Harvey Dent is in the pantheon of the greatest of all of the Batman heroes. Two Face is in the pantheon of the greatest of all of the Batman villains. The character has two sides just like Bruce Wayne and Batman, and his history is a sordid one filled with one side or the other winning out. Speaking of sides, it is Two-Face’s coin and the side that it lands on that just might determine how each entry on this list turns out. In fact, is Two-Face the same person as Harvey Dent or are they completely separate entities living in one body?
No matter where you fall on Two-Face, he is a fascinating study in the best and worst of us as people. He is simultaneously the person we strive to be and the person we want to hide from everyone all at once. He looks both attractive and horrifying, all depending on your perspective. This list is all about perspective because it cuts things right down the middle, in two equal halves. Harvey Dent was an unquestionably heroic guy with especially heroic intentions. Two-Face is totally evil and he loves causing pain to others. Is he Harvey Dent or Two-Face to you? Read on and decide for yourself! Or just flip a coin…
16. HEROIC: HELPED RID GOTHAM OF CRIME
So much of what makes Harvey Dent an intriguing character is that he has the same dual nature of Batman. Harvey is a man who wants to make a positive difference in Gotham after experiencing a difficult childhood. He becomes District Attorney at age 26 and is nicknamed “Apollo” for his dashing good looks. The world seems to be his oyster.
He gains the respect of Jim Gordon and even Batman during stories like Batman: The Long Halloween to the point where he is suspected of being Batman by Gordon himself. He is a classic example of a “workaholic” in the sense that he is completely consumed with putting an end to organized crime in Gotham. The bottom line is that Harvey had great intentions.
15. SADISTIC: DRIVES HIS WIFE TO BECOME A KILLER
Perhaps the greatest story of Harvey Dent comes in the pages of Batman: The Long Halloween and its follow-up Dark Victory because it gives us a glance of his time before becoming Two-Face and a look inside his home with his wife Gilda. One of the biggest challenges for a young man beginning his career in such a challenging setting is to be able to strike a balance between his home life and work.
This struggle for Harvey is compounded by the fact that Gilda clearly wants to have children and is spending her time pondering just what having a family might be like with a husband who is never around. This drives his wife to at least confess to committing murders (it is not 100% clear if she is telling the truth) in order to eliminate some of the criminal element in Gotham.
14. HEROIC: KEPT GOTHAM SAFE WITHOUT BATMAN
The tragic story of Harvey Dent and his transformation has always toyed with the idea of having hope of some kind of cure for his situation. He had that chance during the “Hush” storyline in Batman when he was healed, seemingly both physically and mentally by Dr. Thomas Elliot. He returned to the side of the law, at least his version of it, and he seemed primed to redeem himself.
When Batman took a year to soul search after Infinite Crisis, he asked Harvey to take over his role as the city’s protector. Harvey took some tie to warm up to the idea but eventually grew to seize the opportunity. But time and the return of Batman would make Harvey start to feel a little differently about the role of hero.
13. SADISTIC: SCARRED HIMSELF (AGAIN)
One question about Harvey Dent and Two-Face that has been addressed in many stories over the years is one of whether his mental illness would have made him Two-Face eventually anyway or whether the accident and subsequent disfiguring was the true culprit. Either way, in the “One Year Later” story “Face the Face,” James Robinson offered his version of that answer.
Harvey’s time as the defender of Gotham starts to get more difficult when other criminals start committing crimes in the style of Two-Face. Combined with the return of Batman and Harvey’s increasingly more harsh form of justice, things begin to unravel. He winds up scarring himself once again with nitric acid and a knife. Harvey chooses to make himself Two-Face, or did he have no choice at all?
12. HEROIC: MOTIVATED BY DIFFICULT CHILDHOOD EVENTS
It is always heartwarming to hear a story of someone overcoming the odds. Harvey Dent is a great example of somebody who had an extremely difficult life, with an abusive father and some mental instability (depending on which origins you want to go with), but was able to make something of himself as a successful young district attorney. This would obviously take extremely hard work to be able to cope with and block out all of that pain.
