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(This post originally was featured as part of the semi-regular column BS’N at Eat Your Serial)
With the (not really all that) recent surge in popularity of comic adaptions on the big and small screen, there are so many stellar standout series that are nowhere near development. There are countless possibilities that I’m discounting out of hand because a TV budget just wouldn’t do them justice. A comic like Runaways has a beautiful high concept (kids discover their parents are super villains, and they go on the run), but TV special effects budgets just couldn’t do justice to the magic, sci-fi tech, and best bud velociraptor to get it right. The benefits of a TV show’s long form narrative are hindered by its sometimes crippling budget restrictions. So we went for picks more grounded in reality so that the story can be transferred without being derailed by poor attempts at capturing the imaginative trappings associated with many comic series.
Shawn: Unknown Soldier
The Unknown Soldier is an often recycled concept by DC comics. But the one that had the most resonance for me, and the one that would make the best start of a series, is the Vertigo iteration from 2008. Set against the backdrop of the horrors of country trying to rebuild itself while dealing with the horrors of war in Uganda, the series stars Dr. Moses Lwanga, a peaceful, philanthropic man who returns to his home country from America to try and do good. Unbeknownst to him, he has been conditioned and brainwashed by the US government and is a dangerous instrument of chaos and destruction.
I’d rather not go too deep into the storyline because discovery is most of the fun with these things, but the story hints at many other “Unknown Soldiers” – essentially sleeper agents – that date back to the Vietnam War. This kind of expansive plot, with the strong emotional core of its lead characters would make a perfect show on HBO, Showtime, or AMC.
Brandon: The Sandman
The Sandman was a comic book series by Neil Gaiman and a variety of talented artists that follow the “life” of Morpheus, the King of Dreaming and lord over all things imagined. While the plot points are a little too complicated to broach in a short list such as this, suffice it to say that the overall scope of the story ranges from Lucifer abandoning his post to Shakespeare writing plays for the Sandman’s enjoyment as part of a back alley agreement concerning inspiration. The Sandman is a member of The Endless who are physical representations of the fundamental aspects of life and the universe; they are gods to the gods.
What I’d imagine in a Sandman TV series would be an animated feature show—as there is no way that this could be done justice in a live action format on either television or in movies. A studio committed to translating the cerebral and mythologically transformative work of Gaiman, et al. would be best served to have different seasons or story arcs animated in different styles, while still maintaining a certain criterion of quality as the Vertigo series did. This would not be a show for everyone because of the heady and lofty, as well as grim and gritty, fantasy and horror themes of the series…but what it would be is a cult phenomenon that—if well executed—would collect awards and a loyal following for its entire run. It would also be best served in a late-night rather than a prime-time slot—10 PM or later, but rest assured it would be a great ride.
Much like Brandon’s choice for Sandman, Bone would be an animated show as well. Unlike Sandman, however, Bone would definitely be a more all-ages show. Bone is a fifty-five issue series written and drawn by Jeff Smith that follows the Bone cousins, Phoniciple “Phoney” Bone, Smiley Bone, and Fone Bone, from race out of Boneville, thanks to the latest in a long list of schemes concocted by Phoney Bone, to their arrival and eventual adventures in The Valley. The cousins are eventually drawn into events involving the evil Lord of Locusts, and do their part to help save The Valley.My hope is that a Bone television series would be able to perfectly emulate the beautiful artwork that Smith has described as a, “kind of mixture of Walt Kelly and Moebius.” It’s really a fitting description. The Bone cousins are very simply rendered, looking not too dissimilar to Casper the Friendly Ghost, with the rest of the characters in the series more detailed but still cartoony. The backgrounds, though are very detailed and do, in fact, take on an almost Moebius-level style of rendition.
Shawn: Gotham Central
The only superhero book on my list is anything but. Gotham Central was a series that told the stories of the detectives and beat cops of the Gotham Police Department. Batman was more of an idea than a character in this very risky offbeat title.
And it was amazing. Imagine a police procedural where the characters have to deal with so much more than the usual crimes. Super villains, rogue vigilantes, and a perception that you are completely ineffective in your job. Whenever Batman or one of his rogue’s appear – it’s a major event. Sure Batman’s faced down the Joker a million times, but what’s it like for the grunt cop who’s pulling overtime to put food on the table for his kids? The cop who’s usually just cannon fodder so Batman can get madder for five panels before he forgets about it and returns to his cave for tea and scones.
