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: (Default)
Preamble: While I will be discussing this book to the best of my abilities, I know that there's nothing quite like seeing a work that's being critiques yourself rather than just hearing the critic's description. As such, if you're interested in checking this book out for yourself, I have found three separate extensive previews of this book: two over at Google Books here and here, plus this preview over at Scribd.

Each of the previews even include some pages that the others omit, including some that are relevant to this review, so try checking them all out for your perusal. Plus, all previews include links to where you can purchase the book if you're interested to read the whole thing. If you'd like to just purchase the book directly from Amazon.com, here you go. Otherwise, let's press on!




While I've always had little use for those unauthorized books that try to examine Batman through the lens of philosophy or religion*, I was really intrigued by the prospect of Batman and Psychology: A Dark and Stormy Knight by psychologist and Batman fan Travis Langley.

Behind the cut, I attempt to criticize the analyses of an licensed psychologist. Sure, why not? )

What do you think, folks? If you've read the book or even just a few excerpts online (see Preamble), do you agree or disagree with Langley's analyses? How would you diagnose any of the Rogues? Let me know in the comments!

Also, if anyone thinks that the links I used for psychological terminology are inaccurate or outdated, please send me along links to better articles and I shall edit accordingly!



Note: *Footnotes are now found in the comments! The second one became a long rant about Nolan's The Dark Knight that I needed to get off my chest. Think of it as a bonus tirade!
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
Welcome to the final part of our triple-feature review of Harvey taking a supporting role in the show to pal around with his "fellow miscreants" in episodes of Batman: The Animated Series.

In the show's second and third seasons, when it was retitled The Adventures of Batman & Robin, there were a lot of episodes which felt like sequels, follow-ups, or spiritual relations to classic episodes from the first season. For origins like Two-Face and Feat of Clay, and Heart of Ice, you got sequels in the form of Second Chance, Mudslide, and Deep Freeze. In that sense, I've always felt like today's episode, Trial, was akin to Almost Got 'Im, partially because of a couple winks by writer Paul Dini.

And so, hot on the heels of that classic episode, let's see if Dini can recapture the same magic as he examines the fandom-old question of whether or not Batman's mere presence "creates" his own rogues gallery. And while we're at it, let's also examine just why it might not be a smart idea to put all of Gotham's worst insane criminals under one roof.



Wherein the Arkham inmates take over the asylum, put Batman on mock trial, and force the new bat-hating D.A. to defend him. Watch it here!

We got some legal business to settle first, behind the cut...! )

Next time, I shall tackle the second-best Two-Face story in all of B:TAS, which shall finally allow me to get us back to reviewing the DCAU comics by the likes of Dini and the great Ty Templeton. I'm really looking forward to getting to those after all this time.
about_faces: (Default)
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: (Default)
So as I was waiting with trepidation for the new issue of Tony Daniel's Detective Comics to hit DC's Comixology app for download and subsequent review, I thought to myself, "John, you haven't caught up with the Arkham City tie-in comics, have you? Do you think that maybe Harvey's made a new appearance there yet?"

Um... yes. Yes there was. And it's... interesting. No, you get no context. You don't need any.

SPOILERS for the new 'Arkham Unhinged,' out today for digital purchase only! )

I should mention that I've really been enjoying the comics, entitled Batman: Arkham Unhinged. It's not super-brilliant, but it's generally the best depiction of the Rogues in any format nowadays, and the Two-Face/Catwoman story in particular was far, far superior to the Two-Face of the game itself. I would have reviewed that story by now, but I was planning on holding off until I reviewed Hugo's roles in the game and comics in-depth, and I can't do THAT until I get to ALL THE OTHER HUGO STRANGE STORIES FIRST AND I NO WANNA DO THOSE FEH so maybe I should just get to it anyway. I'd also like to review the Killer Croc story, which is literally the first to look at his origins in depth since... what, his first appearances in the early 80's? Geez, that's inexcusable.

