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.
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
This has to be the single most depressingly tragic tale in all of DCAU canon. It's also, not coincidentally, one of the greatest. But I'd be lying if I said that it was one of my favorites, or that I looked forward to posting about it here.

In the wake of Batman Forever, the second season of Batman: The Animated Series was renamed The Adventures of Batman & Robin, to emphasize the presence of that damn smartass boy hostage. Following suit, The Batman Adventures was canceled (ending with a wonderful Hugo Strange story) and rebooted as Batman & Robin Adventures. What's more, the TBA creative team of Kelley Puckett and Mike Parobeck (a stellar team who had, in my opinion, only begun to produce some of their very best work) were replaced by TAS co-mastermind Paul Dini and original TBA artist Ty Templeton, who took over writing duties from Dini after issue #3.

They hit the ground running with their first outing, the two-part storyline Two-Timer, which was released little over a year after the bittersweetly hopeful Second Chance first aired. Unlike most DCAU tie-in comics, which were largely self-contained and didn't/couldn't really alter the status quo, Two-Timer took the ongoing story of Harvey Dent to new depths of tragedy, apparently shattering the lives of several characters beyond any hope of repair.

So yeah, this story is a downer, but it's not without a certain amount of sadistic glee provided by--who else?--the Joker himself, whose actions here count among the worst things that the Joker has ever done. Which is to say, there's far worse that you can do to someone than just kill them. It's a lesson that far too few writers seem to understand.

Bruce Wayne has a weekly appointment to keep behind the cut... )

If you want to read this or other DCAU Batman comics, you're in luck! The digital comic shop Comixology has made a great many of these comics--most of which are hard to find--available for just .99¢ each! YAY! Their runs aren't complete (they're seriously lacking when it comes to their selection of the first series, The Batman Adventures), but they have ALL of Batman & Robin Adventures (Vol. 2) and Batman Adventures (Vol. 4), plus most of Batman: Gotham Adventures (Vol. 3)! Check out the full selection of them here, and again, they're only 99¢ each, which is a great price to own some of the best Batman comics ever published!

And, of course, if you just want to read both parts of Two Timer, you can find them here and here! Definitely check them out in full!
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Hefner's Note: All screencaps are either by me or have been taken from Worlds Finest Online's review and Two-Face bio page, as well as the seriously lackluster review up at ToonZone. Sadly, there are virtually no gifs from this episode floating around online, which is really disappointing. Between the lack of gifs and the superficial reviews, I can't help but feel like the episode I'm about to discuss with you today is one of the more under-appreciated ones from all of B:TAS. But you'll have to be the judge of that when all's said and done.

The third season episode Second Chance (which you can watch here) is, for all intents and purposes, the first true sequel to Harvey's origin two-parter. While Two-Face became a recurring villain throughout the series, this episode was the first since Harvey's fall, rebirth, and meltdown to specifically focus on the fractured psyche of Harvey Dent, expanding upon the few details that we already knew. Here, we finally get a good glimpse at what's going on inside the mind of Two-Face, and the findings may be worse than we'd feared.

But these elements are all secondary (hurr) to what the episode is really about, which is an exploration of friendship under pressure as examined not just between Bruce and Harvey, but also Batman and Robin. As I've noted in the past, writers have sort of unofficially given Harvey a strange status amongst the Robins, none of whom have ever quite seen eye to eye with Batman when it comes to his unyielding faith in Harvey Dent. Second Chance puts a different spin on that dynamic by setting it in a universe where Harvey was Bruce's best (only?) friend from way before Robin came along, thus creating the friendship equivalent of love-triangle between the three (or four?) protagonists.

All of this is told through a classic-style detective mystery plotted by the Pretty Poison team of Michael Reaves and Paul Dini, whose story contains loose elements of Doug Moench and Klaus Janson's Knightfall-era story Double Cross, both parts of which I've reviewed here and here. The actual teleplay is written by Gerry Conway, the comics stalwart who brought back Rupert Thorne and Hugo Strange and co-created Killer Croc and Jason Todd, a veteran who also has experience with writing Two-Face!

I have mixed feelings about Conway's story because--fun as it was--it disregarded Harvey's previous appearance where he seemed to be on the verge of redemption and reconciliation with Gilda. That was a great, moving story with a potentially happy ending, but a couple years later, Conway brought Harvey back with no mention of Gilda, and he even threw in a blond love henchgirl love interest to boot! Was Harvey's return (and subsequent disregard of the character's own events) Conway's own idea, or was it mandated by editorial who just wanted to have everyone's favorite scarred number-themed villain back with an unchanged status quo? Heck if I know!

