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At the risk of invalidating my opinion right off the bat, I want to briefly discuss the use of the Bat-Rogues--especially Harvey--in Scott Snyder's current Joker event, Death of the Family.



SPOILERS and ranting ahoy! )
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Another quick post today. Real life is too busy and hectic with the holidays coming up, and all my free writing time has been devoted to working on something more personal over at my neglected original LJ, [livejournal.com profile] thehefner. Sadly, I fear that I may not be able to whip together a Batman Returns review in time for Christmas, as I'd hoped! Well, until I can pull together anything new, let me at least tide you over with something cool and mysterious I've found, with the hope that maybe some of you might be able to shed light on this.

In my search for rare art by artists like the late, great Marshall Rogers (Strange Apparitions/The Laughing Fish, the Batman comic strip, Dark Detective), I've found four pieces of what is clearly concept art for a Batman project which never happened. More than just art, they include liner notes which hint at story details and show how this take on the characters stands out from the rest.



Thing is, though, I have no idea what the hell this project might have been! There are no details online, no clues, no hints. The only possibility that comes to mind is that maybe they were for the Dark Detective sequel which Rogers had only started at the time of his death, but nothing about these images really jives with the scant info that Steve Englehart himself has provided. So what the heck was this? Let's try to figure it out together!

Four large scans behind the cut! )
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Since real life has once again become far too real to allow free time for the usual in-depth bloggery, I think it'd be neat to post a gallery of Batman villains as drawn by a single artist of note, someone who has an amazing style of their own who also brings something unique to the Rogues. Today, I'd like to dedicate this post to Chris Samnee.



Before he became the artist of such celebrated titles as the late, lamented Thor: The Mighty Avenger, Mark Waid's current Daredevil run, and The Rocketeer: Cargo of Doom (which I haven't read but obviously must), Samnee first caught my attention with the above Two-Face piece, which instantly became one of my very favorite portraits of Harvey. It doesn't hurt that Two-Face is Samnee's favorite Batman villain, something I learned from over at his blog. From there, I scoured through his archives, and quickly fell in love with his artwork.

Like Alex Toth, David Mazzucchelli, and Michael Lark, Samnee's style is elegantly minimalistic, able to say a lot with a little. As I've said many times in the past, I'm a sucker for artists who can pull that off, especially when it comes to characters. Samnee's portraits shine with personality, and combined with his clear affection for the Bat-Family and Rogues alike, I would dearly love to see him take on a character-driven Gotham Underworld maxi-series.



To get a taste of what that might look like, I've assembled every single villain portrait of Samnee's that I could find over at his blog and Comic Art Fans, an invaluable resource for rare original art. Thanks to those sites, I could easily have also included another thirty portraits of the heroes as well, but eh, maybe I'll just put my favorites in the comments or something. Here, it's evil ahoy!

Over thirty more portraits of the bad, the worse, and the ugly behind the cut! )

A great assortment all, but definitely a few notable absences, especially the Riddler and the Mad Hatter. I'd also love to see how Samnee would tackle Killer Moth.

Note: one Two-Face portrait by Samnee that I cannot include is the one which might just be the best of them all, but as you can see there, the image is teeny tiny and won't enlarge. Blast! I left a comment on Samnee's blog asking about it, but no reply has come yet. If one does and I can find a better version, rest assured that I shall post it!
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Preamble: While I will be discussing this book to the best of my abilities, I know that there's nothing quite like seeing a work that's being critiques yourself rather than just hearing the critic's description. As such, if you're interested in checking this book out for yourself, I have found three separate extensive previews of this book: two over at Google Books here and here, plus this preview over at Scribd.

Each of the previews even include some pages that the others omit, including some that are relevant to this review, so try checking them all out for your perusal. Plus, all previews include links to where you can purchase the book if you're interested to read the whole thing. If you'd like to just purchase the book directly from Amazon.com, here you go. Otherwise, let's press on!




