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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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Disclaimer: this post was written over several exhausted days, in increments averaging two sentences at a time, between feeding and changing and burping a baby. Rambling, tangents, and incomprehensible gibberish may occur.

With this weekend comes the biggest comics event of the year, Comic Con! And with Comic Con, comes news and hints of upcoming stuff like comics from the DCnU reboot and Batman: Arkham City! And with that news, comes... many questions. Important, strange, nagging, bothersome, deeply annoyed (and perhaps annoying!) questions.

Why, why, and WHY OH DEAR GOD WHY, behind the cut )

So what do we know about the state of the Batman characters in the DCnU? Still pretty much nothing, but I'm decidedly more annoyed now than I was before, when I was just aggressively apathetic and mildly concerned about the immediate future of these characters I love. If these comics and this game are the current state of Batman stories, I get the feeling I'm not going to enjoy any new Bat-related stuff for some time.

*I've heard nothing but amazing things about Scott Snyder's current work on Detective Comics, especially the James Gordon Jr. storyline, but I'm afraid to read it. Everything I've heard makes it sound far too bleak for my enjoyment, especially considering that someone's finally remembered that James Jr. exists only to turn him into, what, a sociopath monster? Is that what happened? Has anyone else been following 'Tec, and can you tell me if it lives up to its hype?
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Sometimes, seeing online scans of a comic I've already read allows me to read the story in a different light, sometimes to such extremes that it makes me feel like I'm only now reading it for the first time.

Such was the case when [livejournal.com profile] tungstencompton posted snippets from Denny O'Neil's "Duel," the first Legends of the Dark Knight Annual, starting with the opening sequence by Jim Aparo. Now, this comic didn't do much for me the first time I read it, but seeing these excerpts online gave me a whole new appreciation for this story, and what it means to one of the most controversial Batman questions out there. But to actually say what that question is would be a spoiler in of itself.

So with permission from the OP who scanned the pages in the first place, I'm reposting the Aparo pages here for several reasons, not the least of which being that I think it's some of Aparo's best artwork ever:

(Ala Brad Pitt) What's in the bag, what's in the bag? )

After his glory days in the Bronze Age, Aparo's art seriously seemed to go downhill once he let himself be inked by someone else in stuff like A Death in the Family. Even when he inked himself again after that in stuff like the Knightfall era comics, it just wasn't the same. He seemed more stuff, less dynamic, more of a relic from a bygone era rather than a timeless master as fans like me have always seen him, and always will.

Looking at the above scans, I have to wonder if he was just let down by the poorer printing and coloring quality of regular Batman books, as opposed to LOTDK's prestige format. I'm not sure he ever looked quite this good in any story since, with the possible exception of the GCPD police mini-series, since Bill Sienkiewicz's inking makes EVERYBODY look better. But there's nothing quite like the pleasure of Aparo inking and lettering himself in stories such as this and this.

That said, I do make some exceptions, mainly where nostalgia is concerned. For example, I'd give up a moderately-sized toe to own this:

That right there is the first page of the first comic I ever read, and I'm incredibly jealous of the guy who actually owns it. Needless to say, this page had quite the lifelong impact on me.
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I've been putting off talking about Batman: Arkham City ever since I read the spoil-tastic description of what seems to encompass Harvey's entire role in the game. On top of that, recent reports on how they plan to depict the Penguin also made me roll my eyes and solidified my apathy towards the game.

No, game creators, Oswald has actually NOT "always been portrayed is as quite an aristocratic, well-spoken gentleman who's got these twisted delusions of grandeur," thus necessitating you to re-envision him as "a really horrible, nasty piece of work - but still with the delusion of grandeur." Oh, so you mean, Danny DeVito's Penguin, which has subsequently influenced comics' Penguin by making his a crass, nasty, ugly, brutish thug--and subsequently a far less interesting character--more often than not? Because if that's the case, you're not doing anything different with the character to actually make him better or more compelling.

