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For the past couple weeks, I've been working on my review of Walt Simonson's new graphic novel, The Judas Coin, watching my post get increasingly long-winded as I filled it with more scans, tangents, links, gifs, and all manner of distractions until the actual review itself was dwarfed by everything else! The post is currently huge, and I haven't even gotten to the book itself!

How did I manage to pull this off, you ask? Well, because I realized that it was impossible to talk about The Judas Coin without talking about all of the characters involved. One of the biggest hang-ups some readers are having with The Judas Coin is the cast of D-list Silver Age characters who are so obscure here that they didn't even appear on Batman: The Brave and the Bold! And that show had EVERYBODY! Sure, a couple of them appeared on Justice League Unlimited, but I can attest that nobody who saw those episodes remembers those characters if they hadn't already been familiar with them going in. Those were great treats for fans, but generally insufficient intros for n00bs.

So this is "Flower Cowboy," got it.

Personally, I don't think you necessarily need to know anything about them to enjoy Simonson's stories because Simonson is just that good of a storyteller who knows how to play up their archetypical aspects to make them pretty much accessible to everyone. But even still, a bit of familiarity with these characters couldn't hurt. Speaking personally as someone who was at least familiar with most of these characters and completely ignorant about one of them, I enjoyed the story on the first go-round, but I've come to love it even more after researching these characters for the past week!

So before I post (or even write) the review itself, I'd like to examine the characters involved first in their own post, just to give everyone--including me--a crash-course tour of these obscure heroes of yesteryear, and the subsequent attempts to make them relevant in the decades well past their prime! There's a lot of history behind the cut, so grab a snack and let's dig in!

What do an ex-slave warrior soldier, a warrior seafaring prince, an ex-slave antihero seafaring pirate, an antihero gunslinger/gambler, and a gunslinging, gambling, spacefaring, pirate-hating, ex-slave bounty hunter have in common? I mean, besides all that... )

By the way, would anybody be able to provide scans from The Judas Coin? I don't have a scanner at present, and while I have several of Simonson's sketches, there are some parts that I really want to actually show those of you who aren't able to get the book immediately. Obviously, the Two-Face section especially takes priority, especially the last few pages. The climactic moment was ambiguous enough that it got me and Henchgirl into a briefly-heated debate over how we interpreted it, so I want to run it by you guys and see what you make of it.

If I have to settle for taking a blurry photo from my iPhone camera, I will, dammit! But nobody wants that! So be a pal and help your old buddy Hef out, if you can!
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I finally picked up a copy of Rogues Gallery, a collection of DC villain pin-ups to coincide with their potentially-great-but-terminally-mediocre crossover event, Underworld Unleashed.

For those who haven’t read UU, you’re not missing much. Essentially, it was about a tedious Satan stand-in named Neron (DC's answer to a poor man's Mephisto) who offered to give villains an extreme 90’s makeover and power-boost in exchange for their souls. Well, they weren’t using those anyway, right? As a result, we got such silliness as Killer Moth turned into a man-eating mutant monster who caccoons his victims (something so lousy that it was actually a vast IMPROVEMENT when it was adapted for The Batman) and Mister Freeze got actual freezing *powers* (something which was promptly forgotten). Also, UU opened with the Flash’s Rogues getting killed off, solely because Mark Waid genuinely couldn’t figure out how to write them, something which he admitted in a Wizard interview in ‘98. Man, thank god for Geoff Johns, at least when it comes to the Flash's rogues. Basically, the entire UU event was by and for people who mistook scary/extreme/overpowered villains for interesting characters.

That said, Rogues Gallery was still a cool collection of pin-ups by some great artists, especially for the Bat-Rogues. Unfortunately, I’ve been able to find no scans online. I’ve found pin-up scans for other DC villains at a Martian Manhunter blog, a Wonder Woman blog, and a Firestorm blog, but NOTHING at *any* of the Bat-blogs, nor anywhere else teh interwebs! What the hell, Bat-fans?