While I've always had little use for those unauthorized books that try to examine Batman through the lens of philosophy or religion*, I was really intrigued by the prospect of Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight by psychologist and Batman fan Travis Langley.

Behind the cut, I attempt to criticize the analyses of an licensed psychologist. Sure, why not? )

What do you think, folks? If you've read the book or even just a few excerpts online (see Preamble), do you agree or disagree with Langley's analyses? How would you diagnose any of the Rogues? Let me know in the comments!

Also, if anyone thinks that the links I used for psychological terminology are inaccurate or outdated, please send me along links to better articles and I shall edit accordingly!



Note: *Footnotes are now found in the comments! The second one became a long rant about Nolan's The Dark Knight that I needed to get off my chest. Think of it as a bonus tirade!
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Welcome to the next installment of my three-part review series which I have dubbed "Harvey and pals!" Why? Because calling it "Harvfield and Friends" probably wouldn't have flown with anybody. That said, now the theme song is stuck in my head...

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



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

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

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



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



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



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

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


PALS.


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

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



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

Full review with SPOILERS behind the cut! )
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Sometimes, I like to wonder about the stories which were never told, or the ones that could have easily gone in a different direction but for a small twist of fate. I think about this with stories in general, but of course, my biggest interest is in the Harvey Dent stories that never were.

As I've been a fan of the character for a long time, I've always had my eye out for news about the character in Wizard and sites like Newsarama and Comic Book Resources, and there have been times when I've learned about an upcoming Two-Face story that never actually ends up getting released, or else it gets replaced at the last minute without explanation. As you might imagine, this is always disappointing, but there are some instances where it's actually painful, since many of these stories might have drastically changed the direction of the character, and perhaps may have even altered the status of Harvey in the esteem of fandom. As such, when I look back at those untold stories, I can't help but wonder what might have been.

But thanks to you fine followers of this blog, I no longer need wonder alone! So over the next few weeks, let's examine these abandoned Two-Face appearances from comics, TV, and film, so that we can speculate what they might have been like and what impact they might have had, for good or ill. I'm also going to need your help verifying the veracity of these projects, since many of those articles and news sites are now defunct, and I'm solely going by my own faulty memory of stuff I'd once heard about years ago. As such, any information anyone has to prove or disprove the almost-existence of these stories would be greatly appreciated.

Seeing as how we're on the precipice of The Dark Knight Rises, I think it's best to start with the unproduced projects for TV and film which would have given the character mass exposure outside the ever-shrinking realm of comics fandom. With that in mind, let's begin with one of the more famous examples:


CLINT EASTWOOD AS TWO-FACE ON THE 60'S BATMAN TV SHOW (1968)



What was it supposed to be?
Two years after the release of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, Clint Eastwood had supposedly been cast to be Two-Face in the Batman TV show. This would not only have brought the character into the show, but it also would have been his first appearance since he vanished from the comics in 1954. For the show, Two-Face's origin would be changed so that he would be a TV anchorman who got scarred when a klieg light exploded, following (the Silver Age revision of) the origin of Paul Sloane, the second Impostor Two-Face.



What did we get instead?
Nothing, because the show was cancelled before the episode was made!

LOL, u Bat-mad?



Do I have any proof that this almost existed?
Only wiki entries such as Wikipedia and DC Wiki, but their sources aren't as solid as I'd prefer. I'm fairly certain that one of you folks linked me to a more reputable source, but I can't remember what that was. If anyone can point it my way, I'll add it to this post. According to this link, it looks verified! And there was apparently a script by Harlan Frickin' Ellison, no less! Egad!


Can I come up with any speculation, baseless or otherwise, as to what it might have been like?
Since the show often faithfully adapted actual comics stories from the era, I imagine that any Two-Face episode of the Batman show would have been based around the more outlandish, late-period Golden Age Two-Face stories by Dick Sprang, such as the George Blake impostor story (maybe complete with the floating balloon decoy twin brother head?). Even more likely, it could have drawn inspiration from Two-Face Strikes Again! There would be bad puns galore, lots of outlandish crimes based around the number two, attacks on people who have "two faces," and maybe even the giant-coin deathtrap, if they could have found a low-budget way to pull it off.




