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Hiya, folks, [livejournal.com profile] about_faces here! It's with great pleasure that I introduce today's guest review, courtesy of long-time commenter and seasoned critic, [livejournal.com profile] abqreviews! I'll warn you, this is a long one, filled with TONS of photos, but I promise you that all of it is very, very worth your while. I loved this post, especially since virtually all of it was news even to a great big geek like me. This post is a treasure trove of crack-filled delights, and I am honored to host it here. If you like this and would like to read more of the reviewer, you can do so at his blogspot blog, Out of the Quicksand. And so, without further ado, I bring you...

The Great Rogue Rip-Off!
Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love imitation Batman villains from the 40s."

Jokers, Cat-women, Clayed-faces, Two-faces, and more behind the cut! )
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Remember that time back in 1987 when Batman finally had enough and just outright killed the Joker and Two-Face? )

Chris Sims wrote about the Carma saga (if a two-parter can be called a saga), if you’d like the full rundown. It might just be my favorite of Max Allan Collins’ Batman stories, and Carma is a character I’d like to see revisited.

Maybe he could go after an Impostor Two-Face or two? Hell, have him be manipulated by Hugo Strange, and then maybe we could have an entire clash of Impostors! You could use the fake Jokers from Marv Wolfman’s post-Death in the Family story, and David Hine’s recent one! The Catwoman wannabe from Hugo’s own story in Gotham Knights by Devin Grayson! And... um... who else is there? John Astin as Impostor Riddler!

As far as Impostor Bat-Clash stories go, it certainly sounds like a much better idea than this all-too-real video game which is actually being released:

Good god, it’s like Frank Miller’s Mutants versus the Jokerz through a Kick-Ass filter. How in god’s name did this get greenlit? And more importantly, are those two gangs your only options?
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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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I've been repeatedly trying and failing to find the original Dick Tracy comic strips featuring the villain known as Haf-and-Haf:

Painting by waltyablonsky, which you can actually purchase right here.

Debuting in 1966 by Tracy creator Chester Gould himself, Haf-and-Haf was--to put it bluntly--an obvious Two-Face rip-off. But considering he was ripped off by Gould, who was himself one of the biggest influences on Batman's own rogues gallery, I can't bring myself to fault the man. Especially considering that Haf-and-Haf's appeared during Harvey's seventeen-year absence from comics.

So I've been wanting to read the original Haf-and-Haf story myself, but it's simply not in print. Anywhere. Not even online. Now, IDW is reprinting all of the Dick Tracy strips in chronological order, but that means we're several years from ever seeing the volume which will include Haf-and-Haf.

In fact, the only strips I've been able to find were these pages of original art for sale at some hoity-toity auction site:

A brief glimpse at the origins of Haf-and-Haf )

Yeah, he gets the whole full half-body acid-bath treatment. What's more, the character is explicitly depicted as constantly being in horrible pain.

I still have little idea what actually happened in this story, or how it ended. One thing is clear, though: Haf-and-Haf survived, which was damn uncommon, as Gould almost always killed off his mobsters or at least sent them to prison, where they stayed.

I'm no scholar in Dick Tracy (I'd like to read more), but from my limited exposure, Gould's criminals were cold-blooded killers, vicious and without the theatricality of Batman's, and they always faced harsh, inescapable justice. Gould was hard-line to the point of being a bit wacko, as evidenced by cartoonist Jay Lynch's autobiographical comic recounting the time he and Robert Crumb met Gould. Yeah, this wasn't a guy who was interested in redemption or empathy. While Haf-and-Haf may have copied Harvey's style, he had little to none of Harvey's tragedy or sympathy. He was a bad guy, period.

So it's all the more strange that he survived to return in a later Tracy storyline by Gould's successor: Max Allan Collins, a crime writer who would go on to write Batman and--most notably--create Jason Todd. Or at least, the post-Crisis Jason Todd who was an impulsive little thug that few people liked and who ended up getting killed by the Joker. Collins also came up with the idea that this Jason Todd's father was a two-bit mobster, who ended up getting killed by his boss... (wait for it)... Two-Face!

