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


Great news, everyone! One of my very favorite Two-Face stories--one which has bizarrely never been reprinted, despite the fact that it's an early work by a superstar writer--is now available as a digital comic on Comixology! Even better, it's currently on sale for just 99ยข as part of DC's Black History Month sale alongside other comics featuring John Stewart, Black Lightning, Mister Terrific, the Milestone Comics heroes, and more.

The story in question is Face to Face to Face to Face from Teen Titans Spotlight #13 (1987), written by J. Michael Straczynski*, and it was the subject of one of my very earliest reviews back when I started up [livejournal.com profile] about_faces. As a review, it hadn't aged very well. The scans were too grainy and small (why did I always post such small scans back in the day?), and what little commentary there was wasn't exactly super-insightful. It was a shabby tribute to one of the best--and yet most obscure--Two-Face stories I've ever read, and to make matters worse (or better), it was posted so early on that it only has three comments, one of which was deleted and one of which is mine. No, this story deserves better than that!



So in honor of this story finally being released in an accessible and affordable way, I have given my review of F2F2F2F a complete overhaul with full commentary and larger, cleaned-up digital scans from the Comixology issue! For all intents and purposes, this is an all-new review, so I urge everyone to please check it out even if you haven't been in Hefner-withdrawal over my recent absence. ;)

Hopefully I'll be posting some new stuff again within the next week or two, but I make no promises. Thanks to everyone for your continued readership and all your thoughtful comments! Looking back on how few followers I had early on just makes me all the more grateful for everyone you folks bring to this little blog 'o mine, so thanks again!




*Speaking of JMS, are there any other fans of Babylon 5 out there? I just finished reading this amazing tie-in novel about Walter Koenig's character, Alfred Bester (yes, named after the sci-fi author and creator of Solomon Grundy), and I'm still reeling from the experience. As I describe in that linked Tumblr post, it's a fantastic villain-centric story that I wish I could recommend to everyone here, even to those who haven't watch B5.
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For the past couple weeks, I've been working on my review of Walt Simonson's new graphic novel, The Judas Coin, watching my post get increasingly long-winded as I filled it with more scans, tangents, links, gifs, and all manner of distractions until the actual review itself was dwarfed by everything else! The post is currently huge, and I haven't even gotten to the book itself!

How did I manage to pull this off, you ask? Well, because I realized that it was impossible to talk about The Judas Coin without talking about all of the characters involved. One of the biggest hang-ups some readers are having with The Judas Coin is the cast of D-list Silver Age characters who are so obscure here that they didn't even appear on Batman: The Brave and the Bold! And that show had EVERYBODY! Sure, a couple of them appeared on Justice League Unlimited, but I can attest that nobody who saw those episodes remembers those characters if they hadn't already been familiar with them going in. Those were great treats for fans, but generally insufficient intros for n00bs.


So this is "Flower Cowboy," got it.


Personally, I don't think you necessarily need to know anything about them to enjoy Simonson's stories because Simonson is just that good of a storyteller who knows how to play up their archetypical aspects to make them pretty much accessible to everyone. But even still, a bit of familiarity with these characters couldn't hurt. Speaking personally as someone who was at least familiar with most of these characters and completely ignorant about one of them, I enjoyed the story on the first go-round, but I've come to love it even more after researching these characters for the past week!

So before I post (or even write) the review itself, I'd like to examine the characters involved first in their own post, just to give everyone--including me--a crash-course tour of these obscure heroes of yesteryear, and the subsequent attempts to make them relevant in the decades well past their prime! There's a lot of history behind the cut, so grab a snack and let's dig in!

What do an ex-slave warrior soldier, a warrior seafaring prince, an ex-slave antihero seafaring pirate, an antihero gunslinger/gambler, and a gunslinging, gambling, spacefaring, pirate-hating, ex-slave bounty hunter have in common? I mean, besides all that... )

By the way, would anybody be able to provide scans from The Judas Coin? I don't have a scanner at present, and while I have several of Simonson's sketches, there are some parts that I really want to actually show those of you who aren't able to get the book immediately. Obviously, the Two-Face section especially takes priority, especially the last few pages. The climactic moment was ambiguous enough that it got me and Henchgirl into a briefly-heated debate over how we interpreted it, so I want to run it by you guys and see what you make of it.

If I have to settle for taking a blurry photo from my iPhone camera, I will, dammit! But nobody wants that! So be a pal and help your old buddy Hef out, if you can!
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While there are many Batman stories which I adore, there are some which I would never, ever recommend to anyone else. Such is the case with Batman: Dark Detective, the long-awaited reunion of Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, and Terry Austin, one of the the greatest Batman teams ever who produced one of the greatest runs of any DC Comics property in the company's history. Hyperbole abuse be damned, I firmly think that storyline deserves every scrap of praise it gets.