Since last week, I've been waffling as to whether or not I should finally post about B:AC now that we got a better glimpse of Harvey's character and voice in trailer where nobody noticed Harvey because they were all too distracted by Catwoman's ass:

My Henchgirl, wearing her fan-hat as the now increasingly-internet-famous (and it's about damn time!) [livejournal.com profile] dr_von_fangirl, posted her own Selina-related thoughts right here, and she nails the pros and cons better than any of the many comic news outlets weighing in with their own thoughts... none of which, I should add, are commenting on Harvey at all. Even besides the reasonable explanation of Selina!Ass by way of Selina!Badass, I fear that Arkham City Two-Face is painfully standard, and that he's not even going to receive any kind of fan boost the way Harley, Joker, and that ridiculous version of Scarecrow have. Seriously, Squishy looks like 25% Freddy Krueger and 75% Slipknot band member. And he has a fan following. Because of course he does.

As such, I still saw no need to write about this game. So hat happened? Welp, first-hand reports came out of the first ten minutes of gameplay at E3, some videos of which have made it to YouTube! Unfortunately, there's no straight-forward gameplay, just ones with creator commentary played over the top. That said, there are videos with occasional patches of clear dialogue, so for an expanded look at Harvey's intro in the above trailer, cue this video to 6:35 (picking up right at "FEEEEEAR... that's how we get respect," and notice what happens next):

Actually seeing the footage... well, it still don't look great, but there's one small but vital-to-me detail that the description in the like at top failed to mention. Let’s take a closer look at it in screencaps, all of which I’ll put behind a cut for those who want a pure gameplay experience.

Spoilers for the (only?) Two-Face section of <i>Batman: Arkham City</i> )

I doubt we’ll get any such answers in B:AC. With Harvey snagged and hoisted by Batman by this scene’s end, it seems clear to me that Two-Face is out of the game entirely. At that point, the only things keeping me even mildly interested in Batman: Arkham City are Mark Hamill’s supposed final go-round as the Joker, the Riddler (a great shot of whom you can see in that last video if you cue to 17:10. I think he’s my second favorite character design in the game) and of course, Professor Hugo Strange. Especially Hugo, as this looks like a return to Hugo greatness that we haven’t seen in over a decade. I need to post that particular Gotham Knights story soon, even if I can’t still finish the Hugo Strange series for a few more months yet.
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My scanner's out of commission for the time being, which will make my ability to post reviews rather interesting over the next couple months. On top of that, the unholy spawn of Hefner and the Henchgirl should be born within the month (it damn well better!), all while we're in the process of moving AND while I'm ramping up to perform at the Capital Fringe Festival here in Washington, D.C.

What does this mean for about_faces? That depends. I have a handful of scans for things which I'd meant to post about at some point, including the Gilda-specific aspects of Two-Face Strikes Twice! and The Long Halloween, although not the rest of those stories, so full reviews will have to wait until later. Aside from that... well, you guys might finally be starting to see some fic of my own here, as Henchgirl has been pushing me to gradually release my Harvey Dent novel here, the one which I've been writing for... about five years now? What am I on, draft eleven? Thereabouts. I think it's finally ready to be done.

So keep your eyes out for that, if you're so inclined. And for folks who prefer reviews/scans/news, I'll scour through my photos and see what I can use to pepper up about_faces so it doesn't totally become my own personal fic dispensery. I want this place to be about Harvey Dent and the Bat-Rogues, not just my own personal take on Harvey Dent and the Bat-Rogues.

To emphasize that commitment, I offer you one of my favorite pin-ups ever.

Aparo makes me so happy in places that like happy things. I even love the fact that they've all apparently chosen to drink champagne out of martini glasses, because they're classy AND they break all the rules!
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Before I left my home, my Henchgirl, and my scanner behind to perform in the Orlando Fringe Festival*, I scanned a few small bits to post if I ever got the chance. As I'm taking an early night in, I'm back to offer a fun (and slightly TMI) cameo appearance from Harvey in the pages of Denny O'Neil's Azrael.

