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Back during that mystical period known as the nineties, Batman writers Alan Grant and Doug Moench decided--for whatever reason--to give the Scarecrow a bizarre laugh that went "HAROO HRAAA" or sometimes "HAROO HRAAII."

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

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

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

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

It... begins...

Two more huge collages behind the cut! )

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

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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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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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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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I know it's a week late, but I figured that I would be remiss in not giving a quick look at the opening pages of Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's Batman #1, which is being hailed by some as the very best comic to come out of the DCnU so far.

My own reaction: it's good. Not brilliant, but good. It doesn't punch me in the gut, nor does it blow my socks off, or move me to tears, paint my house, pay off my car payments, or taste like bacon. It's just good. I suppose that in the sea of mediocrity that is most popular fiction these days, that should be remarkable in of itself. But even in that case, how sad is that? Shouldn't we hold comics to a higher standard so that stories like Batman #1 are the AVERAGE quality, not the EXCEPTION?

The issue itself is a solid introduction for new readers that also flows seamlessly from Snyder's work in Detective Comics: The Black Mirror and The Golden Gates of Gotham, as he works to create an overarching epic that is clearly shaping up to be Batman versus Gotham City itself (presumably as a living entity ala Milligan's Dark Knight, Dark City).

Hell, that's exactly what Snyder has said in interviews, where he posited the ludicrous theory that Gotham has literally been "Batman's best friend," lol wut. No, no, no, if Gotham is sentient at all (and what's with this fascination some writers have for envisioning cities as actual entities?), it's hardly EVER been Batman's bosom pal.

Based on his two previous Batman stories, I suspect that Snyder is probably continuing the Morrisonian trope of evil secret societies of cult-like evil evilness (and if Newbie McMayorChin isn't revealed to be involved, I'll be damn surprised). As you may have guessed, this type of story fills me with aggressive apathy, but as long as Snyder keeps a focus on characters, I'll keep reading. He writes a fine Jim Gordon, and I'm glad to see Bullock prominently featured, even if Snyder's Bullock sounds a lot more like Slam Bradley. As for the rest of the issue, it's pretty much all set-up, with an empty cliffhanger ending we've seen before countless times. I look forward to reading the story as a whole, but there's not much to especially recommend about this one chapter, which is a common problem in this day and age of wait-for-the-trade.

What I do want is just quickly look at the opening pages, featuring the Rumble In Arkham that we've seen in previews:

Batman versus Everyone (What do you mean, everyone? EV-RRREEEE-WUUUUNNNN!!!!) behind the cut )

Oh. One more thing... /uncle

In comic news about something which actually DID come out today, I give you the spoiler-tastic final page for The Dark Knight #1, which features the first look at whatever the fuck it is they're doing with Harvey. Go. Go read it. Seriously.

Back? Okay. WOW that's dumb. Kind of delightfully so! I mean, seriously, "One-Face?" What the fuck does that even MEAN? He still has the scarred and unscarred sides! Was there a miscommunication between writer and artists here? Is it supposed to indicate that Harvey's bad side has completely taken over when he became Hulk!Harv? Honestly, that breaks my brain more than the Venom/Titan/whatever he's hopped up on!

Oh, Paul Jenkins, you're the gift that keeps on giving... ridiculously overblown Two-Face stories. Which reminds me, I still need to summon up the courage to review Batman: Jekyll and Hyde. You poor people, you.
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So it's recently come to my attention that some of you have never heard of this story where the Arkham inmates played softball against the inmates of Blackgate Prison. Because that totally, actually happened.

This is one of those great little oddball (no pun intended) stories that will probably be of interest to most because it features early Batman artwork by Tim Sale. That said, it's only Sale's pencils inked by Jimmy Palmiotti, and while Palmiotti is a fine enough inker and even better co-author of books like Jonah Hex, the result is art that looks like a poor man's Matt Wagner with a dash of poor man's Bill Sienkiewicz. Which is to say, it's still pretty darn interesting to look at.

To make matters even more flawed, it's written by Alan Grant. Oh, Alan Grant. Now there's a writer I never learned to appreciate until very recently, even though I grew up reading his Batman work. Whereas I used to find his writing cheesy and a tad pretentious, I now find it charmingly earnest and ambitious. I enjoy and admire those qualities in writers even their stories are subpar.

As such, I hadn't given "Madmen Across The Water"* (from Showcase '94 #3 and 4) much thought until yesterday, when I was rereading it in preparation for this post. While it still falls short in areas I prefer, namely treating the Arkham inmates as characters in their own right rather than just crazy characters in wacky outfits, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the character of Jeremiah Arkham as written by Grant, and I think that this story is one of his finest appearances.