Harvey Dent in his early twenties is somebody most people would root for. He had to deal with an extremely corrupt police force in a crime infested city on a daily basis. He even continued to provide financial support for his father, demonstrating some measure of forgiveness for the wrongs of his childhood. Pardon the pun, but Harvey is a great example of second chances.
11. SADISTIC: TOO DARK FOR TV
Batman has a terrifying rogues gallery that have very real psychological issues. So it may come as a surprise to find out that of all the villains that could be considered too dark for Batman comics of the ‘60s and the ’66 television series, Two-Face was the one that was considered over the top.
The character debuted in the ‘40s, and would go on to only appear less than a handful of times in the ‘50s and ‘60s in Batman comics. It wasn’t until the return to a more serious take by Denny O’Neil in the ‘70s that we would get the Two-Face most of us know today. There was even a story in the ‘60s in World’s Finest where Batman and Superman were transformed into their most feared villains, and Batman was turned into Two-Face. It shows just how sadistic the character really is.
10. HEROIC: NEVER REVEALS BATMAN’S SECRET
Perhaps the most important thing any superhero has is their secret identity. When that identity is no longer secret it can place their family members and fellow heroes in great danger. The relationship between Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne in their younger days is one that varies based on which time period you are reading from, but either way, even if you just focus on dent’s time as D.A., he would be aware of the super wealthy Bruce Wayne.
So, if you combine that knowledge with his work with Batman, it should come as no surprise that Harvey Dent knows Batman’s name in the Batman And Robin story “The Big Burn.” The fact that he does not take advantage of this knowledge to do horrible things to Bruce Wayne is astounding and yet another piece of evidence that Harvey still holds himself to some kind of standard.
9. SADISTIC: POURS ACID IN THE FACE ON A CRIMINAL
In the New 52 story “The Big Burn,” Two-Face gets a new origin when Harvey takes on the manipulative criminal McKillin sisters as clients, a decision he would soon regret. Once he reaches District Attorney status he has the sisters put into jail, and one of them commits suicide, allowing her sister to escape by pretending to be her corpse. She follows this up by attacking the Dents in their home, killing Gilda and pouring acid on Harvey’s face. The story serves as another look at duality and its role in making Two-Face who he is.
Some time goes by and Erin McKillen returns to Gotham and comes into conflict with Two-Face once again, giving him the opportunity for revenge. This time Two-Face pours the acid on Erin, returning the horrific behavior of years past. Some might sympathize with Harvey here and that is what makes Two-Face a compelling character.
8. HEROIC: HARVEY AND JESSICA DENT
The DC Comics Earth One line of books is great for fans who want a story about one of their favorite characters or teams without the boundaries of continuity and the room for some new interpretations. In Batman: Earth One Harvey Dent has a twin sister named Jessica. Both are part of the city government with Harvey as the typical District Attorney and Jessica ascend to Mayor.
Once again the Dents are on the right side of the law and have interesting relationships with Bruce Wayne. Harvey had some conflict with him as a kid and Jessica winds up getting into a romantic relationship with Bruce. There is real potential for the three of them, along with the police to be something positive for Gotham, but like many stories in this city, things go wrong.
7. SADISTIC: A WHOLE DIFFERENT KIND OF TWO-FACE
When things go south for the Dents in Batman: Earth One, the twist that Geoff Johns gives readers is something that retains many elements of the Two-Face character but in a shocking new direction. As the Riddler terrorizes the city, the Dents get sucked into the chaos and Harvey gets disfigured right in front of his sister.
In her pain she hugs him, and presses her face against his scarred face. This time, Harvey dies, but Jessica lives and has taken a part of Harvey with her. She is even revealed to have Harvey as the other half of her personality, and he still hates Bruce Wayne because of his mother’s maiden name, Arkham. It is an astoundingly original take on a classic dynamic that should lead to some great stories in the future.
6. HEROIC: KEEPS HIS WORD
The trademark of Two-Face is his coin. It is unique because it has heads on both sides, but one of the sides is scarred. The symbolism for the character abounds and the in-story origins of the coin have varied over time. However, Two-Face is true to the coin in nearly every scenario. He has even had moments of heroism when the coin comes up on the good side.
