about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
So for the past week, I've working on another big round-up post of news and announcements, but go figure, I've gotten so long-winded on them all that I've decided to just turn them into a bunch of their own mini-posts to keep activity going here between actual reviews. First up, here's something which I should have posted about two weeks ago! Whee!

You may remember the recent issue of Legends of the Dark Knight where Harvey underwent brain surgery in an attempt to remove Two-Face, and Batman screwed it up. You may also remember that the issue's author, TV producer Jonathan Larsen, popped up in the comments to offer his gracious thoughts and responses, and when he mentioned that he had some new projects in the pipeline, I told him to let us know when they were coming out. Welp, two weeks ago, he returned to announce that his new comic is being released, and you can read it now! For free! I'll let Mr. Larsen's comment speak for itself, with a couple added hotlinks by me:

I promised I'd let you know when my new project was out, and it is, so here I am! It's a free, weekly webcomic called "The Endling," and the first installment is up now, by me, an Italian artist I found named Cecilia Latella and my old Batman partner Paul Mounts on colors. It's been shepherded by comic-book deity Mark Waid and it'll be appearing on Thrillbent every Thursday. Please like The Endling on Facebook so you can let us know what you think and get notified when new installments go up. Thanks again!



Because it's taken me two weeks to get off my butt and post all this, the third part was just released today, so you can check out the first three installments back to back! So far, I'm really digging it, partially since it feels reminiscent of the 80's revival of The Twilight Zone, which is definitely a compliment (Alan Brennert was one of the show-runners, and this reminds me of one of his best episodes). I also really like the reading experience of Thrillbent in general, which utilizes the format in cool and effective ways. Give it a read, like it on Facebook, and let Mr. Larsen know what you think! And check out some of the other comics on Thrillbent, if you get the chance! It looks like a noble venture which deserves to do well!

Right, back to working on the other news and announcement tidbits! Hopefully LJ will stop being screwy in time for the upcoming barrage of mini-posts over the next week. I reiterate: whee!
about_faces: (Default)
Back during that mystical period known as the nineties, Batman writers Alan Grant and Doug Moench decided--for whatever reason--to give the Scarecrow a bizarre laugh that went "HAROO HRAAA" or sometimes "HAROO HRAAII."

At least, I think it was meant to be a laugh. Maybe it was meant to be the Scarecrow version of "BOOGA-BOOGA!" which would indicate that it was intended to be spooky or something. Personally, it just solidified my teenage perceptions of the Scarecrow as an annoying character who was neither cool, fun, nor--worst of all--scary. It wasn't until the CATverse that I realized just how enjoyable and chilling the character could and should be (if you're unfamilar with CATverse, this post will tell you everything you need to know about why that version is, IMO, the superior Crane), but the actual Scarecrow from the comics still largely leaves me cold.

That said, as with most things involving Grant and Moench, I've recently looked back on those older comics and have found so much to enjoy, and that especially goes for their "HAROO HRAA" Squishy. Although I must confess, much of that amusement stems out of how it reminds me of Billy West's impersonation of Richard Nixon on Futurama:



So yes, strange as it is, the thought of Billy West growling, "I'm Jonathan Craaane, the--" (shakes jowls) "--MASSSSSTERRR OF FEARRRR. HAROOOOOOOO!" honestly helped endear me to Grant and Moench's Scarecrow. I had wanted to compile every single Scarecrow laugh, but life being what it is, I had neither the time nor resources.

Thankfully, [livejournal.com profile] lego_joker--stalwart regular 'round these parts and all-around good guy--took the task upon himself, and provided collages of every single time "HAROO" from the comics. It's kinda awe-inspiring, if not likely to cause madness and/or seizures.




It... begins...

Two more huge collages behind the cut! )

At least I'm not the only one who's taken a shine to this oddball trait of Scarecrows past. In the months since I first declared my amusement of the laugh, I've seen it pop up as a meme among a handful of fans on Tumblr, thus creating the unholy alliance of comics and the internet. As such, I shall leave you with this image created by Tumblr user TheLoad:

about_faces: (Default)
When it comes to the famous Batman villains, few have gotten less respect over the years than the Riddler.