The series humanized Gotham City like never before, and would be perfectly suited for TV.
Brandon: The Punisher
Alright, I hear you groaning out there. I know that previous attempts at translating The Punisher to live action have been…well…they’ve been shit. Nobody has been a bigger vocal critic of this than me (especially when I specifically asked Jeph Loeb and Joe Quesada about it at Comicon 2010) but there’s a reason why. Without a doubt there is no comic property more box-ready than The Punisher (with the notable exception of…I dunno…Dennis the Menace). The Punisher really just needs to be a guy, in a tee-shirt, with a gun and nothing to lose. He goes around and chases gangsters.
This concept if properly utilized, and without putting too much weight on a supporting cast could make for an easy and gritty show. The supporting cast would be easy to fill out—Ben Urich, Microchip, G.W. Bridge and a rotating list of criminals to be Punished. Start with Jigsaw, work your way up to the Owl, the Rose, the Kingpin. Each big villain could be the focus of a season or half-season. The Punisher could go up against the Marvel mainstay organizations—the Hand, Hydra, A.I.M., without really getting too deep into their high sci-fi or occultist pieces (they’d have to be addressed but wouldn’t have to be focused upon). The budget wouldn’t have to be big, and a lot of the violence could happen off screen to let the gruesomeness happen in the viewers imagination (thereby being much more powerful—thanks Hitchcock!) With a pulp twist and a CSI tone how could this miss—oh yeah the mistakes of the past. You have to respect the character and avert goofy accents, changes, classical music fight scenes, and John Travolta or Dolph Lundgren. Nuff said.
You know what are always in style for television? Shows about lawyers! You’ve got Perry Mason, you’ve got L.A. Law, you’ve got whatever show about lawyers is currently on TV (I…uh…I don’t keep current on a whole lot at the moment). Well, that’s what She-Hulk would be! An hour-long dramedy following Jen Walters in her day job as a lawyer for the firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway (If you don’t get the homage in the first three names of that law firm, consider yourself chastised by me, then go look it up), we’d get a great mix of drama, comedy, romance, and tragedy. You’d also get superheroes and villains! With legal issues! I swear, the legalities of superheroics are far more entertaining than you think.
This series would mostly be patterned after the She-Hulk series that launched in 2004, written initially by Dan Slott, then handed over to Peter David. Something that could help out a She-Hulk television series is that there’s an actress already eager to play the part. In an interview with Conan O’Brien this past July, Angie Harmon stated that if the chance ever came up, she would jump at the chance to play She-Hulk. While Angie might not work for Shulkie’s alter-ego, Jen Walters, she would most definitely be a top choice for the jade giantess.
Shawn: 100 Bullets
It may anachronistic to look at it this way, but I’ve often said (echoing many others) that 100 Bullets is The Wire of comic books. So naturally, it would make for a great TV series. The concept is simple on the surface: You are wronged at such a profound level, and just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, a savior shows up. Someone who offers you a suitcase with a gun and 100 untraceable bullets so that you can enact your revenge. What do you do? Can you really pass judgment on those who wronged you while escaping judgment yourself? And perhaps the most important questions of all… who is this person offering you the briefcase? Why are they doing this? HOW are they doing this?
And from there, you’re hooked. And lost in an amazingly complex web of moral corruption, death, lies, and some of the most amazing characters and plots ever put to paper. 100 Bullets is a masterpiece, and would stand out like one in any medium.
Brandon: 100 Bullets
I have to agree with Shawn on this one, as much as I hate to agree with Shawn (even on oxygen). 100 Bullets would make for a great television series in a venue such as AMC, HBO, or Showtime where an audience could get a mostly commercial free 48-55 minutes on their hour of a show that has a conspiracy full of complicated and amoral characters. The best part about 100 Bullets is that it was so carefully planned that the comic offers literally no loose ends. When you look at the over all pacing of the story and the usage, introduction, and purpose of characters there is not a single thread out of place or without its use.
Of course one would have to wonder how much of the plot would get lost in the translation to television, and as the time draws near for killings they would have impact because the characters are multi-faceted and dimensional. One really has to applaud the effort on the part of Brian Azzarello for plotting the story so well and Eduardo Risso for illustrating the story in such a noir cinematic style. In my head, each of the 100 issues of 100 Bullets actually plays out like a sixty minute episode of a TV drama—which if well tanslated would slate the show at about five seasons long…and just at the centennial syndication mark. The fact that this hasn’t happened yet, despite the rights being picked up, is a true shame and really remiss on the part of…well…the entire entertainment industry.