Could we be better off that it never happened?
Possibly, possibly not. On one hand, it's likely that Two-Face's appearance in the show would have given the character added exposure to pop culture at large, so that he wouldn't be an obscure character to non-comics readers until his appearances in TV and film decades down the line. On the other hand, the show's take on Two-Face might have solidified the view of the character as a pun-spewing, weird-looking joke character even worse than the comics did!

Bear in mind, it took the Riddler decades to shake the stigma of being associated with that show, a stigma which the Penguin still seems to carry to some extent. Consider how Denny O'Neil, the man who helped revitalize the status of Two-Face in the Bronze Age, treated the Riddler in a 1989 issue of The Question:


Maybe O'Neil was just lashing out on behalf of every frustrated writer who struggled and failed to write Eddie well.


Perhaps it's mainly the fact that Harvey was excluded from the show that his triumphant return to comics in the O'Neil/Adams classic Half an Evil packed such a punch, simply because it brought in a refreshingly grotesque and tragic character to counteract the bright, colorful, silly camp of the show. After that issue, Two-Face became one of the main Batman villains throughout the 70's, whereas TV favorites like the Riddler and the Penguin started to languish in the comics. I don't think that's a coincidence. As such, I believe that Harvey became such a major character simply because he wasn't on the show.

But of course, that status comes with a trade-off. While he became a major character in the comics, Two-Face remained virtually unknown to the world at large until Batman: The Animated Series and especially (unfortunately) Batman Forever. Meanwhile, everyone knows who the Penguin is, and even if he's looked down upon and unappreciated by actual comics readers, Pengers (specifically the squawking Meredith version) still endures as a figure in pop culture. Two examples that come to mind are how Jon Stewart has gotten a lot of milage from comparing Dick Cheney to Penguin, and the character even made a quick cameo in a recent episode of The Simpsons.




Ultimately, I think it was better that the character remained obscure and known only to comics fans, because that retained the tragic aspect more than he probably would have gotten from the TV show. An anchorman is hardly the same kind of heroic paragon of justice that a District Attorney represents, after all. Still, I would have loved to have seen what Clint's Two-Face would have been like, and what they would have done with his makeup. I also wonder what (if any) impact that playing Two-Face would have had on his career. If it had continued largely unchanged, perhaps both he and Harvey would have found new meaning with the line, "Do you feel lucky?"

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So hey, remember when I said that I'd discovered an even-more-obscure Batman newspaper comic strip, one which featured what may well be the single rarest Two-Face appearance ever?

Well, good news, everyone! I have come into possession of several scans of the strips, including most of the Two-Face stuff! Not all of it, sadly, and I'm missing the surrounding strips, so the result kinda just feels like being plunked into the middle of a story. But the important thing is, hey, long-lost Two-Face appearance! What's more, as this pre-dates the O'Neil/Adams classic Half an Evil, this strip is actually Harvey's first true appearance during his seventeen-year absence in the Silver Age! So okay, it's crazy rare and historically important, but is it any good? Let's find out!



He was top of his class at Handsome Law School! )

And on that cliffhanger, I'm afraid I've run out of strips. If I ever get my hands on any other scans, I'll be sure to either revise this post or do a whole new, more complete version of this. So yeah, all in all, this strip is much more what I expected the 90's strip to be: an amusing and kinda cool little artifact with some neat bits, but ultimately nothing to write home about for any reason other than its sheer obscurity. Pretty much everything that I didn't include centered around 60's-style Batman detective work and riddle-solving, which didn't exactly make for compelling reading nor offer any character moments. Still, I'm glad to at least have found this much of something which isn't anywhere else on the internet! What think you folks?
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In 1996, trading card company Fleer decided that they wanted to release a different kind of card set for Batman. Inspired by the loose narrative of Topps' classic Mars Attacks! cards, the Batman Master Series set was the first series of cards to comprise a complete, original Batman storyline. The more cards you collect, the more parts of the story you'd have to piece together. And it was all written by none other than our old favorite, Doug Moench. Oh yes, we're in for a treat. :D


