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

Behind the cut, all of your favorites: 'Ugh! My face!' 'Aaghh! My face!' 'AARRRGGH!! M-my face--!?!' 'GAAHH--' 'YAAARGHH!!' 'NAAAGGGHHHH!' And many more! )
about_faces: (Movie Faces of Harvey Dent)


There's a lot more to Billy Dee Williams' portrayal Harvey Dent from Tim Burton's Batman (1989) than you might have suspected. I know that I certainly didn't think there was much to say, which is why it's taken me this long to finally write about one of the most famous portrayals of Harvey in pop culture.


CITIZEN DENT


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


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


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


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


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


Source: Gotham Alleys


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

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

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

about_faces: (Default)
Every so often, I like to check out Amazon.com to see if there are any Batman books which have slipped through the cracks, stuff which doesn't get mentioned on the usual geek sites anywhere. Usually, I don't find anything new, but on my most recent search while I was procrastinating to distract myself from doing actual writing of any importance, I discovered three newish books of interest. I haven't been able to find much information at all about these books, but they're right up my Crime Alley, and I imagine, up yours as well.



Batman: The World of the Dark Knight

Cover art by Jim Lee!

Who hides in the shadows, an often constant but unseen presence? Who strives to rid the city of the evil that lurks through the streets? Who is he? BATMAN.

First appearing in the pages of Detective Comics in 1939, Bruce Wayne vowed to avenge his parents' murder and rid the world of evil by becoming the fearless caped crusader known as Batman.

Follow every punch, kick, twist, and turn of the Dark Knight's story in Batman: The World of the Dark Knight. Tracing Batman's entire career, with full detail of his significant adventures, battles, loves, allies, and enemies, this ultimate guide will leave nothing unexplored. DK's Batman: The World of the Dark Knight includes everything from how Batman came to be created and how the character was developed through the decades to key events in Batman's life that have continued to develop his story over the years. With a new, fresh look featuring intricate full-color comic book art, Batman: The World of the Dark Knight is a comic enthusiast's dream come true!


Of the three, this is the one that interests me the least, mainly because chances are very good that it'll have nothing new to offer a fan like me, but I'm still interested to check it out. I grew up reading books like this such as the late Les Daniels' DC Comics : Sixty Years of the World's Favorite Comic Book Heroes and Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes (the original version that was filled with old comic reprints), and they were instrumental to my superhero comics education. Maybe this book will be the same for some other young reader who's only casually versed in Bat-history, so I'd be interested to know what's included, as well as what's left out.


Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight

Does the Dark Knight have bats in his belfry?

Why does Batman really wear a costume to fight crime?

Why are his most intimate relationships with "bad girls" he ought to lock up?

And why won't he kill that homicidal clown?

Batman is one of the most compelling and enduring characters to come from the Golden Age of Comics, and interest in his story has only increased through countless incarnations since his first appearance in 1939's Detective Comics #27. Why does this superhero without superpowers fascinate us so much? Batman and Psychology examines the complex inner world of Batman and Bruce Wayne and the life and characters of Gotham City. What would Freud, Jung, and other professionals say about how childhood trauma spawned his life's mission? Is Batman neurotic? Psychotic? Does he have PTSD, OCD, or any other mental illness? Why the mask, the bat, and the underage partner, Robin? What psychopathologies lurk in the minds of supervillains like the Joker, the Riddler, Two-Face, and Catwoman? Are they really rogues and villains, or simply misunderstood victims of a heartless society? Do Batman and his foes depend on each other?

Combining psychological theory with the latest in psychological research, Batman and Psychology takes you on an unprecedented journey behind the mask and into the dark mind of your favorite Caped Crusader and his never-ending war on crime.