I’m going to break away from the pact here and go in a different direction. While 100 Bullets is quite an excellent comic, and I’m sure it would make for a fine show, I’d rather see someone take a stab at bring Jamie Madrox to the small screen. The comic series Madrox was a 2004 addition to the Marvel Knights line and followed Jamie Madrox, formerly Multiple Man of X-Factor, as a private investigator.
Possessing the ability to make perfect duplicates of himself that he can later reabsorb and gain knowledge from, Jamie has been learning as much as he can by sending these “dupes” out into the world to become experts in different fields, such as martial arts, the law, even Olympic-level gymnastics. After finding and reabsorbing a dupe that had been the victim of an attempted murder, Jamie decides to investigate the situation using the duplicate’s memories as clues. After the mini-series ended, it was spun-off into a new ongoing series, X-Factor, following the newly named X-Factor Investigations.
Backed up in the mini-series by Rahne Sinclaire, aka Wolfsbane, and Guido Carosella, known a little better as Strong Guy (You see, he’s this guy that’s really strong), Jamie definitely doesn’t have to go it alone when hunting down mysteries, despite his ability to be a one man army. While the show would be called Madrox, it would really follow more along the lines of the ongoing, X-Factor, which, sadly, is a title that’s been cribbed by a depressing talent contest reality show. A crime, I tell you.
One thing I particularly like about the idea of a television show based around Jamie Madrox is that it would be full of possibilities for one-off episodes. Instead of following the usual cast and story, we can spend a week watching one of Jamie’s duplicates off elsewhere in the world continuing his mission of gaining as much knowledge as he possibly can. Who wouldn’t love an episode based around, say, a kung fu master Jamie Madrox duplicate?
Well, we’ve said our piece, True Believers (don’t worry, Stan Lee gets a dime whenever we say that), but what about you? What are some series that you would love to see brought to the small screen in a serialized format? Give us your ideas in our comment section.
It’s an easy read but not easily read.
I am constantly amazed at the power of the graphic novel.
Not all perfect endings are perfectly happy.
These are the immediate lines that spring into my mind when I roll over the experience of reading Craig Thompson’s Habibi. I haven’t even allowed myself a great deal of time to thoroughly digest the book and I literally put the book down only minutes ago—but I am moved to write about it right now. In truth, I’ve been writing this review all week as I’ve been stealing and squirreling bits of times to absorb this amazing work (as time to read is not a great luxury when raising two children, the eldest being 2). I’ve made several Facebook posts about it. This book is amazing without qualification.
The presentation of the book is eye capturing to begin with—it is a hardcover leather bound book with gold inlays and beautiful Arabic inlays and geometric designs with an amulet of the main characters Dodola and Zam in the middle. Thompson weaves a love story that transcends romance, redefines family, and actually makes you reconsider the entire concept in a story told in a mostly timeless setting with only occasional flairs of the modern world.
The devices used to tell this story involve story-within-a-story from (mostly) the protagonist, Dodola—who starts as a young girl sold into marriage to scribe and grows into a woman with a story that defies summary (and I won’t summarize it either because you should certainly go read this book in a spoiler free experience). In the course of her tumultuous life she comes to rescue a black baby who becomes known as Zam while both were enslaved. Through the course of the story Dodola, and later Zam, recount stories of Arabian mythology and of the Qu’ran as they relate to their current predicaments.
There is also a lot of time spent exploring Muslim and Arabian numerology and mysticism—which resonated deeply with me along with the Qu’ran stories as they are closely related to Kabalah and the biblical stories of my Jewish upbringing—explaining the divine nature of the letters and numbers and their power to protect and heal.
The characters in Habibi are complex and make difficult decisions in situations that often seem to have no positive outcome. There are moments in the story that are truly heart-wrenching and force you to take pause, consider the turns that are being made, the circumstances presented, and make you question your own morality and preconceptions; which brings us to my first postulate: Habibi is an easy read but is not easily read. Had I the luxury for unadulterated reading time I could have knocked this book out in a single sitting. It is an absorbing story that hooks you from the jump—which I know is trite to say but its 100% accurate. However, that is not to say that it is a 3 panel strip of Blondie—like any work of literary value this is a story of consequence which is best described as an experience; a voyeuristic intrusion into the lives of the characters that affects your mind forevermore.