And again: it's about the Arkham inmates playing softball. I don't know why you haven't just skipped all my rambling and clicked on the cut-tag already!

Ivy at the bat (but not THAT Bat) behind the cut! )

Again, if you'd like to read the whole story, it's been collected in Tales of the Batman, a collection of Tim Sale's miscellaneous Batman work. It also features the James Robinson story Blades from Legends of the Dark Knight, which is considered a classic by many. I loved it back in the day, but it's been many years since I read it, and I don't know how well it holds up.

*The title is taken from an uncommonly-great Elton John song, although I greatly prefer the extended version.
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When Eye of the Beholder was released in 1990, it reinvigorated the character of Harvey Dent, giving him long-overdue psychological insight, deepening his tragedy, and making him a greater character than he was before. should have drastically impacted Two-Face the same way The Killing Joke did for the Joker.

It didn't.

If anything, the character became even more flat and one-dimensional. Hell, while the Joker popped up immediately after TKJ, it took two whole years for anyone to write Harvey, and three to use him in actual mainstream regular Batman continuity over the 90's, with the majority of those issues were tangled up in crossovers. In these overblown events, plot ruled all, and characterization suffered. Given the option to follow Eye of the Beholder's example of character depth or just going backwards and using Two-Face as an evil villain, the writers of this period generally chose the latter.

But hey, at least the covers are neat. Well, some of them anyway. Mostly, I think it's just fascinating to chart the drastic evolution of comics over these six years

Grab a snack, because we have an ass-ton of covers behind the cut! )

If you'll indulge me a moment of extreme anal retention, Harvey's eyes (or eye, at least) are supposed to be blue. Always. It's not just canon for every bio, but it plainly just makes a better impact. Of all these covers, only one gave him blue eyes, and I try not to let it bug me lest I feel like a total nit-picky loser. But bug me it does! Eh, maybe I can just use this as an excuse to pretend that most of these crappy Two-Face appearances over the decade were just Paul Sloane in disguise. Yeah, that's the ticket.

While we've finally reached the end, I haven't posted even half of Harvey's cover appearances from the 90's. So if I've missed out on your favorite, don't worry, I'll almost certainly be getting to it. Eventually.
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When Dick Grayson upgraded to Batman status like everybody bloody well knew he would in the wake of Bruce's "death," it felt strangely like both the writers and the fans had forgotten that this is actually the second time that he'd donned the cape and cowl. For instance, Winick's five-issue BATMAN run went out of its way to have Dick complain about how he'd never realized just how heavy Bruce's cape was.

The Continuity Cop in me was appalled. "What?! How could these people forget the 1994 multi-Bat-issue crossover storyline 'Prodigal?!'"

And then I actually reread "Prodigal," for the purposes of this post. It's... well, it's not bad, per se, it's just... so very of its era: the time of Chuck Dixon on DETECTIVE COMICS (and ROBIN), Doug Moench on BATMAN, and Alan Grant on SHADOW OF THE BAT. And even though I still consider Dixon the best of the trio, his Two-Face even back then was... well...

... with anger? (ten points if you get that reference)

Even though this came out eight years before ROBIN: YEAR ONE, consider 1994's "Prodigal" to be the official sequel, if that makes any sense. Oh, and the puns get a bit worse from here too (two? Just getting into the spirit of things).

Two-Face and Dick Grayson rematch behind the cut! )
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For the past couple months at scans_daily, I've been doing Two-Face Tuesdays over at scans_daily, carrying on the tradition of the great [livejournal.com profile] zhinxy. I've been posted extended versions over at my personal LJ, [livejournal.com profile] thehefner, and will be now posting them here.

While I think BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES is pretty much the definitive Batman, and its Two-Face to be near-perfect in spirit, I hate the episode "Judgment Day." Y'know, the one with "The Judge."

It's so close to being something brilliant, but I won't spoil why for those who haven't seen the episode (although really, is there anyone here who hasn't? Most everyone here's seen and loved BTAS, right?). I'll go into details behind the cut, as we delve into this story from 1997's BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #62 and #63, which introduced a new vigilante who specifically targeted Two-Face's men.

Who could he *possibly* be? Alfred, perhaps? )

In the near future, I'll be posting all my extended Two-Face Tuesday posts up here for posterity, so apologies to folks from [livejournal.com profile] thehefner's f-list who will have to see them twice! But hey, that's only fitting, isn't it?


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