If you want to read this or any of the other Arkham Unhinged digital comics, they can be purchased here at Comixology for 99¢ each!
about_faces: (Default)
So here's something that I forgot actually existed until I found it hidden in a comic box. The first issue of Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle's Shadow of the Bat was released in the full 90's "ZOMG COLLECTORS ITEM BUY TWELVE" treatment, sealed in a polybag along with other assorted goodies. These included two mini-posters, full blueprints to the then-new Arkham Asylum (wish I still had those), a bookmark, and this:



Huh. Well, that's... something. Okay. Here's what was on the other side of this thick, flat paper:



Oh! Okay, a list of the inmates. Well, that's nice. Heh, "Dishonor Roll," I see what you did there. Wait, whose heads are those supposed to be? Joker, Hatter, and Harvey? Wait, hold on, I think this thing folds out and OH MY GOD:



To thirteen-year-old me, this was one of the coolest goddamn things ever. And not just because my three very favorite rogues at the time were featured at the top!

I like how Penguin and Catwoman (in her gray Batman: Year One outfit!) are there, but on the outside of the building. It’s like, “Hi guys, we’re in this rogues gallery too, but we're not insane! Can we join in?” Also, I love you, Jervis, but honestly, what the heck are you doing up there alongside Joker and Harvey? Silly Jervis. I blame Grant Morrison. Finally, I love Croc peeking up over the roof. I’m not sure what the hell he’s supposed to be doing there, and I don't care. I approve of roof!Croc.

I was so glad to see that I still had this, even though I have no idea what I can do with it. I want to display it somewhere, but that's impossible. I guess it's just one of those little geek pleasures that must hide in a box until it's nearly forgotten, only to be rediscovered and dusted off every now and again.

So let this be a heads-up to Marvel, DC, and anybody else who is seemingly hellbent on reliving the dark 90's: if you're gonna seal up your comics in polybag, at least throw some cool swag inside. That would almost make the pathetic sales-desperate practice worthwhile. Because this? This is awesome.
about_faces: (Default)
Since it's the second time this year that we've had a Harvey-relevant date, I would be remiss if I didn't post SOMEthing! It can't be the review for Two-Face, Part II just yet, since that's far from complete. The first one was a ton of work, and hard as hell to compose, but your enthusiastic responses were so awesome that it's fired me up to put the same effort into the second half. Thanks for that.

So what can I post today? How about a double-dose of quick single-page cameos?

Let's start with one from Detective Comics Annual #4, an oddball story by Louise Simonson and Tom Grindberg. You don't really need any context for this page, since it's a pretty random and pointless Two-Face cameo, but for the curious, here you go: in a possible future, Batman's final battle with Ra's ends with the Demon dead and his own body smashed on a cliffside. When an adult Tim Drake takes up the mantle of Batman, he's swiftly murdered by Talia and the League of Assassins, prompting a sullen Bruce Wayne to create a concealed exoskeleton and go searching for the identity of Tim's killers. So where better to go than to visit one of the usual suspects?



"... he has a box of tricks," Harvey says, in voice-over on the next page, "and he's playing both sides against the middle." Figures: after a whole page assault of puns, the only one that really thematically works isn't even on this page! The Joker proceeds to tease Batman with the clue that will lead him to Talia, knowing that the revelation will eventually lead to both Bruce and Talia's destruction.

So yes, in this alternate universe, this page is the final encounter between Batman and Harvey, who is left with nothing more than a coin bent by a cybernetic Bat-hand. I like to imagine him now trying and failing to adequately flip the warped coin, and eventually giving up. Hey, maybe without the coin and Batman alike, that could lead to his eventual rehabilitation in his universe? I'd certainly like to think so, but I doubt the Joker would let that happen. The Joker is an asshole.

Speaking of Harvey, Joker, and Talia, that brings us to our second page, one from several years earlier: 1983's (hey, my birth year!) All My Enemies Against Me!, from Detective Comics #526, commemorating Batman's 500th appearance in that series!