Source


The plot was simple: after the Joker once again escapes Arkham, Batman goes missing and is presumed dead, with the Joker being the likeliest suspect. Everyone posits their reactions and theories, including the Joker himself, who can't be sure whether or not he actually did it at all! This offered plenty of opportunities to hit all the big beats of the previous card series (major and minor characters, important events) plus create all-new settings for cards (scenes from the plotline, bizarre wacko takes on the rogues, the Joker popping up in classic Elseworlds). Along the way, we get TONS of cards dedicated to rogues, some of whom pop up several times. Visually, it's a feast of portraits, and that alone would warrant a master post here.

Except it gets even better, because apparently the cards had enough of a cult following amongst collectors that the entire deck was given its own coffee table art book:



Not only are all the cards lovingly reprinted along with Moench's text, but the book's editors actually included commentary from the artists, thus giving a rare insight into the creative process! The combination of characters, art, story, and commentary make Batman Masterpieces a must-have, and to show you what I mean, I'm going to post just the villain pages, almost all of which are by the painter Dermot Power (Batman/Judge Dredd: The Ultimate Riddle, and concept artist for Batman Begins).

Who's Who (could have possibly killed Batman?) behind the cut! )

So what did you guys make of the art? Were they indeed "museum quality" as the ads touted, or merely a dated and grotesque assortment of 90's-tacular artists? I lean more towards the latter, but I love the collection of the cards nonetheless, and I very much recommend checking out the whole of Batman Masterpieces if you can find a copy.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Or "REVIEW ALL THE EPISODES!" I was originally going to include his larger supporting roles in here as well, but I'll save those for later.



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



Source: afiveseven


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

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

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

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

Nightmares, gods, and questions behind the cut! )

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

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



It's hypnotic. Like a lava lamp.
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So as I was waiting with trepidation for the new issue of Tony Daniel's Detective Comics to hit DC's Comixology app for download and subsequent review, I thought to myself, "John, you haven't caught up with the Arkham City tie-in comics, have you? Do you think that maybe Harvey's made a new appearance there yet?"

Um... yes. Yes there was. And it's... interesting. No, you get no context. You don't need any.

SPOILERS for the new 'Arkham Unhinged,' out today for digital purchase only! )

I should mention that I've really been enjoying the comics, entitled Batman: Arkham Unhinged. It's not super-brilliant, but it's generally the best depiction of the Rogues in any format nowadays, and the Two-Face/Catwoman story in particular was far, far superior to the Two-Face of the game itself. I would have reviewed that story by now, but I was planning on holding off until I reviewed Hugo's roles in the game and comics in-depth, and I can't do THAT until I get to ALL THE OTHER HUGO STRANGE STORIES FIRST AND I NO WANNA DO THOSE FEH so maybe I should just get to it anyway. I'd also like to review the Killer Croc story, which is literally the first to look at his origins in depth since... what, his first appearances in the early 80's? Geez, that's inexcusable.

If you want to read this or any of the other Arkham Unhinged digital comics, they can be purchased here at Comixology for 99¢ each!
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Back in the awful days of the 1990's--the era which DC, Marvel, and Image now seem hellbent on reliving in their own ways--superhero trading cards were prevalent, fitting in with the "EVERYTHING WILL BE A COLLECTIBLE INVESTMENT GOTTA CATCH 'EM ALL" mentality that nearly sank comics as a whole. As with all things, most of these were crap, but there are a couple sets for which I still have affection, largely for how they introduced me to the greater world of comics. Yeah, I have nostalgic love for my gateway drugs.



