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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!!!)
While I'm older and wiser enough to know that McDonald's is shit that will kill me, I still have a great deal of fondness for the Happy Meal toys I had collected over the years as a kid growing up in the 90's. Of course, when it comes to which line of tie-in toys were my favorites, you can probably guess:





As you can see, the line was divided into four basic action figures and four characters riding their own personalized gimmicky vehicles, which always struck me as being like something out of Gotham's own version of Wacky Races. My favorite toy of the whole line was not the flippable Two-Face car, but rather the Riddler figure, which is still one of my very favorite plastic embodiments of Eddie.


I wish I could find a better picture of this. What I especially loved about this figure was how he had a half-smirk which gave him a different mood depending on which side you looked at him. Look at him from one side: frowny Eddie! From the other: smug Eddie! Look at him face on: snarky Eddie! Who knew that a Happy Meal could convey versatile personality?


Yes, I loved these toys, but more than that, I loved the Happy Meal boxes they came in, at least one of which featured original art by that MVP of DCAU Batman comics, Ty Templeton. Like coloring and activity books on crack, these were packed with games, puzzles, and awful jokes which must surely have been used by many a child to torment many a parent. To see what I mean, here’s the one that’s definitely by Templeton, which I know because he posted it over at his own blog. That's as official as it gets!



I don't know about some you young'un snappers of whippers, but this box gives me such a 90's nostalgic flashback. It's the little details I also love, like the fact that the Joker has a trunk full of stolen kittens. The only thing that bugs me is that Catwoman is more interested in stealing the bejeweled cat collars over saving all those cats from the clutches of the goddamned Joker, but maybe that's her ulterior motive to this ill-advised team-up. At least, I think they're teaming up.

I also love that Harvey (who always looks great under Templeton's pen) is apparently trying to woo Catwoman with an entire serving tray of stolen jewels, the only one of which that entices her are the "purrrr-ls!" Maybe it's just the fact that I'm now a Dad and therefore terminally uncool, but I am such a sucker for horrible puns like that.

So lucky me, I've found scans of all the other Happy Meal boxes (including the other half of the one above), all of which are filled with more lousy jokes and wacky character moments! Whee! With the exception of the next scan, which is also from Templeton's own blog, the rest of these are from the eBay store of D&K's Treasures from the Vault, which is selling each of these boxes for about ten bucks each.

Oh, and if you want to see the original artwork of the Templeton pieces, Ty the Guy's blog has also got you covered. Just in case you want to break out the Crayola and color them in yourself.

Learn the horrible secret of why the Joker loves to make eggs for breakfast, behind the cut! )

Of course, no mention of Batman-related McDonald's tie-ins would be complete without a quick mention of my very favorite items of all: the Batman Forever collector's mugs!


Source: X-Entertainment


I recently found all of mine during one of the several times I've had to move over the past year, and they're still as cool as I remember. Also, I apparently own two Riddler mugs and three Two-Face ones, because why wouldn't I? I hope you won't blame me, especially considering the awesome handle of the Two-Face mug in particular.



Sadly, I have been hesitant to use the mugs ever since those stories broke out about lead being found in pretty much all McDonald's glasses ever made. Does that extend to the Batman Forever glasses too, or just the glasses that had paint on them? I haven't been able to find out either way, but better safe than sorry. Oh well, at least they'll be safe high up on a shelf, away from the grabbing hands of my susceptible child.
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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!
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So hey, guys, remember that review of Batman: Run, Riddler, Run I wrote back in April? You know, that Riddler story by writer Gerard Jones and artist Mark Badger, the one which I now love but which I'd resisted reading for years because 1.) I didn't like the art at the time, and 2.) I was so nit-picky and anal-retentive that I was annoyed by the fact that the Riddler's didn't have any purple in his costume, but he was all green? Remember that? Because Mark Badger just commented on that review, and he even included a special surprise:



... I have no words for how delighted this makes me. Mister Badger, you're a-okay in my book. Man, I really need some kind of "holy crap a comics creator noticed me aaaaa" tag of some sort.
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I finally picked up a copy of Rogues Gallery, a collection of DC villain pin-ups to coincide with their potentially-great-but-terminally-mediocre crossover event, Underworld Unleashed.

