Two-Face was created by Bob Kane back in 1942 as a clean-cut Gotham City district attorney whose life goes down a sinister path when acid is thrown on his face during a courtroom trial. This physical disfigurement brings to the surface long-gestating evil tendencies, reforging Dent as a highly erratic — yet highly organized — criminal mastermind. His choices all boil down to luck, and the flip of a scarred two-faced coin he carries in his pocket.
Two-Face is one of the chief antagonists in Batman’s illustrious rogue’s gallery, arguably second only to the maniacal Joker. He’s been played in film by everyone from Billy Dee Williams to Tommy Lee Jones (and even Richard Moll from Night Court), but his most seminal stories remain in his home medium of comics. In this week’s Where Do I Start?, we track down the five suspects and present them in a line-up of easily available trade paperbacks.
Batman Vs. Two-Face: Although there’s more to Two-Face than being an adversary of Batman, you’ll find many of his best stories locked in that seemingly endless struggle. This 2008-era collection brings together many of their top struggles, including two particularly excellent stand-outs. The first one is the 1970s one-off story in Batman#234 by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams titled “Half An Evil.” In this story, Two-Face’s first in 20 years, Dent returns to Gotham and sinks a ship — but not before robbing it first. The second story isn’t even a full issue — it’s a poetic tour de force by Bruce Timm titled “Two Of A Kind” which originally appeared in Batman: Black And White #1. There haveve been many stories following the idea of curing Harvey Dent, but this classic really hits home in a heartfelt story that sees him seemingly reformed only to be brought back down by a simple but dangerous lie.
Batman Featuring Two-Face & The Riddler: Even though this book forces Dent to share comic book real estate with the Riddler, it’s well worth the buy even if you’re only interested in Two-Face. In addition to reprinting his earliest appearances, it also features arguably the greatest Two-Face story ever told: “The Eye of the Beholder” from Batman Annual #14. This one follow-ups after Dent’s appearance in Batman: Year One, with writer Andy Helfer and artist Chris Sprouse creating what quickly became the formulation take on Dent’s early days and abusive childhood, including the origin of the two-headed coin.
Batman: The Long Halloween: This book, called an “epic tragedy” by director Christopher Nolan, follows the early days of Batman as he’s on the trail of a mysterious killer who only works on holidays. Written by Jeph Loeb and drawn by Tim Sale, Two-Face is here back during his pre-disfigured days as District Attorney Harvey Dent, showing there’s more to Two-Face than just his criminal career. If you like this, I highly recommend the follow-up series Batman: Dark Victory by the same creative team.
Gotham Central Vol. 2: Half A Life: Two-Face returns to his old job, so to speak, when he carries out a twisted obsession for police detective Renee Montoya. Greg Rucka built this story up for years in his work on various Batman books, all culminating this five-issue arc beautifully illustrated by Michael Lark.
Batman: Faces: Matt Wagner is an under-rated comics virtuoso, and this three-issue story-arc really solidifies just how great he is. In this, Two-Face forges ahead with a plan to create a secluded nation for “deformed” people like himself away from persecution from others. Wagner takes this story down a slightly surreal bent that ends with a brutal conclusion that twists the accepted reasoning behind Dent’s insanity.