Robin once saved Batman from poison by having him flip the coin, making him instead retrieve the antidote. There are also occasions where Harvey Dent has to have a conversation with Two-Face, such as “No Man’s Land,” where Two-Face is questioned by Harvey Dent to help find Commissioner Gordon innocent. You wouldn’t want to rely on 50/50 odds, but at least you know Two-Face will keep his word either way.
5. SADISTIC: ALL IT TAKES IS ONE BAD FLIP
Nobody wants the coin to land on the scarred side. The level of depravity and violence that Two-Face will go to is nearly unmatched. He once tried to kill himself because of a coin flip coming up scarred. The conflict between his two sides reached a crescendo in their level of conflict in the one-shot “Batman: Two-Face” that came out following Batman Forever, when Harvey was able to taunt Two-Face into flipping the coin for his life.
In the “Joker’s Asylum: Two-Face” issue, Two-Face meets Holman Hunt who has suffered a similar accident to him on his face. Two-Face takes this as a chance to show this guy the meaning of therapy by challenging all of his confidence surrounding Batman and his wife’s love. He ends it with giving Holman the coin to decide what to do, and the readers are left wondering how it all turns out.
4. HEROIC: DEVELOPED ADVANCED SURVEILLANCE
Surveillance has become a hot button issue in today’s world, but with the amount of communication happening in so many forms, we would be naïve to think that it is not a tool in bag of tricks for any law enforcement agency. While it is never completely specified, in “My Own Worst Enemy,” it is established that Harvey Dent set something up to keep track of criminal behavior that had the potential to do a lot of good for Gotham.
Harvey’s sense of justice is far from perfect, even when he is at his best, but this is something that may have been a big step forward for Gotham in dealing with the new breed of criminal that began to become commonplace with the rise of Batman in Gotham. Of course, the reason this kind of thing is often called into question is how it is used, and well, Two-Face had other ideas.
3. SADISTIC: USED SURVEILLANCE TO BLACKMAIL EVERYBODY
Two-Face believes that we all have a dark side, and that ultimately it is that dark side that will win out in terms of our actions. Batman believes the opposite and it is the reason he never gives up on Harvey Dent. That whole surveillance network that Harvey established became the backbone of a plan to get the negative scoop on everybody that he could, giving him the greatest blackmailing tool a criminal with his intelligence can have.
Two-Face had everybody trying to stop Batman from getting him to a potential cure, and if they don’t stop him, all of their darkest secrets would be revealed. This threat was scary enough to even stir up secrets from Alfred’s past. Overall, the kind of information Harvey received became undeniably dangerous in the hands of Two-Face, and the carnage that resulted on Batman’s road trip with Two-Face was truly insane.
2. HEROIC: WAS A LISTENING EAR FOR BRUCE IN A DARK TIME
Scott Snyder introduced a childhood relationship between Harvey Dent and Bruce Wayne during his run on All-Star Batman. The interesting thing is that they did not really know who each other were, so they were able to freely discuss their circumstances in life at the time. Bruce had suffered the loss of his parents and was contemplating killing Joe Chill, while Harvey was angry with his father for abusing him.
Bruce clearly saw this opportunity to talk to a kid his age as extremely therapeutic when he reflects on the time they spent together in that camp. In many ways, Harvey’s ability to forgive his father inspires Bruce to not take the quick vengeance route of killing somebody. It is one of the most important turning points in Bruce’s time following his parents’ death.
1. SADISTIC: RETURNED THE ABUSE OF HIS FATHER
The story of Harvey’s childhood has changed over time. The one constant is his abuse as a child by his father. Some stories have his father using a coin that was the same on both sides, but allowing for the flip to occur with the same abuse resulting either way. Some have Harvey actually setting his father with a place to live and supporting him on some level. Most have the story taking a darker turn eventually.
In “Crime and Punishment,” he captures his dad and plans to kill him on television. It is Harvey that talks Two-Face out of this decision. In “My Own Worst Enemy,” it is revealed that he actually kept him alive in a basement, essentially torturing him like a prisoner. Two-Face is surrounded by tragedy, but in many ways remains utterly relatable… and completely lost.
Do you think Two-Face is mostly good or bad? Let us know in the comments!
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