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!!!)
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!
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As some of you know, my Henchgirl, [livejournal.com profile] bitemetechie, has started up a roleplaying blog for the Scarecrow, where she and her CATverse co-mastermind [livejournal.com profile] captaintwinings occasionally hold theme day/week events wherein they take submissions from followers.

These events include "Pick-Up Line Day" (readers do their best to try and hit on the Gotham rogues gallery), "Stroking the Rogue... Ego" (readers tell the rogues what they like best about them to help with therapy), and "Free For All Fic For All" (breaking from character, BiteMeTechie and Twinings write stories to fill as many fic requests from readers as humanly possible in a week long period). The stuff they write for these events--especially the last--are consistently excellent, and are quite often some of the best takes on the Rogues that I have ever seen in any medium. At this rate, you could seriously kill a good few days scouring through the archives, and it'd be well worth your time.

But I'm not writing this just to plug them, as I could and should have done dozens of times over the past few months. No, I'm finally writing them up is because Henchgirl wrote a Harvey/Gilda fic, one that holds specific significance for me: it was originally meant to be my birthday present, but with our lives being what they are these days, it ended up on the back-burner until somebody gave her the prompt to write something Harvey/Gilda. The resulting fic was... well, read it for yourself.

Harvey comes to her at night, the way he always has... )

And since I'm recommending fic by the girls, I might as well include some (but certainly not all) of my favorite fics and drabbles they've written for the blog:
--Clayface III and Lady Clay go out for a night on the town; somebody babysits for them
--Talia goes father’s day shopping; Killer Croc goes shopping; More Sexy!Cajun!Croc; Croc has to talk his way out of a sticky situation; something Croc. For those who don't know, Techie--inspired by Croc's one appearance in Teh Batmans--has reinvented Croc as a suave cajun, and it's pretty awesome. In addition, she's been trying her hand at writing Talia, and the results are pretty damn spectacular. See also:
--Talia Al Ghul makes daddy proud.
--Clayface encounters an old fan; Clayface/Poison Ivy romance
--Maxie Zeus tries to have lunch in a diner. I love how she writes Maxie as if he were being played by Brian Blessed. I credit myself for the fact that I showed her I, Claudius shortly before she wrote this one.
--Jonathan Crane and Hugo Strange at a conference.
--Something featuring Killer Croc, Croc enjoying some Cajun food and Croc comes to dinner
--Killer Croc & Killer Moth sharing an apartment/cell. This one features a special bonus for fans of the Teen Titans cartoon out there.

Again, these are by no means the only ones I like, but that's more than enough recommendations to start. By all means, scour though the archives of askthesquishykins for more. And, since the Free for All Fic for All continues for another week, stop by and request a fic of your very own.
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.
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Recently, I posted this awesome webcomic about Two-Face, which showed more understanding of Harvey Dent than most things we've seen in actual published comics. It wasn't necessarily a definitive take, since there's certainly room to dispute Surrealist Obituaries author Deptford's take on Harvey, but it was a brilliantly insightful and compelling strip nonetheless, perfectly executed by the end.

That said, there was some question about whether or not that kind of Two-Face could be sustained for an entire story. Coincidentally, after writing The Silver Dollar, Deptford found that he wasn't finished writing about Harvey, and decided to put that question to the test by doing an eight-strip Two-Face story with an original character.

My immediate reaction was to be excited for more Deptford Two-Face, but hesitant due to the OC. Man, OCs in fanfic can really go either way, too often falling into the many Mary Sue traps out there. One of the best ways to do that is to subvert those tropes, which [livejournal.com profile] bitemetechie/[livejournal.com profile] dr_von_fangirl did brilliantly with this short Scarecrow fic, Sack Cloth and Chicken Soup. I know I'm biased and all, but that one's a must-read. So an OC with this story? Yeah, I was concerned.