For example, Skybox's Batman: Saga of the Dark Knight single-handedly introduced me to Batman's Post-Crisis mythos from Year One through Knightsend. It was a great idea to focus on Batman's history, big storylines, key moments, and major characters, and while it's largely dominated in the whole Knightfall mythos, it still holds up as a great overview of an entire era of Batman comics.

To give an idea of what I mean, let's take a look at the Harvey-related cards! )

Of course, those are just the Two-Face cards. I've found scans of the whole set over here, but be warned, they're of varying quality. More than any of the others, I really wish I had high quality scans of Rick Burchett's Year One cards, as well as the villain profiles. Thankfully, I've managed to find some great scans across the internet, including the original artwork for a few!



I'd hate Ponytail!Joker as an awful remnant of 90's-ness, except that his one story by Dixon and Nolan is fantastic. It is the ONLY good story to come out of Knightsquest. I defy you to name a better story, or even a decent one. But even if I didn't like that story, I'd still like this piece. He's just got flair, damn it.


MOAR VILLAIN PORTRAIT CARDS BEHIND THE CUT, INCLUDING AWESOMENESS FROM MIKE MIGNOLA AND MATT WAGNER! )


Since we're on the subject of villains (and when are we not?), this brings me to my other favorite cards: DC Villains: The Dark Judgement, a tie-in for the subpar Underworld Unleashed crossover event.



These cards were decidedly more grotesque, and much of the art is not to my tastes, but I still love any celebration of villainy for comics. Once again, you can find the entire set scanned here, which can give you a fascinating who's who of characters from the mid-90's, including forgotten villains from Fate and Guy Gardner: Warrior, as well as an astonishing number of heroes turned evil. Like Raven from Teen Titans. That's her up there between Mongul and Bane. What in the name of god is she wearing? I mean, she's nearly naked, so must clearly be evil now, because sex is bad, but still.


But of course, what interests me most are the Batman villains, whose own portraits run the gamut from awesome to WTF. )


That wraps up the Batman villains, but as always 'round here, it always comes back to Harvey Dent. If you read that promo sheet above carefully, you may have noticed something about a very rare "Two-Face Skymotion Card" which featured "cutting-edge technology" to show Harvey turning and shooting... AT YOU!



So what the hell IS this card? Quite simply, it's one of the coolest bits of Two-Face merch in existence... )


These images can't quite give the same effect as seeing it in person, but you get the idea. It's pretty damn cool all-around, and by far the most detailed lenticular effect that I've ever seen. I wish I knew who drew it so I could them proper credit, but information about these cards is scarce enough as it is. And that's a damn shame. Maybe it's just my nostalgia talking, but I love these cards, every last one: good, bad, and ugly alike.

Just like Who's Who, they were a wonderful sampler platter for the world of comics, and sometimes, the way I ended up imagining the characters and stories turned out to be better than the comics themselves! I do miss when everything was new and awesome, when possibilities felt limitless, and there was a wealth of stories out there for me to discover. At least with back issues, I know the last part is still true when it comes to superhero comics. Maybe someday I'll be able to feel that way about new comics again too.
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So here's something that I forgot actually existed until I found it hidden in a comic box. The first issue of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle's Shadow of the Bat was released in the full 90's "ZOMG COLLECTORS ITEM BUY TWELVE" treatment, sealed in a polybag along with other assorted goodies. These included two mini-posters, full blueprints to the then-new Arkham Asylum (wish I still had those), a bookmark, and this:



Huh. Well, that's... something. Okay. Here's what was on the other side of this thick, flat paper:



Oh! Okay, a list of the inmates. Well, that's nice. Heh, "Dishonor Roll," I see what you did there. Wait, whose heads are those supposed to be? Joker, Hatter, and Harvey? Wait, hold on, I think this thing folds out and OH MY GOD:



To thirteen-year-old me, this was one of the coolest goddamn things ever. And not just because my three very favorite rogues at the time were featured at the top!