The complexity of the story is told in black and white renderings that are at once artful and raw; realistic and fantastical; mesmerizing and thought-provoking. There are times when the scenes are immensily detailed and others where they are open, airy, sparse; the story is designed to accommodate varying levels of reality while remaining consistent stylistically. Interwoven with these images are intricate geometric “magic squares” and wonderful Arabic calligraphy that grounds the often-times maligned Arabic traditions as a true cousin to my own traditions—though even an outsider viewing these concepts as totally “foreign” could easily find the beauty and majesty in the concepts as presented.
This should not discount the emotion that Thompson masterfully captures panel after panel. The expressions on the faces of his character speaks volumes more than prose ever could and add life and dimension to even the casts most minor members (a short joke to the flatulent dwarf in the Sultan’s palace). The art itself, in combination with the words create for an emotional experience as well as an intellectual one in ways that I did not expect. I am constantly amazed at the power of the graphic novel.
The story is fantastically paced and finds its climax and draws its close in a way that is not at all predictable at the height of its turmoil—though it is not forced. In fact, Thompson has carefully crafted his work to make a surprising yet absolutely perfect ending that does not patronize its reader with magic wands and fairy godmothers. As the story winds down certain pieces of the ending become apparent and clear—revealed rather than predicted—it is thoroughly satisfying without pandering to the need for all to be right again in the universe. It spoils nothing to say that this story serves as a brilliant reminder that not all perfect endings are perfectly happy, the world doesn’t make everything alright just because you struggle, and love is powerful but not all-powerful.
I have always been a strong advocate for the literary importance of graphic novels and comic books/strips and Craig Thompson proves me right with Habibi. Furthermore, as this is his most recent work it has inspired me to look into what seems to be his landmark work, Blankets. I would be incredibly disappointed if this book does not receive its due recognition across as many awards ceremonies as possible—it is especially worthy of an Eisner and should be considered for all manner of literary recognition. The book is worth the time of any advocate of the medium, any bibliophile interested in thoroughly timeless and incredibly modern work, and anyone who likes to be challenged in their escapism.
Normally, it’s fair to say that I stick to the tights and capes genre of comic book reading. With the exception of the stray Vertigo title ( Y: The Last Man, 100 Bullets) or some cultural touchstone, probably written by Alan Moore (and arguably some form of tights and capes at that!), I don’t venture out of this corner of the industry. That isn’t to say that I’m not interested…in fact of late I have been making major stride to broaden my exposure and see if’n the other areas are of interest to me. In seeking this out, I came to some good advice about reading faire from a friend of mine, Nick Newert (director, AV guy, and Copy editor extraordinaire) to read Don Rosa’s “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck”.
At first, when he first proposed this sometime back, I was reluctant; not because it wasn’t the capes and tights genre but rather because it was a Disney Comic. With other pressing matters at hand, and a lack of time to track down and read this volume of tales cataloguing the rise of the world’s richest duck, it sat in the back burner of my mind. Now, I have had many a heated discussion about the tights and capes genre with Mr. Newert, and besides respecting his intelligence, I respect his taste in comics (almost a higher, if-not-equal compliment IMO) so when there was a little bit more space in my life for comic book reading again I made sure that his suggestion was on my pull list.
I don’t know why I waited so long. All of my reluctances over the quality of art and writing in the comic due to my perception of what would be acceptable in a Disney book were assuaged almost immediately. The volume develops the character of Scrooge McDuck from a wee lad of 10, earning his #1 Dime in Glassgow, Scotland to the wealthy, tightfisted, and cantankerous old duck that the world has come to know as Uncle Scrooge with humor, intelligence, and a sophistication that appeals to both adult and child readers. For example: in the first chapter “Of Dimes , Ducks, and Destinies” Magica De Spell (that evil sorceress duck with the haircut that my wife had in her senior yearbook photo) travels back in time to steal Scrooge’s #1 dime (as is her M.O.). As part of fitting into the scenery she uses a spell to don clothing more appropriate to the time period—a duck is sitting in a nearby window having a drink from a brown bottle. This duck might not be suspicious at first, but after De Spell’s clothing have changed an arm is seen reaching out of the window pouring the drink to the ground. It is a simple, yet easy joke aimed more at an adult audience in acknowledgement in the fantastic nature of magic (if not anthropomorphic ducks and dogs) more so than children, despite their level of involvement with alcoholic hallucinations.