Only the Penguin surpasses Eddie in terms of being scorned by writers and fans alike, and that disdain seemed to reach its greatest heights around the late 80's, early 90's. In this period, we saw Riddler stories that saw him as a has-been (Neil Gaiman's When Is A Door?), a never-was (Denny O'Neil's Riddles), and a never-will-be (the newspaper comic strip), with the apparent consensus being that he was a poor man's Joker, a toothless leftover of the campy show who used a annoying gimmick that supplied his own defeat every time.

And yet, this very same period gave us one of the very greatest Riddler appearances ever, one which should still be a guideline for all writers as to what makes the character tick and shows just why he is uniquely great. So why does no one ever remember this story? Why does no one ever talk about Gerard Jones and Mark Badger's Batman: Run, Riddler, Run?



Well, one big reason why this story has fallen under the radar could be the art. Personally, I avoided reading this book for years because I couldn't stand Badger's artwork. He comes from the same school of 80's artists whom I normally love (like Mark Badger, Kyle Baker, and Bill Sienkiewicz, just to name a few), but his artwork is far more angular and abstract to the point of nearly being grotesque. That said, I've since gained an appreciation for his work partially thanks to this great interview with Badger conducted by the great Michel Fiffe, and partially because of my late-blossoming love of this story. Well, the Riddler of this story, at any rate.

The story itself is a bit more wonky, but that's to be expected of Gerard Jones: author of my all-time favorite run on Green Lantern, as well as... lesser works like Batman: Fortunate Son. Yes, the "Batman thinks rock 'n roll is the Devil's music!" comic. Jones and Badger's first Batman collaboration, Batman: Jazz, was a similarly oddball affair, focusing on Batman's search for a missing jazz legend. That story felt very much like Batman awkwardly wandering into an abstract 80's-tastic jazz battle, which led to things like our hero fighting evil sax-playing monsters known as the Brothers of the Bop.

... On second thought, that's kinda so ridiculous that it's awesome. It sure as hell ain't boring.

Which finally brings us back to Run, Riddler, Run. Much like Jazz, it features Batman awkwardly inserted into areas outside of his expertise. For Jazz, it was a whole culture of music. For B:RRR, it's the class war between homeless squatters and the rich people with the cops on their side. It's usually thorny to mix real life issues that challenge popular conceptions of law and ethics with the black-and-white morality of Batman comics, and it doesn't help that the villain is very dated for directly after the Cold War. It's a mixed bag of a comic by one of the oddest creative teams ever to tackle Batman, and it'd still be worth reading on those merits alone even without the Riddler.

But with the Riddler, it's a must-read refutation to everyone who misunderstands the Riddler. Jones and Badger, to their credit, don't try to counter this with the contrived tactic of trying to make the Riddler a #1 arch-villain badass. Instead, they take a more subtle approach, making Eddie a wild card with a game all his own...



When is a villain not the villain? )
about_faces: (Hugo Strange)
Okay. I've put this one off long enough.

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

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


Yes, Catwoman, spines work that way.


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

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

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



If you'd like to read Terror in full--including the extensive Catwoman subplot and full details of the Scarecrow's revenge campaign--both it and Prey are finally being collected in one single volume. It's probably the smartest thing to do, even if the sequel is vastly inferior, but the whole collection's worth tracking down for the first story alone.
about_faces: (coin flipping through the air)
Like many or perhaps even most comics fans, there was a time when I naturally assumed that the giant penny in the Batcave was--alongside the robot T-Rex and the big Joker playing card--a trophy from some previous clash with Two-Face. Well, either that or the time the Joker dressed up as Simple Simon and used a giant penny to try busting open a bank vault, but more likely it HAD to have been from Two-Face.

Naturally, I was only half-right. It was from a past caper, but the villain was an almost-literally two-bit crook by the name of the Penny Plunderer.