As a writer who straddled both worlds, it's interesting to see that Collins reintroduced Haf-and-Haf as an ex-con who had gotten plastic surgery:

I love that even with his face fixed, his hair and mustache are half-white. I'd kind of love to see that on a reformed Harvey Dent, where his hair still comes in as gray or silver. At the very least, he'd have to dye it, but I like the idea of him leaving it as it is as a reminder, even as it marks him for his once (and future?) criminal life.

A slightly-less-brief-but-still-brief-nonetheless look at the return of Haf-and-Haf )

Yeah, at this point, Collins didn't seem to even be trying to hide the Two-Face similarities. But I dunno, maybe he wanted the character to stand up on his own, to strike his own style, to...

Ah. Well, never mind, then. Unless you count the addition of the snazzy cravat.

At this point, I should mention that I honestly think Haf-and-Haf is even more grotesque than Harvey. There's something about the way his face actually seems to be melting, with his eye seemingly eaten away under the twisted flesh. At first glance, Henchgirl even thought that his white hair made it look like his own brain was exposed, which I now can't un-see. Ewwwww.

I've only been able to find excerpts of this story, but while I don't know how it resolves, it's clear that Collins gave Haf-and-Haf an ending befitting Gould's world:

No ceremony. No grand final lines. No dying words. Just bam, dead. Dick Tracy was hardcore, violent, and unforgiving stuff, man.

One last thing: in looking for any other images or info on Haf-and-Haf, the same hoity-toity auction house offered a vintage set of Dick Tracy buttons, which are pretty awesome in their own right.

I'd totally wear several of these )

If any of you have info on Haf-and-Haf and/or Tracy in general, please feel free to share it with the rest of the class. :)
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Alternate title: IMPOSTORAMA: The Fake Two-Faces! No. 6: Paul Sloan (No "e" at the end)!

I wanted to give the subject line to the actual title, because it deserves more attention than simply as the focus on an "impostor Two-Face" story.

In early 2003, while "Hush" was well underway in BATMAN, DETECTIVE COMICS writer Ed Brubaker penned his own six-part murder mystery that tied together all of Batman's rogues in a secret conspiracy to kill the caped crusader. And unlike "Hush," which brought in a brand-new character to fulfill the double-cliches of being "long lost childhood best friend" and "totally obvious red herring," Brubaker dusted off the concept of Paul Sloane for "Dead Reckoning," but with a modern twist.

In doing so, he created a far more interesting original villain than Hush himself, one with tons of potential who, of course, hasn't been seen nor mentioned since. For that and many other reasons, I lament that this story was utterly ignored in favor of "Hush." Not that this story isn't without its flaws--oh my, it has them--but we'll get to those inside.

If anyone actually still uses dial-up, then beware! 42 pages behind the cut! )

It kind of boggles my mind that no one's done anything with the Charlatan since this story, back in July 2003. He hasn't even gotten so much as a cameo in an Arkham cell! Such a shame. Just think of the potential for an insane method actor and master of disguise with the inability to feel fear!

Plus, just imagine: he could have an in-Arkham romance with Jane Doe... assuming the two could find one another. And maybe since he's a lover of Lon Chaney and Boris Karloff, perhaps Sloan's an admirer of Basil Karlo! I could totally see the Charlatan and Clayface putting on a grand theatrical production of crime and horror. But then, maybe that's just the ham actor in me.

Alas, it's not to be until this story gets better recognized for the Bat-Classic it is, and deservedly collected in trade. You'd think they would, now that Brubaker is Ed Fucking Brubaker, and they've been mining pretty much all the rest of his Bat-stuff, but they've still ignored his best story.

If this story had a more appropriate artist (ohhh, could you imagine Sean Phillips drawing this?), or a superstar on par with Tim Sale or Jim Lee, I can't help but wonder if it might have gotten far more attention. For all its flaws, it's still one of the very best Batman stories of the aughts
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As we saw in the last post, Paul Sloane was notable as an impostor Two-Face because he was the only one who was genuinely scarred, genuinely nuts, and genuinely thought he was Two-Face, while the others were just pretenders trying to frame poor Harvey Dent.