How did it all turn out? Well, as often happens, I'm of two minds. In fact, for this one, I'd rather hash it out in the comments with you folks than do a full review, since this is Christmas and I do have family stuff to do. I just don't have the time nor brain power to give this the review it deserves right now. But since the story actually ends on Christmas, and people will be asking me about the story anyway, I'd like to post it now anyway, presented here all here in one chunk for your reading pleasure.

For now, I'll just say that there's tons of good stuff here, excellently written and paced throughout. Several times throughout, I laughed out loud, I got chills, and I was even moved. I greatly look forward to your thoughts, and will be gradually posting mine in the comments as I'm able.

Oh, and since Deptford invokes a couple Leonard Cohen songs, here a couple for your listening pleasure, one for Harvey and the other for Two-Face (although when it comes to capturing that side, I tend to opt for Nick Cave's cover instead, because I'm the kind of geek who's actually given this thought before!).

The entire saga of Harvey and Firecracker, behind the cut )
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Even by 1992, Dick Sprang still had the chops. So no giggling at his name, now.

Batman: Two-Face Strikes Twice was a really, really great idea on several fronts.

In a general sense, the gimmick was perfect: a two-issue Two-Face mini-series telling two different stories at the same time: one in the style of late-period Golden Age, the other in painted "modern" style. The concept alone has so much potential for nostalgic fun (Outlandish deathtraps! Corny dialogue! Giant oversized Dick Sprang object set-pieces!) as well as commentary on how superhero storytelling has evolved over the years, for better or worse. More specifically, the story provided a rare showcase for Two-Face, a character who has evolved considerably between his first appearance in 1942 and TFST!'s publication in 1992.

... Hey, I wonder if it was meant to be a 50th anniversary celebration of the character? That hadn't even occurred to me until just now! If so, TFST! was more than just a gimmicky Two-Face caper through past and then-present: it was a love letter to Batman in general, and Harvey Dent specifically. Oh, how very... very bittersweet.

Unfortunately, it's far from perfect. While author and Batman stalwart Mike W. Barr pretty well nails the entire retro story down to a surprising detail, the "modern" counterpart falls short like wowzers, mainly because Barr pretty much writes in the exact same style. There's still cheesy dialogue, bad one-liners, and groaner "two" puns, only now everyone uses computers and half the cast rocks mullets.

Also, cape technology had apparently grown by leaps and bounds.

But before I trot out a summary judgment of "noble failure," let's take a look at the Harvey-centric parts of TFST!, which are all the more important for featuring the last canonical modern-day appearance of Gilda Dent before The Long Halloween came out and pretty much ruined the character forever. Why, no, I'm not bitter, why do you ask?

I... I didn't want you to hear this from a stranger, Harvey... I'm getting married again... )
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DC's Source blog has posted a four-page preview of the second part of Tony Daniel's current Harvey/Gilda storyline. The issue has come out today, but I'm currently in a place where the nearest comic shop is over an hour away, and while I don't think I want to drive an hour each way just to read something that'll almost certainly just leave me frustrated, I'm itching like hell to find out what happens next. Some storytellers might consider this a triumph, I suppose. If so, feel proud, Mr. Daniel.

Based on the pages that we see there, I have a couple reactions. First off, I laughed out loud at the overwrought "GILDAAAAAAAAA!!!" but maybe that's only because I heard it in my head as "RAY-CHULL!!!!" More importantly, was Gilda supposed to be dead? The only time that's ever been mentioned as even a possibility was in Greg Rucka's No Man's Land novelization, but not in comics. Will Daniel actually address this, with details of how/when Gilda was supposed to have maybe sorta died? Will he address her last appearance in canon, Two-Face Strikes Twice, from way back in the early 90's? I doubt it, and I know it's pretty obscure, but Daniel seems to have enjoyed digging through obscure stuff in the Morrisonian style so I can't help but assume that he's read that story.