Normally, I wouldn't think that it'd be important to look at a character whose legacy has been almost entirely overshadowed by a novelty weapon he used one time, but the character is surprisingly fun. Especially the first page of his origin. Do yourself a favor and read--no, perform it aloud, because every time I try, I can't get past the last two panels without cracking up.

No, seriously! Read it! )

In the end, the giant penny's most memorable origin is the all-time-classic Batman: The Animated Series episode, Almost Got 'Im, which had it used in a deathtrap administered by--who else?--Two-Face. So whether it's by innocent mistake or just plain retconned out, the giant penny now seems largely associated with Two-Face, with pennies finally getting the last laugh on poor, forgotten Joe Whatsisname.
about_faces: (coin flipping through the air)
Let's talk about the other Harvey of Gotham City.

Doug Moench didn't technically create Harvey Bullock, but he's the one writer most responsible for making the fat, slovenly, heart'a-gold pig cop one of Batman's most enduring supporting characters. Everything we associate with the character was originated by Moench.

It's hard to imagine that he was originally a corrupt toady trying to sabotage Jim Gordon on Mayor Hill's behalf," but thankfully, Gordon's own decency won over Bullock, and the two are now crime-fighting buddies! But even with that change of heart, Moench kept hinting that there may still have been more to Harvey Bullock than met the eye.





From the title alone, you can imagine how this story actually IS relevant to the themes explored in this blog... )
about_faces: (Default)
Note: I've posted this two different places so far: scans_daily, and at my comicsvine.com blog. The former exploded in a debate about gun control, while the later was met by a handful of dismissive comments typical of those one would find on your average comics message board. So I thought I'd post this here and see what you guys think.




A couple months back, I got into yet another debate with someone about why I hated Batman using a gun in Final Crisis. I meant to post this at the time as a canonical response, but got distracted with IRL stuff and general geekery over here. Besides, I figured this might be controversial, since it's a controversial real-life topic combined with a controversial comic topic, taken from a comic that was deeply controversial at the time it was released: Batman: Seduction of the Gun.

B:SotG was an anti-gun one-shot published as a benefit issue for the John Reisenbach Foundation for gun-control education activities, a fact which wasn't revealed to readers until the end. DC was flooded with angry letters from gun owners and Second Amendment advocates, many of which were published in the early Knightfall issues. Many letters were along the lines of "My heart goes out to the Reisenbach family, what a tragedy, BUT STILL GUN CONTROL IS BAD I FEEL BETRAYED FOR ACCIDENTALLY DONATING MONEY TO THIS CAUSE." I could do a whole post about that comic and the response it got.

So it might be a bit unfair to use these pages as my reasoning why Batman would never use a gun, and would always find another way to save the day because he's frickin' Batman. It's a very biased perspective. But in this case, I believe it also entirely fits with Batman as a character, and how he's always reacted to guns and gun violence.





WARNING: this is the single most graphic description of exactly how the Waynes died.


Why Batman will never use a gun... in graphic detail )


That said, I'm sure there's a point to be made about how Final Crisis was so powerful because he managed to overcome his feelings to do the right thing, yadda yadda yadda. If the story worked for you, well, there's nothing I can say. But for me--and I suspect for many Batman readers--this is why we can never imagine Bruce pulling the trigger on anybody. I could sooner see him shoving the god-bullet into Darkseid by hand. Because he's the goddamn Batman, after all.
about_faces: (Hugo Strange)
Every so often, I check comicartfans.com to see if anyone's uploaded new commissioned pieces of Harvey. I've found a lot of great pieces that way. But one character that no one's ever commissioned is Hugo Strange. That is, until now:





Behind the cut, a larger version of the drawing for the detail )


... Nice.

What I love is that Hugo really has the potential to be this kind of threat, especially if he ever branched outside his Batman obsession. Hell, if he ever did succeed in destroying Batman (and if anyone could do it, it'd be Hugo), I could easily see him moving onto the entire DCU. The key touch to the whole thing is the fact that he's holding Starman's cosmic rod, which is itself an awesome reference to an awesome story.