As a man born in the 1980’s I have an especially soft spot in my heart for Disney’s ducks as I was reared on a healthy diet of Duck Tales. The adventures of Scrooge, along with his grandnephews Huey, Dewey,and Louie and their most inept pilot, Launchpad McQuack are a cornerstone of my childhood. While I have somewhat less attachment to Donald (probably it only goes so far as the Dancing Donald Duck toy I had as a kid and my general predilection to incomprehensible sailor babble) I found it interesting that little effort is made in the comics to emulate his characterist “ducky” voice. His characterization, though limited in the long life span of his
miserly uncle (the tale spans 1877 to 1947) is interesting as I never really know what the hell he was saying before (perhaps Donald is only drunk in motion pictures). However, as characters like the afore mentioned De Spell,
it is interesting to see how they operate in different contexts. Additionally, I found particular joy in guessing a largely unnamed Afrikaner Duck who played the role of villain in “The Terror of the Transvaal” was in fact McDucks arch nemesis Flintheart Glomgold, as well as reading the formation of the Beagle Boys Gang in “The Master of The Mississippi”.
All in, reading the character of Scrooge develop from a 10 year old with a shoe-shine kid to an intrepid and adventurous teenager, to a hardened man of his twenties (stopping only to look for “tail” from Goldie O’Gilt –another character I remember from Duck Tales), all the way to a penny pinching, coin swimming, money bin hoarding, old man (duck) looking to connect with some family on Christmas Day is quite the ride; and a refreshing departure from my normal comics faire. The art, while maintaining the Disney character design and manual of style is remarkably dynamic, consistent, and relays at times the same amount of sophistication and humor as the writing does. “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” is a marvelous and fun read for any comic book fan and Don Rosa’s 1995 Eisner Award for it is well deserved, as is the 1997 Comic’s Buyers Guide Favorite Reprint award. I recommend it whole heartedly, and assert that anyone who can’t enjoy this comic book probably can’t enjoy comic books at all.
P.S. Finding out that Duckburg is located in Calisota, USA made me laugh. If only The Simpsons had come up with so simple a solution.
As far as nerds go, you might consider that I am a markedly mellow one. Sure, I have a blog devoted to my nerdiness. Certainly, my office is crammed with thousands of comic books. Of course I have a chest containing 99.9% of the video games I ever owned. That is not the mark of my intensity—it is the quality of my pedigree. No, the mark of my intensity is the fact that I am not crippled by my nerdiness—I define it as opposed to the opposite. My life does not begin and end in my interests and endeavors—I have a profession, I have wife, I have two children, and a mortgage. My pursuits into the realms of fantasy and escapism have bounds and limits. Take this opening as a baseline for the comments that follow.
WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY COMIC BOOKS DC?
You see with fair and honest deference to the aforementioned intensity of my nerditude, I can only be pushed so far. In an attempt to continue the pursuit of my interests in a limited capacity I found myself at something of a crossroads. It became blaringly apparent that on a week to week basis I would no longer be able to afford myself the luxury of going to my local comic book provider, peruse the shelves and spend my customary eighty to one hundred and twenty dollars a week on comic books.
This became apparent in the late spring of 2010 when I began my masters. I made some provisions and was able to once every month or so drop twenty or thirty dollars on my vice, but this was small pittance for an almost insatiable habit. Fortunately, though I missed the large quantity of comics terribly, in a rigorous graduate program I had little (mind you that’s “little” not “no”) time for comic book reading. After completion of my course of study I found myself in the gleeful position of expecting a second child from my wife by years’ end and the coming responsibility of a mortgage payment. This was May 2011.
As luck would happen to have it May 2011 also saw the announcement of the “New 52” FROM Boss DiDio and Boss Lee over at DC Comics. I saw this as fortuitous. I would not really be bringing any money until September and that was when the new DCU or DCnU would be launched. It was fortuitous because it incidentally followed my birthday in late August and I knew I could count on my mother, even in my late twenties, to give me comic book money for my birthday. I decided it would be best to invest in a few subscriptions and at least I would know that I would have a meting out comic book escapism every week at regular intervals.
