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Sometimes, a character can dominate a story while barely appearing in it at all. I'd call this the "Harry Lime" effect, after Orson Welles character in The Third Man. Welles' Lime only appeared on screen for about ten minutes of running time over just three scenes, yet he's the most celebrated and memorable part of the film.

Fittingly, Harvey Dent has been used this way at least twice: the first being that wonderful Aparo-drawn issue of The Brave and the Bold from the Bronze Age, and today's story, "Here's Your Hat, What's Your Hurry?" from Detective Comics #755, by Greg Rucka:

That cover image actually has nothing to do with what happens in the story. Hell, Two-Face's appearance is actually something of a spoiler, but the cover gave it away entirely, and I don't imagine it would have been much of a surprise to you guys here. So I'm including the image anyway, mainly because it's just a wonderful illustration by the great Dave Johnson, whose amazing work I can never fully enjoy without remembering the mishap I had trying to get a Harvey Dent sketch from him at New York Comic Con a couple years back I still love his covers for Rucka's run on 'Tec, which was a generally-solid run that seems to be strangely ignored these days.

I think the problem was that it was hindered by being in continuity, which meant that it had to tie into crossovers like Joker's Last Laugh and the tediously overlong Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive epic, which served no other purpose than to temporarily shed light on the problem of Batman being too much of a dick before ignoring his character epiphany entirely Loeb and Lee's Hush came around. To top it off, the vast majority of Rucka's run wasn't collected in trade, so it's seemingly been forgotten and/or ignored. Many stories from Rucka's run should be considered classics, including this one, so why aren't they?

I think it ties to the big problem with ongoing comics continuity, which is that some truly get stories and scenes get swallowed up by the bigger stories, thus not allowing them to stand on their own as they would in a one-shot or graphic novel. This happens to TV series as well. I mean, no one can really enjoy a great episode of The X-Files the same way without thinking about where the series eventually went from there, y'know?

Today's story itself can't stand up as a solid standalone issue, since it directly follows the events of Officer Down and also leads directly to what will become Bruce Wayne: Murderer, but it still features wonderful moments nonetheless, and perhaps one of the all-time greatest Two-Face bits ever.

Two-Face crashes Jim Gordon's retirement party behind the cut )

P.S. Hey guys, sorry for the utter lack of any updates, but I imagine you can guess why. Updates will be slow going for the next few weeks, as will new chapters of Dent. Henchgirl's helping me edit the next chapter during the rare moments when we're feeling intelligent enough while Hal is fleetingly sleeping. It'll be a huge-ass chapter, though, enough to tide you over, but we just need to get it edited just right before then. Silly me, thinking I could actually stick to a weekly deadline with a baby! How could this possibly have gone wrong?
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So I've been seeing these die-cast lead figurines of DC and Marvel characters for the past couple of years, which are apparently imported from either the UK or New Zealand. Have you guys seen these as well? This is the Harvey figure:

Many more pictures of it and other DC figures can be found at this Flickr account. They're all rather neat, especially the Riddler and Scarecrow figures. What I like most about the Two-Face one is how it makes the interesting choice to put the tacky suit on the good side, letting the horrific scarring play off of a rather nice light gray suit. It's very much Two-Face as ganglord, the kind of guy who gives orders and passes judgment rather than getting his own hands dirty, if he can help it. So yeah, it's neat.

But what interested me way MORE is the booklet that came with the figurine, which included the origin and history of the character, three recommended stories, profiles on allies and enemies, and more.

I was hesitant at first, fearing that it would be nothing more than one great big Jeph Loeb wankfest. And while it was a lot of that, it was also surprisingly comprehensive when it came to a post-Crisis history of the character! This is the only time I've ever seen anybody (in a professional publication, no less!) go into detail about Harvey's abuse, plus include the "contribution" of serial killer Dr. Rudolph Klemper to the unleashing of Two-Face. It's quite well-written and compiled, thanks to Jim McLauchlin, whom I believe was the same Jim McLauchlin who helped make Wizard magazine halfway readable back in the 90's. I keep forgetting if it was McLauchlin or Pat McCallum who made that mag great when it great.