Hoo boy. From what I've seen, these kinds of "pop culture meets religion/philosophy/cooking/taxidermy/etc" rarely turn out to be great, and on the very few occasions that someone tries to examine Harvey, the result tends to look like this. Bad Denny O'Neil, bad! That said, an actual look at the psychology of the characters (with an emphasis on the villains!) is damn interesting to me, even though those could go wrong so, so many ways. Like, which version of Harvey will the author be analyzing? If they cannot resist the lure of picking apart the psychobabble fail of Batman: Jekyll & Hyde, it's gonna be Murray all up in this shit again. Really, at this point, I pretty much don't expect ANYONE to remember to remember Eye of the Beholder and the Christopher Dent "game" origin, even though a whole essay could be written to analyze the psychology of that Harvey. So I'm very intrigued to check out Batman and Psychology, but when I do, I'll have to be prepared for the worst.


Wayne of Gotham: A Novel

Two men separated by murder: Thomas, the rebellious doctor and heir to the vast Wayne empire, and Bruce, his son, whose life is forever altered by witnessing his parents' murder. The slaying of Thomas and Martha Wayne is the torturous point on which Bruce turns to become Batman.

The Dark Knight's file on the case has long been closed, the foundations of Bruce Wayne's secret life secure in the simple genesis of a mugging gone horribly wrong. These foundations are shaken, however, when an unexpected guest invades the grounds of Wayne Manor, raising questions about the event that ended the lives of the mother he loved and the father he worshipped, and sparked his unquenchable drive to protect and avenge.

To discover his real family history, Batman must face down old foes, his only confidant, and the evil heart of Arkham Asylum, and shoulder the new burden of a dark legacy.

“Much closer to the Burton/Nolan Batman films and the Frank Miller graphic novels than to the campy 1960s TV and comicbook incarnations of the character. An imaginative look at the human side of an iconic superhero.” (Booklist )


I have to side-eye that Booklist quote which seems to equate all "comicbooks" with the 60's show, but still, I'm really interested. I mean, holy heck, an original Batman prose novel? Awesome! Why has nobody talked about this anywhere? I wish more people cared about reading DC superheroes in prose, especially considering the cult popularity of Tom DeHaven's novel It's Superman!. Has anyone else read that? I thought it was an absolutely fantastic reimagining of Clark, Lex, and Lois for the most part until they were swallowed up by the dozen or so original characters who showed up out of nowhere. I'm really curious to see how much of Wayne of Gotham will be canon (Comics? TAS? Movies?) versus original content. Between this and Batman: Earth One, we'll now have two new takes on Bruce investigating the murders of his parents, and while it's not exactly the freshest or most original plot, I'm want to see how these stories unfold in the freedom of their own standalone continuity.

Thankfully, unlike the other two books, this one actually IS available at my library, so I'll be checking it out for myself soon! If anyone has read or is planning to read any of these three, let me know what you think!
about_faces: (Default)
The Bronze Age of comics is considered by many to be the Golden Age for Batman. I can certainly understand why, as it may be my very favorite Batman era.

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

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

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



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




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


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

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

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


Image source.


Yeah, the new coloring isn't bad, but it feels a lot like a Lucas-ization of something that was already fine in the first place. The extra softness and dimensions of the computer coloring are just unnecessary, in my opinion. When it comes to older comics, give me gritty newsprint or solid, muted colors any day. But then, I'm the kind of guy who utterly loathes all the CGI additions in the remastered Star Trek: The Original Series, so what do I know?
about_faces: (Default)
SO! In the book, Supervillains and Philosophy (2009), legendary Batman author Denny O'Neil wrote an essay/fic about Harvey Dent! Neato keen!



Wow, O'Neil, a philosophically-driven writer with tons of Batman experience, writing about Two-Face? Oh, oh, do tell, what's it about?! WELL, apparently, Harvey Dent was a... um... fervent Christian and Calvinist, huh, okay, who got into law for the sole purpose of punishing criminals as a... er... holy crusade against sinners... wait... and he also rejected the philosophies of existentialists and Nietzsche as "blasphemy," no, that's not... that is, until he got hit by acid, at which point he... he...

... Okay, y'know what? Let... let's just stop right there.

