about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

The Two Faces of Harvey... Bullock?

Let's talk about the other Harvey of Gotham City.

Doug Moench didn't technically create Harvey Bullock, but he's the one writer most responsible for making the fat, slovenly, heart'a-gold pig cop one of Batman's most enduring supporting characters. Everything we associate with the character was originated by Moench.

It's hard to imagine that he was originally a corrupt toady trying to sabotage Jim Gordon on Mayor Hill's behalf," but thankfully, Gordon's own decency won over Bullock, and the two are now crime-fighting buddies! But even with that change of heart, Moench kept hinting that there may still have been more to Harvey Bullock than met the eye.

The story starts with Bullock being Bullock, being a generally boorish slob but an okay cop, breaking up a street fight between gang members in his typically-considerate manner:

Yeah, don't forget that guy, because he's not gonna forget Harvey.

Putting aside his uncalled-for dismissal of Liz Taylor (of whom I'm not a fan, but really, Harv, you're no one to talk), this reveal is delightful and surprising: Bullock is a slob who moonlights as a snob for a very specific passion.

Of course, this being DC Comics, even Bullock's happiness is short-lived, as the call is really just a distraction. When he arrives the station and deduces the truth, he runs (lumbers?) back home, knowing that he's already too late:

This punk really didn't think his plan through, did he? Even when Bullock tracks down the punk, the kid is still stupid enough to pick a fight, one that Bullock's all to ready to provide:

Heeee! I should be rolling my eyes at the increasingly heavy-handed references, but it's Bullock, so it's adorable and great. Too bad no writer since has included the film-buff aspect of Bullock, or else he could make a perfect nemesis for the Film Freak.

Fast-forward past the fight...

And in case there were any doubts of how relevant this issue was to a Two-Face blog, Moench hammers home the themes at the end. Even at the start, Bullock contentedly slides between his two lives, feeling none of Harvey Dent's internal conflict just so long as the lives remain orderly and separate. I would have liked to have known how Bullock would have reacted if his passions weren't destroyed, but rather exposed to his colleagues and enemies who only know him as "Bullock the Cop." Alas, we'll never know.

Thing is, it's kind of unthinkable to imagine Bullock reaching out to a crook like this, especially one who committed such a personal violation. It kind of makes you wonder just how much this "profound change" stuck with Harv. Considering that the "passionate film-buff" aspect was mostly ignored by subsequent writers, this story now reads more like he's abandoned that side of himself and just gone to "Bullock the Cop" 24/7. Not a terrible thing, since Bullock's a wonderful character either way. But it still makes me wonder about how much potential is going wasted when it comes to ol' Harv.

There's a whole other subtext to this story too, which went over my head until I read this letter by the prolific "T.M. Maple" (whose letters seem to appear in every other issue of anything published during the 80's and early 90's), which starts in the middle column. Skip to the third paragraph:

I don't know Moench intended that subtext, but it gives the story a spin which actually makes the story matter to more than just the character of Bullock. I've always resented the collector mentality, believing that comics are something to be read and appreciated, not sealed in Mylar and hung on a wall. Or worse, shunted away in a box. There are exceptions, of course (I'd never use a copy of Action Comics #1 for casual toilet reading), but for the most part, I firmly believe that comics are meant to be opened up.

That said, the parallel doesn't entirely work with Harvey. As The Mighty Maple notes, comic collecting isn't the same as collecting stamps or coins, in that comics are actually interactive, and need that interaction to function as art. Bullock's movie poster collection is more like coins and stamps, and are perfectly suited to being framed and preserved, so long as they're not hidden away in boxes somewhere. Harv was appreciating these posters and the memories they invoked to their fullest extent.

What they do have in common is the fact that all of these paper-based collectibles have a limited lifespan, and that collectors who invest so much personal passion into them can lose perspective if anything should damage or destroy their beloved items. Is this a cautionary lesson for Bullock and other fanboys to not get too attached?

If so, I think that's fine, so long as he doesn't give up on his passion entirely. I hate stories like The 40 Year Old Virgin which treat fan collection and passion as something that needs to be grown out of, and that holding onto those items somehow stagnates a person's development. All the more reason why I want to see a callback to Bullock's film-buff passion in a new story. They can destroy your memorabilia, but no one can destroy your passion. No one, that is, except you yourself.
Tags: doug moench, non-two-face-related-ness, pat broderick

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