Once Sloane was defeated, he sank into obscurity until 1987, when Mike W. Barr brought him back for this story, which also throws Harvey into the mix in a reversal of the typical Impostor story. As this cover might indicate:

The following are excerpts Detective Comics #580 an #581, by Mike W. Barr (who writes one of the corniest Two-Faces ever, full of terrible, smackable puns) with art by Jim Baikie.

Two-Face vs. Two-Face behind the cut! )

The idea of a new Two-Face is an intriguing prospect that should have been utilized while Harvey was "healed" in the years between Hush and Face the Face. A new Two-Face shouldn't be a carbon copy of the original, but should rather be used to explore themes of duality, fate, and justice in ways that Harvey Dent can't (or shouldn't), while Harvey himself could have gone on to have much more interesting character development as a wild card antihero.

That was the last appearance of this Paul Sloane, but thanks to a wonderful gem by Ed Brubaker, we're not done with the character just yet.
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Today, let's look at the first appearance of the second--and most enduring--of the impostors: Paul Sloane!

Like Harvey Apollo, this Two-Face was originally an actor, and I can't help but think that the Apollo story influenced this one. But unlike that out-of-canon ham actor, the in-continuity Sloane was actually more of a method actor who got a little too deep in the role! Of all the in-canon impostors, Sloane is the only one who was genuinely scarred and snapped, rather than playing dress-up to frame Harvey.

In fact, Sloane's Two-Face may have affected Harvey's subsequent appearances more than we suspect! We already saw how Batman dressed up as Sloane dressing up like Harvey, and how Sloane was the first Two-Face who actually seemed to have fun being evil, all the way up to an image that damn well feels iconic:

The greatest of the impostors, behind the cut! )
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Reading the Golden Age Two-Face stories (half of which featured impostors in the role!), though, I've noticed a trend that carried through through those versions of the character. The more I noticed it, the funnier I thought it was. I'd actually intended to let that pattern unfold here with each post, rather than make it explicit, to see how many others would see the pattern too.

That was the plan, anyway. Until I neglected to do the IMPOSTORAMA posts in order, and one after the other in a week. So instead, let's treat this like a Gotham night sky and throw a great being spotlight on this pattern, which will hopefully amuse you guys as much as it does a geek like me.

All Golden Age Two-Faces find it absolutely hilarious and fitting to escape on bikes.

No, really. All of them.

First, we have original Two-Face, Harvey Kent, in DETECTIVE COMICS #68:

Then, Harvey Dent's butler, Willis, pretending to be Two-Face to frame Harvey in BATMAN #50:

Next, Paul Sloane, the method actor who went insane after getting scarred while playing Harvey Dent in a TV movie, from BATMAN #68:

I like how he seems to have more fun being Two-Face than Harvey Kent did. Maybe that has to do with the fact that he's using a bicycle, not a motorcycle. Lends itself much more to ringing the bell and going "wheeeeeee!" in your crime spree escapes.

But that's nothing compared to the next Two-Face, George Blake, another actor also trying to frame Dent, from DETECTIVE #187:

Because really, there's escaping on a bike, and then there's escaping on a bike while wielding an axe and laughing maniacally. Blake wasn't really crazy, but he was clearly having a blast.

By the time Harvey Dent returned as Two-Face in BATMAN #81, we were right in that era that would inspire whole episodes of the Adam West BATMAN show. We're on the cusp of the Silver Age (I'd even consider this story far more Silver than Golden in sensibilities and snazzy Dick Sprang art).

We never see him escape in this story, so perhaps this Two-Face would still use a bike. But considering what he goes on to actually commit crimes, I'm guessing that bikes would just be thinking too small for this Two-Face...

Oh, NOW he uses a cut tag! )

On one hand, I hate this Two-Face for losing all the tragedy and character depth. On the other, wheeeeeee! Maybe they should bring back George Blake to be the fun, ridiculous Two-Face, and he can have team-ups with Impostor!Hatter in a Sprang-themed crime spree!