*presses temples, takes a deep breath*

Look. Here's the thing. I've gotten really frustrated trying to find ANYTHING related to Harvey (or, for that matter, any of the other Batman villains other than the Joker) in essay collections such as Batman and Philosophy: Dark Knight of the Soul, Batman Unmasked: Analyzing a Cultural Icon, or the O'Neil-edited Batman Unauthorized: Vigilantes, Jokers, and Heroes in Gotham City. The closest anyone's come to anything is an essay about Batman and "The Elusiveness of a Complete Friendship" in Superheroes and Philosophy: Truth, Justice, and the Socratic Way where Harvey was briefly examined in terms of his friendship with Batman. Even then, he's discussed only as an adjunct to Batman's own issues, not for his own philosophical value.

I just don't get it. I know I'm biased and all, but seriously, if you're going to talk about comics characters and philosophy, isn't Two-Face one of the most obviously rich sources of discussion material? He hits so many classic themes, from good and evil, the duality of man, fate versus chance, punishment versus rehabilitation, the responsibility (or lack thereof) of one's own actions, justice and balance... and those are just the ones that come to mind! Why is the Joker considered such a fount of philosophical debate, when Two-Face lends himself so perfectly as a humanized symbol of age-old questions?


Hmmm... good and evil in one character, you say? Nope, I just don't see it.


So finally, when someone actually DOES tackle Harvey head-on, they do it by using the character as a strawman for a look at "religious fanaticism versus existentialism." These are themes which don't fit Harvey Dent. Like, at all. So to accomplish this, O'Neil crafts a whole new backstory and origin for the character, to the point that he barely resembles Harvey Dent at all. I'd expect this from a pompous philosopher who only has a passing knowledge of the characters from the films and a couple big-name comics, but this is Denny O'-fucking-Neil, a guy with over thirty years' experience as both writer and group editor of Batman comics! This is a guy who KNOWS the stories, who could have easily had something to say about them and the character as he's been presented, but instead chose to bend the character over backwards for his own ends.

I'd love to post the whole thing, just so those better versed in theology and/or philosophy could tear this apart more thoughtfully than I'm able, but the best I can do is post available snippets from the pages of Supervillains and Philosophy up at Google Books and do my best to describe the rest.

Two Fates for Two-Face behind the cut! )


Thing is, O'Neil has repeatedly displayed a fascination for Eastern philosophy in comics like The Question, and considering how many times creators have tried slapping a yin-yang symbol on Two-Face, it makes me wonder why he hell O'Neil didn't try being the first to tackle Taoist themes in the character. It just seems like such an obvious fit in retrospect. Man, now I'm imagining a whole story with the Question (Charlie/Vic) raising all manner of philosophical themes to Harvey, as well as challenge the preconceived notions of Two-Face to other characters such as Batman, Gordon, Dick, and Renee. The Faceless Man exploring the philosophies surrounding the man with Two Faces: why the hell hasn't O'Neil written this, like, yesterday?

A good question, I suppose. And one of many that will go unasked until somebody finally explores the vast thematic, literary, and philosophical potential that Harvey Dent potentially represents. Well... somebody other than me, at any rate.



*ETA: Regardless of what some fans or Batman: Face the Face would have you believe, it's never been canon that Harvey Dent was in any way a vain person before or after the acid attack. That's a whole other rant I need to explore in the near future.
about_faces: (Default)
I've been incredibly annoyed at DC for the way they've treated their trade collections over the past decade. I can understand many great stories being left out of print, of course I can. Collections cost money to make, and if there's no market even for great stories which few people want or know about, why publish it? I get that, sad though it makes me. But what they actually WERE doing was, to put it mildly, damn stupid.

Bad enough that they were constantly publishing six-issue collections in overpriced, flimsy, awkward hardcovers. But worse, some collections, like Green Lantern: The Sinestro Corps War, were published in three separate hardcovers, with several key issues published OUT OF ORDER. Then, as if to compound this ridiculousness, they subseuqnetly published Blackest Night and Blackest Night: Green Lantern as TWO SEPARATE COLLECTIONS, even though anybody who followed that event knows that both titles alternated telling the same damn story. It's like buying two copies of the same book, but one copy has the even-numbered chapters and the other has the odd.