What matters is that Conway has experience not just with writing Batman and Robin, but also with making life suck even worse for poor Harvey Dent. A noble tradition, that! Combined with a plotting team whose previous take on Harvey had him as an oblivious romantic fool who spent most of the episode in a coma, these three writers unite to tell the second best Two-Face episode of B:TAS, and one of the key stories when it comes to the conflicts that Harvey represents. Both of them.

Gif by tokomon. Sadly, this is the only gif from the episode that I've been able to find.

You hated Harvey Dent. You would have done anything to destroy him. )
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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?
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
For seventeen years now, I've held a grudge against Shadow of the Bat, the two-part Batgirl origin episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Or rather, The Adventures of Batman & Robin, as the show was retitled in the wake of Batman Forever in order to capitalize on that damnable sidekick.

As you might be able to tell, I don't care much for Robin, and that apathy goes for the Bat-Family in general (save for Alfred), including Batgirl. Look, I've always liked Oracle, but I've always disliked teen heroes even when I was a teen myself. But while I've gained affection to Bat!Babs thanks to stories like the excellent Batgirl: Year One, I still never cared much for the episode, partially because it's the weakest of Two-Face's speaking appearances thus far. Besides being a one-note character, he's barely involved beyond simply being a villain, and not even the story's real villain.

But that alone isn't why I resented SotB. No, you see, back when WB first released a series of B:TAS home videos, they dedicated each tape to two episodes featuring a single villain. For the Riddler's tape, they included If You're So Smart, Why Aren't You Rich? and Riddler's Reform. The origin and his best episode, that's probably the wisest pairing you could make. For the Joker, it was Christmas with the Joker and The Laughing Fish. Okay, a classic-but-weak episode paired with one of the best, fine. You get the idea. And then, there was Two-Face's tape, which had some pretty great cover art:

Love it. So! For Two-Face, you'd think that the only obvious two episodes to include would be his two-part origin, right? That's just obvious, right? Ha ha, nope. Instead, they went with Shadow of the Bat: the Batgirl origin with Harvey as a minor supporting villain. Rassum frassum!

... Well, okay, I suppose that fifteen years is long enough to hold a petty grudge against an innocent cartoon episode with never did nobody no harm. Besides, I've come to better appreciate this story thanks to the YA novelization Dual to the Death, which combined this with Two-Face, Pts. I and II into a pretty seamless single epic: the fall of Harvey Dent, and the rise of Batgirl. What's more, combining those two episodes made me realize how even his minimal involvement here contains important continuity for his character development.

But most of all, I found myself fascinated by SotB's TRUE villain: Gil Mason, a corrupt cop who seems to be an alternate-universe counterpart to Harvey himself. Seriously, whether it's intentional or not, Gil seems to be the evil mirror-universe version of Harvey Dent, a true Two-Face who doesn't even have to get scarred. It's the parallels between Harvey and Gil which I find fascinating, all the more so because they're in cahoots.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's finally get to the damn review already, and maybe I'll even acknowledge Batgirl's existence along the way! No promises, though.

Would it have made a difference, Gil? )

While I'm still not crazy about the episode on its own merits (although Babs really won me over this time around), I now enjoy it way more when I take the details and motivations of the novelization into account, so much so that I now wish I would see Harvey's reactions to learning about how he was manipulated by Gil from the very start. Even if Gil did come out of the coma, he wouldn't be long for this world now that he's on Harvey's bad side, which would resolve that plot hole rather nicely.

What I'm basically saying is that I like SotB far more for what it could have been rather than what it was, which is still a pretty mediocre Two-Face appearance. But in my own head-canon, it's a GREAT episode, and I think I can deal with that. Old VHS tape, you are forgiven.
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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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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.


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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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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Even by 1992, Dick Sprang still had the chops. So no giggling at his name, now.

Batman: Two-Face Strikes Twice was a really, really great idea on several fronts.

In a general sense, the gimmick was perfect: a two-issue Two-Face mini-series telling two different stories at the same time: one in the style of late-period Golden Age, the other in painted "modern" style. The concept alone has so much potential for nostalgic fun (Outlandish deathtraps! Corny dialogue! Giant oversized Dick Sprang object set-pieces!) as well as commentary on how superhero storytelling has evolved over the years, for better or worse. More specifically, the story provided a rare showcase for Two-Face, a character who has evolved considerably between his first appearance in 1942 and TFST!'s publication in 1992.

... Hey, I wonder if it was meant to be a 50th anniversary celebration of the character? That hadn't even occurred to me until just now! If so, TFST! was more than just a gimmicky Two-Face caper through past and then-present: it was a love letter to Batman in general, and Harvey Dent specifically. Oh, how very... very bittersweet.