For those who haven’t read UU, you’re not missing much. Essentially, it was about a tedious Satan stand-in named Neron (DC's answer to a poor man's Mephisto) who offered to give villains an extreme 90’s makeover and power-boost in exchange for their souls. Well, they weren’t using those anyway, right? As a result, we got such silliness as Killer Moth turned into a man-eating mutant monster who caccoons his victims (something so lousy that it was actually a vast IMPROVEMENT when it was adapted for The Batman) and Mister Freeze got actual freezing *powers* (something which was promptly forgotten). Also, UU opened with the Flash’s Rogues getting killed off, solely because Mark Waid genuinely couldn’t figure out how to write them, something which he admitted in a Wizard interview in ‘98. Man, thank god for Geoff Johns, at least when it comes to the Flash's rogues. Basically, the entire UU event was by and for people who mistook scary/extreme/overpowered villains for interesting characters.

That said, Rogues Gallery was still a cool collection of pin-ups by some great artists, especially for the Bat-Rogues. Unfortunately, I’ve been able to find no scans online. I’ve found pin-up scans for other DC villains at a Martian Manhunter blog, a Wonder Woman blog, and a Firestorm blog, but NOTHING at *any* of the Bat-blogs, nor anywhere else teh interwebs! What the hell, Bat-fans?

So, naturally, I’m rectifying this. Here are all of the Batman villain profiles, complete with inane and annoying commentary by Neron that I really wish I could erase.

Look into the face of insanity behind the cut! )
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Welcome to the final part of our triple-feature review of Harvey taking a supporting role in the show to pal around with his "fellow miscreants" in episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.

In the show's second and third seasons, when it was retitled The Adventures of Batman & Robin, there were a lot of episodes which felt like sequels, follow-ups, or spiritual relations to classic episodes from the first season. For origins like Two-Face and Feat of Clay, and Heart of Ice, you got sequels in the form of Second Chance, Mudslide, and Deep Freeze. In that sense, I've always felt like today's episode, Trial, was akin to Almost Got 'Im, partially because of a couple winks by writer Paul Dini.

And so, hot on the heels of that classic episode, let's see if Dini can recapture the same magic as he examines the fandom-old question of whether or not Batman's mere presence "creates" his own rogues gallery. And while we're at it, let's also examine just why it might not be a smart idea to put all of Gotham's worst insane criminals under one roof.



Wherein the Arkham inmates take over the asylum, put Batman on mock trial, and force the new bat-hating D.A. to defend him. Watch it here!

We got some legal business to settle first, behind the cut...! )

Next time, I shall tackle the second-best Two-Face story in all of B:TAS, which shall finally allow me to get us back to reviewing the DCAU comics by the likes of Dini and the great Ty Templeton. I'm really looking forward to getting to those after all this time.
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.
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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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So as a side project, I've started "The Daily Batman" (or "Batman_Daily," I can't decide which I prefer), a Tumblr blog where I can post the '89-'91 Batman comic strips as they originally ran: one per day, with the Sundays on Sundays.

I'm doing this because I'm still utterly in love with the comic strip and want to keep showing it off to as many people as possible.The scans I'm posting are bigger than the ones I posted here, plus I'll be including whatever alternate versions (mainly color strips and original artwork) which I've found floating around. If only I could get all the Sundays in color, that's would be awesome, but I don't know of any way to scour through color newspaper archives from 1989-1991 without maybe taking a four hour drive down to the Library of Congress. I just don't have that kinda time, man, but I am nonetheless sorely tempted. So until I devote an entire website to my own personal edit of the strip into a more cohesive and dynamic narrative, "The Daily Batman" will hopefully suffice as Phase 2 of this strip I so love.

