The Five Most Essential Two-Face Stories

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The Five Most Essential Two-Face Stories

DC Comics

  So long as the Joker is around, the most any other Batman villain can hope for is second place on Batman's list of Rogues, but in the case of Two-Face, he might actually prefer being #2. Here are the five most essential Two-Face comic book stories (in chronological order).  

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“The Crimes of Two-Face” (1942's Detective Comics #66-8)

DC Comics

Two-Face's two-part debut has one of the greatest origins of all of Batman's foes, as upstanding citizen and District Attorney Harvey Kent (his name wouldn't be changed to Harvey Dent for a number of years) has his half of his face scarred while prosecuting gangster “Boss” Moroni. His personality splits after his injury and he now finds himself torn between his old, law-abiding self, represented by the unscarred half of his face. and his new, evil self, represented by the scarred side. This was an excellent hook for a villain, especially paired with his gimmick of flipping his a silver dollar coin (which he has also scarred on one side) to decide whether to commit crimes. The pathos of a good man gone bad was handled brilliantly by writer Bill Finger. Artists Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos designed a compellingly grotesque look for him.  

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“Half an Evil” (1971's Batman #234)

Neal Adams embraced the grotesque nature of Two-Face when he returned to the Bat-books in the 1970s. DC Comics

 Two-Face was actually so gross that he was more or less written out of the Batman comic entirely after the institution of the Comic Code in the 1950s (designed to “protect” children from graphic violence in comic books). During the early 1970s, after the Comics Code had loosened its grip, writer Denny O'Neil began to return Batman to its darker roots and this included returning Two-Face to the series for the first time in well over a decade. Artists Neal Adams and Dick Giordano, rather than running from his grotesque look, fully embraced the horrific visual.

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“Eye of the Beholder” (1990's Batman Annual #14)

Andy Helfer and Chris Sprouse explore the notion that Harvey Dent's scarring did not create his dark side, but rather allowed his pre-existing dark side to be released. DC Comics

In Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's landmark storyline, "Batman Year One", we learned that Batman, Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent were all good friends in the earliest days of Batman (Gordon even initially guessed that Dent was Batman), as the three men were all dedicated to justice. Writer Andy Helfer followed up on that idea in this examination into the past of Harvey Dent, as we see the abusive childhood Dent suffered through (Chris Sprouse and Steve Mitchell handle the artwork). His elderly father gave him his trusty silver dollar, which leads Harvey to recall a game his father would play with him as a child. He would flip the silver dollar. Heads, he would beat Harvey. Tails, he would leave him alone. It was only now that he received the coin as a gift from his father as an adult that Harvey learned that it was a two-headed coin. Helfer explores a Dent whose dark side was already present before the scarring, it was the scarring that let Dent's dark side loose.

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“The Long Halloween” (1996-1997's The Long Halloween #1-13)

DC Comics

This classic maxi-series by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale took Helfer's idea and explored it further, as the series follows Dent's slow fall from grace, leading up to him becoming Two-Face at the end of the series. Dent's slow descent from a idealistic seeker of justice to a bleak seeker of revenge is set against the backdrop of Batman's search for the identity of a holiday-themed serial killer. In the original Two-Face stories from the 1940s, Kent/Dent was driven by his love for his fiancee, Gilda. In The Long Halloween, Harvey and Gilda are married and their relationship is a centerpiece to the series. Their somewhat twisted love for each other is heartbreaking. Tim Sale's noir-inspired artwork is astounding – the perfect match for a man whose soul gets darker and darker as the series goes on.  

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“Two of a Kind” (1996's Batman: Black and White #1)

Bruce Timm forced Harvey Dent to choose between twin sisters, one good and one bad - which will he choose?. DC Comics

Batman: The Animated Series co-creator Bruce Timm wrote and drew this short story, created for DC's unique comic book series featuring only Batman stories in black and white. Timm also goes with the idea of a twisted love affair, as Harvey Dent finds himself cured of his scarring by the help of a beautiful, goodhearted plastic surgeon. They fall in love and things seem to be perfect for the pair, but then Harvey meets his love's twin sister, just as beautiful but not at all pure of heart. Timm explores just what Harvey Dent truly wants with his life in this dark but wonderfully drawn tale.