October 13th, 2010

Two-Face... FOREVER!!!

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!


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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.