That said, there are flaws. I know that some of you suggested the idea that Eye of the Beholder and The Long Halloween didn't have to negate each other, and could both count as canon. That's exactly what this does, and it actually kinda works... until you get to the part where the twist ending absolutely makes NO FUCKING SENSE. Don't take my word for it! Read it for yourself, both in the origin and in the last scan, which provides a synopsis for TLH specifically.

Warning: SPOILERS for The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Hush, and Face the Face. Really, is there anyone reading this who HASN'T read those storylines? If not... well, you ain't missing much. There's a reason why I haven't reviewed them here yet, even though those are arguably the most high-profile Two-Face appearances to date.

Ten HUGE scans behind the cut! )

The rest of the booklet looks at profiles of allies and enemies (with Harvey, sometimes they're both), which was an assortment of choices that were alternately basic (Batman, Gordon, Gilda, Renee), knowledgeable (Paul Sloan), acceptable (Penguin? I guess) and bizarre (the Suicide Squad? Oh, Salvation Run, yeah, I guess that kinda doesn't make any sense at all?). After that, we get a history of Gotham's organized crime, from Falcone up through to Black Mask, which of course completely goes for the skull-face Mask characterization. Whatever. Why do I care? I'm really wondering. Eh.

I know my tone was largely critical and exasperated, but in all honestly, this was a pretty great history of the character. I'd be very happy if this were somebody's first exposure to Two-Face, rather than just any one story. It's certainly a fair sight better than his pages on Wikipedia or ComicVine, although I'm certainly doing my part on that count.
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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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There are no Christmas-themed Two-Face stories.

The closest we have is pre-scarred Harvey getting beaten up by the Joker in the Christmas issue of The Long Halloween. Harvey never has a happy holiday. There's not even a one-panel cameo of him wearing a Santa hat, one probably put there by the Joker, just to piss him off.

So instead, I'm going to take this opportunity to post one of the few light, fluffy, fun, and outright cracky Two-Face related stories of all time. In fact, it has to be the single oddest Harvey story I've ever read.

Why is it so odd, you might ask?

In Detective Comics #753, Harvey wrote and drew his own comic book. For *therapy.*

Smack-dab in the middle of Greg Rucka's run on 'Tec, right before the big Officer Down storyline, this issue was a tie-in to the theme running through all the Bat-Books: "This Issue... Batman Dies!" in which... Batman died every issue. Well, of course, not really. It basically had the villains fantasizing each issue about how they'd kill Batman. Whatever potential the theme had went mostly unfulfilled.

But it's safe to say that no one took the concept places the way Rucka did.

I met Mr. Rucka around mid 2000 at Wizard World Chicago, mainly to geek out about Two-Face with the guy, who was vocal in his love for the character (I remember when he suggested casting Chow Yun Fat for Harvey in his dream Batman movie... certainly a bold choice with potential, I'll say that!), and he told the little seventeen-year-old me that he was writing an issue for the "Batman Dies!" event which would take place from Harvey's POV... both of them. Half the page would be how Harvey sees the world, while the other half would be Two-Face's perspective.

A thrilling idea for a Two-Face fan. I'm still waiting to see that story.

The issue we actually got... well, look at that image above. Not at all what anyone was expecting, was it?

And if you think that's odd, you should read the issue itself...

Harvey Dent: former D.A., current criminal... future comics creator? Judge for yourself behind the cut! )

Honestly, I'm not sure why the hell he still couldn't make comics. They're so cheap to produce, especially if you're not mass-producing them, that they couldn't be putting any strain on Arkham's budget! They're just being dicks! Then again, I don't know if it's a good idea to leave pencils or pens in Harvey's hands.

Still, if it was so effective, it makes you wonder what might have happened if he was able to do a second issue. Or better yet, what if some janitor at Arkham found the issue and decided to self-publish it, or sell it on eBay? Hell, what would the real Renee have made of it? Eh, she probably would have scowled and sighed. That's pretty much what she did where Harvey was concerned.

And once again, I'm saddened by Half a Life, and very much hope that Rucka (or somebody else with as much talent and respect for the characters) can continue their story someday. And who knows, maybe we'll even see the second issue of The Adventures of Copernicus Dent and His Best Girl and Plucky Assistant R'Nee! I kinda doubt it, though.