And then there are collections like Joker: The Greatest Stories Ever Told and Batman VS Two-Face, which completely omit big-name stories in favor of out-of-context selections from larger stories, included for the clear purpose of enticing people to buy those trades next at the expense of a great collection. I was so pissed by this, I actually wrote an actual paper letter to the editor who seemed most responsible for most of this fuckery, and it was a very polite but strongly-worded one, but to no avail. Man, sometimes I wish DC would just put me in charge of their collected editions.

Until that happens, though, it seems like something must have changed, because DC is stepping up their collected editions in a big, big way! Never have I seen so many new collections coming out at the same time that I so wanted to own, especially since I've recently fallen in love with Bronze Age Batman in a big way.






Legends of the Dark Knight: Jim Aparo Vol. 1 [Hardcover]


The first part of a complete, full-color collection of The Brave and the Bold? Holy hell, yes yes YES. I know that Aparo isn't everyone's cup of tea, and that my own adoration may be purely based in nostalgia, but Aparo's Batman is definitive for me the way Sprang, Adams, Miller, and Lee's Batmen are for others.

I've only read a handful of Aparo's TB&TB stories, but the few I've read have been absolute gems. Of course, it helps that two of them are written by the great Alan Brennert, and I've reviewed both stories in the past. Read them if you haven't, dear god, do. Other stories are written by Bob Haney, a writer who's notably a big out-there with character depictions (such as making Oliver Queen a greedy, boorish treasure-seeking booby), but even that team can result in one of the greatest Two-Face stories I've ever read. So while an Aparo collection of TB&TB will almost certainly be a mixed bag, I will devour each and every story with great interest.

And hey, hopefully the subsequent volumes will open the door to collecting more of Aparo's straight Batman work, especially the all-time classic mini, The Untold Legend of the Batman. That story needs to be collected, like, yesterday.





Legends of the Dark Knight: Marshall Rogers (Batman) [Hardcover] (Not final cover art?)

FUCK YES THE LEGENDARY ENGLEHART/ROGERS RUN HAS BEEN COLLECTED AGAIN YES!!! Erm, I mean... how satisfactory. I wondering what the coloring will be like? Will it be the wonderful original coloring, or the crappier, washed-out coloring that was used for the reprints? Oh whatever, I don't care, it's Strange Apparitions! Hugo! Deadshot! Thorne! Fish! One of the all-time greatest takes on the Joker ever, complete with the glorious butt-chin that Rogers liked to draw!

This seems like a huge collection. What other Batman work did Rogers do that would be included here? Probably Dark Detective, but I wonder if they'll also include Siege, Archie Goodwin's posthumous project from Legends of the Dark Knight? Either way, this is a must-own. For those who need a taste of just what makes this run so great, and why Rogers is a legend deserving of recognition, check out my review of the entire Hugo Strange subplot from Strange Apparitions.






Tales of the Batman - Gene Colan Vol. 1 [Hardcover]

First things first, who's noticing the pattern here? Yes, all of these collections are highlighting the ARTISTS. There isn't a single new DC hardcover collection coming out to celebrate writers (not unless you count the fact that they're rereleasing the excellent DCU Alan Moore collection in HC, presumably to include the inferior Bolland recoloring of The Killing Joke). What gives? Is this just indicative of the DCU run by Jim Lee, artists are now regularly given writing duties regardless of their skill or experience?

Don't get me wrong, the first two collections are absolutely deserving of being compiled for the artist first (although it's hard to imagine Strange Apparitions being half as good without Englehart firing on all cylinders), and no one will dispute that Gene Colan is a master deserving of recognition. On the other hand, you see that vampire story from featured right there on the cover? Yeah, it ties into several other stories which aren't drawn by Colan--including issues of the Batman, whereas this one was published in Detective Comics--but were ALL (or mostly) written by Gerry Conway. Now, I think many/most of the non-Colan issues were drawn by Don Newton, so thankfully we're also getting this...