In the same double-page spread, I was struck by Harvey's tender, confused, betrayed thoughts about Gilda. My expectations have been kept on low for self-preservation, so this moment surprised me, and makes me wonder if maybe Daniel really is going somewhere with Harvey and Gilda, and that he does understand the importance of their dynamic. Then again, that "we PROTECTED each other" line could just be a reference to (one interpretation of) The Long Halloween's ending, in which case, I take back all my preemptive praise.

Based on the DC blog's headline of "Two-Face's new ally" combined with the cover image, I'm guessing that it was Eddie who delivered a shovel to Harvey's face(s). That's both hilarious and sad.

So, who's read the issue?
about_faces: (Default)
DC's Source Blog--your regular output for official DC PR, previews, propaganda, what have you--has released a four-page preview of Flashpoint: Batman - Knight of Vengeance which directly focuses on Judge Harvey Dent, his wife, and their twins kidnapped by the Joker. Major spoilers for the end of Flashpoint #1, and although that particular spoiler was somewhat underwhelming in the grand scheme of spoilers, you've been warned.

Read more... )
about_faces: (Schizy)
So I've been seeing these die-cast lead figurines of DC and Marvel characters for the past couple of years, which are apparently imported from either the UK or New Zealand. Have you guys seen these as well? This is the Harvey figure:

Many more pictures of it and other DC figures can be found at this Flickr account. They're all rather neat, especially the Riddler and Scarecrow figures. What I like most about the Two-Face one is how it makes the interesting choice to put the tacky suit on the good side, letting the horrific scarring play off of a rather nice light gray suit. It's very much Two-Face as ganglord, the kind of guy who gives orders and passes judgment rather than getting his own hands dirty, if he can help it. So yeah, it's neat.

But what interested me way MORE is the booklet that came with the figurine, which included the origin and history of the character, three recommended stories, profiles on allies and enemies, and more.

I was hesitant at first, fearing that it would be nothing more than one great big Jeph Loeb wankfest. And while it was a lot of that, it was also surprisingly comprehensive when it came to a post-Crisis history of the character! This is the only time I've ever seen anybody (in a professional publication, no less!) go into detail about Harvey's abuse, plus include the "contribution" of serial killer Dr. Rudolph Klemper to the unleashing of Two-Face. It's quite well-written and compiled, thanks to Jim McLauchlin, whom I believe was the same Jim McLauchlin who helped make Wizard magazine halfway readable back in the 90's. I keep forgetting if it was McLauchlin or Pat McCallum who made that mag great when it great.

That said, there are flaws. I know that some of you suggested the idea that Eye of the Beholder and The Long Halloween didn't have to negate each other, and could both count as canon. That's exactly what this does, and it actually kinda works... until you get to the part where the twist ending absolutely makes NO FUCKING SENSE. Don't take my word for it! Read it for yourself, both in the origin and in the last scan, which provides a synopsis for TLH specifically.

Warning: SPOILERS for The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Hush, and Face the Face. Really, is there anyone reading this who HASN'T read those storylines? If not... well, you ain't missing much. There's a reason why I haven't reviewed them here yet, even though those are arguably the most high-profile Two-Face appearances to date.

Ten HUGE scans behind the cut! )

The rest of the booklet looks at profiles of allies and enemies (with Harvey, sometimes they're both), which was an assortment of choices that were alternately basic (Batman, Gordon, Gilda, Renee), knowledgeable (Paul Sloan), acceptable (Penguin? I guess) and bizarre (the Suicide Squad? Oh, Salvation Run, yeah, I guess that kinda doesn't make any sense at all?). After that, we get a history of Gotham's organized crime, from Falcone up through to Black Mask, which of course completely goes for the skull-face Mask characterization. Whatever. Why do I care? I'm really wondering. Eh.

I know my tone was largely critical and exasperated, but in all honestly, this was a pretty great history of the character. I'd be very happy if this were somebody's first exposure to Two-Face, rather than just any one story. It's certainly a fair sight better than his pages on Wikipedia or ComicVine, although I'm certainly doing my part on that count.
about_faces: (Movie Faces of Harvey Dent)
Note: save for the book excerpts, all images taken from www.worldsfinestonline.com, your one-stop shop for everything DCAU.