So, naturally, I’m rectifying this. Here are all of the Batman villain profiles, complete with inane and annoying commentary by Neron that I really wish I could erase.

Look into the face of insanity behind the cut! )
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In 1996, trading card company Fleer decided that they wanted to release a different kind of card set for Batman. Inspired by the loose narrative of Topps' classic Mars Attacks! cards, the Batman Master Series set was the first series of cards to comprise a complete, original Batman storyline. The more cards you collect, the more parts of the story you'd have to piece together. And it was all written by none other than our old favorite, Doug Moench. Oh yes, we're in for a treat. :D


The plot was simple: after the Joker once again escapes Arkham, Batman goes missing and is presumed dead, with the Joker being the likeliest suspect. Everyone posits their reactions and theories, including the Joker himself, who can't be sure whether or not he actually did it at all! This offered plenty of opportunities to hit all the big beats of the previous card series (major and minor characters, important events) plus create all-new settings for cards (scenes from the plotline, bizarre wacko takes on the rogues, the Joker popping up in classic Elseworlds). Along the way, we get TONS of cards dedicated to rogues, some of whom pop up several times. Visually, it's a feast of portraits, and that alone would warrant a master post here.

Except it gets even better, because apparently the cards had enough of a cult following amongst collectors that the entire deck was given its own coffee table art book:

Not only are all the cards lovingly reprinted along with Moench's text, but the book's editors actually included commentary from the artists, thus giving a rare insight into the creative process! The combination of characters, art, story, and commentary make Batman Masterpieces a must-have, and to show you what I mean, I'm going to post just the villain pages, almost all of which are by the painter Dermot Power (Batman/Judge Dredd: The Ultimate Riddle, and concept artist for Batman Begins).

Who's Who (could have possibly killed Batman?) behind the cut! )

So what did you guys make of the art? Were they indeed "museum quality" as the ads touted, or merely a dated and grotesque assortment of 90's-tacular artists? I lean more towards the latter, but I love the collection of the cards nonetheless, and I very much recommend checking out the whole of Batman Masterpieces if you can find a copy.
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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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Whew, made it! And just in time for Twelfth Night, too!

Doing this series of posts has been one of the most exhausting, draining, frustrating, and goddamned fun projects I've ever done on this blog. It's a shame that it has to end this way, with an assortment that largely covers some of my least favorite Batman eras and characters.

That's not to say there isn't anything I love about Batman from 1997 to 2006. Sure, the days of the great Bat-trio of Moench/Grant/Dixon were starting to wind down, with many good stories hindered by one big crossover after another after another. The fact that they were all fired to make way for the next big crossover would haven been bitterly misguided if that crossover hadn't been No Man's Land. Far as I'm concerned, NML the highest achievement for Batman since Batman: Year One, since it was an event that was mostly focused on character rather than... well, events. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than any other major Batman crossover I have ever read, and thus I was greatly excited with the prospect of NML mastermind Greg Rucka continuing to write the ongoing Detective Comics.

While I loved Rucka's run, as well as Brubaker's Batman and Devin Grayon's Gotham Knights, the changes they made to Batman's character and supporting cast led the series down a path that I didn't necessarily like, but stuck with because I trusted the creative teams involved. And then they were all gone, with Loeb and Lee giving us Hush. After that, new writers followed the threads left by Rucka, Brubaker, and Grayson, and it all went to hell. The stories that followed left me cold, and much as I rag on Grant Morrison's run, I think I might honestly prefer it to the era of Black Mask. Don't force me to choose, please.

So now, at the end of a project that I started to celebrate the characters I love, I shall see if I can muster any of the same kind of enthusiasm for some of my favorite and least favorite eras alike.

