about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

The Secret Origin of Bronze Age Two-Face!

Dig that great Aparo Two-Face, eh? I have a deep-rooted fondness for Aparo's turtleneck!Harvey.

While the story I bring you today is sadly not drawn by Jim Aparo, it's a fascinating one nonetheless: Two-Face's canon origin from 1977-1987, as seen in DC All-Stars #14: Secret Origins of the Super-Villains. The key twist to this take is the revelation that Harvey Dent wasn't Maroni's real target when the acid was thrown!

Writer: Jack C. Harris. Artists: Ed Davis, and Joe Rubenstein.

It all starts when Harvey, in all his Arkham Asylum finery, gets a visitor:

After a good flip in his favor, Detective Dave BogartDavis knows he has only a limited time to explain:

Lord love comic artists who awkwardly arrange their panels. I appreciate the challenge of trying to tell a good, clear story in a mere ten pages, but if the artist has to include an arrow to tell the reader where to read next, then that artist has failed. That said, I rather like the way the characters look here, as it rather evokes a story out of Creepy.

Also, I like the idea that Harvey just assumed that Maroni's "pretty boy!" was na

Harvey takes Davis to a police storage warehouse, where they find the confession hidden in a secret compartment in Harvey's old desk. However, they're ambushed by none other than Maroni himself, who shoots Davis in the arm while Harvey attacks.

Because bullets totally ricochet that way.

Since the bullet hit the "evil side," Harvey deems that Moroni was destined to die, and since it landed "good side" up, he agrees to return to Arkham peacefully. Davis' reaction is essentially, "Okay, crazy."

It's an interesting take only because it gives Harvey full cause to see himself (and by extension, everyone else) as pawns in the hands of destiny, and he's cool with that. The "vengeance" mentioned in the teaser image doesn't seem to matter to him either way. He's calm, sometimes even joyous in his madness: a common take on the character, especially in the Bronze Age up to the post-Crisis era, and this story gives it a sensible enough foundation.

However, it's precisely this take which makes Two-Face a character who only works as a supporting figure to make others react. He himself is almost a non-character, because action reveals character, and this Harvey makes no action unless the coin tells him so. One could say this applies Two-Face in general, but smart writers know how to subtly reveal character in other ways, which I'll explore in future posts.

This is why Two-Face was (and to many, still is) an under-loved character: because he was less of a character than a foil. As a result, the Bronze Age which brought Two-Face back into comics is also what kept him from becoming one of the greater presences in DC until the post-Crisis era. Yet even now, some writers go back to this take, which is frustrating. It can make for good stories of other characters, but it doesn't make Harvey himself an interesting character.
Tags: jim aparo, moroni/maroni, origins

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