When the time came I subscribed to four titles and received a fifth free, as was the promotion at the time. I expected a week or two might pass before I started receiving comics in the mail. DC was even touting that a LIMITED NUMBER of first run number ones would be held for new subscription customers while supplies lasted. Hurrah, hope sprang up.
In mid-October I gave DC a call. They informed me that delivery took 6-8 weeks. I was dismayed as this was a long delay from release to reception on my part. I don’t live in Myanmar thirty-five years ago. This seemed like an incredible amount of time to wait for an issue to be delivered. I had actually ordered my subscriptions in late September, so I expected I might miss a few number ones, but certainly I expected second issues to arrive the week the came out. Wasn’t that the beauty of subscription service? The newspaper, People Magazine, and other periodicals come in a reasonable amount of time—why would comic books take so long? The idiot on the phone assured me that this was all explained to me when I ordered my subscriptions online. I walked through the process to double check that and I saw none of it. I will gladly stand corrected if someone can point out such an amazing wait disclaimer. I informed the moron on the line that I certainly would not have opted for the service if I thought that my comics would be 6-8 weeks late forever. The angry nerd in me came out. I hung up the phone having figured I had only two more weeks to wait for my comics to arrive.
More weeks passed.
It was now Halloween weekend. Lo and behold in my mailbox was Green Lantern number 3. I was confused. Certainly that comic book must have come out that week. It matter not that it was Saturday and comics are issued on Wednesday. I thrilled at receiving a new comic book. The imbecile I spoke to misinformed me—it took 6-8 for service to begin not for delivery. While still a long processing time the minute difference in explanation amounts to a very different matter. Regardless, I was now happy as my comic book service would now begin.
Two weeks passed.
After what I attributed to be a skip week two comics came in the mail. Superman and Batman. I was fine with two arriving in one week. If those books are on the same release week I could cope—it wasn’t ideal but it was something. The next week to my amazement Justice League number 3 arrived on Wednesday. WOOHOO! I read it with vigor.
I have not received any comics since then. I know for a fact I should have received Action Comics number 3 two weeks ago, and probably should have received Green Lantern by now. The timing of these comics arrival is confusing and annoying to me. I am displeased with the accountability of DC with their delivery. I saw Action Comics number 3 in the goddamned supermarket the other day. THE SUPERMARKET. Why should I EVER see a comic book in the aisles of a third tier comic book vendor before my pre-paid subscription title is received?
So I pose the question—is this some plot? Is it a ploy to have me switch to an inferior digital model? It’s the only viable reason for a USPS based delivery of a comic book to be so inconsistent. It doesn’t take 6-8 weeks to process a mailing request if a digital copy can be delivered instantaneously. At least 2-3 would be a reasonable amount of time that I wouldn’t have wanted to wait but as I said…I’m mellow. This has me pissed.
I’m a life-long DC reader. By ordering directly from them, at a time when they are promising timeliness and accountability has turned me off incredibly from future dealings with subscription service (though I may give it a second shot should I get some money to do so—but probably with Marvel to see if it’s a consistent trend). So I ask:
WHERE THE FUCK ARE MY BOOKS?
More as this story develops.
Few would argue the point that in the halls of storied comic book rogues galleries none compare to the compelling psychological and murderous wonder of Batman’s crew of villainous foes. The Caped Crusader’s homicidal and maniacal opponents have proven time and again that if anyone can keep the worlds smartest, richest, most formidable man on his toes, they can. They are so malevolent, and often so contemptuous of human life, society, and law that they are in fact rarely put into regular inmate circulation at Blackgate Prison, or any other of DC’s fictional “regular” prisons but are instead admitted to the infamous and appropriately gothic Arkham Asylum.
Arkham is a mental hospital for the criminally insane that is located just outside of Gotham City and it houses the lion’s share of Batman’s foes. Of the foes committed within there is one who I wish to expound upon in this article—a villain, so called, that in another life actually helped to incarcerate many of his fellow in-mates; none other than former Gotham City District Attorney Harvey Dent aka Two-Face.
Two-Face has always had incredible potential to be a complicated, complex, and thoroughly enjoyable character. Before being scarred by acid in a dramatic mob-related court room assassination attempt, Dent was a promising young district attorney aligned with both Police Commissioner Jim Gordon and The Batman in a trinity force that—at least in Loeb and Sale’s The Long Halloween—was committed to taking down the mob in Gotham (and the costumed loonies as well). A brave and bold force of justice with a brilliance in him Dent was then emotionally and mentally unhinged when he was disfigured on half of his face (and body, presumably).