Unfortunately, it's far from perfect. While author and Batman stalwart Mike W. Barr pretty well nails the entire retro story down to a surprising detail, the "modern" counterpart falls short like wowzers, mainly because Barr pretty much writes in the exact same style. There's still cheesy dialogue, bad one-liners, and groaner "two" puns, only now everyone uses computers and half the cast rocks mullets.

Also, cape technology had apparently grown by leaps and bounds.

But before I trot out a summary judgment of "noble failure," let's take a look at the Harvey-centric parts of TFST!, which are all the more important for featuring the last canonical modern-day appearance of Gilda Dent before The Long Halloween came out and pretty much ruined the character forever. Why, no, I'm not bitter, why do you ask?

I... I didn't want you to hear this from a stranger, Harvey... I'm getting married again... )
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One of the all-time great Two-Face stories is also, in my opinion, probably the worst thing to ever happen to him as a character. Which is to say, I love Two-Face Strikes Again! as a classic example of 50's Batman at its Sprang-iest fun, but I hate how it changed Harvey in ways that can still be seen in most bad Two-Face stories today.

So yeah, not to go all Chuck Dixon on you with the puns, but I'm of two minds about this one.

Also, I'm not sure who the hell drew that lousy cover, but I'm betting it wasn't Sprang. It's not often that a comic's interior art so greatly outshines the cover. That said, what kind of farm uses catapult tractors, and where the hell can I get one?

The problem with this story isn't just the way Two-Face is written, nor the way in which he's brought back. In some ways--and I can't believe that I'm saying this--Two-Face never should have returned at all! I suspect that he was never MEANT to be a recurring villain, based on the fact that the original Golden Age "Harvey Kent" trilogy was just that: a complete story, one which ended with the character's redemption and rehabilitation.

Sure, there were new Two-Face stories that followed, but as it seems like Bill Finger and company didn't want to sacrifice Harvey's happy ending, they decided to have it both ways by introducing a series of Impostor Two-Faces, each of whom became progressively ridiculous to fit the title's shift towards the Silver Age and, eventually, Adam West. This was also, mind you, the Golden Age of crime and horror comics, especially from EC, and thus it was in this iconic final stage of Batman's Golden Age--the legendary Dick Sprang era--that the temptation apparently became too great for DC. It was time to bring back the One True Two-Face.

This, of course, meant ruining Harvey Kent/Dent's happy ending, and the implied subsequent divorce from Gilda. Boo-urns! That would be bad enough on its own, but could have worked if the story continued the original trilogy's themes of duality and tragedy. Except that we were in the Sprang era, so LOL NO. The returned Harvey Dent more closely resembled the outlandish evil silliness of Impostor #3, George ("Here comes DOUBLE TROUBLE! HAHA!") Blake rather than the morose and surprisingly complex Harvey Kent. What once was a powerfully tragic and sympathic figure became a freaky-looking maniac obsessed with the number 2.

Now, that's not to say the story isn't fun as hell... )

If you'd like to read this story in full, you have SEVERAL options, as it's been reprinted in four different volumes: Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder: From the 30's to the 70's, Batman in the Fifties, The Greatest 1950's Stories Ever Told, and Batman VS Two-Face.

The scans from this post have been taken from the last collection, and I suspect those pages were recolored for either the 1950's or Fifties collections. If you'd like to see what the ORIGINAL printed pages and coloring looked like--including Harvey's original gray scarring--you can read them here. I recommend it, as the original coloring is what's going to be referenced in the next post, when we finally look at Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams' Half an Evil.
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From what I've read of Devin Grayson's Batman: Gotham Knights, it strikes me as an incredibly underrated series that focused on character first and foremost.

This isn't surprising, as I recall reading that Grayson was introduced to Batman via The Animated Series, and I suspect that she brought that show's character-based aesthetic to comics better than any of her contemporaries. Her treatment of Poison Ivy and the Scarecrow in that series as are as good as anything from the TAS comics, and she wrote one of my very favorite Two-Face appearances with just one poignant page.

Hell, she's so good, she's actually been able to make me care about Dick Grayson and the Bat-Family in her four-part storyline, "Transference," from Gotham Knights #8-11. It's not a perfect story, undone in places by being a tad convoluted, but it's great nonetheless. Furthermore, it features a plot point which predates what Grant Morrison did with "The Batman of Zur En Arrh" several years earlier, and--in my HUMBLEST of opinions--did it better.