Rassum frassum get off my lawn behind the cut )

So here's to another year for about_faces. The output will be infrequent, but I'm not going anywhere. There are too many stories left to look at, too many stupid things to rant about, too many comics and characters and ideas worth celebrating. Hope you'll stick around, and as always, keep the comments coming. You're the smartest damn bunch of fans I know, and that's no lie, no flattery, it's the damn truth. So thank you, and be seeing you.
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The penultimate post in this series is also the last of the official Who's Who profiles. A couple of my favorites are in this one, so I hope you enjoy. As always, keep the comments a-comin'! Even though I'm too busy composing entries (and doing IRL stuff) to reply as quickly as I want, know that your responses are half of why I do all this in the first place!

Read more... )

And that's that for Who's Who. After 1993, the interest in character profiles apparently tapered off, and frankly, I'm amazed it lasted in the first place. While there have been similar resources published since the late 90's, none were published under the Who's Who banner, nor were they nearly as comprehensive.

Last year, DC announced that there were plans for a new Who's Who volume to celebrate the company's anniversary, but that never happened and now almost certainly never will. At least, not for a while. The DCnU is too Nu for anyone to have established history, and if they made something up, you can bet most of it would be contradicted by later writers. Sure, there's all the PRE-DCnU stuff, but the last thing DC wants is to remind readers of what was, back when characters wore briefs on the outside of the outside of their costumes. God, how stupid is that? You'd think they were SUPERHEROES or something! A-duh!

As they stand, old Who's Who books are treasure troves of great, lousy, and lost characters, and if you can ever find copies in dollar bins, pick up a few. You never know who you might meet. If you want to find more Who's Who online, Grantbridge Street has posted complete collections of profiles from the Legion of Superheroes, Superman, New Gods drawn by Jack Kirby himself, and more in his archives. If you want to see more of these big looseleaf profiles, again, check out the DC Who's Who Tumblr, which is still being updated. Good stuff all around!

Tomorrow, the final post: Secret Files and Origins. Plus old man ranting.
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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! )
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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!
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While this post rounds out the remnants of the Batman villains from 1985-1989 Who's Who, there were some odds and ends of characters who didn't *quite* qualify, but who nonetheless deserved honorable mentions. But first, let's start with the rest of the actual Batman villains, even if two profiles are reruns.

But really, what more appropriate way to kick off the new year than with a second helping of a double dose of Two-Face? )
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I'll be honest with you folks: with one exception, there are no winners in today's batch of villains. Granted, I haven't actually read any stories featuring the majority of these characters, so all I have to go by in this case is their bios and what info I can find online, but I doubt reading their original comics would have helped much.

If you've seen these villains in action and think they've got any worth, then by all means, let me know! Once again, there are no bad characters, just bad writers... but man, I'm not sure what even a great writer could do with some of these morts. I'll try my best, but when I'm handed an assortment like this, I kinda feel like the Joker's surgeon:

You see what I have to WORK with here behind the cut )
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Today's batch is coming much later because apparently I had a lot to say about several characters here. I've been going through waves of feeling totally burned out interspersed with MUST TALK ABOUT MY OPINIONS ON THIS CHARACTER'S ENTIRE HISTORY and then crashing again. Thankfully, tomorrow's group is almost entirely made up of some serious Z-listers, so maybe I won't have much to say. For today, though, you may wanna grab a snack. It's a big one.

Read more... )
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Man, I had a lot to say about today's characters. I also had leftover Christmas turkey, so see if you can trace the point where the tryptophan coma kicks in!

In Soviet Russia, Whos Who YOU behind the cut! )
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The response to the first part was great, guys! Keep 'em coming! So far this is damn fun, although I may kill myself trying to get them all out once a day! In the meantime, MOAR BATMAN VILLAINS!

A swashbuckler, a muddy legacy, a patchwork failure, and more profiles behind the cut! )

To be continued!
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Though his signature has been erased by DC's marketing stooges, that magnificent cover was drawn by Dick Goddamn Giordano.