Where the hell do I begin talking about Harvey/Two-Face from Batman: The Animated Series? I'm assuming you've all seen the show. Seriously, is there anyone here who *hasn't* seen TAS, or at least the Two-Face episodes?

If not (or if you want a refresher), I've managed to find a couple sneaky YouTube videos of the episodes which will be pertinent to discussion )

So everyone's at least seen both parts of Two-Face and Shadow of the Bat, right?

Of course, I love the former. Even with the lesser second half, it's still one of the greatest takes on the character. There are many details I wouldn't choose, but they work within the story's context so well, that it's still one of the best takes on the character in spirit. But in the latter, he's reduced to just being a standard villain, since the focus is entirely on Barbara's origin as Batgirl. In terms of Two-Face episodes, I'd written it off as one of the least essential.

Then I read this:

As said before, it's a YA novelization which frankensteins both two-part episodes into a single narrative, with some new scenes and surprise guest stars thrown in. So if you're up for it, let's take a look at some of the ways the book reconciles the two stories into one, how it works, how it doesn't, and what improvements are made along the way.

And as we do, I hope you'll indulge my tangents to rant, rave, and ramble about all manner of TAS!Harvey stuff in general... )

*That said, the TAS writers didn't come up with this idea. The Batman newspaper strip first came up with the idea of Harvey as a supporting character at length and best friend of Bruce Wayne back in 1990, around the same time as Eye of the Beholder's publication. I bet that Dini, Timm, and company were fans of that strip, which I'll be posting here soon enough.
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The wonderful, untitled Two-Face origin story from Secret Origins Special is noteworthy for two reasons:

1.) It's the first time a writer has hinted at Harvey's psychological problems before the acid even hit.

2.) It's the best depiction of Harvey's wife to date. In fact, one could argue that it's her only good appearance.

For some reason, Gilda Dent had been renamed "Grace," which you'll recall is what Harvey's fiancee was named on Batman: The Animated Series. Funny thing is, Grace on TAS acted much more like Gilda has in every other story but this one. Typically, she's been a crying, weak, self-pitying martyr, ever pining for her poor Harvey's return. While Grace is very much rooted in the same spirit as the character of Gilda, you can notice the differences right from the start:

This is one of the finest Two-Face stories ever printed, which is why I'm going over my normal page limit. If you want to read the whole thing, it can be found in the otherwise-disappointing trade paperback, Batman VS Two-Face. I'll be frank: it's a lousy assortment, worth owning solely to have the original Harvey Kent trilogy and this story. Really, having this one goes a long way.

In all honesty, just try to track down the back issue of Secret Origins Special, which also features a great Penguin origin and Neil Gaiman writing the framing sequence and the Riddler origin. Those two usually get more attention that the Two-Face story, which is a shame.

But enough from me. Let's let Grace continue telling her story.

A different perspective on Harvey Dent behind the cut )

Grace is the living embodiment of hope--however slim--for Harvey's redemption. Perhaps the real tragedy is that it's almost certainly a false hope for one reason or another, that fate/DC will never let him have his happy ending. But then, even false hope can give way to great things, and as long as Harvey has that tether, he'll never be too far gone.

So why haven't we seen this character since? Why have the only Gilda appearances between then and now--Two-Face Strikes Twice! and The Long Halloween--rendered her as being the same ineffectual throwback she was in the Golden Age? Well, "ineffectual" is arguable when it comes to TLH, but that's up to how one interprets that story's nonsensical and perforated plot.

Either way, bringing her back would go a long way to giving Harvey more humanity. But not without risk. In a day and age where writers like Zeb Wells see fit to strip away the Lizard's humanity by having him eat his own kid (which many fans hail as a good thing! WTF), I would very much fear for Gilda/Grace's safety. It'd be too easy--and too fashionable--for someone to bring her back just to kill her off, and thus make Two-Face an even more dangerous enemy.