On top of that, it features one of the great "context is for the weak" panels:

Context for you weaklings (along with a pretty great story) behind the cut )

This story has never been collected in trade, but all four parts are currently available as a digital comic on DC's Comixology app site for $1.99 per issue. And if you'd like to read the very first issue of Grayson's Batman: Gotham Knights, it's up on the same site for FREE. I'm still not a huge fan of digital comics (maybe I'd like them better if I were using a tablet), but I'm glad to see them available in some form. Check out the free comic, at least. After all, it's the way of the future!

Way of the future. Way of the future. Way of the...
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Sometimes, I just don't know where to begin writing a post. Such is the case when talking about Duela Dent.

You know, the Joker's Daughter, who was actually the daughter of Harvey and Gilda Dent, except no wait, what, that makes no sense but CRISIS! and now it makes even less sense and COUNTDOWN and what? Exactly. You have one of the muddiest clusterfucks of a character this side of Zero Hour Hawkman. Maybe not a clusterfuck, exactly, but more like a character who went through several reinventions in rapid succession while making no impact and being met with resounding apathy. She's kind of the Madonna of failure.

But for a second, let's not forget that there was a time when she actually was meant to be Two-Face's daughter, for reals. Even though she was introduced in 1977 as a criminal dressed as the Joker and calling herself "The Joker's Daughter," it was quickly revealed that she was actually Harvey Dent's long-lost child, and that her crimes were more along the lines of "malicious mischief" to prove herself worthy of joining the Teen Titans. Because Dick is apparently a good-hearted idiot, this plan works and he vouches for her membership, which she wins (although Speedy don't trust that dame one bit, no siree).

I should probably mention that I haven't actually read those issues, and am just going by 1.) what I've learned on the Duela's profile on TitansTower.com, and 2.) the following storyline, wherein the big confrontation finally happens:

Daddy's Little Crimefighter (hey, don't blame me, that was the actual story's title!) behind the cut )
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Two-Face never officially showed up in the definitive Nightwing run by Chuck Dixon, which is odd considering the personal history that Dixon came up with for Dick and Harvey. Even after Dick got some sense of closure by defeating Harvey in Prodigal, the specter of Two-Face continued to haunt Dick through his run, and it was clear that the former boy sidekick still had issues with his Batman's fallen ex-ally. The only time Harvey made a personal appearance in Nightwing was a small but cool cameo at the start of #14, set in a flashback to the Dyanmic Duo days:

These pages are busy as hell, but I rather like them because I like Scott McDaniel in general, and not just because he's one of the top Two-Face artists out there between Batman/Two-Face: Crime and Punishment and Daredevil and Batman, which I still need to post about here sometime once I can get scans. I understand why people don't like his work, but there's something so kinetic and intense going on in whatever he draws, which he draws like no one else.

I may have done this piece a disservice by not including the second half of the two-page spread of both Batman and Robin attacking Harvey and his henchmen, but my scanner simply isn't big enough and I lack any kind of photoshop program to splice the two images together. Also, it's Dick. Feh, Dick.

Finally, I'm a sucker for anybody who draws Two-Face sans coat with shoulder holsters. That doesn't make up for the shirt, though. Really, I love Ty Templeton's idea that Harvey's father was a used car dealer, because at least now we know where Harvey's evil side got his fashion sense.
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This is a big one. Grab a snack.

I've been putting off reviewing Batman: Face the Face for five years now. Every time I started, my criticisms melted down into curses and incoherent ranting, until my computer screen became obscured by rabid spittle. Okay, it wasn't THAT bad, but still.

In some ways, it's actually an ideal introductory trade paperback to get into Batman. Like Hush, it's a murder mystery that also serves as a tour of Gotham's inhabitants, and it was immediately followed by Grant Morrison and Paul Dini's runs. Unfortunately, it's also deeply frustrating, especially if you're a fan of Harvey Dent.

This was the first story to use the character in the three years since Hush, since Loeb supposedly had plans for Harvey hich kept him in limbo until those plans would reach fruition. They never did, and I think folks at DC wanted their precious status quo back in place. I also understand that Two-Face is Dan DiDio's favorite villain, which may have been a factor. In any case, Face the Face is one of the most significant Two-Face stories in canon, and also one of the most painfully frustrating. After five years, I finally have the words to explain just why.

The lost year of Gotham's Unknown Protector, Harvey Dent )

Batman: Face the Face can be purchased here if you wish to read the story in full, including the Tim Drake subplot, several other Rogues doing their Rogue things, and the entire issue dedicated to Harvey and Two-Face's discussion. As mentioned above, it also serves as a gateway to the comics which are coming out today, leading directly to Dini's Detective Comics and Morrison's Batman.
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The most recent Impostor Two-Face might also be the dumbest. Not surprising, as he's written by Denny O'Neil: master of the shallow strawman villain, at least from his run on The Question.