At this point Two-Face’s depiction becomes somewhat befuddled. Classically, Two-Face’s modus operandi has been an obsession with the number two—supposedly having to do with the dual visage he bears as his disfigurement. This is where the characterization starts to fall apart. A brilliant lawyer who was charismatic enough to be elected to the position of district attorney in a city as large as Gotham would most likely not have a breakdown of this sort. While this specific and most recognizable flair fits into Golden Age sensibilities of comic book villains, and characters in general a modern approach (as I will provide) will show a direction that in my formidable estimation would be best suited for the DCnU.
The Golden and Silver Age (and to some extend the so-called Modern Age) deal heavily with the idea that Two-Face’s schemes revolve around this plot point of his obsession with the number two. He might use a .22 caliber pistol, or rob the Twin Pines Mall, or steal 22 million dollars as 22:22 military time from the 2nd national bank in Timbuktu. I recall in the story arc A Lonely Place of Dying by Wolfman and Perez (the story arc that introduces Tim Drake) there is a scene where Batman is scheming to lure Two-Face to a prize and Two-Face is scheming to lure Batman to is doom. The scene is overtly aware of the over-use of the silly Two-Face gimmick as Batman is trying to come up with different traps involving two while Dent is trying to come up with inventive new ones. Eventually Bruce Wayne puts a 22 million prize up while Two-Face kidnaps twins in two ploys that have them both going in opposite directions. The damn thing acknowledges itself.
There is even some support of this in his usage of a two-faced (or double-sided) coin with one side scarred in his decision making process but I don’t feel that this is the kind of obsession a man with the history and intellect of Harvey Dent would have—even when heeding the awesome transformative might of insanity and breakdown.
What I would propose, and indeed what I would write myself, would be the character of Harvey Dent becoming morally polarized. Instead of obsessing over duos and plurals I would see the character perseverate upon duality and plurality. A talented man well versed in law now jaded with an easily manipulated system Harvey Dent, Two-Face, would lose the ability to see moral ambiguity forsaking any shades of grey and becoming a force of his own brand of justice. I see Two-Face not as a lawman turned bank robber but rather as the deputized establishment gone renegade. Two-Face the Vigilante, Two-Face the Punisher; not Two-Face the coin flipping pun, not Two-Face the plot gag.
Close examination of television and movie depictions of the character reveal this potential as well. My first encounters with the character come from the Batman: The Animated Series cartoon of the early 90’s. This was a capable and confident Two-Face; a man who did justice to his own history insofar as his competence as a criminal and an intellect. He was, for lack of a better term, a boss. He came on strong, bold, with a clear plan and expectation for what it is that he wished to accomplish—certainly many of his decisions hinged on the flip of a coin but, without taking anything away from that particular idiosyncratic trait, remember this was also a children’s cartoon. The Paul Dini/Bruce Timm Two-Face is a strong character that, at least in the onset of the series, is not so terribly over the top (given the medium) that he could be discounted as a serious threat.
On the other hand, there is the Two-Face as portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones in Batman Forever. My god. What a terrible movie. Joel Shitmaker certainly had the crap gods smiling upon him when they churned out this waste of my dime (actually my father’s dime). Without getting too much into the awful decisions made all around in this movie I will attempt to discuss the Two-Face contained within. Harvey Dent so-called as portrayed Tommy Lee Jones was somehow an exponentially more cartoonish figure than the Dini/Timm version could have ever hoped to be. On an acid trip. In Oz. With Rip Taylor as your guide. Somehow they managed to take every over the top, ridiculous, and downright nonsensical piece of the character and exponentially amplify it to the level of ultimate retardation. I’m not even going to waste our time (yours as the reader and mine as the writer) giving a multitude of examples—suffice it to say that the character is so thoroughly one-dimensional and oafishly portrayed and written that he is defeated by a bag of half dollars thrown in the air. The end. That’s all folks. If my memory serves Batman doesn’t even bother to punch him afterwards. This is a brilliant man? I think not.