That's the twisted, short-sighted logic of writers today. They'd fridge her to make Harvey a better villain, but a weaker character. Maybe she's better off in limbo, waiting for Harvey's return. In the unending cycle of status quo that is superhero comics, perhaps that's the most poignant ending for which one could hope.
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Back when I posted Two-Face: Year One--which entirely cut out the character of Gilda from the origin--one commenter asked if any kind of wife/finance is really needed for Harvey.

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

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

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

Plastic surgery does not work that way behind the cut )

In the near future, I'll post the one other story to actually make use of this refreshing new direction for Gilda before she's relegated back to her previous characterization... or worse, in the case of the story from which she's now, regrettably, most famous.
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Let's go back to where it all started: August 1942, with DETECTIVE COMICS #66.

While Bob Kane gets too much credit for everything Batman, it seems that Two-Face was entirely his creation, taking the look from this poster of Spencer Tracy's JEKYLL & HYDE film, and giving him a coin-flipping gimmick originated by George Raft in SCARFACE. Bill Finger then ran with the idea, and the two introduced a startling new villain for Batman's Rogues Gallery: Two-Face, AKA Harvey... Kent?

Yes, as you might know, Harvey's original last name was Kent, presumably changed to Dent so as to avoid any connection with Superman. What's more, the first Two-Face story was a cliffhanger in a time when most superhero stories were standalone. What's more more, it actually ended up being a trilogy, with a distinct beginning, middle, and end of Harvey Kent's career as Two-Face!

It's one of the earliest examples of a complete story arc told in multiple parts from the Golden Age, one that cemented Two-Face from the outset as one of Batman's greatest foes, not to mention his most tragic.

And I can pretty damn well guarantee you that the saga of Harvey Kent doesn't end the way you'd expect! As an epilogue, I've included a never-reprinted, little-known postscript to the life and career of Harvey Kent, the original Two-Face.

Grab some popcorn and get a drink! The original Two-Face saga--thus, lots of scans and commentary--behind the cut! )

On a final note: it's good to be back. I finally have some free time again to dick around on frivolous matters, which means more [livejournal.com profile] about_faces in the near future! Hope you enjoy it, and as always, I highly encourage all comments, feedback, suggestions, and ideas! If you have a post you'd like to do, or fic to recommend, or anything like that, let me know via the comments or a DM!
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Last week, with my "JLA teams up with Two-Face... wait what?!" post (which coincidentally featured the only other meeting of Hal Jordan and Harvey, my two all-time favorite characters), [livejournal.com profile] lamashtar asked if I was going to post this particular issue, or if it was "too schmaltzy." I wasn't sure of either, to be honest!

Who here has read the Hal Jordan SPECTRE series (which ran 27 issues from 2001 to 2003)? I'm genuinely curious as to what anybody made of it. Personally, it was one of the more frustrating reading experiences I've ever had.

Issue #5--the topic of this week's post--is no exception, namely because it features the unlikely meeting of my two all-time favorite characters. And the results are... well... I'm still not really sure even now.

Here's the thing: when I was a teen, I loved Hal Jordan. Not as Green Lantern (although that would come later), but rather as Parallax. Considering that Two-Face is my number one favorite, I loved the idea of a fallen hero striving for redemption and justice but always screwing it up by being so darn crazy. I wanted him to actually grow as a character, to be redeemed, even exonerated. Then they killed him off in a "heroic" manner to pay lip service to his fans, then get him out of the way so that Kyle could be a special little pumpkin.

So I was very excited by the prospect of Hal!Spectre. The character would finally get some development and redemption, and be a hero again! And it would be written by the great J.M. DeMatteis! Even better!

But the actual series was... well, I'm still not quite sure what it was. For one thing, Hal just doesn't work in this kind of context. But mainly... look, I'm an agnostic who loves the stories of religion but has no personal grasp on concepts like souls and karma beyond a layman's utilitarian knowledge. And reading THE SPECTRE, I felt bogged down in all the metaphysical wankery DeMatteis was packing into every issue. Just like with so much philosophy, I responded with a mixture of "so what?" and "SO BORED."