But for good or ill, this is the only Silver-Age-ish appearance of any Two-Face (save for Batman himself, long story). The character vanished from continuity for seventeen years until Denny O'Neil and Neil Adams brought him back at the birth of the Bronze Age. And thus, the love affair of Two-Faces and two-wheeled escape vehicles has been lost to time.

Clearly, if anyone wanted to cheer up Two-Face, they should buy him a bike. He'd be the happiest guy in Arkham. At least, until the Joker slashes the tires.

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Yeah, I'm skipping ahead. I just found this one, and I can't wait to post it. Paul Sloane and George Blake will have to wait.

So for all intents and purposes, there wasn't a single Harvey Dent appearance in the Silver Age of comics. He essentially bypassed the entire era until the birth of the Bronze Age, where Denny O'Neill brought him back.

However, an impostor Two-Face DOES make one single Silver Age appearance. The twist here is that the impostor isn't just another crook trying to frame Harvey or take up the mantle! So who... is... Two-Face?

Yeah, didn't see that one coming, did you? Wait'll you see the actual story itself!

An oddball Silver Age gem from 1968's Worlds Finest Comics #173! )
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Hey, remember when I started to do my series on the various Impostor Two-Faces over the years, and then never did a second entry? Yeah, neither did I until a couple days ago! Whoops!

So today, I offer you a link to the story of the SECOND impostor Two-Face: Harvey Apollo, ham actor!

Actually, I don't know if he so much counts as an impostor since this Two-Face is from a different continuity. Perhaps I should differentiate between impostors (in-canon people pretending to be Two-Face) and alternate versions (Elseworlds, etc).

In this story, featured in the Sunday comic strip of Batman and Robin, they decided to take a different tack with Harvey. Instead of a crusading D.A., he's a pompous actor who longs for the spotlight. It's an oddball choice, but fascinating to consider how they came up with that idea.

After all, an actor has better (or at least, more obvious) reason to be self-conscious and vain than a District Attorney. And in original Harvey Kent story climaxed with a grand cinematic heist, which has greater meaning for a villain obsessed with the stage. It gives the whole finale a grander sense of theatricality. I can't help but think the strip's author(s?) took either of those elements as the core inspiration for this new version.

Of course, if you've clicked the link and read the story, you know that it's a short-lived crime career, which may be another reason they went with a new, less tragically sympathetic Two-Face. Yet I can't help but think that his death is rather undeserved. I mean, really, Batman? The state would have hanged Harvey for robbery?

In either case, I can't help but have a soft spot for Harvey Apollo, as I'm something of a ham actor myself IRL.

about_faces: (Reading the Newspaper)
The first of several quick overviews of the other men who would be Two-Face, as if anybody would actually want to have Harvey's life. Today, we look at the very first impostor, as seen in the pages of BATMAN #50: "The Return of Two-Face!"

Wilkins (no other name revealed), butler to the now-sane Harvey Dent, who suffers nightmares about becoming Two-Face again.

The stats on Harvey's own duplicitous Anti-Alfred behind the cut! )
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Today, I present the first of several upcoming looks at Two-Face cover appearances over the ages. Feel free to skim past my blathering and commentary to just look at the neato pictures, if you're so inclined! :)

Note: all cover images taken from comicvine.com, my #1 source for character appearances when I'm trying to track down, say, a minor cameo of Highfather making Two-Face cry in an issue of NEW GODS. Yes, it happened. But I'll save that for the Cameos Megapost down the line. :)

So! Where better begin than where it all began: THE GOLDEN AGE! )

I'm also planning on looking at all of the Impostor Two-Faces over the years, but I can't decide if I should do them all in one post, or in a series of posts, since lord knows I can ramble on sometimes! Furthermore, I can't decide how many scans I want to include. Whole pages (but not whole stories)? Or choice panel snippets with commentary?

Do you folks have any preferences either way?


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