While Two-Face is my favorite character, I love all of the Batman villains. I think that they're the greatest rogues gallery ever created in any medium, a remarkably diverse and complex array of men and monsters, of the evil and the insane, of mirrors into Batman and humanity itself. That said, there have been a LOT of villains, some more enduring than most, with many getting lost in the cracks of continuity and apathy. But I love them all. I even kinda love the ones I hate, because fandom is a complicated thing that way. And since I love characters above anything else in superhero comics, I have a special fondness for old issues of Who's Who and, to a lesser extent, the Secret Files and Origins books from the 90's-00's.

But then, I've always loved character profiles. I think one reason I loved G.I. Joe action figures as a kid was because they used to print the character's bios and stats right there on the package. Like they were actual people with personalities and history and stuff! Who's Who allows one to see the character distilled, free from stories to play in one's own imagination. They let you relive your favorite stories and moments. They show you tons of characters you never knew existed! They're fascinating time capsules from the period they were written! They give you many new and awful costumes to snark about! All in all, they provide a wonderful tour of the good, the bad, the ugly, the dated, the timeless, and the gloriously misbegotten.

So I want to look at them with you. All of them.

For the next twelve days, I shall be posting a handful of profiles with commentary. I don't promise that any of it will be insightful, since it's the holidays on top of everything else in my life, but the profiles are the important things. This year, I plan to extend About_Faces to occasionally looking at the other villains besides Harvey, partially because I'm running out of good Two-Face stories and partially because I've been itching to write about Ozzie, Eddie, Crane, Pam, and more.

So since DC' original Who's Who profiles from 1985-1989 all had the same format, let's start by looking at them, accompanied with the revised profiles when applicable. Here, you'll see a lot of old favorites accompanied by the obscure, the unloved, and the downright forgotten, drawn by some of the greatest artists that the 80's had to offer. And who knows, maybe you'll find a villain who has untapped potential? As I've always said, when it comes to superhero comics, there are no bad characters, just bad writers. That said, some characters really test that mantra's limits.

Well? The nice cover asked you a question! Dare you prowl the Dark Knight's rogues gallery behind the cut? )

Okay, that's enough for now! Tomorrow, you get to find out just how many Batman villain names start with the letter C! Hint: it's a lot!
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I'd love to stop posting about Two-Face in Arkham City, but sadly, this is the most mainstream geek media coverage and attention he's gotten since The Dark Knight.

Over the past few days, virtually every site I frequent--including Comics Alliance, Topless Robot, io9, Robot 6, although not my current favorite, The Mary Sue--ran a proper character portrait of Harvey alongside a full character bio with stats. Even then, response on those sites was lukewarm, to say the least. One amounted nothing more than a single response of "Cool," whereas the comments explode if the story has been about Robin or Catwoman.

In fairness, we all know that AC's Two-Face is problematic at best, but no one's really talking about him whenever the game comes up in the news. Of course, I've tried to open up a conversation about him, and that didn't go so well, thus reminding me why I opened up this particularly geeky corner of the internet in the first place. Have I mentioned how much I appreciate your folks' readership, comments, and general participation? Because I really do.

So that said, let's check out Harvey's deluxe treatment in the game, shall we?

That's probably the single best image of Game!Harvey to come out so far. It's cool and classy, and I like that we get just a wee teeny bit of the scarring division between the gun and his hairline. Ties it all together. If this were a comics pin-up, I'd just photoshop in a clear image of his bulging evil eye peering through the darkness, but hey, that's me. That said, I'm not sure what the hell is going on with texturing on things like Harvey's suit. What the hell texture is that supposed to be? Vinyl corduroy?