This was made especially frustrating when my two favorite characters actually met in the pages of THE SPECTRE #5. Surely, such an unlikely pairing-off was possible only in my fanboy imagination! At least, that was before Hal became the Spectre.

Crazy murderous ex-heroes, the question of redemption, alien ghost cop spirit guides, and metaphysical theological jibba-jabba behind the cut! )

Okay. So what do you make of this? Me, I just can't make heads or... I mean, I still don't know.

Like, the actual metaphysical stuff about karma meant absolutely nothing to me, but just flew right over my head. It all seemed so maddeningly vague: what old debts? We don't even know why poor Harvey has to suffer through this? What debts does he have to pay? How could he possibly have chosen this from a spiritual standpoint?

It was all so frustratingly unsatisfying. I suspect this could have been interesting if DeMatteis had paced it out over two or more parts, really explored what it meant for the sides to be separated like that.

If "good" Harvey (note the quotation marks) is still capable of violence, what would "big bad Harv" be capable of doing if he were unleashed? Really, it could be the Gotham version of Italo Calvino's THE CLOVEN VISCOUNT, wherein a man is split into his good and evil sides, both of whom are themselves capable of good and evil acts.

(forgive for the snobby literature reference; once I heard about the story in Mazzucchelli's brilliant graphic novel, ASTERIOS POLYP, I felt it was perfect for Harvey insight)

But no. Ultimately, this story feels too rushed, with only one insight to offer: "No, really: It Sucks to be Harvey Dent."

All that said, between this and their meeting in that JLA story, I'm in agreement with [livejournal.com profile] nymphgalatea when she expressed a wish for a proper Hal/Harvey teamup. Because, she said, "Hal is so very pragmatic, and has no patience for the crazy, and Harvey would take a deep and abiding delight in fucking with his head."

Seriously, I would pay good money to see J. Michael Straczynski write this as an issue of THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, considering how he wrote Two-Face in the TEEN TITANS story and Hal in the most recent issue of TB&TB (with Dr. Fate).
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Back on the old [livejournal.com profile] scans_daily, I posted this story--1990's BATMAN ANNUAL #14, "Eye of the Beholder," twice (three times if you count the entry on [livejournal.com profile] fullscans_daily). That's because I frickin' love this story.

It's a story that's borrowed/ripped-off from (THE LONG HALLOWEEN, and subsequently THE DARK KNIGHT) as often as it's been ignored (ROBIN: YEAR ONE), but so far, in terms of a sheer character study, I'm firmly believe that it has yet to be surpassed. Because even when it's not ignored, other writers don't quite seem to have a grasp on the complex subtleties that Andrew Helfer imbued to his new post-CRISIS origin of Two-Face. And attempts to develop it further fall hilariously flat too (why hello thar, BATMAN: JEKYLL & HYDE!).

But for many, it's considered a must-read BATMAN comic, and for good reason. Not only is it one of my all-time favorite comics--BATMAN or otherwise--but it is also just above BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES for being the gold standard on everything related to the character of Harvey Dent.

NOTE: This is the slightly-extended edition of what I already posted on scans_daily, as I believe that this is a story that deserves to be read, even though DC bizarrely hasn't reprinted it since 1995. Why it's not included in the BATMAN VS TWO-FACE collection is utterly beyond me. So until you can find it scouring through the back issue bins or on eBay, I present it to you here in this edited version. Hope you enjoy.

Once more... the definitive Harvey Dent story )

Finally, a question, readers: do you like my commentary interspersed through the scans like this, or would y'all just prefer I leave my essaying until the end in one big chunk? I imagine some people don't care for my blathering on and just want to read the scans, which I understand. At the end of the day, the comics really do speak for themselves, or they should anyway.


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