I like how Penguin and Catwoman (in her gray Batman: Year One outfit!) are there, but on the outside of the building. It’s like, “Hi guys, we’re in this rogues gallery too, but we're not insane! Can we join in?” Also, I love you, Jervis, but honestly, what the heck are you doing up there alongside Joker and Harvey? Silly Jervis. I blame Grant Morrison. Finally, I love Croc peeking up over the roof. I’m not sure what the hell he’s supposed to be doing there, and I don't care. I approve of roof!Croc.

I was so glad to see that I still had this, even though I have no idea what I can do with it. I want to display it somewhere, but that's impossible. I guess it's just one of those little geek pleasures that must hide in a box until it's nearly forgotten, only to be rediscovered and dusted off every now and again.

So let this be a heads-up to Marvel, DC, and anybody else who is seemingly hellbent on reliving the dark 90's: if you're gonna seal up your comics in polybag, at least throw some cool swag inside. That would almost make the pathetic sales-desperate practice worthwhile. Because this? This is awesome.
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Since it's the second time this year that we've had a Harvey-relevant date, I would be remiss if I didn't post SOMEthing! It can't be the review for Two-Face, Part II just yet, since that's far from complete. The first one was a ton of work, and hard as hell to compose, but your enthusiastic responses were so awesome that it's fired me up to put the same effort into the second half. Thanks for that.

So what can I post today? How about a double-dose of quick single-page cameos?

Let's start with one from Detective Comics Annual #4, an oddball story by Louise Simonson and Tom Grindberg. You don't really need any context for this page, since it's a pretty random and pointless Two-Face cameo, but for the curious, here you go: in a possible future, Batman's final battle with Ra's ends with the Demon dead and his own body smashed on a cliffside. When an adult Tim Drake takes up the mantle of Batman, he's swiftly murdered by Talia and the League of Assassins, prompting a sullen Bruce Wayne to create a concealed exoskeleton and go searching for the identity of Tim's killers. So where better to go than to visit one of the usual suspects?



"... he has a box of tricks," Harvey says, in voice-over on the next page, "and he's playing both sides against the middle." Figures: after a whole page assault of puns, the only one that really thematically works isn't even on this page! The Joker proceeds to tease Batman with the clue that will lead him to Talia, knowing that the revelation will eventually lead to both Bruce and Talia's destruction.

So yes, in this alternate universe, this page is the final encounter between Batman and Harvey, who is left with nothing more than a coin bent by a cybernetic Bat-hand. I like to imagine him now trying and failing to adequately flip the warped coin, and eventually giving up. Hey, maybe without the coin and Batman alike, that could lead to his eventual rehabilitation in his universe? I'd certainly like to think so, but I doubt the Joker would let that happen. The Joker is an asshole.

Speaking of Harvey, Joker, and Talia, that brings us to our second page, one from several years earlier: 1983's (hey, my birth year!) All My Enemies Against Me!, from Detective Comics #526, commemorating Batman's 500th appearance in that series!

The issue served as the culmination of Gerry Conway's original Jason Todd and Killer Croc storyline, bringing in a veritable Who's Who of Batman greatest enemies, including several soon-to-be-forgotten guys like Captain Stingaree and the Spook. Since Croc is trying to "steal our thunder" by trying to kill Batman, the Joker proposes that the villains all team up to beat Crockers t the punch, but one villain, Talia, decides to opt out. Joker doesn't approve, and a brief fight scene breaks out as the Joker demands that the other villains not let her escape.



I don't know what I love more: Harvey being genuinely unpredictable by adhering to the coin's rulings and his own sense of ethics, or the Joker calling him a loony. Also, I adore how the coin's trajectory spun over two panels. It's something that can only be done in comics storytelling, and I wish that more artists would play with the art form's unique capabilities more often. I'd love to see more Two-Face stories written and drawn in ways that only work in comics.