I love the idea that Hugo killed a Predator and Ambush Bug. But more than anything else, I want to know how the hell he killed the Spectre. Damn, do I ever want to read this story.

Really, the only thing that feels off to me about this piece? The fact that we can see Hugo's eyes. I've always loved how his lenses are depicted as opaque, and that the glasses seem to wrap themselves around his head no matter what angle you see him from, so that his actual eyes are almost never seen. Normally, it removes his menace, but thankfully this piece has menace to spare. Man, I love it.

I should start an account with comicartfans.com and post all my commissions and original art. If nothing else, I can finally be the first and only person to post a drawing of Gilda Dent (the proudest piece in my collection).
about_faces: (Default)
I've been meaning to look at Doug Moench's infamous handful of Two-Face stories, but his first one directly follows events and characters from an earlier storyline: the first appearance of Black Mask. Even still, I never wanted to actually read that story, because if there's one classic* Batman villain I've come to hate over the past ten years, it's Black Fucking Mask.

Thanks to his prominent roles in War Games, he dominated the Bat-books for a couple years, getting big parts in Nightwing, Catwoman, and Under the Hood, thus also appearing in the last one's DVD adaptation, as well as Teh Batman. So I really shouldn't be surprised that this one-dimensional, nasty, pointless, generic, hollow non-character actually has fans. Not surprised, but disappointed.

But why? How the hell did this character become a thing, while better gangster-style villains (the Penguin, Harvey, the Ventriloquist and Scarface) got shoved to the side?

So, as I was already writing about a related Two-Face story from 1985, I decided to check out the original Black Mask appearances by Doug Moench. What I was surprised to discover was that Moench's original Mask in no way, shape, or form resembles the version which DC rose to prominence a few years ago.

I'm not saying he's a good character, mind you. But he's a far more interesting (and cracktacular) character. Hell, just look at the cover blurb:





So yes, prepare for the ultra-modern Batman villain who makes all the other villains look like CRAP! At least, according to Doug Moench.

Push it to the limit (LIMIIIIIIIT) behind the cut )

When Selina killed Roman a second time, I reacted with a weary "finally." But now, after reading Moench's originally stories, I feel disappointed for Ed Brubaker and subsequent writers for wasting what little potential there was for this character, and further distaste for anyone who actually likes the skull-faced version of Black Mask.

Finally, a question: anyone else think that Jeph Loeb ripped off Black Mask when he created Hush? Really, everything that Loeb tried to say with Tommy Elliot, I feel like Moench already said better with Roman Sionis. Just another little way that Moench's original creation has been swept under the rug by DC.




*I hate Hush and Dr. Hurt more, but they ain't "classic" just yet.

**The seven scans from the first issue are generously provided by [livejournal.com profile] superfan1, as the first issue is impossible to find. Because apparently the first appearance of Black Mask is SUCH a collector's item, ZOMG!
about_faces: (coin flipping through the air)
NOTE: I offer another departure from the usual topic today because... well, I just really want to discuss this one with you guys. I can justify this with the fact that it's written by the excellent author of this great Hugo Strange story I posted a while back, and also because it's a great example of what alternate universe storytelling can do. It'll be good to keep this in mind when I look at the various alternate Two-Face stories, even the ridiculous ones where Harvey's a deranged ballet dancer, thank YOU, Mike Grell.



The best Elseworlds stories utilize the alternate reality format to gain fresh perspective on the characters and themes they represent. I've always loved the mantra which used to accompany the earliest books in this imprint:

"In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places--some that have existed, and others that can't, couldn't, or shouldn't exist. The result is stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow."

I've always loved that last line. "As familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow." So why are there so many mediocre Elseworlds stories? Why do so many follow the formula of "plug in X character in Y time setting, tell basically the same origin"? Asking "What If?" doesn't really matter if that question isn't followed by, "So What?"