THAT SAID... aheh heh heh... so in the course of my searches for color strips and original art, I discovered something pretty funny. You see, the whole reason I was looking for the strips in the first place was because I thought that they were the Holy Grail of Two-Face stories, one that's so obscure and lost to time that even the internet was largely ignorant of its existence. I admit, I'm still amazed and damn proud that I managed to track down what had to be the rarest Two-Face story of all time. And then I found this:



This is original artwork for the Batman comic strip that ran in 1971. Bear in mind, 1971 was the year where we say the first Two-Face appearance in almost a decade, and now I learn that not only did Harvey appear in another Batman comic strip, it also may have JUST coincided with his grand return to comics. And that above scan is the ONLY one I can find from that entire storyline, the only trace to acknowledge Harvey's existence in that strip, scans of which have never, to my knowledge, been reprinted ANYWHERE.



In addition to the Two-Face story, the strip ran other stories which I'd love to read, including a team-up between Poison Ivy, the Riddler, and Killer Moth:





Yes, there really was a story where Killer Moth, the Riddler, and Poison Ivy were trying to score some smack. I NEED THIS IN MY LIFE.

And there's also an epic with Bruce Wayne being terrorized by Joe Chill's son, seeking vengeance for his father. Even though Chill Jr. seems to lose the battle after being mortally wounded, it looks like he has the last laugh:



Everything looks bleak for Bruce's secret identity, until:



Really, the twist alone makes this entire storyline a must-read, but not nearly as "must" as that Two-Face story. So yes, I now have a new Holy Grail for Two-Face comics, and absolutely no idea where to look for them.

... Welp, I hear Washington DC is nice this time of year.
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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? )
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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 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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Note: This post isn't a review, but is in fact a very roundabout way to asking you all a geeky question for the sake of amusement. You were warned.



I wish I had the time and energy to devote a whole post--nay, a SERIES of posts--to the batshit insanity that is Batman: Fortunate Son.



I doubt that's even necessary, since internet-personality Linkara already famously reviewed this misbegotten graphic novel. Of course, that's no real reason why I shouldn't write my own review, since my thoughts are my own and Linkara doesn't have a monopoly on snarky geek review stuff, but I simply don't have the time nor energy. Am lazy tired daddy. But at the very least, I'd like to say a few words about B:FS in general before focusing on one scene in particular.

An overview of B:FS: what was intended, and what went so gloriously wrong )


But why? Why does Batman hate it so much? One reason is that he was chastised by his parents for listening to it right before they went to see "that Zorro movie." But there's another reason, one which Batman reveals in... well, just see for yourself.



Rock 'n roll and the Batman villains, totally comparable behind the cut! )

What music (rock or otherwise) do YOU think the rogues enjoy? What bands, composers, styles, etc? I want to see if anyone can come up with more appropriate/interesting/hilarious choices than the ones in the story above! What think 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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Today's batch is coming much later because apparently I had a lot to say about several characters here. I've been going through waves of feeling totally burned out interspersed with MUST TALK ABOUT MY OPINIONS ON THIS CHARACTER'S ENTIRE HISTORY and then crashing again. Thankfully, tomorrow's group is almost entirely made up of some serious Z-listers, so maybe I won't have much to say. For today, though, you may wanna grab a snack. It's a big one.

Read more... )
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Today, I bring you a post which I fear may be unreadable. At least, if you don't own old-school 3D glasses. And even then, can 3D be viewed on a computer screen? Either way, I'm gonna ask you to bear with me as we look at selections from Batman 3D: Ego Trip, a graphic novel by comics legend John Byrne with effects by 3D master Ray Zone.

I enjoy Byrne's story and art here quite a lot, but I had a damn hard time settling into it in either two or three dimensions. Obviously, 3D isn't meant to be viewed without glasses, and while the actual 3D effects are often spectacular beyond the sheer novelty value, my eyes can't really handle it for long stretches. I wish they'd rerelease this story in 2D with coloring, so Byrne's story and artwork could be appreciated on their own merits, even with all the panels of various objects COMIN' RIGHT ATCHA!