Don't get me wrong: when Denny's good, he's bloody amazing. His out-of-print Ra's al Ghul origin Birth of the Demon is one of the greatest Batman comics ever created, and certainly the finest take on the character. But when he's off, he's pretty off, but sometimes is a gloriously-bad way. Case in point: Last Rites: The Last Days of Gotham, his two-part story which mainly served to transition Dick Grayson from being Nightwing to becoming Batman after Batman R.I.P., taking place very shortly after Dick made Harvey's life even worse in The Great Leap.

The final Impostor to date is a thug named Gracchus, a little nobody thug who even has his own Circe counterpart, who also just happens to be one of the more insufferable original characters in recent memory.

The Fake Two-Face and the Face of Gotham, behind the cut )

Thus concludes the complete history of Two-Face impostors over the years, six in all (or eight, if you count the different reasons for Batman, and the Post-Crisis take on Paul Sloan). If I've forgotten anyone, please give me a heads-up. It's kind of a shame that this odd tradition should end in a character like Gracchus, but I'm sure he won't be the last. If anything, he carried on the Golden Age idea that it doesn't suck to be Harvey Dent so long as you're not actually Harvey Dent.
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I feel bad for plowing ahead and ignoring the third Impostor, poor George Blake. Maybe it's because Blake's story is the only one that's been reprinted (in an affordable edition, anyway), but it might also have to do with the fact that "The Double Crimes of Two-Face" is kind of... well... stupid.

But historically, it's a notable story for those geeks who care about such things (hi guyz!). This story feels largely like a retread of the first Impostor story with Wilkins the Butler, with the added similarity to Impostor #2 Paul Sloane by giving Blake a background in theatre. At the same time, it's on the cusp of the Silver Age, which means outlandish camp, paper-thin premises, and crack galore. As such, I think Blake's story influenced the actual return of Two-Face, when Dent got rescarred and went on a ridiculous spree right out of the Adam West TV show.

So yeah, this story ain't good. But it's plenty of fun, and the cover is also one of the greatest Two-Face covers of all time. It's also, I might add, a clue.

What's wrong with this Two-Face? You'll be amazed at how long it'll take anyone to figure it out )
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I really jumped the gun with my "Two-Face Impostors" series... in more ways than one! Appropriate enough, I suppose.

When I first started off, I wasn't sure what I was going to do with all these Impostor appearances. Should I do full looks at each individual Impostor story? One big post with superficial looks at them all, and seeing how they match up? Or that same idea, but broken up over individual posts? It seemed that I initially opted for that last option, based on the wimpy treatment I gave to the very first Impostor Two-Face: Wilkins the Butler.

This, I now realize, was a grave injustice. Not only did I give the short-thrift to the very first of a long line of Impostor Two-Faces, but his own story has never been reprinted! While I've never read the whole issue myself, and the scans I have on hand are incomplete, I would be remiss in not chronicling that story here for posterity's sake! Batman #50 is notable not just for featuring the first impostor, but also the first time that Harvey Dent was named Harvey Dent, not Kent.

But more than that, I think it's actually the most interesting of the Golden Age "impostor" stories, largely because it creates a genuine psychological crisis for the real Harvey Dent in a story which simply could not be retold today.

The Return of Two-Face (well, obviously, not REALLY, but pretend like you don't know that) behind the cut... )

There, poor Wilkins finally received the proper about_faces treatment. If Impostor #2 Paul Sloane can get a great modern age revision, I wonder if there'd ever be a way to bring back Wilkins in some capacity. It'd be even better if we could also throw Impostor #3 into the mix, whom I'll FINALLY be looking at in the next post or two.
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Hey, it's been awhile since I posted another part of my series on all the Impostor Two-Faces, hasn't it? This next one is part of a larger story arc, Nightwing: Year One, which reunited the team of Chuck Dixon and Two-Face familiar Scott McDaniel.

Of course, it wouldn't be right to have a story about Dick Grayson in a formative period of transition without Harvey along to help! Unfortunately, the real Two-Face was unavailable, so instead, we have... Alfred?

Be warned: scans are a bit smaller than I intended. It doesn't help that the actual letterer seems to be writing smaller than usual. But I'm too lazy to upload and recrop the images again, especially for this trifle of an appearance. But for the sake of completion, here it is, hopefully presented in a way that won't strain your eyes too much.

Heads or tails, sir? )

Since I may not have done this story justice by posting a middling subplot out of context, you can read the full thing in the complete Nightwing: Year One collection, which is... out of print? Jesus, DC, what do you have against Chuck Dixon that most of his works are out of print?!


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