A brief overview of Englehart and Rogers' legendary story, and their respective failed attempts to create a suitable sequel )

So with the three big stars of the original band reunited, coupled with a first-issue Joker cover that guaranteed old-school awesomeness, it's obvious that Batman: Dark Detective was going to be perhaps THE must-read comic for fans of classic Batman... right?



Well... sorta. Look, I love this story, but I'll be the first to admit that it's not without flaws. And even its strengths are not all to everyone's tastes. Maybe what happened was that, in their attempt to recapture the traits that made them so beloved in the first place, they were perhaps a bit too successful. Batman: Dark Detective ramps up a lot of their... quirks, shall we say... to the point where it must seem weird and jarring to readers who aren't familiar with their work, to the newbies who are, in a sense, not "in on the joke." I think it's fair to say that B:DD is like porn for fans of Englehart and Rogers, a slice of pure crack that's largely off-beat, sometimes just plain off, sometimes COMPLETELY BONKERS, but it's never boring. Well, almost never, depending on your tolerance for the romance between Bruce Wayne and Silver St. Cloud.


Did you notice that this issue is where DC changed logos from the "bullet" to the "swish"? Maybe that was another sign of how the times had moved on from this story right out from under its feet. Also, I miss the "bullet," dammit. Hell, I had already gotten used to the "swish" before it too got replaced by the soulless corporate logo they're using now. Sigh.


Ultimately, I may just be really biased in my love towards Dark Detective for two reasons: 1.) it has one of the weirdest--and yet, most strangely charming--explorations of Harvey Dent that I've ever seen, and 2.) it has what I consider to be some of the best Joker moments of all time. Yes, the real focus is on Bruce and Silver's affair, but to quote Max Shreck, "Yawn." For me, Dark Detective is all about the perfect Joker and the wacky Harvey. So let's examine both, shall we?

And while we're at it, let's meet a brand-new character who will play a vital part in this story, someone who bears an eerie resemblance to a certain blond, doomed politician from a recent Bat-related movie that would come out three years later. Coincidence? We'll see...

Click this cut-tag OR I'LL KILL YOU )
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Hiya, folks, [livejournal.com profile] about_faces here! It's with great pleasure that I introduce today's guest review, courtesy of long-time commenter and seasoned critic, [livejournal.com profile] abqreviews! I'll warn you, this is a long one, filled with TONS of photos, but I promise you that all of it is very, very worth your while. I loved this post, especially since virtually all of it was news even to a great big geek like me. This post is a treasure trove of crack-filled delights, and I am honored to host it here. If you like this and would like to read more of the reviewer, you can do so at his blogspot blog, Out of the Quicksand. And so, without further ado, I bring you...

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




Jokers, Cat-women, Clayed-faces, Two-faces, and more behind the cut! )
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Next Wednesday will finally see the release of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's long-awaited graphic novel, Batman: Earth One, which will be an all-new origin of Batman for its own standalone continuity.

If any of you will be picking it up, could you please do my obsessive ass a favor and let me know if Harvey Dent is in it at all? Based on this four-page preview, it sure looks like he will be, since who the hell else could be saying, "There's two sides to everything, Bruce?" I'm curious to know how the graphic novel will be as a whole, but I'm not expecting too much. While I love a LOT of Johns' work, Batman has always been one of his weaker characters to write, and I'm not exactly enthusiastic about the whole "Earth One" line after reading about the incredibly wrong-headed clusterfuck that was Superman: Earth One.


So yeah, if you could let me know if Harvey's in there and what he's like, that would be awesome. Bonus points if you can provide a scan or two. Man, I hate not living near a comic shop anymore.

If Harvey's in it, this will be the first time that Johns will have actually written the character (to the best of my knowledge), but it won't be the only time that he's referenced Harvey or Two-Face in any capacity. In one issue of his great Flash run with Wally West, he once rated the status of Batman villains to Flash's own rogues, putting Professor Zoon as the Flash's Joker, and Two-Face as his Captain Cold. Considering how much Johns loves Lenny Snart, I've always seen that as a compliment.

The most notable Harvey mention under Johns was in Green Lantern #9, which took place during Harvey's long absence between Hush and Face the Face, back when he was rehabilitated and seemingly nobody was interested in using him, or they weren't allowed due to mysterious reasons. However, he was still around in some capacity, and almost found himself the target of the new Tattooed Man, a hitman who grafted the sins of his victims onto his own flesh.