Tales of the Batman: Don Newton [Hardcover] (Not final cover art, presumably)


... Which is great, but damn, wouldn't it have made more sense to do it as a Gerry Conway collection? Well, I suppose it all depends on which stories they include through each volume. As it is, you'll have to buy both if you want to read the complete saga of Boss Thorne's return, and subsequent re-haunting by the ghost of Hugo Strange, not to mention the introduction of Killer Croc and Redhead!Jason.

And finally, the book which in some ways gets me most excited:





Batman: Birth of the Demon [Paperback]


Birth of the Demon is one of the greatest Batman comics I have ever read, and it is THE greatest Ra's al Ghul story ever written, a masterpiece by Denny O'Neil and Norm Breyfogle both working at the very top of their game. The fact that it was out of print and unread by most just spoke to me of everything that was wrong with DC's collected editions, as well as the audience who didn't buy it enough when it came out to make it a hit. Hopefully that will be different this time, and people will finally read this masterwork for themselves.

Don't let the title fool you, it's actually the complete trilogy of Ra's al Ghul graphic novels, including the two by Mike W. Barr. The first is Son of the Demon, where Bruce and Talia actually got married, had sex, and she became pregnant. Yes, that would indeed be the origin of Damian Wayne, um, except that Grant Morrison, Mr. Everything-Is-Continuity-Yay-Silver-Age, couldn't actually remember how Son of the Demon went and, even though he loves wanking about obscure stories from 1957, he couldn't actually be bothered to read a graphic novel published in 198-fucking-7. So instead, he made up his own origin where Talia raped Batman. Let me say that again: GRANT MORRISON DECIDED TO HAVE TALIA RAPE BATMAN. I feel like it's important for everyone to remember this, especially when they wonder why the hell she's become an irredeemably evil character in the past few years. Barr's original Son of the Demon deserves to be read all the more because of Morrison's fuckery.

Less important is Barr's sequel, Bride of the Demon, which is by far the weakest of the trilogy. Ra's decides to marry an over-the-hill actress to have his heir, why now? It's as silly and forgettable as Birth is brilliant. The whole collection is worth every penny for the first and third stories alone. Just try to ignore that boring, boring, BORING cover by Andy Kubert.



Other collections of note coming out soon:

A new edition of Knightfall and a whole Batman VS Bane compilation, one of which will hopefully FINALLY collect Vengeance of Bane. Why the hell was that one never reprinted? If I'd read that, I might have actually cared more about that silly 'roided-up luchador!

Brubaker and Cooke's Catwoman series is getting recollected in a big hardcover. God, I loved that series so much. It was the first time I ever actually cared about Selina! That said, I'm not sure how well it's aged. I'm now more sensitive to Brubaker's tone-deafness when it comes to voices, and the stuff with Black Mask and Maggie Kyle just seems irredeemably ugly to me now. Honestly, I just hope that book collects Selina's Big Score by Darwyn Cooke, which is the greatest Catwoman story ever made. Ever. Ever ever ever. But even if it's not collected there, you can still always find it in Batman: Ego, and Other Tails.

Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank, an original graphic novel set in a separate continuity intended to draw in new readers. This team did amazing work with Superman, but in truth, I don't really care too much about them trying to tackle Batman. I'm just in it to see what the hell he does (if anything) with Harvey Dent. Because I'm that predictable.
about_faces: (Default)
Sometimes, seeing online scans of a comic I've already read allows me to read the story in a different light, sometimes to such extremes that it makes me feel like I'm only now reading it for the first time.

Such was the case when [livejournal.com profile] tungstencompton posted snippets from Denny O'Neil's "Duel," the first Legends of the Dark Knight Annual, starting with the opening sequence by Jim Aparo. Now, this comic didn't do much for me the first time I read it, but seeing these excerpts online gave me a whole new appreciation for this story, and what it means to one of the most controversial Batman questions out there. But to actually say what that question is would be a spoiler in of itself.

