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The response to the first part was great, guys! Keep 'em coming! So far this is damn fun, although I may kill myself trying to get them all out once a day! In the meantime, MOAR BATMAN VILLAINS!

A swashbuckler, a muddy legacy, a patchwork failure, and more profiles behind the cut! )

To be continued!
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The Bronze Age of comics is considered by many to be the Golden Age for Batman. I can certainly understand why, as it may be my very favorite Batman era.

That's not to say the stories then were necessarily any BETTER than the ones in other eras (since every era has its ups and downs, with the ratio heavily tipped towards the mediocre and the crap), but I absolutely adore the sensibilities of Bronze Age Batman. Moody without being excessively dark, gritty without being grimy, simultaneously more realistic and more ambitiously fantastic, grounded in character without too much soap opera, Bronze Age Batman was the raw, uneven template for Batman storytelling that would be polished, surpassed, and perfected by Batman: The Animated Series.

Is it fair to say that we pretty much owe it all to Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams? If nothing else, that legendary writer/artist team popularized the dramatic shift away from Adam West Silver Age into a new era for the Dark Knight. Again, that's not to say that their stories were always good--sacrilege as it may be to admit such a thought--but while I personally prefer the art of Jim Aparo to Adams, and while I think Bronze Age Batman reached its epitome with the Strange Apparitions run by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, O'Neil and Adams delivered a few genuine, timeless classics.

One of their most famous stories appeared two months after the introduction of the Ra's al Ghul and two years before the brilliant The Joker's Five-Way Revenge (which redefined the Joker, although not enough to surpass Ra's as the decade's Greatest Batman Villain ZOMG, apparently). In August 1971, O'Neil and editor Julius Schwartz decided to bring back Two-Face after seventeen years since his last appearance:

But while this was one of the most important Two-Face stories ever published, not to mention supposedly one of The Greatest Batman Stories of All Time (see links at the bottom), it's ultimately a very standard Batman detective story. There's a crime, there's a fight, there's a villain, there's another fight, there's detective work, there's Batman out-thinking the villain, and there's Batman winning. Yadda yadda, yay. But what it DID have was atmosphere and mood out the metaphorical wazoo:

Come lurk with us for a while, won't you? )

All in all, though, I like this story much more now than I did when I sat down to write this post. I love how I can find little things to appreciate in these comics by writing about them than I did just reading them. Nonetheless, when it comes to O'Neil and Two-Face, I greatly prefer his wonderful story with Irv Novick from three years later, Threat of the Two-Headed Coin. Then ending is very similar, with Batman using Harvey's coin (and "pride?") against himself, but it featured a wonderfully melancholic touch which I adore. Definitely check that one out if you already haven't. It's a fave.

Scans from this story were generously provided by Joe Bloke at Grantbridge Street, the best goddamn blog for comic scans out there. If you'd like, check out his blog to read all of Half an Evil. Either way, put aside an hour or two to scour through his great blog for all sorts of treasures.

If you'd like to own this great story, well, you have two options. I greatly recommend going the first route and buying the old The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, which is where these scans came from. It's a great collection anyway, and it's the best-colored version I've read. Otherwise, you can pick up Batman VS Two-Face, a frustratingly crappy collection which reprints Neal Adams remastered and recolored version of the story that originally ran in this hardcover collection. Squint and you can see a tiny comparison between the original published page and the touched-up version by Adams:

Image source.

Yeah, the new coloring isn't bad, but it feels a lot like a Lucas-ization of something that was already fine in the first place. The extra softness and dimensions of the computer coloring are just unnecessary, in my opinion. When it comes to older comics, give me gritty newsprint or solid, muted colors any day. But then, I'm the kind of guy who utterly loathes all the CGI additions in the remastered Star Trek: The Original Series, so what do I know?
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One of the few Two-Face appearances I don't own happens to be a collector's item: Batman #260, which featured the first appearance of Arkham Asylum dash it all, I completely forgot, that was another issue, and one I'd already posted! Ugh, stupid me. Guess I'm still brain-fried from the long drive back from Orlando. Then damn, why the hell is THIS comic so expensive in every back issue bin?! Harvey's appearance in this comic is just a cameo, but even though it's one of my favorite cameos, I didn't want to shell out $20+ for a single comic, and I don't ever download torrents of comics, partially because I never could figure out how.

Thankfully, I just discovered this seemingly-abandoned Picsaweb account with quite a few classic Batman scans, plus some recent stuff from Under the Hood and Batman R.I.P., about which I couldn't give a pair of pears. And there, among many neat and never-been-reprinted treasures, I found scans of that issue I was looking for, the first scene of which I present to you here:

At the edge of Arkham, New England, stands the asylum of the criminally insane... )


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