Halloween Part 1: The Origin of… Two-Face

 It’s Halloween. I’ve been spending the month reading comics that both take place before The Long Halloween and that introduce the key players. Joker, Catwoman, Riddler, Mad Hatter, Poison Ivy, The Scarecrow, an extensive history both of Bruce Wayne, various accounts of his early days in the costume, his relation with Superman, his Halloween adventures. I believe I have covered everything going into my reading for today. With one exception: Two Face!

Harvey Dent’s transformation from D.A. to villain is precisely why I like TLH. But I can’t let the book tell the whole story. So I went to 5 other sources to paint the whole picture, or show me various angles of his origin.

 Detective Comics #66, October 1941 by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, gives us the foundation. Harvey “Apollo” Kent (later changed to Dent) is Gotham’s handsome District Attourny. A strong force for justice, until one day, while trying mob boss Sal “the Boss” Maroni, the accused hurls a thing of acid into Kent’s face. Batman attempted to stop it but is only half successful. Literally. Batman’s interference pushed Sal’s arm enough to only get half of Harvey’s face.

The tragedy of the story? Gotham’s best plastic surgeon is on vacation. Unwilling to wait, Harvey takes a piece of evidence he had been holding at the time of the attack – a double headed coin, and flips it, deciding if he will turn to a life of crime to match his appearance, or not. The evil side, which had become scratched and scarred like him came up.

So Harvey Kent becomes Two-Face and starts committing crimes based on the flip of a coin. The bad side means crimes against Gotham, stealing from the people for his own gain. The good side means crimes for Gotham, stealing from rival gangs and donating the money to charity.

This is how things begin. His origin stays mostly intact throughout the next 48 years. The second story I read – from Secret Origins Special #1 by Mark Verheiden – told essentially the same story from the viewpoint of his wife. In this version she suspects the evil side of him had been waiting to come out, that the acid had just been a catalyst, but I don’t think it was an original idea.

 1990’s Batman Annual #14 by Andrew Helfer is where a lot of details get added to the story. In fact several of items that I thought were unique to TLH were actually introduced here. The three way pact between Gordan, Dent, and Bats is initially seen here. After an ironically Two-Faced criminal gets off scott free they agree to start working together and bending the law to get real threats off the street. But Dent starts demanding they go further and further off path, even suggesting Batman kill one of their targets.

Another concept introduced here is the assistant D.A. who is in cahoots with Maroni who accidentally lets Maroni out with a decimated bail, and slips Maroni the vile of acid he uses against Dent.

The final change is that they make Harvey’s father an abusive one. Not new at all, making a villains problems start with the parents, but this was done a little better, introducing it at the end saying that Harvey started to go off the rail when his dying father, whom he hadn’t seen in years gave him a double headed coin and it just started to eat away at him.

In this book they eventually get Harvey fixed up – which I refuse to believe is possible, if it was burn victims would have it a lot easier – but Two-Face had been set free already and he ripped his own face off again.

 2005’s Batman: Jekyll and Hyde by Paul Jenkins with half the art done by Jae Lee and the other half by Sean Phillips, adds even more to the story, but I think this story is generally ignored. I do like this book, especially the Jae Lee half. He is definitely in his element hear, not only drawing Batman, but also drawing the morbid effects of Two-Faces crimes.

The big change hear is that not only is the Two-Face side a separate identity from Harvey, it’s a completely different person. It’s his brother Murray. When the two were young Murray would bully and torment Harvey. One day Murray made Harvey start a fire, when Harvey got scared he ran out of the room and locked the door. Then he stood outside and listened to his brother die instead of helping him get out. Somehow the brother became manifested inside Harvey and kept up his bullying inside his head. This is why his father hates him and was so abusive, he never got over the death of his son, nor the following suicide of their mother. The book ends with Harvey revealing this to Batman and then shooting himself in the head, trying to rid himself of the Murray side.

 The New 52 changes everything. Maroni is no longer the cause of the scarring. In this version, Bruce and Harvey go way back. Bruce introduced him to his wife Gilda in their college days, and then later, just before becoming Batman, encouraged and backed his run for D.A.

But everything changed when Harvey put away a set of twins, Shannon and Erin Mckillen, also from Bruce’s past, for trying to kill Gordon. Shannon killed in prison to set into motion Erin’s escape plan. Erin later broke into Dent’s home, killed Gilda and poured acid onto Harvey’s face. With everything lost to him, this is when Harvey turns to crime.

All these events take place in a series of flashbacks in Batman and Robin #24-28 by Peter J. Tomato and Patrick Gleeson, when Erin returns to Gotham to take back control of her crime empire. Two face gets a portion of revenge by scarring slightly one side of her face and preventing the success of her mission. This story also ends with him shooting his brains out. Maybe. It’s up in the air.

Alright, now onto the good stuff.

Thanks for reading!

Pictures from the above mentioned issues.


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