That is not the case with Alan Brennert's last (and only) major DC story, Batman: Holy Terror, the first alternate universe DC story to carry the Elseworlds brand. It's that rare Elseworlds (hell, that rare story) which actually has something to say about its lead character and the alternate reality he inhabits.

In this instance, it's Batman in a Puritanical theocracy.





This story is not to be confused with a similarly-titled, aborted project by Frank Miller, although the two do play with similar ideas. Except Brennert's is far more subversive, even more so today than when it was published. After all, in this story, Batman is waging a Holy War. And what's another word for one of those?


In Gotham Towne, twenty years ago... )

Damn it, I want a sequel.
about_faces: (Hugo Strange)
I was introduced to this story way back in scans_daily 1.0, wherein it was instantly beloved by all. Upon tracking down the issues myself, this three-part finale from The Batman Adventures became one of my top ten favorite Batman stories ever, from any continuity.

I'm posting it here as the next part of my Hugo Strange series, as it was his only appearance in the ten years after Prey, and it's *also* tied to New Year's Eve.





In keeping with Batman: The Animated Series' treatment of villains, Hugo is given unprecedented character depth, sympathy, and a tragedy which matches (perhaps even rivals) the stories of Harvey Dent and Mr. Freeze.

But let's not kid ourselves. I know the main reason why folks love this story. It's a testament to the greatness of these comics that Hugo's sad story could run in the same issues as moments like this:






In Memoriam, behind the cut )

It's because of stories like this that I honestly consider the TAS comics--all four series--to be the greatest Batman comics of the past twenty-five years. Maybe if these comics ever actually had crossovers into the DCU or "mattered" in some way continuity-wise, more people would have cared.

As it is, I'm just glad I recently managed to complete my entire collection of The Batman Adventures, Batman & Robin Adventures, Batman: Gotham Adventures, and Batman Adventures, until DC finally wises up and reprints the whole series.

Happy New Year, folks! Drive safely, drink sensibly, and try not to get your memory wiped!
about_faces: (Hugo Strange)
This is it. The big one.

It arrives at a moment where's it's suddenly relevant and topical to fan interests.With the release of the awesome new Arkham City trailer, the internet is ablaze with the question, "Who the hell is Hugo Strange?"

Hopefully, some people looking for answers will stumble upon these posts. It seems I've coincidentally been ahead of the game with these posts, perhaps even more so if the (unlikely) rumors turn out to be true, and The Dark Knight Rises will be based upon Batman: Prey.

Which, in either case, is the story I bring you today. In some ways, my entire Hugo Strange project has been building up to this: one of his two stories which defined his character for their generations. But while it's a different interpretation for a rebooted continuity, the threads to the original Hugo can be seen throughout. This Hugo is more perverse, more deranged, but just as brilliant and dangerous.





But like the best Hugo stories, Prey is ultimately about the heart and soul of Batman himself. What makes Hugo so great is how he pushes Bruce to the limits of what he can overcome, and by the end, Batman's triumph is always more than a physical one. Maybe that's why Hugo's the villain of choice for a handful of discerning, hardcore, old-school Batman comic fans.

If you can, I urge you to track down Prey either as a trade paperback or in the original issues of Legends of the Dark Knight #11-15, which I've seen in dollar bins. While Prey is a beloved story and a hot rumor du jour, it's also out of print. Again, WTF, DC?


Until then, I present this inadequate edit of a great, rich Batman tale behind the cut... )

And with that last line, my thoughts once again turn to how perfectly this story would fit in the Nolanverse for The Dark Knight Rises. I still don't see it happening because most people just don't think of Hugo Strange as main villain material. Obviously, I disagree, but I don't represent your average film goer, nor even your average comic fan.

But either way, hey, maybe this'll finally encourage DC to put Prey back into print, along with Strange Apparitions. If I were an editor of collected editions at DC, I'd even throw in a bonus to the Prey TPB and include Moench's own Down to the Bone, because that one too deserves to be read (and considering that I've gotten no comments on that story when I posted it a few days ago, I'd say it deserves that attention all the more!)