Harvey had a small supporting role in a two-part storyline where Jean-Paul Valley broke into Arkham Asylum looking for one of his old enemies. Unfortunately, he ran into a whole lotta released inmates, led by the Joker, who was using Harvey (and his coin) to judge where they should take their fun. The story itself is so unremarkable that I can't remember the plot details (it doesn't help that I don't own the preceding issues), but it does feature a few moments of Harvey crack, most notably these panels:

... ewwww. Welp, I don't think anyone's going to try taking his coin now.

Slightly extended context, plus one of the sadder times that Harvey's been punched in the face, behind the cut )

*Someone in my audience today actually asked me to about my Hush rant. I truly never thought there would be any crossover between my Two-Face fandom friends and my Fringe performance artist friends. Now, if only there were a way to make money by combining solo performance with comic geekery...
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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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It’s a shame that one of the most important things to ever happen to Harvey Dent as a character occurred in an overblown mess like Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee’s Batman: Hush.

It’s even more of a shame that no one developed Harvey from there on, instead leaving the character to gather cobwebs in limbo for THREE YEARS before utterly squandering all that potential in Face the Face. In an exercise of sheer masochism, I shall review both to examine all the great potential that DC pissed away in the name of mediocrity and the damned status quo. But before I can even analyze Harvey’s role, I need to go over his appearances in Hush as they actually played out. Be warned: this will result in a LOT of bitter, bitter sarcasm. I loathe Hush, both the story and the character, but I won’t be able to review the story as a whole for two reasons:

1.) I’m only interested in Harvey’s story, not in any of the seventeen other subplots happening at the same time in this poop-strewn labyrinth

2.) I like my blood pressure where it is, thank you very much.

So yeah, fair warning to those who love Batman: Hush. If you wish to defend it in the comments (or correct me on any details I might have missed), feel free. I won’t bite your head off, I promise! I know that this is a popular and beloved book to many, so I don’t want to step on any toes, but I simply cannot accept this story as anything other than crap... not even considering what he does with Harvey, which is admittedly pretty cool.

By which I mean, MY version of Loeb does with Harvey. Because I'm not sure even Loeb knew what he actually did.

The return of Harvey Dent (but not his hair) behind the cut, along with lots and lots of ranting on my part )

Does anyone know if it's true that Loeb planned to write a Hush follow-up with Harvey Dent, and thus that's why he didn't appear in comics for three years?
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While I was recently spelunking through the world's most awesome hellhole of a comic shop, I found a copy of Wizard Magazine's all-villain issue, The Dark Book. Specifically, Dark Book '98, their follow-up issue.

I used to be an avid Wizard reader, but gave up due to a combination of the internet and the fact that they were doing shit like this all the time. But I had fond memories of the first Dark Book, since it was a celebration of all things evil and criminal, with little in the way of Wizard's mean-spirited snark. So at $1, I figured why now pick up the sequel?

I found a lot of neat stuff, but most interesting to me are the Batman villain character profiles, complete with "future plans": hints about upcoming events from writers and editors. Some, like Poison Ivy and Scarecrow, accurately described what was happening next with those characters. Others, however, not so much.

Check out what was originally planned for the Joker around 1998:

The Joker... prominent man about Gotham, respected by high society? Now that's a story I would have DIED to have seen, especially as written by Chuck Dixon! For my money, Dixon's one of the best Joker writers ever. Just look at Devil's Advocate, The Demon Laughs, and that Az-Bat story where the Joker has a ponytail and is making a film. All great stories! Just ignore Last Laugh entirely, and Dixon's track record with Joker is excellent!

But that never happened. Why? Because No Man's Land happened instead. And from these "future plans" snippets, it seems like NML was never meant to happen at all! Just like the similarly-disaster-themed Contagion, Gotham was apparently just going to bounce back after Cataclysm! Instead, it got stretched out through Aftershock, before they went on the Road to No Man's Land.

Heh, Road to No Man's Land sounds like it should have been a one-sided buddy comedy with Joker and Harvey. [livejournal.com profile] surrealname, make this happen.