Harvey appears elsewhere in this issue, but aside from a couple wonderfully-drawn panels by Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala, there's nothing else of specific note for the Two-Face fan. If you'd like to read more of the issue, I've found the first nineteen pages scanned and posted up here. Don't hold your breath about the rest of the issue getting posted, since whoever runs that sites seems to have left it abandoned.

Still, the site is well worth investigating, since there are several great stories posted there in their entirety. I recommend checking out The Messiah of the Crimson Sun, a fantastically odd story with fucking STUNNING art by Trevor Von Eeden and a wonderfully cracked-out ending that, I promise, will throw you for a loop. Even more highly recommended is Alan Brennert's The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne, which is one of the greatest Batman comics ever. Period. One of these days, I'm finally going to write that post about the brilliance that is Alan Brennert, who might well be my favorite Batman writer of all time. If he ever wrote a Two-Face story, I think my head would explode.

Okay, back to working on that Two-Face, Part II review.
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So not long after I wrapped up my Twelve Days of Who's Who marathon series, the great Grantbridge Street posted scans from that issue of Detective Comics with the awesome Dick Giordano cover of the Rogues Gallery. You know, this one.

The issue itself was something of a filler, with Batman and Jason Todd going through all the rogue profiles with the purpose of catching readers up with the villains before the big blow-out anniversary issue, Batman #400. Both issues were less remarkable for their stories by Doug Moench and more for the showcase of several great artists, including main Detective Comics artist Gene Colan, who drew the pages below.

Colan, who recently passed away, has a devoted following from his decades of comics work. While I love his artwork as a whole, the way he draws characters has often felt lacking, and the below images give a nice sampler of his portraiture talents. The bios by Doug Moench also show

Dare you prowl the dark knight's rogues gallery (by Gene Colan) behind the cut? )
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Whew, made it! And just in time for Twelfth Night, too!

Doing this series of posts has been one of the most exhausting, draining, frustrating, and goddamned fun projects I've ever done on this blog. It's a shame that it has to end this way, with an assortment that largely covers some of my least favorite Batman eras and characters.

That's not to say there isn't anything I love about Batman from 1997 to 2006. Sure, the days of the great Bat-trio of Moench/Grant/Dixon were starting to wind down, with many good stories hindered by one big crossover after another after another. The fact that they were all fired to make way for the next big crossover would haven been bitterly misguided if that crossover hadn't been No Man's Land. Far as I'm concerned, NML the highest achievement for Batman since Batman: Year One, since it was an event that was mostly focused on character rather than... well, events. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than any other major Batman crossover I have ever read, and thus I was greatly excited with the prospect of NML mastermind Greg Rucka continuing to write the ongoing Detective Comics.

While I loved Rucka's run, as well as Brubaker's Batman and Devin Grayon's Gotham Knights, the changes they made to Batman's character and supporting cast led the series down a path that I didn't necessarily like, but stuck with because I trusted the creative teams involved. And then they were all gone, with Loeb and Lee giving us Hush. After that, new writers followed the threads left by Rucka, Brubaker, and Grayson, and it all went to hell. The stories that followed left me cold, and much as I rag on Grant Morrison's run, I think I might honestly prefer it to the era of Black Mask. Don't force me to choose, please.

So now, at the end of a project that I started to celebrate the characters I love, I shall see if I can muster any of the same kind of enthusiasm for some of my favorite and least favorite eras alike.


Rassum frassum get off my lawn behind the cut )


So here's to another year for about_faces. The output will be infrequent, but I'm not going anywhere. There are too many stories left to look at, too many stupid things to rant about, too many comics and characters and ideas worth celebrating. Hope you'll stick around, and as always, keep the comments coming. You're the smartest damn bunch of fans I know, and that's no lie, no flattery, it's the damn truth. So thank you, and be seeing you.
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The penultimate post in this series is also the last of the official Who's Who profiles. A couple of my favorites are in this one, so I hope you enjoy. As always, keep the comments a-comin'! Even though I'm too busy composing entries (and doing IRL stuff) to reply as quickly as I want, know that your responses are half of why I do all this in the first place!