Batman and Hal Jordan took down the Tattooed Man before he could go after Harvey, which is a shame because I would have loved seeing someone try handling the dilemma of "cleaning" Harvey's soul (even through death). As Hal himself could have told the Tattooed Man, trying to scrub Harvey's soul and separate it from his dark side is way harder than it looks.

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Well, I was going to post the finale of Two-Face, Part II today, since I had the whole thing ready to go, but LJ ate it. Not all of it, but at least a day's work. Since I'm too tired and too upset from the setback, it'll be another day or two before I get that rewritten and posted. It's fine, it'll just give me a chance to do it better this time! Oy, I'm gonna throw up.

In the meantime, please accept the following from an issue of The Amazing World of DC Comics, 1975, wherein writer/editor Jack C. Harris (self-proclaimed creator of Arkham Asylum, as well as a Two-Face fan who shares my initials, so I feel some kinship there) proves his geek cred by describing step-by-step his methods for Two-Face cosplay! Bear in mind, this appeared shortly after Harvey's return from years of obscurity in O'Neil and Adams' Half an Evil," so the character was still relatively new to many readers! Plus, bonus Sergio Aragones! Everybody wins!





Oh, he is adorable. And priding himself on taking second prize for his Two-Face costume? Yeah, definitely feeling a kinship there!

A couple years after this, Harris would prove his devotion to the character a second time by rewriting the entire character's origin for the Bronze Age! I've reviewed that story here, and if you'd like to read the entire thing, it's all been posted up here by the groovy guy Diversions of the Groovy Kind. It's a neato attempt at developing the origin that never quite panned out, but I rather enjoy it for all that. I think that it fits nicely in the Bronze Age universe right along with Duela Dent being his daughter.

As if that weren't enough to solidify JCH's cred as a major Two-Face fan, I found the following buried in the back of The Art of Walter Simonson, a trade paperback dedicated to stories by the legendary artist. It was too tricky to crop on its own, so as another bonus, you get cool concept art for a Green Lantern film that never was! Because I'm generous (read: lazy and lack photoshop) like that!



So yeah, I think it's safe to assume that JCH is a fan, which is awesome. For these alone, he deserves to go into the Two-Face creator Hall of Fame, if such a hall existed. Maybe I should get on it. Who else would deserve inclusion? I'd vote for Andrew Helfer, Ty Templeton, J.M. DeMatteis, and maybe Judd Winick. But even still, aside from maybe Ty coming the closest, I can't think of any creator who has achieved the heights of passionate geekiness that Jack C. Harris did in the above essay. So to JCH, my brother in fandom and initials, I salute you, you great big geek, you!

Okay, sleep now. Tomorrow, rewriting the post. As always, thanks for bearing with delays and long-windedness, folks.
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First off, know that this post is relevant to Harvey Dent. But during the course of my research in preparing for this review, I realized that there was a lot more worth discussing than just Harvey.

So if you'll indulge me... I'd like to talk about Jared Stevens.

I don't expect most of you to know that name. And if you recognize it, I imagine that the immediate reaction you likely feel is disdain, or to emit a shudder like a hyena hearing Mufasa. "Oh god," I can hear you say, "Do you mean the crappy, 90's-tactic X-TREEEME update of Dr. Fate?" Well, you'd be mostly right. I mean, he's Fate, all right...




Yes, that's you, you utter abomination of a character, you. Just "Fate," trading in his legacy character's doctorate and iconic costume for a sweet facial tat, a big honkin' knife, and Liefeldian pouches, pouches, POUCHES GALORE!

Okay, full disclosure: I haven't actually read Fate, Jared's first solo series from 1994. Heck, since I was a fan of its spin-off series Scare Tactics, I should probably judge it for more than just its reputation, not to mention the character's awful, awful design and grim-n-gritty post-Cable datedness. But... but just look at that costume, man! How? What kind of loving god and/or ethical editor could have let this happen?!

Well, you see, in the dark period known as the 90's, DC decided that the old Golden Age superheroes were outdated, old fogies who needed to go away and die. Did you know what the Justice Society of America's series--the one which featuring old-fogie Golden Age superheroes--was not cancelled due to bad sales? No, in truth, the sales were reportedly solid! But DC editor-in-chief Mike Carlin gave JSoA the axe because it didn't "fit" in their new ideas of what the DCU should be. Some of those ideas included driving Hal Jordan insane and replacing him with a younger, hipper version with stupid curtain hair, a crab-mask, and a propensity for creating manga robots because that's what the kids like today, right?