And what about Detective Comics #726, the issue forecast to be the start of "prominent Gotham City citizen" Joker? Instead, we got this one-shot story, which is a fine trade-off consider that it's another example of why Chuck Dixon's one of the best Joker writers ever.

At the same time, he's also one of the worst Two-Face writers. At least, if you're like me and you don't like Harvey written as a raving, evil thug. So I'm relieved that No Man's Land happened, even though I'd love to know what Dixon and Scott Peterson had originally planned:

So Harvey would have fled Gotham for Blüdhaven (still the silliest name for a comic book city), resulting in Dick vs. Harvey, Round 3! It would have been an excellent story for Dick fans, but it's clear even from Peterson's description that Harvey would have continued to be depicted shallowly. Still, I have to wonder if maybe some remnants of Dixon's Two-Face story didn't carry through that next year's stories.

ALSO! In case anyone was wondering, yes indeed, there's proof: The Long Halloween was not canon. Nor should it be, but I suppose, since Devin Grayson made Prey canon (in a great story which I'll finally be posting soon), I guess now all LOTDK stories are fair game for people to consider canon or otherwise, as they see fit. But even still, Jeph Loeb and Tony Daniel be damned, TLH is not now, nor shall it ever be, in actual continuity as far as I'm concerned. So there! *nods*

Finally, not all of the scrapped-plans for post-Cataclysm sounded especially, um, Earth-shattering, if Pengers is any indication:

Oswald Cobblepot: LANDOWNER! Sounds like they were going to turn him from a low-rent Kingpin into an evil landlord out of a 1920's serial. Hell, he already has the top hat! *sings* "You muuuust pay the rent! Waugh waugh waugh!"

Oh, and there was one bit bit of Bat-Rogue fun to be gained from The Dark Book '98:

Behind the cut: the full report, asylum history, budget factoids, and treatment suggestions for prominent inmates )

By the way, I'd like to thank you guys for being fans who actually like thinking about and discussing these stories. I just got called an "idiot" for daring to express my opinions about Gotham Central, yet another reminder than there's very little outlet or interest for analysis or dissension on online comics forums.

I'm currently trying to branch out and post reviews on comicvine.com, but am preparing for the trolls to come a-posting. God knows what'll happen if I dare express my dislike for The Long Halloween. So thanks, guys, for helping give me the best outlet I have for these geeky passions of mine.

At least, until Henchgirl and I get off our butts and actually start our OWN comics blog. :)
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It still strange for me to realize, but I truly think that the best Batman comics of the past twenty-five years are the ones published throughout the four tie-in series for Batman: The Animated Series. Just like the show, these comics are pure, classic Batman, timeless tales that are rich in character and fun, even when they lack actual plot developments. If there were allowed to have an overall plot arc, I'd argue that they're the long-form Batman equivalent to All-Star Superman.

Virtually all of the characters in the show got chances to shine in the comics, which gave even the villains a new dimensions not even realized in TAS. Harvey is no exception. Bear in mind, he was only explored as a character in two episodes (Two-Face and Second Chance), which the rest of his appearances reducing him to being a plain villain or supporting rogue. The comics went a bit further, some of which I include among my Top Ten Two-Face stories.

But for now, let's take a look at the covers themselves... )

Hopefully someday there will be a renaissance of interest in these comics. Even at the time, it was clear that they were popular, rightly celebrated for being superior to the actual Batman comics being released at any given time, yet they remain out of print.

Why? God knows. Probably something to do with the WB's fickle treatment of the animated properties, shunning all but the current televised take as the only version. And while I utterly adore The Brave and the Bold, the TAS stories are still the finest Batman stories ever produced in any medium, and these comics are no exception. I hope that they will see the love and respect they deserve for a whole new generation.

random arts

Mar. 5th, 2011 06:11 pm
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First off, the great [livejournal.com profile] captaintwinings made several awesome icons based on comics I've posted here, and while I plan to use several, my favorite has to be this one:

Unfortunately, LJ hates icons of even moderate size. It's the same problem I rant into too many damn times trying to make .gif icons of my own. Anybody know how to make this icon into a smaller file while still having it look not-crappy in quality?