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it! No matter what you end up doing, I hope you have a better holiday season that Harvey ever will!
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Before I get to the actual post, there's a photo I've gotta share with you guys. At a strip mall in PA, at a store I won't name (it rhymes with Shmot Shmopic), while I was totally not listening to Lady Gaga on the store's awesome headphones, I saw a guy there who happened to have the Best Tattoos Ever.

Behold this blurry iPhone photo of the aforementioned Best Tattoos Ever )

Now, onto the actual post!

So hey, remember how I was all like, "How come we never found out what happened between Two-Face and Renee Montoya after they first met, and he let her keep the coin? Even in the novelization, we never heard about what really happened next! What the hell?"

So it figures that, literally two days after I posted my final part of the big NO MAN'S LAND posts, I track down a copy of BATMAN CHRONICLES #14, which features Greg Rucka's very first work for DC Comics, an illustrated prose piece that focuses on Renee Montoya and her brother Benny. And while it was published six months (two issues) before "Two Down," the story where she and Harvey met, it was actually a sequel in prose form!

If you're like me, this is huge! And if you're not... well, I hope you at least find it mildly interesting.

I'm guessing pretty much no one's read this story, or else somebody probably would have brought it up already. Greg Rucka's first work for DC is a obscure oddity, almost entirely forgotten and never reprinted, that serves as the lost first (or second) chapter in Greg Rucka's decade-long saga of Renee Montoya.

And while Harvey Dent isn't actually in this story, his presence is definitely felt throughout.

Benny found me on the stoop of our parents' bodega, flipping the coin and watching the empty street... )
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Here we are: he fourth and final part of this epic NML comic/novel post! Thanks to everyone who's been reading and commenting. These posts haven't exactly been skimmable, so I appreciate everyone who took the time to read and chime in! For those who haven't, here are the links to Part One, Part Two, and Part Three!

In this all-Rucka finale, we compare the comic and novelization versions of the climactic mock-trial of Jim Gordon at Two-Face's hands, with Renee Montoya in the middle. But while these two versions are largely similar, they've gotten to this same point from rather different roads around the stuff in Part 2.

By this point, one version of the story is a thriller about two innocent people forced to play the games of a madman, while the other version is a more character-focused piece surrounding the trial of one man's soul.

Order in the court behind the cut! )
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Best idea I've heard all week: someone should write a novelization of LOST.

Just do the entire series in a single book. Perhaps like THE STAND, but even better edited to incorporate all the good stuff, cut out the dead weight, and revise things so that it all works better as a whole.

Because that's the inherent difficulty of writing for long-form serialized format, be it in TV or comics: no matter how well you plan it out, so many things can go wrong that can create plot holes, dropped threads, inconsistent characterization, etc. Maybe it can be avoided if it's all done by a single (extremely talented) writer, but it's damn well impossible with multiple writers.

That's why Greg Rucka's novelization of NO MAN'S LAND is largely superior to the original comics, both of which I've been rereading for the first time in years for these posts. He's able to iron out the kinks from the comics, even the ones he himself had originally written, while cutting out pointless subplots and letting other story elements breathe.

By and large, the actual stories of both are the same, with one major exception: the shared arcs of Jim Gordon, Renee Montoya, and Harvey Dent. Last post, it was the same, but with some added scenes of Harvey and Renee's interaction.

But starting here, the actual chain of events alters and their motivations deepen, turning what originally was a better-than-average crime/adventure story into something rather more complex and soul-searching.

Very little actual Batman behind the cut )

Next week, the grand finale: Jim Gordon('s soul) on trial, with Two-Face as the prosecutor, Harvey Dent as the defense, and Renee Montoya stuck in the middle.
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Last week's Two-Face Tuesday--focusing on the early days of NO MAN'S LAND, the epic story where Gotham was reduced to a lawless wasteland following a massive earthquake--featured just barely a cameo by ol' Harv himself.

Over the course of these posts, it should be clear that the true focus is Jim Gordon. He's the one who makes the hard decisions here, and it's his soul ultimately on the line. But with today's Part 2, he pulls Renee Montoya into his drama, taking her as his partner as they deal with the devil: Two-Face.