So as I'm going with the assumption that we're all here to focus on the story, let's squint and try to take a look at Ego Trip, a Batman caper written in 1990 but with a distinctly old-school feel, guest-starring four of his greatest villains (including, naturally, Two-Face, who gets a slightly tweaked origin here) as they torment Batman and cause him to trip balls:




IT'S LIKE YOU CAN TOUCH THEM behind the cut! )

As a bonus, Batman 3D also included a pin-up gallery by an all-star roster of artists. Because I love Batman pinups, here's the whole lot!

Toth, Adams, Zeck, Gibbons, and more! Holy crap! )


As always (well, as usually), I've made certain to post no more than 1/3rd of the graphic novel's content, so there's plenty more to read for those who can track down this hard-to-find book. It's available for pretty cheaply used on places like Amazon.com, although there's no telling whether any copies will still have their glasses. Proceed with caution! If you have a local comic shop that might carry it, always try for that first. It's definitely worth checking out in whole. Hopefully someday, it'll find a new audience. In either dimension.
about_faces: (Hugo Strange)
So, I can't wait any longer. I need to rant about the characters in Batman: Arkham City.

Understand, this is completely out of the order I had intended. I wanted to wait until I had finished my series on the Complete History of Hugo Strange, but I've put off the next few posts because 1.) I really don't like most of the upcoming stories, and 2.) I don't have scans of Batman and the Monster Men, Battle for the Cowl: The Network, nor the stuff by Tony Daniel and from David Hine's Arkham Reborn. I really wanted--and in some ways still need--to post those before I seriously look at how Hugo was handled in the B:AC game and comics.

But birds gotta swim, fish gotta fly you heard me!, Hef gotta rant! For one thing, this is the most high-profile exposure that the rogues as a whole have gotten since Batman: The Animated Series. For another, the big twist about Hugo Strange pissed me off so much that it not only ruined every bit of enjoyment I had for the character in the game, but it also put a damper on my love of the character as a whole. It was THAT annoying.

Now, I haven't actually played B:AC, since--surprise surprise--Dell laptops suck and thus can't support the game via Steam. So I was forced to watch this series of playthroughs, one of the few without player commentary, and just focused on the character stuff. I ended up having to do the same with the original Batman: Arkham Asylum, which I still haven't played either, but that was a far more painful experience. B:AA was not a well-written, well-performed game. I'm sure the playing experience was amazing, but the viewing experience was tedious and irritating, largely because of the Hot-Topic-ified versions of the rogues, the uninspired voice acting of everyone involved, and ohmygod the Joker at the end WTF still.

B:AC was so much better in every damn way in regards to how they handled the characters and story. Between the first game's success and the new urban demilitarized setting, it's like the designers knew that they didn't NEED to reinvent the characters, and pretty much kept them intact (with some changes) to roam freely, interact, and wreak havoc. I approve! ... But not, of course, without some criticisms.

A perfect example is what was done with the Penguin.



Gotta admit, I'm surprised by how much I liked Pengers here, much as I hate the inexplicable voice, overly-sleazy characterization, and lack of stylish flair in the form of no top hats, cigars instead of cigarette holders, and--most stupid of all--a broken bottle in the eye. Oh yes, that's no monocle! Because he's now GRITTY, you see! How very stupid. And yet, I liked the character regardless. He came off as a more interesting villain there than he has in the comics for YEARS, save for great flukes such as Joker's Asylum: Penguin.

If you'd like full thoughts on this version, I wrote them all up at my Tumblr, but know that I'll eventually be incorporating many of those thoughts into my eventual Penguin Appreciation Post. Hell, I'll probably do a whole Penguin Appreciation Week to go with it! But that won't be for a while yet.

After posting that, someone on Tumblr asked me what I thought about how the rest of the villains were handled. For the most part, my thoughts will be spoiler-free, and I'll save the spoilers for the end. Don't worry, you'll get warning and a lot of blank space.

Either way, if you don't want to be spoiled, avoid reading the comments.


75% spoiler-free, followed by a spoiler warning and then 25% ALL OF THE SPOILERS behind the cut )



Otherwise, neat game. Looking forward to actually playing it someday.

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