Read more... )


And that's that for Who's Who. After 1993, the interest in character profiles apparently tapered off, and frankly, I'm amazed it lasted in the first place. While there have been similar resources published since the late 90's, none were published under the Who's Who banner, nor were they nearly as comprehensive.

Last year, DC announced that there were plans for a new Who's Who volume to celebrate the company's anniversary, but that never happened and now almost certainly never will. At least, not for a while. The DCnU is too Nu for anyone to have established history, and if they made something up, you can bet most of it would be contradicted by later writers. Sure, there's all the PRE-DCnU stuff, but the last thing DC wants is to remind readers of what was, back when characters wore briefs on the outside of the outside of their costumes. God, how stupid is that? You'd think they were SUPERHEROES or something! A-duh!

As they stand, old Who's Who books are treasure troves of great, lousy, and lost characters, and if you can ever find copies in dollar bins, pick up a few. You never know who you might meet. If you want to find more Who's Who online, Grantbridge Street has posted complete collections of profiles from the Legion of Superheroes, Superman, New Gods drawn by Jack Kirby himself, and more in his archives. If you want to see more of these big looseleaf profiles, again, check out the DC Who's Who Tumblr, which is still being updated. Good stuff all around!

Tomorrow, the final post: Secret Files and Origins. Plus old man ranting.
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One thing I neglected to mention in the last post is to give credit to the DC-Whos-Who Tumblr feed, where I've found the majority of these images. If you like character profiles and great art, I HIGHLY recommend checking scouring through his entires. There is so much greatness to be found there, and far beyond just the Bat-Villains.

But of course, the Bat-Villains are what mainly interest me, so shall we continue?

Too bad, because I'm going ahead anyway! )
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By 1990, I suspect that DC was tired of the increasingly-crappy printing quality they were giving to their Who's Who books, and probably wanted to step things up for the collector's market. This is pure speculation on my part, just going by the fact that the new editions of Who's Who were a much higher quality, with better coloring and slick, glossy paper. The biggest change for these profiles was that they came in looseleaf tear-away binding with holes so you could organize them in a three-ring binder any way you wanted: by character name, by heroes and villains, by all Batman/Superman/cosmic characters, etc.

While we had snazzy new updated Who's Who profiles, very little actually happened to most of the characters since they were last written about in previous entries. Aside from the art, the written entries (many by Mark Waid!) were largely identical. Bear in mind, this is just before Batman: The Animated Series, Knightfall, and other stuff which would have greatly affects the biographies of the Batman villains. If DC had waited another year or three, the many profiles would have had more to say rather than pretty much rehashing everything we know already.

Nonetheless, the new art makes the lack of new information plenty worthwhile. Many of these portraits and stellar and timeless, perfect for use in your average wiki entry as a definitive take on these rogues.


A spiffy new bunch of Who's Whos, plus a couple new Who's Thats, behind the cut )

Man, I didn't intend to begin and end this part with Grant/Breyfogle creations! Maybe it's a sign that I need to finally collect that entire run and read it through, as well as the early Shadow of the Bat stuff. Grant's work is rarely what I'd call stellar, but it's proving more interesting, remarkable, and entertaining than I used to believe. If you folks have some favorite Alan Grant stories, let me know if the comments!
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While this post rounds out the remnants of the Batman villains from 1985-1989 Who's Who, there were some odds and ends of characters who didn't *quite* qualify, but who nonetheless deserved honorable mentions. But first, let's start with the rest of the actual Batman villains, even if two profiles are reruns.

But really, what more appropriate way to kick off the new year than with a second helping of a double dose of Two-Face? )

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