Every so often, the art round-ups at Comics Alliance yields something related to Harvey and the Bat-Rogues in general. Here are some recent findings:

I've never played Angry Birds, which is apparently a hugely popular app or something, so maybe some of you might find this amusing yourselves:

I promise a post of actual substance at some point. Or at the very least, another batch of covers with commentary.
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I'm not sure at what point people started considering the Riddler to be a joke. It couldn't have been the TV show, since Gorshin's Riddler was rightly celebrated, and I'd argue that he was the only villain there to have touches of genuine menace. Did that just never translate over into comics?

Maybe it's just because I was raised on the Riddler of Gorshin, B:TAS, and his appearances written by Chuck Dixon, but I never thought Eddie was a joke character. I loved the Riddler's flair and penache, combined with his self-assured knowledge that he was the smartest guy in the room. I loved the Riddler to be genuinely brilliant, which may explain why there were so few good Riddler stories: he was just too damn smart to write.

Think about it: Lex Luthor's brilliance can be explained away with mad science or manipulative plots, but to be smart like the Riddler, you need to actually possess the kind of mind that could create and disassemble complex games of intellect. Furthermore, writers have to incorporate those games into actual stories. No wonder most writers just opted to make the Riddler a pathetic character, relying on cheesy puns and hampered by an obvious handicap that always got him caught by Batman.

That's the Riddler we see in this strip. I was disappointed at first, but by the end, I have to admit a great deal of affection for this loser version of Eddie Nigma. This is the Riddler if he were a villain on The Venture Bros, a failure criminal who finally (thinks) he strikes it big, only to get in wayyyyyy over his head.

Squint your eyes to read this preview for some idea of what I mean:

The Deadly Riddle, behind the cut! )

Finally, I'd intended to post this yesterday, so I could end by announcing that yesterday was the 62nd birthday of writer William Messner-Loebs! But then the house's internet went out just as I was wrapping up this post. So, happy belated birthday, William Messner-Loebs!

Coming up next: the grand finale.
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With original writer and creative mastermind Max Allan Collins forced off the Batman strip by dickwad editors, the new creative team of William Messner-Loebs (The Flash, The Maxx), Carmine Infantino (Silver Age legend, co-creator of Barry Allen and Elongated Man), and John Nyberg (The Flash, Doom 2099) took over for the rest of its run.

Here's where things start getting interesting when it comes to Harvey Dent, seen only briefly in Collins' first storyline as a stuffy bureaucratic who resents Batman and fears that the vigilante's actions could result in lawsuits against the city. Under Messner-Loebs, Harvey becomes a full-on supporting character, not just as District Attorney and antagonist for Batman, but also as Bruce Wayne's best friend... two years *before* BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. Until that show, it seemed that no one had ever written Bruce and Harvey as being friends. Batman, yes, but not Bruce Wayne. But this strip did it first, and I can't help but think that Dini, Timm, and company read this strip as it came out.

What I love about this Harvey Dent is that he isn't a saint, but he isn't corrupt either. He isn't a guy with anger issues consumed by his obsession with the mob, nor is he the White Knight of Gotham. This actually may be the most human-sized take on the character before he becomes Two-Face, decidedly different from the festering ball of pain we usually see (my favorite version).

Oh, and it also features some new criminal guy named the Penguin, but I'm sure he's not all THAT important... )
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Note: save for the book excerpts, all images taken from www.worldsfinestonline.com, your one-stop shop for everything DCAU.

Where the hell do I begin talking about Harvey/Two-Face from Batman: The Animated Series? I'm assuming you've all seen the show. Seriously, is there anyone here who *hasn't* seen TAS, or at least the Two-Face episodes?

If not (or if you want a refresher), I've managed to find a couple sneaky YouTube videos of the episodes which will be pertinent to discussion )

So everyone's at least seen both parts of Two-Face and Shadow of the Bat, right?