The issue served as the culmination of Gerry Conway's original Jason Todd and Killer Croc storyline, bringing in a veritable Who's Who of Batman greatest enemies, including several soon-to-be-forgotten guys like Captain Stingaree and the Spook. Since Croc is trying to "steal our thunder" by trying to kill Batman, the Joker proposes that the villains all team up to beat Crockers t the punch, but one villain, Talia, decides to opt out. Joker doesn't approve, and a brief fight scene breaks out as the Joker demands that the other villains not let her escape.



I don't know what I love more: Harvey being genuinely unpredictable by adhering to the coin's rulings and his own sense of ethics, or the Joker calling him a loony. Also, I adore how the coin's trajectory spun over two panels. It's something that can only be done in comics storytelling, and I wish that more artists would play with the art form's unique capabilities more often. I'd love to see more Two-Face stories written and drawn in ways that only work in comics.

Harvey appears elsewhere in this issue, but aside from a couple wonderfully-drawn panels by Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala, there's nothing else of specific note for the Two-Face fan. If you'd like to read more of the issue, I've found the first nineteen pages scanned and posted up here. Don't hold your breath about the rest of the issue getting posted, since whoever runs that sites seems to have left it abandoned.

Still, the site is well worth investigating, since there are several great stories posted there in their entirety. I recommend checking out The Messiah of the Crimson Sun, a fantastically odd story with fucking STUNNING art by Trevor Von Eeden and a wonderfully cracked-out ending that, I promise, will throw you for a loop. Even more highly recommended is Alan Brennert's The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne, which is one of the greatest Batman comics ever. Period. One of these days, I'm finally going to write that post about the brilliance that is Alan Brennert, who might well be my favorite Batman writer of all time. If he ever wrote a Two-Face story, I think my head would explode.

Okay, back to working on that Two-Face, Part II review.
about_faces: (Default)
So not long after I wrapped up my Twelve Days of Who's Who marathon series, the great Grantbridge Street posted scans from that issue of Detective Comics with the awesome Dick Giordano cover of the Rogues Gallery. You know, this one.

The issue itself was something of a filler, with Batman and Jason Todd going through all the rogue profiles with the purpose of catching readers up with the villains before the big blow-out anniversary issue, Batman #400. Both issues were less remarkable for their stories by Doug Moench and more for the showcase of several great artists, including main Detective Comics artist Gene Colan, who drew the pages below.

Colan, who recently passed away, has a devoted following from his decades of comics work. While I love his artwork as a whole, the way he draws characters has often felt lacking, and the below images give a nice sampler of his portraiture talents. The bios by Doug Moench also show

Dare you prowl the dark knight's rogues gallery (by Gene Colan) behind the cut? )
about_faces: (Default)
One thing I neglected to mention in the last post is to give credit to the DC-Whos-Who Tumblr feed, where I've found the majority of these images. If you like character profiles and great art, I HIGHLY recommend checking scouring through his entires. There is so much greatness to be found there, and far beyond just the Bat-Villains.

But of course, the Bat-Villains are what mainly interest me, so shall we continue?

Too bad, because I'm going ahead anyway! )
about_faces: (Default)
By 1990, I suspect that DC was tired of the increasingly-crappy printing quality they were giving to their Who's Who books, and probably wanted to step things up for the collector's market. This is pure speculation on my part, just going by the fact that the new editions of Who's Who were a much higher quality, with better coloring and slick, glossy paper. The biggest change for these profiles was that they came in looseleaf tear-away binding with holes so you could organize them in a three-ring binder any way you wanted: by character name, by heroes and villains, by all Batman/Superman/cosmic characters, etc.

While we had snazzy new updated Who's Who profiles, very little actually happened to most of the characters since they were last written about in previous entries. Aside from the art, the written entries (many by Mark Waid!) were largely identical. Bear in mind, this is just before Batman: The Animated Series, Knightfall, and other stuff which would have greatly affects the biographies of the Batman villains. If DC had waited another year or three, the many profiles would have had more to say rather than pretty much rehashing everything we know already.

