The Many Faces of….Two-Face


harvey dent          harvey dent c

In issue #66 of Detective Comics, 1942, Harvey “Apollo” Kent, a dashing, brilliant, young District Attorney makes his first appearance in Gotham. Kent would be a minor character, only making three appearances in the 1940s and two in the 1950s. It was deemed that his character was not kid-friendly enough. Though in World’s Finest Comics  issue #173, Batman would declare Kent to be the villain he feared the most, Harvey still played a very minor role in the Batman mythos. It would not be until the early seventies, in the hands of famed writer Dennis O’Neil that Harvey would begin to make his mark in Gotham as Two-Face.

Most newcomers to the Batman Universe will know Harvey Dent (see how the last name changed there?) as Two-Face from the Dark Knight movie. Granted, Aaron Eckhart did an admirable job as Two-Face. He did a much better one as Harvey Dent. Hopefully we can just gloss over the whole Tommie Lee Jones portrayal and leave it unmentioned. Shhhhhhhhhhh. Just let it go. Or from the Batman animated series with the awesomely cool Richard Moll voicing him. But neither do justice to the true tragic figure of Harvey “Apollo” Kent (Dent) aka Two-Face.

harvey dent 3     harvey dent 2

The origin of Harvey Kent, as told in Detective Comics #66 back in 1942, is the tale of young and flamboyant District Attorney Kent prosecuting crime boss Sal Maroni. During the cross examination, Maroni hurls a bottle of acid into Kent’s face, scaring him horribly. Batman, who was in the courtroom as a witness (yes the Batman did take the stand and give riveting testimony) tries to intervene but is too late. The result is Two-Face. But it was not physical damage that was the worse, but the emotional and psychological damage done to Kent. Harvey began to rely on his lucky coin to decide the outcome of his actions. To decide between good and evil. Later it would be revealed that the coin belonged to his alcoholic father, who would flip the coin to decide whether the small boy, Harvey, would receive a beating or not. Heads he would get a vicious beating, tails he would not. Only thing, it was a two-headed coin.

Two-Face became the symbol for duality in the Batman universe. The ultimate symbol of fate. All things determined by the flip of a coin. To determine between good and evil, Harvey scarred one side of the coin, much like him, one side unblemished, the other disfigured. Creator, Bob Kane, would say that Harvey was inspired by a book he had read when he was a child. A novel that had both scared him and intrigued him. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

It is in Sales and Loeb’s classic Batman series, The Long Halloween and its sequel, The Dark Victory that Harvey truly comes into his own. The Dark Knight series mirrors the relationship between Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Harvey from this series. Harvey was indeed Gotham’s White Knight. This is what makes his fall so tragic.

harvey dent 4       harvey dent 5

Harvey is a study in bi-polar disorder, duality, multiple personalities and a whole closet full of mental and emotional disabilities. The inability to make his own decisions and leave it all up to fate is something many people suffer from. Don’t think so? How much money do you think the psychic hotline made today. Or the old “God’s Will” or “the devil made me do it” excuses for doing nothing at all. Harvey is hampered and empowered by all of that.

But what makes Harvey so dangerous to Batman? What makes Harvey such an arch enemy and feared foe?

Batman and Harvey are the same.

Batman, like Harvey Two-Face, is a dual personality. Both Bruce Wayne and Batman. Both personalities existing in one space. The difference is, Harvey Dent gets to come out and be the dominant personality once in  a while dependent on the flip of a coin. Bruce does not. Bruce is always Batman and Batman is always Batman. Neither has any super power. Both exist and succeed by the sheer force of their wills or their madness.

If you don’t think Batman could have been like Two-Face, then you need to pick up any Batman comic book that has a character called “The Owl”. Two-Face like Batman? In the Batman: Face to Face storyline, Two-Face is convinced and trained by the Batman to become a vigilante crime fighter protecting Gotham.

Batman and Two-Face, Harvey and Bruce. Gotham’s white knight and dark knight.

Oh and all that Kent and Dent stuff? In Detective Comics #66 and for others afterward the character is Harvey “Apollo” Kent. Nicknamed Apollo for his good looks. It was later changed to Harvey Dent. No explanation. We weren’t suppose to notice. Seems DC was concerned that a mentally unstable criminal might get confused with another character in their comic books and they didn’t want there to be any connection. Some red and blue, tights wearing overgrown boy scout…think he was from someplace in Kansas. Yes that’s right, from Smallville.

One thought on “The Many Faces of….Two-Face

  1. I will say this about the Tommy Lee Jones Two-Face, he was waaay better than the Riddler in that film. And The Long Halloween is my favourite comic of all time, and the transformation of Harvey Dent is why.

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