This is Hugo's last appearance for about ten years, until Devin Grayson and Doug Monech decided to write their own sequels to Prey. Weirdly, I greatly prefer the former version to the latter, wherein Moench and Gulacy fail to recapture the lighting in a bottle. But we'll certainly be looking at both in the next couple posts.
about_faces: (Hugo Strange)
If I said, "Name a comic released in 1986 where a superhero loses his job, reputation, home, friends, and family due to the machinations of his brilliant, scheming arch-enemy, who knows the hero's secret identity," you'd probably say Daredevil: Born Again.

But a mere one month before the first issue of DD:BA was released, DC published Batman Annual #10, featuring a story which completely matches the description above. Because they were published so close together, I can only assume this was a coincidence. Both stories reflect something dark in the mid-80's atmosphere that could cause Frank Miller and Doug Moench to write two different stories with very similar themes.

While DD:BA is one of my all-time favorite comics, Moench's is starting to work its way up my list of favorite Batman tales. There are a couple notable differences between the two. One is that Bruce doesn't get driven to a mental breakdown, although Hugo certainly got close in his previous attempt, published three years earlier.

In that respect, this also feels like a story that Grant Morrison had in mind when he created Dr. Hurt and wrote Batman: R.I.P., comparisons to which become even more explicit in the story itself...






This cut goes down to the bone )

Coming up next: Batman: Prey.
about_faces: (Hugo Strange)
At some unspecified point in the 80's, the great J.M. DeMatteis pitched a Hugo Strange story to DC, where Hugo "apparently kills Batman and, in his arrogance and ego, decides to become Batman, putting on the costume, taking over the role, in order to prove his superiority."

Of course, this is the story which became Spider-Man: Kraven's Last Hunt (and also informed JMD's own Batman: Going Sane, with the Joker). Can you imagine what that would have been like? The different characters right away demand fundamental changes to the story, but that had potential to be the character-defining storyline for Hugo, just as it was for Kraven.

Perhaps Denny O'Neill rejected JMD's pitch because Gerry Conway already started exploring that idea, once he revealed that Hugo was alive and well at the finale of the Rupert Thorne saga. I've decided to give Hugo's full return its own post, as it now represents a distinct shift in focus for the character.

So now that he's taken his revenge on Thorne, what's Hugo's next move? Head back to Europe and resume his lucrative life as a master criminal? Retire off to some remote island? Dedicate his life to using science to advance mankind? Ha, you're funny.

Oh wait. Hugo still knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne, doesn't he? Well, now. Something has to be done about that...





Battle in the Batcave, behind the cut )

Seriously though, after all that build-up throughout the Rupert Thorne story, and all from Strange discovering Wayne's secret back in Strange Apparitions almost a decade earlier, this is kind of an ignominious death for such a major threat. Especially one as brilliant and methodical as Strange.

Clearly, Conway's successor, Doug Moench, thought so too. I was going to include that issue with this as a double-feature, but it deserves its own post, more so than even this story.
about_faces: (coin flipping through the air)
Right off the bat (hurr), I should say this: I haven't read the entire two-and-a-half-year-long run of Gerry Conway's tenure on Detective Comics. Which makes this post kind of a problem, because it concerns a subplot that Conway ran through 'Tec and occasionally Batman too for at least a year, maybe more.

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






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


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




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

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

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

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





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

As I said before, Alan Brennert only wrote nine stories for DC Comics over about twenty years. His career there rivals only Alan Moore's for most prolific body of work over a very limited tenure, and if there were any justice, fans would be clamoring for DC to publish a Complete DC Comics Stories of Alan Brennert collection. Doing this past makes me want to write about them all in a Brennert Master Post. Perhaps I will, once I've tracked down the last three I have yet to read.
about_faces: (coin flipping through the air)
First things first: who here *hasn't* read the Batman story arc Strange Apparitions (the legendary comic arc by Steve Englehart, most famous for including the all-time great Joker story, The Laughing Fish)?