Of course, I love the former. Even with the lesser second half, it's still one of the greatest takes on the character. There are many details I wouldn't choose, but they work within the story's context so well, that it's still one of the best takes on the character in spirit. But in the latter, he's reduced to just being a standard villain, since the focus is entirely on Barbara's origin as Batgirl. In terms of Two-Face episodes, I'd written it off as one of the least essential.

Then I read this:

As said before, it's a YA novelization which frankensteins both two-part episodes into a single narrative, with some new scenes and surprise guest stars thrown in. So if you're up for it, let's take a look at some of the ways the book reconciles the two stories into one, how it works, how it doesn't, and what improvements are made along the way.

And as we do, I hope you'll indulge my tangents to rant, rave, and ramble about all manner of TAS!Harvey stuff in general... )

*That said, the TAS writers didn't come up with this idea. The Batman newspaper strip first came up with the idea of Harvey as a supporting character at length and best friend of Bruce Wayne back in 1990, around the same time as Eye of the Beholder's publication. I bet that Dini, Timm, and company were fans of that strip, which I'll be posting here soon enough.
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I've been meaning to look at Doug Moench's infamous handful of Two-Face stories, but his first one directly follows events and characters from an earlier storyline: the first appearance of Black Mask. Even still, I never wanted to actually read that story, because if there's one classic* Batman villain I've come to hate over the past ten years, it's Black Fucking Mask.

Thanks to his prominent roles in War Games, he dominated the Bat-books for a couple years, getting big parts in Nightwing, Catwoman, and Under the Hood, thus also appearing in the last one's DVD adaptation, as well as Teh Batman. So I really shouldn't be surprised that this one-dimensional, nasty, pointless, generic, hollow non-character actually has fans. Not surprised, but disappointed.

But why? How the hell did this character become a thing, while better gangster-style villains (the Penguin, Harvey, the Ventriloquist and Scarface) got shoved to the side?

So, as I was already writing about a related Two-Face story from 1985, I decided to check out the original Black Mask appearances by Doug Moench. What I was surprised to discover was that Moench's original Mask in no way, shape, or form resembles the version which DC rose to prominence a few years ago.

I'm not saying he's a good character, mind you. But he's a far more interesting (and cracktacular) character. Hell, just look at the cover blurb:

So yes, prepare for the ultra-modern Batman villain who makes all the other villains look like CRAP! At least, according to Doug Moench.

Push it to the limit (LIMIIIIIIIT) behind the cut )

When Selina killed Roman a second time, I reacted with a weary "finally." But now, after reading Moench's originally stories, I feel disappointed for Ed Brubaker and subsequent writers for wasting what little potential there was for this character, and further distaste for anyone who actually likes the skull-faced version of Black Mask.

Finally, a question: anyone else think that Jeph Loeb ripped off Black Mask when he created Hush? Really, everything that Loeb tried to say with Tommy Elliot, I feel like Moench already said better with Roman Sionis. Just another little way that Moench's original creation has been swept under the rug by DC.

*I hate Hush and Dr. Hurt more, but they ain't "classic" just yet.

**The seven scans from the first issue are generously provided by [livejournal.com profile] superfan1, as the first issue is impossible to find. Because apparently the first appearance of Black Mask is SUCH a collector's item, ZOMG!
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The 90's saw an increased focus on depicted the Rogues Gallery as a whole, particularly in Arkham-centric tales and sometimes also accompanied by the Bat-Family and Allies. This produced some great covers such as this:

(Scan generously provided by [livejournal.com profile] zegas, AKA Michel Fiffe, comics creator extraordinaire)

I'd kill to read an Arkham story drawn by Mike Mingola. Drawn, but not written. I love Hellboy so much more in theory than in practice, but those stories sure are pretty to look at. Much as I like Harvey here, I'm mostly impressed by his take on Scarecrow (right down to the fact that he's holding his squish-skull! Oh, Squishy), and would love to read a Crane tale drawn by Mingola. Again: drawn, not written.

As for the story itself, those who've read it might agree with me that it's fun, but not as fun as it should be. But at least it gave us one of the crackiest Bat-Rogues covers of all time...