But despite my teenage H.E.A.T.-member disdain poking through, I cannot deny that out-with-the-old moves like Kyle Rayner (and also Starman, whom I vastly preferred) were successful for DC. The same cannot be said for other attempts at updating, such as turning Manhunter into this monstrosity, and Dr. Fate into what you see above there you. Both were cancelled before too long, with Fate getting canned after 22 issues. That's not so bad, considering how many titles don't make it past twelve, or even six, in some cases. Nonetheless, it was still a failure, doomed to gather dust in dollar bins.

So what the HELL possessed DC to redesign, reboot, and relaunch the series a year later as The Book of Fate?


Let's trade the spandex bodysuit for DAGGERS STUCK IN HIS FRAGGIN' ARM, WHAT THE HELL?!


Needless to say, the second time was not the charm. 1997's The Book of Fate lasted about half as long as 1994's Fate, and those few who remember it do so even less fondly than the first time around. Clearly, no fanboys nor fangirls were heeding Jared's almighty t-shirt.

But here's the crazy thing: The Book of Fate kinda wasn't a totally terrible series. No, seriously! Yes, the book with that horrible cover, it was... good! Better than acceptable! Worth a look-see! Maybe your first indication of quality was the name "Keith Giffen," the masterful comics journeyman behind such smartly hilarious fare such as Ambush Bug and Justice League International, plus a million other goddamn books. That's including series like Vext, which was offbeat, witty, and cancelled at six issues.

Now, do I think that The Book of Fate was a brilliant series cancelled before its time? Well, not exactly. But I do think it had a lot more going on than people would credit it, likely because most never touched the damn thing in the first place. And besides, I also think that it might have the single greatest final issue of a cancelled comic I have ever read.

So because no one else is gonna do it, I'd like to examine the high points of this unloved, willfully-forgotten series. And in case you're wondering why the hell it's relevant, there are two reasons. One is the thematic elements of being someone torn between literal Order and Chaos, themes which are very much in keeping with this blog. And the other reason is, well, it has Two-Face in it for a couple issues!




Oh yes. They're buddies! Kinda. What happens when the man who defines his life by order and chaos (well, depending on the writer) meets up with the man who refuses to ally with either? Not as much as I'd like, but hey, it's still fun, and features some of the best-drawn Harvey I've ever seen. And again, Keith Giffen. That alone warrants a skim at least, right? Right! Probably! Whee!

The strange, often-dated, often-hilarious second life of Jared Stevens, the Fate, behind the cut )


Y'know what? Maybe it's just because I've honestly never given a damn about any Dr. Fate comics (if there's a great story I haven't read, please hit me with recommendations!) but Jared is quite honestly the only Fate who ever interested me. At his best, he had a fun Bruce Campbell flair. At his worst, he was a glorious disaster. On ether end of the balance, he was at least interesting, and that's not so bad in the long run.

Still, a shame that there wasn't more done with Jared and Harvey. Sure, maybe a new Dr. Fate might run into Harvey, and maybe some writer will properly use Two-Face to explore themes of Order and Chaos... but without Jared, it just wouldn't be the same.

Yeah, that's right. I... kinda like Jared Stevens! Wanna fight about it?
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One of my favorite Two-Face stories barely features the character at all. But much like Orson Welles's Harry Lime, whose five minutes of screen time dominated the whole of The Third Man, the threat of Harvey Dent looms throughout the Batman/Green Arrow team-up story from 1973's The Brave and the Bold #106.

Written by Bob Haney and drawn by the great Jim Aparo (who got top billing!), "Double Your Money... and Die!" was the second story to feature Harvey since Denny O'Neil dusted off the character after seventeen years in obscurity. It's pure Bronze Age Batman, too: a murder mystery filled with action and intrigue, building up to an epic ski chase in Switzerland. Plus it's fun, thanks the humor both intentional (Ollie's wisecracks) and unintentional (dated lingo, clothes, Batman uttering "Ye gods!", etc).

Told in one single issue, the story was so densely packed that DC actually sacrificed the letters column to let it run twenty-three and one-third pages instead of the standard twenty-two! Either they really wanted to do justice to Haney and Aparo's story, or they wanted avoid printing the letters for issue #103. Either way, Haney and Aparo make use of every single panel, and modern comic creators would do well to follow the economy of Bronze Age writers like Haney.

Also, Jim Aparo. It's Jim Aparo drawing Batman. On skis, no less!





Death on skis (and I don't mean the Black Racer) behind the cut! )

If you'd like to read this story in whole (which I recommend, as there's much more I had to cut), it's collected in the black and white collection, Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold: The Batman Team-Ups, volume two, appropriately enough!

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