So with permission from the OP who scanned the pages in the first place, I'm reposting the Aparo pages here for several reasons, not the least of which being that I think it's some of Aparo's best artwork ever:





(Ala Brad Pitt) What's in the bag, what's in the bag? )



After his glory days in the Bronze Age, Aparo's art seriously seemed to go downhill once he let himself be inked by someone else in stuff like A Death in the Family. Even when he inked himself again after that in stuff like the Knightfall era comics, it just wasn't the same. He seemed more stuff, less dynamic, more of a relic from a bygone era rather than a timeless master as fans like me have always seen him, and always will.

Looking at the above scans, I have to wonder if he was just let down by the poorer printing and coloring quality of regular Batman books, as opposed to LOTDK's prestige format. I'm not sure he ever looked quite this good in any story since, with the possible exception of the GCPD police mini-series, since Bill Sienkiewicz's inking makes EVERYBODY look better. But there's nothing quite like the pleasure of Aparo inking and lettering himself in stories such as this and this.

That said, I do make some exceptions, mainly where nostalgia is concerned. For example, I'd give up a moderately-sized toe to own this:





That right there is the first page of the first comic I ever read, and I'm incredibly jealous of the guy who actually owns it. Needless to say, this page had quite the lifelong impact on me.
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One of the few Two-Face appearances I don't own happens to be a collector's item: Batman #260, which featured the first appearance of Arkham Asylum dash it all, I completely forgot, that was another issue, and one I'd already posted! Ugh, stupid me. Guess I'm still brain-fried from the long drive back from Orlando. Then damn, why the hell is THIS comic so expensive in every back issue bin?! Harvey's appearance in this comic is just a cameo, but even though it's one of my favorite cameos, I didn't want to shell out $20+ for a single comic, and I don't ever download torrents of comics, partially because I never could figure out how.

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


At the edge of Arkham, New England, stands the asylum of the criminally insane... )
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Before I left my home, my Henchgirl, and my scanner behind to perform in the Orlando Fringe Festival*, I scanned a few small bits to post if I ever got the chance. As I'm taking an early night in, I'm back to offer a fun (and slightly TMI) cameo appearance from Harvey in the pages of Denny O'Neil's Azrael.

Harvey had a small supporting role in a two-part storyline where Jean-Paul Valley broke into Arkham Asylum looking for one of his old enemies. Unfortunately, he ran into a whole lotta released inmates, led by the Joker, who was using Harvey (and his coin) to judge where they should take their fun. The story itself is so unremarkable that I can't remember the plot details (it doesn't help that I don't own the preceding issues), but it does feature a few moments of Harvey crack, most notably these panels:





... ewwww. Welp, I don't think anyone's going to try taking his coin now.


Slightly extended context, plus one of the sadder times that Harvey's been punched in the face, behind the cut )



*Someone in my audience today actually asked me to about my Hush rant. I truly never thought there would be any crossover between my Two-Face fandom friends and my Fringe performance artist friends. Now, if only there were a way to make money by combining solo performance with comic geekery...
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This is a big one. Grab a snack.

I've been putting off reviewing Batman: Face the Face for five years now. Every time I started, my criticisms melted down into curses and incoherent ranting, until my computer screen became obscured by rabid spittle. Okay, it wasn't THAT bad, but still.

In some ways, it's actually an ideal introductory trade paperback to get into Batman. Like Hush, it's a murder mystery that also serves as a tour of Gotham's inhabitants, and it was immediately followed by Grant Morrison and Paul Dini's runs. Unfortunately, it's also deeply frustrating, especially if you're a fan of Harvey Dent.