See it and nine more covers behind the cut! )
about_faces: (coin flipping through the air)

"Batman Villains" by Fabian Glez.

Sorry for the absence. Disney World with the Henchgirl happened. It's only been a week, but for us, it's felt like a month. New posts coming soon. Some happy, some rage-y, and in this blog, would we have it any other way?
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Even after the Crisis on Infinite Earths mega-event rebooted DC continuity, retconning Batman's world to Frank Miller's Year One origin onward, writers were still writing pretty much the same Two-Face from the Bronze Age. Same green scarring, same orange-and-purple suit, plus possibly even more corny puns and #2-themed crimes.

Like most things Batman, he took some time to catch up, which he eventually did in a big way. You can start seeing the psychological evolution of the character over the stories behind these covers, several of which I've posted here. Two in partcular are among my very favorites, so if you're new-ish to [livejournal.com profile] about_faces and haven't read either yet, ohhhh, please do.

Six covers behind the cut )

These last two deserve to be outside the cut, as they're covers to great and important stories and also damn cool to look at in their own right.

Brian Bolland is a god, and the action figure they made based on this image is still one of the very best Two-Face figures ever. Then there's the story inside, and damn, why the frell haven't I posted this one yet? It's moving, tender, badass, and also probably the best depiction of Gilda Dent we've ever seen, even if she is inexplicably renamed "Grace."

This little story was the first true turning point for Harvey as a character, deepening his psychology beyond "had acid thrown in face, went bonkers because was no longer pretty." Here's is where Harvey truly began his post-Crisis evolution, which was fully realized with the release of this issue:

This is the image used for most wiki-type profiles on Two-Face, implicitly making this the iconic image of the character. Would we still think that even if it wasn't the cover for the best Harvey Dent story ever written?

I love Neal Adams, but whenever I see his stuff after the 70's--especially once he started inking himself and took complete control of his artwork--I can't help but wonder if his work is really pretty but kinda soulless. Personally, I think Dick Giordano's inks were the true secret weapon to Neal Adams' artwork in the 70's. There's just no comparison.

This cover is Adams inking (and possibly coloring) himself. There's a lot I should dislike about it. It's an extreme close-up, literally front and center, the division going right down the middle. For a Two-Face drawing, that's about as boring and standard as you can get, and that's even taking into account that symmetrical design is artistic hackery. I once had a drama professor in college who critiqued a student's set design by uttering, "You have symmetry. And I hate it."

And yet, the piece itself feels dynamic enough to compensate. Part of that is the hair, which is loose and lively even on the good side, whereas many artists would have it perfectly combed and pat. Feh to that, I say. It's interesting that the scarred side's hair mussed but not discolored, save only for the ambient neon lights from outside the frame. Not sure how same-colored Harvey hair would look in a whole story, but with this lighting, it works well in ways no one else as really tried.

Actually, it reminds me of the garish original coloring for The Killing Joke, which I prefer to Bolland's recoloring. The original feels painted with the colors of madness, and taking that into account, that could be another reason why I like this piece and the unaccounted-for use of bright, ugly green light. The good side is warmly colored, while the bad side lives in a Dario Argento film. Nice.

I know that it's a weird thing to say, but the scarring makes me very happy. For one thing, it's not a clean down-the-middle burn, leaving the question of where the unscarred flesh ends and the scar tissue begins up to the colorist, who wisely makes it only a slight discoloration. Actually, it reminds me of when I recently burned my hand on a pot, and my skin turned that same kind of sickly pale (not to mention it hurt like hell, which makes me wonder if Harvey lives with chronic pain). It's akin to the coloring employed by the Two-Face cosplayer from Gotham Public Works, but since he can't do the exposed teeth, I've always thought he resembled more like a half-waterlogged Romero zombie. Man, I'm really pushing the 70's horror directors in this post!