The image was also accompanied by a full profile, which I find interesting in a number of places:

Real Name: Harvey Dent
Alias: TWO-FACE (Gah! Sorry, the all-caps startled me. I guess you can only shout his alter ego now?)
Occupation: Professional Criminal
Base: Gotham City (Is this necessary? I mean, is there anybody in this game whose base ISN'T Gotham? By the way, I'm now apparently doing commentary after each stat. Whee!)
Eyes: Blue (YAY!)
Hair: Brown/Grey(ALSO YAY! Even though his hair looks pretty black in the gameplay)
Height: 6 ft
Weight: 182 lb (... what, really? That doesn't seem enough for Harvey, especially at 6 feet. I know from reading the DC Encyclopedia that whoever writes these things has really weird ideas about how much female characters should weigh, but this is the first time I've raised my eyebrow over a male character's weight stats)
First Appearance: Detective Comics #66 (August 1942) (Yay for mentioning the comics!)

• Attribute 01: Hideously scarred on the left half of his face, which he plays up with clothing that's differently styled on one side (I've theorized that Harvey might wear garish split suits to draw the attention away from his face, and I think that the "plays up" plays into that idea)
• Attribute 02: Extremely skilled with his weapons of choice: twin .45 automatics
• Attribute 03: Psychotic obsession with duality, designing crimes around the number two (Would this be a good time to bring up that I've never heard a good reason as to WHY he's obsessed with the number two other than it being a holdover gimmick from the Golden Age?)
• Attribute 04: Defers to his half-scarred coin in choices of life or death (Only life and death, not just choices in general, or at the very least MORAL choices? Furthermore, I'm assuming they mean the life or death of his victims, but does he include his own life in the balance of his choices? A good Two-Face should, since that's only fair)

Background Story: District Attorney Harvey Dent was one of Batman's strongest allies in Gotham City, until a criminal threw acid in Dent's face, hideously scarring him. The wounds fractured his psyche, and he was reborn Two-Face, a schizoid criminal mastermind obsessed with duality. His former good-luck charm, a "two-headed" trick silver dollar, was damaged on one side in the attack, and Dent has seized on it as a reflection of his half-scarred visage. He flips it to decide the fates of his victims. Two-Face is thriving in Arkham City, rallying inmates to join his gang using tried and true campaign tactics.

Considering that the only time the coin has ever been Harvey's, much less anything resembling a "good luck charm," was in TDK, we yet again see the influence that version has had on the character at large. I wonder if any adaptations will ever use the backstory of his father's coin from Eye of the Beholder, or if that will continue to fall to the wayside of comics obscurity. I've spoken about this at length before, but I firmly believe that you lose something vital to the psychology of the character when you don't include the alcoholic abusive father background, even in just an offhand mention.

In keeping with the "choices of life or death" bit above, the coin's role seems decidedly limited for how the game developers see Two-Face, or at least, this Two-Face. In keeping with the mock-trial aspect of his big scene in the game, the coin seems to act as his judge, indicating that he has a habit of passing sentence on his victims. This is, of course, true to the character, but we don't get any indication that he uses the coin for moral decisions, which is a more generalized and--to me--more important and interest aspect of the character.

Meh, at this point, I feel like I'm just scrambling for things to talk about, since there's not too terribly much more to go on here. I just felt like all my geekery has been pent up over the past two weeks (holy crap, my son is two weeks old. Holy crap, I have a SON.), so between this and the last post, I'm just in total brain-spew mode. Hope you folks don't mind.

Oh, wait! One more thing! They released the full Two-Face/Catwoman opening gameplay in high-def with no commentary talking over the images! It's like a mini-movie, watch!

My criticisms and analysis from the older footage I saw still holds true, with just a couple new observations:

1.) If you listen carefully, Harvey starts delivering a speech at 8:25. Or rather, it's delivered by Harvey and Two-Face. This might just be my very favorite part, and I wish the demo player had let Harvey talk a bit longer before attacking the thugs. I want to know what he/they had to say! I love the charisma and eloquence of Harvey's good side, which reminded me a good deal of Aaron Eckhart from the bits I heard. More! Want more now!

