Sorry I disappeared on everyone last month! One crashed computer and a new hard drive later, I’m back to rock the comic world. Taking up where I left off last time, we’re featuring a new Supervillain Origin: Two-Face!
Two-Face is a fictional comic book supervillain who appears in comic books published by DC Comics and is an enemy of Batman. The character first appeared in Detective Comics #66 (August 1942), and was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
Two-Face was once Harvey Dent, the clean-cut district attorney of Gotham City and an ally of Batman. However, Dent goes insane after Sal Maroni throws acid at him during a trial, hideously scarring the left side of his face. Dent adopts the “Two-Face” persona and becomes a crime boss, choosing to bring about good or evil based upon the outcome of a coin flip. Originally, Two-Face was one of many gimmick-focused comic book villains, plotting crimes based around the number two, such as robbing Gotham Second National Bank at 2:00 on February 2. In his autobiography, Batman creator Bob Kane claims to have been inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, specifically the 1931 film version which he saw as a boy. Kane had not read the novel when he and Bill Finger created Two-Face. Some inspiration was also derived from the pulp magazine character the Black Bat, whose origin story included having acid splashed in his face. In later years, writers have portrayed his obsession with duality and fate as the result of schizophrenia, bipolar and multiple personality disorders. He obsessively makes all important decisions by flipping a two-headed coin, one side scratched over with an X. The modern version is established as having once been a personal friend and ally of Commissioner James Gordon and Batman.
The character has appeared in multiple Batman media forms, including video games, animation, and the Batman film series. Billy Dee Williams portrayed Harvey Dent in Batman and Tommy Lee Jones portrayed Two-Face in Batman Forever during the Burton/Schumacher film series, while Aaron Eckhart and Richard Moll played both the district attorney and his villainous alter ego in The Dark Knight and Batman: The Animated Series, respectively. Two-Face was ranked #12 in IGN’s list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains Of All Time.
Two-Face first appears in Detective Comics #66 with the name Harvey Kent; later stories changed his name to “Harvey Dent” to avoid confusion with Clark Kent.
The character only made three appearances in the 1940s, and appeared twice in the 1950s (not counting the impostors mentioned below). By this time, he was dropped in favor of more “kid friendly” villains, though he did appear in a 1968 issue (World’s Finest Comics #173), in which Batman declared him to be the criminal he most fears. In 1971, writer Dennis O’Neil brought Two-Face back, and it was then that he became one of Batman’s arch-enemies.
In the wake of Frank Miller’s 1986 revision of Batman’s origin (see Batman: Year One), Andrew Helfer rewrote Two-Face’s history to match. This origin, presented in Batman Annual #14, served to emphasize Dent’s status as a tragic character, with a back story that included an abusive, alcoholic father, and early struggles with bipolar disorder and paranoia. It was also established, in Batman: Year One, that pre-accident Harvey Dent was a major heroic figure working as one of Batman’s earliest allies. He had clear ties to both Batman and Commissioner Gordon, making him an unsettling and personal foe for both men.
During Two-Face’s third appearance in the 1940s, his face and sanity are restored[by whom?]. Although there was a demand to use him again, the writers did not want to retcon his last story, so they had other characters assume the role. The first impostor – Wilkins, Dent’s butler – uses makeup to suggest that the reformed Dent had suffered a relapse and deformed his face to appear as before.
Paul Sloane becomes the second Two-Face. An actor who was set to star in a biography of Harvey Dent, Sloane is disfigured by an accident on the set in a manner similar to Harvey Dent. Sloane’s mind snaps, and he begins to think he is Dent. Sloane recovers some of his own personality, but continues to remain as the criminal Two-Face. Sloane is reused in later Earth-Two specific stories as Two-Face II of Earth-Two where the original Earth-Two Two-Face remains healed (Superman Family #211). Sloane is revived in the current continuity as a successor Two-Face (Detective Comics #777), though not replacing Dent as done in the earlier Earth-Two specific storyline.
The third Two-Face is another impostor, a petty criminal named George Blake, who like Wilkins is not actually disfigured but is wearing make-up. Furthermore, his makeup is worn on the opposite side of his face to Dent/Sloane.
Also noteworthy is a 1968 story where Batman himself is temporarily turned into Two-Face via a potion (World’s Finest Comics #173). Aside from a 1962 reprint of the Sloane storyline, this was the character’s only appearance in the 1960s.
There’s more to this character than you’d think, because of his Golden Age of Comics origins, and so we will return Thursday, April 5, 2012 to find out more! Watch for new features I’ll be publishing this spring and summer, too. Over the coming weeks I’ll be doing Saturday Matinee: Comics in the Movies and giving you glimpses of the hottest artists in Independent Comics, a genre full of talent, but often overlooked because they’re not in the mainstream. Be back here Thursday for Part Two of Supervillain Origins: Two-Face!
New to this character? An old fan? Find a wealth of comics and collectibles featuring Two-Face at Things From Another World Comics! Click here: TFAW.com