The background may also be what really gives this life, even if it is very "1980's nightclub" in design. See also: the flamingo half-tie. Why has almost every artist equated evil with tackiness? Probably because it's more fun to draw. At least his shirt isn't split, although there seems to be a suspicious stain forming under his scarred side's collar. Ewwww.

Finally, there's Harvey's expression itself. It's always striking to see him doing something other than snarl or glare. His scarred side is already doing something monstrous and evil-looking! His good side should play off that, not do exact the same thing!

So yeah, best Two-Face image ever? It's certainly up there, but I'll withhold final judgment for now. What think you guys?
about_faces: (Two-Face... FOREVER!!!)
This time around, I seem to start talking less about Harvey and more ranting about comics in general. So this should be fun!

Seven covers from the Bronze Age right up to the Crisis reboot of continuity )

Finally, I think this cover deserves to be outside the cut:

Really, I love superheroes dedicating a room to their arch-enemies, whether it in their headquarters or in places like the Flash Museum. Really, why wouldn't Batman create an entire "Hall of Infamy" in the Batcave, with framed portraits, no less? Do you think he painted them all himself?

I've always loved that cover, particularly for how innocent and friendly the Mad Hatter looks. Have I mentioned how much I love the Mad Hatter in TAS, but hate him in comics?

It's all Grant Morrison's fault, because ever since Arkham Asylum, Jervis is now always considered a pedophile. It's the same kind of late 80's-early 90's mentality that turned Toyman into a child murderer (and then also a pedophile). I hate it so much, and between Jeph Loeb bringing back Jervis as a little man who speaks nothing but quotes, it's pretty much ruined the character. I was hoping Gail Simone might revitalize the character, but instead, now he also fucks hats.

Let me say that again. He. Fucks. HATS.


I still plan to do posts dedicated to each of the rogues, especially the ones who deserve better writing. Jervis, Ozzie, and Eddie have all been victims of terrible writing and wildly inconsistent characterization. Nobody seems to know what the hell to do with Poison Ivy, ever since they forgot her original origins centering around her obsession with Batman. What's her motivation? What actually drives her and why? We still don't know, and no one seems to care, because why should Pam actually get character development when most people aren't really interested in her as a character?

Also, I imagine Killer Moth being all flustered and flattered to learn that he's included. "Really? I'M there? He... he considers me as bad as them? Oh, I have to call my Mom!" I kid, because I love the loser. But y'know, consider this: Killer Moth has, in recent years, proven himself more enduring as a loser and a joke than he ever has as a badass 90's-tastic man-eating bug creature.

The lesson here? A villain doesn't have to be a grim and deadly threat to be enduring and enjoyable. Hell, in Batgirl: Year One, he was even kinda interesting! Comics dearly need to get back a sense of fun, even in Batman. Especially in Batman.

Next post is Post-Crisis, a post which will culminate in three of the greatest Two-Face covers of all time. Give you a hint: the artists are Perez, Bolland, and Adams.
about_faces: (Default)
I love old comic covers. The great J.M. DeMatteis recently described the allure of classic covers as being "like cosmic portals, opening up doorways to other dimensions; colorful parallel universes far preferable to the one I inhabited."

Two-Face is a natural feature for covers, as he's a character who is so striking, so iconic, that even people who know nothing about him can instantly get a good idea what he's about. And once Denny O'Neil dusted off the character at the birth of the Bronze Age, he soon made regular appearances on covers.

To the best of my abilities, I've tracked down all the Two-Face cover appearances I could find (most of which I own and were thus able to scan), to post here with commentary and--if applicable--links to posts where I've looked at the stories in depth. So if you're new to [livejournal.com profile] about_faces, here's a chance for you to catch up on some stuff you may have missed!

For the rest of you, here's a bunch of neato covers to look at! And where better to start than with the start?

Behind the cut: TEN more great/cool/cracky Bronze Age covers by artists like Ernie Colon, Jim Aparo, and Jose-Luis Garcia Lopez! )

Next up: Part Two of the Bronze Age, with covers by Gene Colan, Tom Mandrake, Dick Giordano, and another by Jim Aparo! Because you can never have too much Aparo!


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