe for the heads-up. As part of the Act-I-Vate comics collective, Fiffe is an incredibly gifted and unique comics creator whom Warren Ellis called a "revelation." It's easy to see why if you've read his webcomic Zegas, or his Bizarro Comics style pet project with Erik Larsen, Savage Dragon Funnies. That kid's goin' places, I tells ya.
about_faces: (Movie Faces of Harvey Dent)
If there was ever a Two-Face collectible that I needed in my life, it would be this:





I had no idea it existed. I imagine it was sold via the Warner Bros Studio Stores, which had some neat TAS merchandise back in the day, such as Two-Face bookends. But I'd never heard of this snowglobe until a couple days ago, when looking through the Two-Face archives on www.bat-blog.com.





That's right. It's a snow globe where Batman is walloping Harvey in the face with a sack of money.







Really, the only way this could be even more amazing is if the "snow" inside were little coins and bills, which could be flying around after, y'know, Batman hit Harvey in the face with a sack of heavy, heavy money.





Even if I found one of these babies on eBay, who's to say it won't already be halfway evaporated, making the scene even more sadly absurd? Alas, I fear that this is one piece of Two-Face merchandise which shall never be mine. Until a time machine can be invented, I shall have to content myself with these photos. Of Harvey. Being hit in the face with a sack of money. Batman's such a dick.

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