2.) While the horrible cat-scratch-in-the-face is enough of a dick move on Selina's part, the fact that she kicks him in the stomach while he's tied up and helpless is just... I dunno, is "hateful" the word I want? This Catwoman is everything I ever disliked about Catwoman because it's how too many writers write Catwoman. Ugh. Shit, even Batman's an asshole to Harvey. That sudden stop should have broken Harvey's neck, ala Gwen Stacy! And did they just leave Harvey hanging there at the end? I think they did! Man, even in video games, it sucks to be Harvey Dent.

Also, I fucking adore wheezy, injured Joker. He reminds me of Frank Gorshin. I think Hamill's doing amazing work here, because for the first time in a long while, he has to work under some restraints. I think his vocal performance here will easily outshine the one in the first game.
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You may have heard of Batman Live, "an all-new, live-action arena adventure, set to take the world by storm."

I don't particularly care, since it sounds like a more extravagant version of one of those live Batman action shows you'd catch at Six Flags, but I have to admit I'm at least intrigued now that they've announced the full roster of the villains. Not just Harvey, who we'll get to in a second, but also classic Ventriloquist! Arnie! Yay!

It always pleases me to see non-comic Batman stuff remaining more true to the comics than the far-more-popular films or TV shows. And if the site's character bios are any indication, maybe the actual show will have enough faith to the actual comics' spirit to be worth checking out. Just look at how uncommonly well they get Harvey:


Left-right. Up-down. Good-bad. The world is based upon duality, but the choices are usually determined at random. At least, that's TWO-FACE'S world.

HARVEY DENT was the finest district attorney GOTHAM CITY had ever seen. With Police Commissioner JAMES GORDON as his trusted ally, and in conjunction with the efficient if legally dubious BATMAN, Dent cut massive swaths through the underworld. At times he may have been overwhelmed by flashbacks to his childhood, a childhood tormented by a drunken father who forced him to guess which side of a trick coin would come up, but he had those under control. He did…

…Until a mob boss on trial for life, knowing he was going to go down in flames, decided to take the crusading district attorney down with him, and tossed a bottle of acid at him during the cross examination. Harvey threw up his hands, but it was too late. Half his face and one hand had been scarred far past the point of reconstructive surgery. The dashing young DA had been cut in two, half still handsome, half now monster.

The rational side of Harvey was splintered, and the side he had kept repressed for so long bubbled to the surface, a side bent on decimating the underworld he'd prosecuted for so long as district attorney. Now free of legal niceties, TWO-FACE would become the unfettered scourge of the underworld…and its eventual undisputed boss.

TWO-FACE is what BATMAN might have become had things turned out a little differently. Once law-abiding, he now has become that which he had held in contempt, only more successful. His entire life, however, is ruled by a scarred, two-headed coin he inherited from his father. TWO-FACE is incapable of making a major decision without first flipping the coin in order to decide which way to go.

Once TWO-FACE had asserted his dominance over the mafia families he began pulling crimes based upon the number two and duality. But when the coin says not to do something, whether it be to take the million dollars that's simply lying there, or to kill the unconscious BATMAN, he doesn't do it. You can never cross the coin.

BATMAN, meanwhile, has never given up hope that his old ally and friend can be rehabilitated.


* Homicidal maniac
* Strong hand-to-hand combatant
* Weapon of choice: twin .45 automatics
* Driven insane by criminal attack that left his face hideously scarred
* Compulsion to tackle crimes based on the number two

Unlike most other Two-Face bios, this one actually hits all the right points: emphasis on his genuine heroism and capability as D.A., the abusive father (and actually describing how the "coin game" was played!), Two-Face as a vengeful scourge of the underworld, how Harvey is what Batman might have become, and that the coin's rule is the absolute law.

The most intriguing/disturbing part of this whole bio? The idea that he's actually now more successful as an insane criminal than he was as a law-abiding, sane District Attorney. Of course, I imagine that all depends on one's definition of "success."