Nonetheless, the new art makes the lack of new information plenty worthwhile. Many of these portraits and stellar and timeless, perfect for use in your average wiki entry as a definitive take on these rogues.


A spiffy new bunch of Who's Whos, plus a couple new Who's Thats, behind the cut )

Man, I didn't intend to begin and end this part with Grant/Breyfogle creations! Maybe it's a sign that I need to finally collect that entire run and read it through, as well as the early Shadow of the Bat stuff. Grant's work is rarely what I'd call stellar, but it's proving more interesting, remarkable, and entertaining than I used to believe. If you folks have some favorite Alan Grant stories, let me know if the comments!
about_faces: (Hugo Strange)
So, I can't wait any longer. I need to rant about the characters in Batman: Arkham City.

Understand, this is completely out of the order I had intended. I wanted to wait until I had finished my series on the Complete History of Hugo Strange, but I've put off the next few posts because 1.) I really don't like most of the upcoming stories, and 2.) I don't have scans of Batman and the Monster Men, Battle for the Cowl: The Network, nor the stuff by Tony Daniel and from David Hine's Arkham Reborn. I really wanted--and in some ways still need--to post those before I seriously look at how Hugo was handled in the B:AC game and comics.

But birds gotta swim, fish gotta fly you heard me!, Hef gotta rant! For one thing, this is the most high-profile exposure that the rogues as a whole have gotten since Batman: The Animated Series. For another, the big twist about Hugo Strange pissed me off so much that it not only ruined every bit of enjoyment I had for the character in the game, but it also put a damper on my love of the character as a whole. It was THAT annoying.

Now, I haven't actually played B:AC, since--surprise surprise--Dell laptops suck and thus can't support the game via Steam. So I was forced to watch this series of playthroughs, one of the few without player commentary, and just focused on the character stuff. I ended up having to do the same with the original Batman: Arkham Asylum, which I still haven't played either, but that was a far more painful experience. B:AA was not a well-written, well-performed game. I'm sure the playing experience was amazing, but the viewing experience was tedious and irritating, largely because of the Hot-Topic-ified versions of the rogues, the uninspired voice acting of everyone involved, and ohmygod the Joker at the end WTF still.

B:AC was so much better in every damn way in regards to how they handled the characters and story. Between the first game's success and the new urban demilitarized setting, it's like the designers knew that they didn't NEED to reinvent the characters, and pretty much kept them intact (with some changes) to roam freely, interact, and wreak havoc. I approve! ... But not, of course, without some criticisms.

A perfect example is what was done with the Penguin.



Gotta admit, I'm surprised by how much I liked Pengers here, much as I hate the inexplicable voice, overly-sleazy characterization, and lack of stylish flair in the form of no top hats, cigars instead of cigarette holders, and--most stupid of all--a broken bottle in the eye. Oh yes, that's no monocle! Because he's now GRITTY, you see! How very stupid. And yet, I liked the character regardless. He came off as a more interesting villain there than he has in the comics for YEARS, save for great flukes such as Joker's Asylum: Penguin.

If you'd like full thoughts on this version, I wrote them all up at my Tumblr, but know that I'll eventually be incorporating many of those thoughts into my eventual Penguin Appreciation Post. Hell, I'll probably do a whole Penguin Appreciation Week to go with it! But that won't be for a while yet.

After posting that, someone on Tumblr asked me what I thought about how the rest of the villains were handled. For the most part, my thoughts will be spoiler-free, and I'll save the spoilers for the end. Don't worry, you'll get warning and a lot of blank space.

Either way, if you don't want to be spoiled, avoid reading the comments.


75% spoiler-free, followed by a spoiler warning and then 25% ALL OF THE SPOILERS behind the cut )



Otherwise, neat game. Looking forward to actually playing it someday.

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