But just how much of a devil is Harvey? After all, Renee saw a very different side of Harvey when they first met, which was the last we'd actively seen of Harvey since NO MAN'S LAND actually began. Renee Montoya was around, but no mention was made about what happened after she extended her hand and offered to help Harvey, who trusted her so much that he even let her keep his coin.

So what did happen? The actual comics offered little by way of explanation, but Greg Rucka's own novelization of BATMAN: NML offered a unique "director's cut" version of their saga. By and large, I vastly prefer the novelization, but it's hard to explain why without comparing to the comics.

So for those who don't mind a bit of reading, I've made scans of both as my own personal super-edit of the NML saga, including what really was going on in poor Harvey's head when it came to Renee Montoya:

The sweeter side of Mad Love behind the cut )

Next week, Part Three: two sides of the same story, a girl named Cassandra Cain ruins Harvey's day, and things REALLY start to go downhill for everybody involved.
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So I've been rereading BATMAN: NO MAN'S LAND, both the original comics and the novelization by one of the comics' leading writers, Greg Rucka.

What really struck me is how, unlike the vast majority of multi-title crossovers (especially one that ran for an entire year!), it was far more based in character than action and events. The only part that really feels like an EVENT is the finale, which feels shoehorned-in compared to the rest, right up to the gratuitous use of the Joker and the gratuitous death of a relatively major supporting character.

But much like THE DARK KNIGHT--another story with a large cast of Gotham citizens--the human core of the story is Commissioner Jim Gordon. Really, in the real of all-time great DC comic characters, I think Jimbo has to be in the top ten. He's perhaps the only life-sized character in Gotham City, as heroic as he is human.

(Personally, I thought it was a huge mistake to lose Gordon as a cast member. OFFICER DOWN was a good story, but what was the point in having GOTHAM CENTRAL without Commissioner Gordon? Or Harvey Bullock, for that matter! Bullock, Gordon, and Renee Montoya are the holy trifecta of Gotham Police awesomeness, and to lose 2/3rds really robbed GC of what it could/should have been. But that's another rant.)

But a key component with being human is to be tested, and for one's flaws to show through. And as this is Jim Gordon post-BATMAN: YEAR ONE--where he cheated on his pregnant wife with Lieutenant Sarah Essen--it's a hell of a character to throw in the middle of NO MAN'S LAND.

And while this is Two-Face Tuesday and Harvey features very prominently, I think the best way to kick off his series is to look at where Jim Gordon is psychologically and emotionally as NML kicks off... and where he finds himself before too long.

We are two of a kind, Commissioner... )

Next week, Part 2: Gordon gives Renee Montoya a mission, Two-Face makes his move, and bonus extra scenes exclusive only to the NML novel where Harvey Dent and Renee are reunited. You do not know awkwardly cute until you have seen Two-Face with a crush.
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Crime novelist Greg Rucka's first two DC comic stories kicked off a journey that he'd follow all the way up to his recent, lamented departure from the company. Everything from NO MAN'S LAND, HUNTRESS: CRY FOR BLOOD, 52, CHECKMATE, THE QUESTION, and BATWOMAN, it all stems from these two stories where a pair of Gotham's toughest heroines reluctantly team up with face-related men: one with no face at all, and the other with two too many.

"Two Down," which appeared in Spring 1999's BATMAN CHRONICLES #16, is credited by the first-page blurb as the story where "Rucka first proved his mettle in comics," although the previous issue--Winter 98's BATMAN CRONICLES#15--published Rucka's "An Answer in the Rubble." Maybe the second one was published first, but either way, they make a fascinating pairing. Particularly now, twelve years later, as we know how these pairings fell apart... and how the remnants of the two became one themselves.

Kick-ass women and the face-themed men who love them, behind the cut )

I'm considering doing a series of NO MAN'S LAND posts focusing on Renee and Harvey, interspersed with pages from Rucka's own novelization of NML, which I think is largely an improvement over the comics themselves. I dunno how interested anyone would be in scans of just words, but I personally find the comparisons damn fascinating, nerd that I am. Hopefully some of you will too.


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