Now, as much as I find Batman Forever to be a blight upon humanity, from its Broadway Gay lighting schemes to Jim Carrey playing the Joker in a Riddler costume, The Dark Knight is its polar opposite. I won’t delve too deeply into recap or critique on this movie either but the portrayed of Harvey Dent/Two Face by Aaron Eckhart in this movie is leagues better, parsecs better, than what we’ve got going on with Jones. First, the emphasis on the characterization of the man Harvey Dent throughout the greater part of the movie really drives home the point that the heart of Two-Face is the lawyer, the district attorney, the man. The Dark Knight probably does this to a fault, because by the time Dent becomes Two-Face (in an alternate-yet-similar origin story) it seems forced and rushed because its towards the end of the movie. Even so, this Two-Face is driven by justice—not law mind you—and this is tempered and infused with chance upon mortality. Dent seeks out corrupt cops and mobsters alike and gives them one coin flip to decide their fate.
This approach is already encroaching on the Two-Face I would like to read, or would write myself. A man whose life is about justice; before being disfigured law and after a deranged or personal sense of right and wrong—but not about robbing the second national bank on February 2nd. There was some hinting at this kind of a Two-Face in the One Year Later event following DC’s 52 but it was quickly abandoned and forgotten. There was a quick amnesia surrounding the entire diea that Two-Face was actually operating as a hero in Gotham while Batman was gone for a year, and as if he had lost a bet to the Bat, Dent resumed his villainous ways upon Batman’s return.
(note: The Riddler has been operating as “reformed” detective for hire as something of a con-man for a while now and I think it adds something to his character. Again, why would he self-defeat by leaving clues and robbing banks? It is also interesting to note that both of these characters were poorly portrayed in Shitmaker’s first Batman debacle)
The Two-Face that needs to arrive is not a cartoonish oaf with a ridiculous obsession over the number 2 but instead a stone cold killer with his own sense of justice. One who finds himself closely aligned Batman in almost every way…except one: his willingness to kill because of his utter lack of faith or even contempt for the system. This Two-Face would be at odds with the Caped Crusader much in the way that Catwoman is (minus the sexual tension—probably) and being erstwhile allies in the protection of their city. Interestingly enough this would have him operating in a moral grey area that his own mental damage doesn’t allow him to recognize in the actions of others.
What time is it? It’s Time for Pizza, or rather, its time for the Time for Pizza podcast with Scott Fried and Jared Berman. As you know out there, those of you that follow this verbose and sporadic blog, I am a fan of all things nerdy. As it turns out this brand-spanking-new podcast covers just about anything a nerd might care to hear about; wrestling, comics, television series, non-conformist music. The first two episodes of this new podcast series have sent a shudder through the interwebs…at least the ones emanating from my iPhone on my pre-dawn commute from Long Island to Brooklyn.
The hosts, Scott and Jared, are profoundly literate in the world of trivial nerdery, pop culture, and all the things you don’t tell people you like your first day on the job. Listening to their repartee is both welcoming and entertaining—for me I feel as if I’m listening to my high school friends bullshitting in the cafeteria. In fact I might even be inclined to say that I feel related to one of them by marriage. They are just like the guys I based my Nerdcore characters on in my novel Ten Years Gone: Pomp and Circumstance. Actually, they are all those things—but that’s not why I’ve endorsed their podcast. I guarantee you that my bonds with these parties in particular are strong enough that if their podcast sucked I’d write a review about that and link to it so that you could experience the suck for yourself (but it doesn’t hurt that I designed their fancy pants professional looking logo; seen above).
Verily, Scott and Jared are ideal hosts for this kind of format. Their timing as well as their rapport with each other allows for a fluid and natural show that doesn’t feel forced while still being thoroughly planned and outlined. They both have a natural on air presence and Scott, particularly, sounds like an NPR type with a killer humor that, at first, hits newcomers like a ton of bricks. Jared in many ways acts as a foil for the uninformed or lesser-informed listener as he is a moderate comic book nerd, a major underground music head, and something of a slightly informed wrestling outsider. The pair have intersecting interests in many areas but probably none so strong as that as television and movies. They are a perfect storm of balance for the hardcore nerd and the would-be nerd.
The show isn’t bogged down with giving the minute by minute account of the topics at hand but rather with giving the kind of silly, zany, stupidity that can only be borne from intelligence, critical thought, and horrible suppressed trauma. The entertainment value cannot be denied. So now that you’ve provided my blog with a hit go check out the Time for Pizza podcast—its available on iTunes or at this link—and you can check them out on Facebook as well. Get busy!