Going back to Batman Live in general, all of these bios are exceptionally written, clearly by someone who knows their stuff. Just check out how the Penguin's profile begins: It's not easy always being the smartest person in the room. It's even harder when you're so funny-looking that no one knows you're the smartest person in the room. How sad is it that a live Batman show understands the characters better than most of the actual comics writers?

I can only hope he or she will be involved in the writing of the actual live show, because if they can somehow actually capture the spirit of the characters in a live-action family friendly special FX extravaganza, I'll actually shell out the cash to see it myself.

Either way, it's certainly looking more promising than Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark.
about_faces: (Dave McKean's coin split)
First off, have all of you already read "Eye of the Beholder" from BATMAN ANNUAL #14, the definitive Harvey Dent story that also directly "influenced" THE LONG HALLOWEN and THE DARK KNIGHT?

You've read that, right? If not, click on that link. Surely there must be one or two of you who haven't read it.

It's okay. Go on. I'll wait.


Back? Then you're ready for Harvey's profile update in the 1991 edition of WHO'S WHO.

Two big scans with neato art by Chris Sprouce and Dick Giordano behind the cut )

As you can see, Mark Waid (back when he was still more of an editor and resident DC comic knowledge brainiac) has devoted the whole of Harvey's bio here to essentially retelling "Eye of the Beholder" and nothing more. Combined with the brand new art by "Eye" artist Chris Sprouce, I take this to mean that DC was well aware of how great a story "Eye" was, and were rightly keen to push everything about it as being THE Two-Face story.

If that was the case, what happened? Why has "Eye" fallen out of favor? My best guess is because THE LONG HALLOWEEN took several of its core concepts--the iconic rooftop meeting, Adrian Fields, Harvey's abusive father, the tragic super-team of Gordon, Batman, and Dent--but got a whole lot more press and attention, thereby overshadowing "Eye" to this day. It hasn't been reprinted anywhere since the mid-90's, and even that volume is long out of print. Ah, but I can and have ranted about the lamentable mistreatment of this story at length.

I feel a twinge of dissatisfaction reading this bio after the two WHO'S WHO that preceded it, particularly for how it focuses solely on one story and ignores any other events from the character's long and winding history. And yet, looking back on those two other profiles--both of which include storylines that have long since been forgotten or retconned or ignored or just weren't very good to begin with--maybe Waid's take here is the best.

Instead, Waid strips away the event filler of "then this happened in Issue Number Such-And-Such" and focuses purely on the origin story, which actually makes for a pretty ripping yarn even in profile format. It makes the story of Two-Face more timeless, more iconic, more enduring. Because no matter what the character has done or been beyond this point, it all goes back to this solid, powerful origin that continues to influence BATMAN comics, whether writers and readers know this or not.

Man, this post just turned into a whole love-fest for "Eye of the Beholder," didn't it? Sorry about that. Well, not really, who am I kidding? I love that story, and wish more people knew it even existed. If DC really knew what they had at the time, then it's all the more disappointing that they eventually forgot.
about_faces: (Default)
First off, a big welcome to all my new followers! As always, comments, suggestions, ideas, and all manner of feedback are welcome! And if anyone wants to do a guest post of their own, let me know! If you like what you see, then please spread the word!

Today, I have the Two-Face WHO'S WHO entry updated for 1989, with art by the great Mike Mingola:

I have much less to comment upon this time around. The bio here is pretty much the same as the 1986 version, but generally tightened up and incorporating BATMAN: YEAR ONE (including Mingola's recreation of a classic Mazzucchelli moment). Also of note is that Gilda has become Grace, thanks to the inexplicable name change when she appeared in the wonderful SECRET ORIGINS ANNUAL story, which is to date the best version of the character.

We're now well into Post-Crisis continuity, but Two-Face's history at this point is still pretty firmly connected with Pre-Crisis. The true modern version of Two-Face is just around the corner, however, thanks to a certain story published the next year that'll dramatically alter the character and his place in the Gotham universe in ways that can be directly seen all the way through to THE DARK KNIGHT.


about_faces: (Default)

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