thehefner: (Two-Face: FOREVER!!!)
[personal profile] thehefner posting in [community profile] scans_daily
One of the most distinctive aspects of The Bronze Age of Comics (early 70's to mid 80's) was how it mixed classic superheroics in a greater sense of realism.

Or at least, that was the attempt, more often than not. Even those results that were groundbreaking at the time now read as dated, ham-handed, and/or just plain silly. I mean, I know it's blasphemous, but have any of you recently read the O'Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow run?

Due to the popularity of James Bond and other Cold War spy adventures, Batman's stories took on a more global scope, most notably once O'Neil brought in Ra's Al Ghul. Even the classic Rogues got into the espionage game, including Penguin, Joker, and, of course, the focus of today's story:

It all starts in Batman #312 (and runs throughout issues #313 and #314), a Calendar Man story most famous for being reprinted in the original Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told collection, wherein these particular pages of subplot were edited out.

Classic reveal, courtesy of the great Walt Simonson! Sadly, Walt doesn't draw the actual "Two for the Money" two-parter. Instead, we get Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin, who are perfectly fine but rather standard for the period.

And this further reinforces the Bronze Age depiction of Harvey as a duplicitous villain prone to double-crosses, which indicates that he doesn't always play fair.

It isn't a bad take, as it can certainly make him a formidable opponent to try and second guess. But it very much reinforces the idea that Two-Face is entirely evil, and the goodness that was Harvey Dent is but a fading memory.

I mean, maybe if the coin ever did come up good in these stories, we might actually see just how much nobility there really is with him. But it doesn't. I mean, we all know what's coming up next for poor Specs, right? We know exactly how it's literally gonna come down.

I mean, of course the coin's gonna come up scarred. There's no question. So the idea that "You always have a chance with Two-Face" is pretty well meaningless to readers. It's an empty villain gimmick.

Honestly, Two-Face would probably be a much more interesting character if his coin didn't always come up in ways that fit the potboiler nature of these plots. His sudden reversals could be a game-changer every time, and would go a long way to keeping the heroes (and the readers) on their toes.

Fast forward past the bits where Batman catches up, and we find Harvey in his hideout, complete with his henchmen Twain (the white one sitting on the good side) and Deuce (the black one sitting on the bad side). I'm leaving any commentary on that aspect to you guys.

"The nice thing about your particular psychosis is that it makes you so predictable!"

Compare this with the Silver Age story where Batman became Two-Face, which posited that Harvey was a major threat because the coin made him so very unpredictable. No one's ever really played with the idea that, while Two-Face is predictable in many ways, the coin itself can randomize things on a whim. Randomizing patterns, y'know?

Ah, King Faraday. Modern readers are probably most familiar with him in Darwyn Cooke's New Frontier and/or Rucka's Checkmate.

Tangent rant: Apparently, he was one of the original choices to be behind the OMAC Project before they instead chose to turn Max Lord evil, which doubly annoys me, because stories like this and New Frontier very much establish to me that King would have been the perfect antagonist for the story: a total ends-justifies-the-means shadowy agent type. It would have fit him perfectly. Instead, they bent Max Lord over backwards to twist him into a villain, and wasted the character. Sigh.

Bats and King end up clashing again, particularly when the former has to stop the latter from killing Two-Face, who subsequently escapes in mad cackling villain fashion:

Two-Face's next move is to set up a private meeting with representatives of the US and the USSR:

If only this story had been written at a time after Eye of the Beholder and Batman: The Animated Series, when Two-Face was seen more as a walking embodiment of warring sides in constant deadlock.

That modern take on Two-Face could have done wonders in the Cold War, giving this scheme greater possibility for character depth and topical relevance. Someone rewrite this as an Elseworlds, stat! It could really ramp up the Bond-ness of Bronze Age Batman!

Besides, it's not like this would be the first time that writer Len Wein came up with an idea that was better utilized by other writers (see also: Alan Moore on Swamp Thing and Chris Claremont on Wolverine).

Way to totally cheat, Harvey. Look, I imagine one could argue that he previously flipped to decide whether to play fair or to cheat. But even with that supposition, you completely undermine any power the coin has when you have Two-Face using it to cheat.

But while I may dislike his method, I have to admire the audacity of Harvey's true scheme here:

Harvey has here proven himself to be one of the most ballsy villains of all time, not to mention almost certainly idiotic beyond belief, since how the hell does he possibly expect not to face some manner of comeuppance from screwing over the two most powerful nations in the world?

Really, unless he actually has a good plan of where he can actually go, I don't quite understand why Batman and Faraday simply don't let the full force of the US and USSR eliminate Harvey for them? Well, I suppose each hero has his reasons. As a government agent himself, Faraday is doing exactly that job, while Batman still wants to try and save whatever's left of Harvey Dent:

As if we didn't just see Two-Face cheat with the coin mere pages ago! If you're gonna depict Harvey as a double-crossing cheat who manipulates the odds to his own ends, at least be consistent!

Oh, shut up, Faraday. God, I can respect the lonely path such characters can take, but seriously, there's nothing that annoys me quite like a dickbag playing the martyr.

So obviously Two-Face survives, but we're never given any explanation to how. In fact, this was at least his second sure death during the Bronze Age, the first of which I still have yet to post, and that one wasn't explained away either!

Instead, Harvey returns a mere year later, with no mention of this story whatsoever, in another Novick-drawn tale that not only brings back Gilda, but also directly spins out of the Dave Davis origin. It's Gilda's first appearance since the Golden Age, and the first truly interesting look at the character and why she's so vital to Harvey as a character.
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