The Joker's Asylum, Part V: Two-Face

With Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" coming to U.S. cinemas on July 18 and Bruce Wayne facing a fate worse than death in Grant Morrison's "Batman R.I.P.," this summer is shaping up to be the Caped Crusader's biggest since the release of Tim Burton's "Batman" in 1989.

Even Batman's rogues are getting in on the action as July will see the release of DC Comics' five-issue weekly series of one-shots entitled "The Joker's Asylum," which celebrates Gotham's greatest villains. As the title suggests, playing host in each of the one-shots is Batman's archenemy, The Joker.

In this, our fifth and final interview with the five writers of "The Joker's Asylum," CBR News spoke with acclaimed British comics writer David Hine ("Spawn") about his leading rogue -- Two-Face. Illustrated by Andy Clarke, Hine's story sees Two-Face visited in the asylum by a volunteer firefighter whose face was similarly burned. Unlike Two-Face, Holman Hunt managed to recover, psychologically, and has become a motivational counselor to people who have suffered this sort of trauma. Interestingly it's the right side of this man's face that is scarred, while Two-Face's disfigurements are on the left.

Tell us a little more about your story for "The Joker's Asylum: Two-Face." How does Two-Face receive this man with a mirror of his own injuries?

Two-Face doesn't want or need counseling. He's perfectly happy the way he is and he sets out to prove that his nihilistic philosophy of life is as valid as Holman Hunt's. Holman �" Whole Man, get it? Essentially, Two-Face sets out to prove, that given the right circumstances, Holman could be converted to Two-Face's way of thinking. Namely that the universe is a chaotic place where any values we attempt to impose are transient and ultimately meaningless. Take that, Alan Moore!

Actually I'm rather hoping that this will turn out to be a good old-fashioned twist-in-the-tail type of story that Uncle Creepy would have been proud of.

What makes Two-Face a serious challenge to Batman?

I like the way the PR refers to a rogue, rather than a villain, don't you? I can almost see him with a pencil moustache, raffish top hat and cigarette holder.

None of these guys are really a threat to Batman per se. He's fought them all a zillion times and always wins. So no bets on Two-Face in a fist fight. But every time Two-Face or any of the classic bad guys comes up against Batman, his head is seriously messed with. It's the attrition. Every battle leaves him more screwed up psychologically. Ultimately Batman will end up a gibbering lunatic with his own cell in the Asylum. Maybe not in our lifetimes, but some day...

What makes Two-Face an interesting character to explore as a writer?

Two-Face is the perfect distillation of the Diceman character. "The Diceman" was a novel by Luke Rhinehart that featured a guy who led his life according to the role of a dice. I read that novel when I was a teenager and I loved the idea that you could actually reject any kind of moral choice and let Fate decide for you. No guilt feelings, or anxiety about the future. The Dice made me do it. Of course, he had six alternatives every time he came to a turning point, which leaves a whole range of possibilities in any given situation. With Two-Face there are no shades of grey. It's just heads or tails, good or bad. But the philosophy is the same.

As a writer, it's actually very interesting to have a character who has no apparent motivation. It makes you reconsider the reasons for telling a story. Should your story have a moral standpoint? I like to take a morally ambiguous approach with my characters anyway, but with this Two-Face story the ambiguity is taken to the extreme. I was actually forced into writing the ending I came up with. You'll see what I mean when you read it. There literally was no other way to finish it.

What role does The Joker play in your storyline and what makes him a great central figure to this series of one-shots?

He does the intro and outro. I haven't given him a specific part in the body of the story but he does hold the series together with his mildly manic introductions. I guess he's like the Cryptkeeper -- but with more hair and better teeth.

After nearly 70 years, what is it that makes Batman such a popular hero and ever-lasting icon?

Um... the batarangs?

Who is your favorite Batman rogue and why?

Two-Face, I have a thing for duality and facial scarring. It occurs to me that Two-Face should be bisexual. He's obsessed with the number two, doubles, twins and so on, and I made a list of things that related to duality before I started the story. Somehow I missed out bisexuality. It could have been a whole other story...

I love all the villains, by the way. Two-Face was my first choice but I would happily write a Scarecrow story, or Joker, or Penguin. Solomon Grundy is cool too. Cool? Do I mean cool? That expression is becoming totally uncool. Let's make that "intriguing." All these characters have an obsessive focus and that's what's great about them. It's like flipping through a psychoanalyst's casebook. Next time we should do "Krafft-Ebbing's Asylum."

If Bruce Wayne meets 'a fate worse than death' in "R.I.P.," who deserves to be the next Batman and why?

I'm going to assume that the fate actually is death. Clearly Alfred should inherit the cowl. He would defeat his enemies with irony.

Are you planning to see Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" in July?

I'm a movie addict. I see everything eventually. I have mixed expectations. Heath Ledger's Joker looks interesting, but what I've seen of the movie looks far too clean and slick. I like my Gotham grimy, gritty, grim and gruesome.

"The Joker's Asylum: Two-Face" with art and cover by Andy Clarke is scheduled for July 30.

Now discuss this story in CBR's Batman forum.

Tags: dc comics, batman, two-face, david hine, the joker's asylum

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