If you haven't--or if you've only read Fish on its own but not the surrounding story--you should at least know that it's generally considered one of the finest Batman stories of all time. I certainly agree, but I don't want to oversell it as a work, since hyped expectations have killed many a great story. I can at least safely presume to call it one of the most important and influential Batman comics of all time, and for that alone I urge you to track down the trade paperback.

Or at least, I would, if it weren't out of print. WTF, DC?

I was actually tempted to post the entire storyline here, but I had a hard enough time singling out the Hugo Strange subplot while keeping these scans under the 1/3rd limit. The story is just that tight, with each issue packed to the gills with plot, action, and character stuff.

So with regret, let's eschew the excellent stories of Bruce and Silver St. Cloud's affair, of the introduction of Dr. Phosphorus and the reintroduction of Deadshot, of the thieving Penguin and tragic Clayface III, and even of the greatest Joker scheme of all time.

Instead, let's focus on the grand return of Batman's first arch-nemesis, and the scheming villain who made the damn fool mistake of crossing him:





At least, they do for now... )

If you'd like to read all of Strange Apparitions yourself, I wish you the best of luck. As previously stated, this beloved classic is bizarrely out of print. If you're up for scouring back issue bins and/or the internet, the story's been collected in trade paperback, which itself is a collection of the five-issue miniseries Shadow of the Batman, which reprinted the original issues. Basically, find it any way you can until DC comes to their senses.
about_faces: (coin flipping through the air)
Note: This is the first in a series of posts dedicated to a character who, as you might quickly deduce, is not Harvey Dent.

When I set out to create about_faces, I'd intended to have it feature all things Two-Face 90% of the time, with the other 10% dedicated to looks at the rest of the Rogues Gallery, and how they too have been used (and misused) over the years. However, I'd neglected all the other Rogues in favor of Harvey.

That is, until today. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to your thoughts. :)




He predates the Joker at Batman's first arch-nemesis, and he invented fear toxin before the Scarecrow ever came along.

He exploits Batman's secret identity in ways Ra's al Ghul never dared, attacking Batman in ways that Hush and Dr. Hurt would later try to less success. He even pulled a Kingpin-style tear-down on Bruce exactly one month before Daredevil: Born Again was released, and had already beaten Kraven the Hunter in the plot to kill his enemy and usurp his identity.

He's made only a handful of appearances, two of which are considered among the greatest Batman stories of all time. By all accounts, he should be Batman's greatest enemy, and yet he resides in obscurity.

He's the Most Interesting Man in the World Professor Hugo Strange. That name, I realize, evokes one of two reactions. 1.) "Who?" or 2.) "Oh, yeah, that guy. What about 'im?"

Now, while I personally love the classic Bat-Rogues dearly--while I still consider the Joker to be the greatest and Two-Face to be my favorite--I've become increasingly intrigued by ol' Hugo in all his iterations. Particularly his original appearance, where--it became apparent to me--that Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Hugo to be the Moriarty to Batman's Holmes. A true Napoleon of Crime for the Depression Era.






So who was this first attempt at an arch-villain for Batman, and what set him apart from any of the other forgettable enemies from the pre-Joker era? Why did the Joker almost instantly usurp his place at Bat-Rogue #1? And what did he have that led him to be resurrected as a major threat a whole thirty-seven years later?

Let's find out together, as we explore the many lives of this mysterious(ly enduring) foe who can plague Batman like no other single villain can even today.

The original Golden Age Hugo Strange trilogy behind the cut! )

Thankfully, Steve Englehart came up with a way to not just resurrect this notable but one-note villain, but to up his threat levels while also deepening his complexity. Indeed, as of this post, we've only scratched the surface of the great character that Hugo Strange has become.

If you're interested in these reading these stories in their entirety, they can be found reprinted in volumes of Batman Archives and, more affordably, Batman Chronicles.

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