This was the first story to use the character in the three years since Hush, since Loeb supposedly had plans for Harvey hich kept him in limbo until those plans would reach fruition. They never did, and I think folks at DC wanted their precious status quo back in place. I also understand that Two-Face is Dan DiDio's favorite villain, which may have been a factor. In any case, Face the Face is one of the most significant Two-Face stories in canon, and also one of the most painfully frustrating. After five years, I finally have the words to explain just why.





The lost year of Gotham's Unknown Protector, Harvey Dent )




Batman: Face the Face can be purchased here if you wish to read the story in full, including the Tim Drake subplot, several other Rogues doing their Rogue things, and the entire issue dedicated to Harvey and Two-Face's discussion. As mentioned above, it also serves as a gateway to the comics which are coming out today, leading directly to Dini's Detective Comics and Morrison's Batman.
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The most recent Impostor Two-Face might also be the dumbest. Not surprising, as he's written by Denny O'Neil: master of the shallow strawman villain, at least from his run on The Question.

Don't get me wrong: when Denny's good, he's bloody amazing. His out-of-print Ra's al Ghul origin Birth of the Demon is one of the greatest Batman comics ever created, and certainly the finest take on the character. But when he's off, he's pretty off, but sometimes is a gloriously-bad way. Case in point: Last Rites: The Last Days of Gotham, his two-part story which mainly served to transition Dick Grayson from being Nightwing to becoming Batman after Batman R.I.P., taking place very shortly after Dick made Harvey's life even worse in The Great Leap.

The final Impostor to date is a thug named Gracchus, a little nobody thug who even has his own Circe counterpart, who also just happens to be one of the more insufferable original characters in recent memory.





The Fake Two-Face and the Face of Gotham, behind the cut )

Thus concludes the complete history of Two-Face impostors over the years, six in all (or eight, if you count the different reasons for Batman, and the Post-Crisis take on Paul Sloan). If I've forgotten anyone, please give me a heads-up. It's kind of a shame that this odd tradition should end in a character like Gracchus, but I'm sure he won't be the last. If anything, he carried on the Golden Age idea that it doesn't suck to be Harvey Dent so long as you're not actually Harvey Dent.
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Just under the wire for TWOsday!

I wasn't sure I'd ever own a copy of this issue. As it featured the first appearance of Arkham Asylum, copies were out of my price range (unless I'm buying rare back issues for my girlfriend--because I'm clearly the most awesome boyfriend ever, zomg--my limit is five bucks), but I managed to find a ratty-ass copy that was good enough to read and scan. Huzzah!

I'm glad I did, because while the story is dated and rough, it was surprisingly ahead of its time with how sympathetically it treated Two-Face. Sure, he was sympathetic in his original appearance, but that was only up to the point that he was redeemed and had his face fixed. After it got rescarred again, his very few appearances between 1954 and 1971 treated him more like a tragic character who's now just a villain to be stopped, and all sympathy for him died long ago. It's how many still write him.

It's also how Denny O'Neil himself treated the character in his first Two-Face story, Half a Life. I should post that here, both the original version and the recent recoloring, just to compare. But today's post is O'Neil's *second* Two-Face story: Threat of the Two-Headed Coin! from Batman #258 (1974). And this time, O'Neil takes a slightly different approach with the character, one which undoubtedly influenced the writers on Batman: The Animated Series in how they handled villains.

That said, it's still very early Bronze Age, right down to the cracky intro image, where Harvey resembles Wile E. Coyote to an oblivious Dynamic Duo:





Fun with atomic weapons behind the cut )
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I love old comic covers. The great J.M. DeMatteis recently described the allure of classic covers as being "like cosmic portals, opening up doorways to other dimensions; colorful parallel universes far preferable to the one I inhabited."

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

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

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







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




Next up: Part Two of the Bronze Age, with covers by Gene Colan, Tom Mandrake, Dick Giordano, and another by Jim Aparo! Because you can never have too much Aparo!
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Ah, Two-Face and the Joker: the Itchy and Scratchy of Gotham's Rogues Gallery.

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

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





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

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

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

A pair of pages behind the cut )

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