TWO-FACE IS ON THE DOUBLE
BATMAN FACES TROUBLE

BATMAN #346
(APRIL 1982)

"HALF A HERO..."

(18 pages)

Cover pencils - Rich Buckler
Cover inks -
Dick Giordano

Story - Gerry Conway
Art -
Don Newton
Inks - Frank Chiaramonte
Colours -
Adrienne Roy
Lettering - Ben Oda
Editor - Dick Giordano

 

Part 1 of 2 (concluded in Detective Comics #513) - continues series of full crossovers between Detective Comics and Batman
Second feature - Catwoman, "In the Land of the Dead!" (8 pages)
Letters page - "Batsignals" (1 page)

 


"OF ALL THE INMATES IN ARKHAM ASYLUM

HE IS PERHAPS THE STRANGEST...

AND MOST INCORRIGIBLE.

IN THE HALF-LIGHT OF HIS CELL,

HE SITS MOODILY FLIPPING A COIN...

OVER AND OVER...

AS HE HAS FOR MONTHS, AS HE HAS FOR YEARS."

 
 

PLOT SUMMARY

Following a negative response from the parole board to his request to be transferred to a halfway house, Two-Face escapes from Arkham Asylum by using - as Batman soon finds out - a coin similar to his regular prop to hypnotize the wardens.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Gordon is facing mounting pressure by Mayor Hill to resign, Robin is told by his new flame Dala that they should not see each other anymore (quickly revealed to the reader to be a ruse to make Robin think that she is in some kind of trouble), and Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale rediscover their romantic feelings for each other. However, when a remark from Vicki reminds Bruce of Two-Face's request to be transferred to a halfway house, he leaves her under the first pretext he can think of ...

 
  ... leaving behind a Vicki Vale who now feels certain that Bruce Wayne has an appointment - as Batman.

Indeed, Batman is soon checking out a halfway house - not knowing that it has been set up as a death trap by Two-Face and a group of parolees under his command. Batman manages to outsmart the assorted booby traps but in the course of the events is nevertheless brought down by a nerve gas...

 
And finally, at City Hall, Commissioner Gordon hands in his resignation to Mayor Hill - to be replaced by one of "Boss" Thorne's men as Hill's part in a deal to repay the mobster for his help in the mayoral election ...
 

REVIEW & ANALYSIS

Gerry Conway kicks off the second story arc across the Batman and Detective Comics titles with an established classic villain in the form of Two-Face, although the way the former DA has set up a halfway house into a crazy death trap seems slightly more reminiscent of the Joker's modus operandi.

Nevertheless, this set up provides for an interesting and entertainingly mysterious encounter which seems to leave Batman helplessly in the hands of Two-Face and his gang. Overall, however, this issue is more about sub-plot and exposition than anything else, as no less than six (!) underlying storythreads are worked by Conway: Bruce Wayne staying out of Wayne Foundation business matters, Robin's interest in Dala, Vicky Vale and Bruce Wayne's romantic entanglement, Vicki Vale's suspicion that Bruce is Batman, "Boss" Thorne secretly pulling the strings of newly elect mayor Hill, and the resignation of Commissioner Gordon by the time the issue reaches its cliffhanger ending... to be continued, of course, in Detective Comics #513.

Not many writers could pack all of this into one single comic book issue and still find room for an extended fight between Batman and a villain, but once again Gerry Conway pulls off everything nicely and thus provides the reader not only with action but also with overall story substance and additional characterization.

 
 
He was quite obviously well in charge of things across both Batman titles and enjoying himself, and reader reactions in the letters pages of both titles were overwhelmingly positive if not outright enthusiastic.

Don Newton's artwork seems somewhat looser than usual, and whilst that does not harm the shadowy sequences in the halfway house, some of the broad daylight renderings of the individuals involved in this story are affected by this.

 
Highly RECOMMENDED READING - An excellent example of just how interestingly a storyline with multiple subplot threads can be told over the course of one comic book issue, all put together smoothly by Gerry Conway.
 

FACTS & FIGURES

 
Following a couple of 1981 issues of Detective Comics and Batman which carried over subplots from one title to the other and which featured a growing number of cross-linked editorial references, DC stepped this up in late 1981 and turned Detective Comics and Batman into virtually one comic book by running complete storylines from one title into the other, beginning with Batman #345 which had a cover date of March 1982 but actually went on sale on 10 December 1981.

Readers thus effectively got a fortnightly Batman book, with Batman on sale on the second Wednesday of a month and Detective Comics on the fourth. Whilst DC did not go as far as to actually require readers to buy both books (there would usually be a brief recap of the events in the preceding issue of the other title), reading only one of the two titles could make the storyline seem slightly "jumpy" at times. It was a fairly bold experiment, but DC - and above all writer Gerry Conway - did an excellent job on what certainly wasn't an overly easy project, and it met with the approval and even praise of the majority of readers.

Turning to Batman's very first true villain - Doctor Death from Detective Comics #29 (July 1939) - for the first such crossover (starting out in Batman #345 and then wrapped up in Detective Comics #512 two weeks later), available that same month but two weeks later, Gerry Conway's next villain of choice for such a double take was a far more established character: Two-Face.

First appearing in Detective Comics #66 in August 1942, Two-Face was - according to Bob Kane's autobiography (Kane, 1989) - inspired by the 1931 movie adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, with additional input derived from the pulp magazine character Black Bat, whose origin story also included having acid splashed in his face. Originally named Harvey Kent, this was changed (again according to Bob Kane's autobiography) to Harvey Dent as of Batman #81 (February 1954) in order to avoid confusion with Superman's alter ego Clark Kent, even though his appearances in the 1940s and 1950s were few and far between. Not sitting well with the more campy approach the Batman books were taking in the 1960s, Two-Face dropped completely out of sight (with the exception of a single appearance in 1968 in World's Finest Comics #173) until he was finally brought back in August 1971 by writer Dennis O'Neil in Batman #234, and it was this and subsequent portrayals which really shaped the character and turned him into one of Batman's arch-enemies in a series of now classic 1970s stories.

 


The MO of Two-Face, summed up for new readers by Gerry Conway and Don Newton in one single panel

 
Driven mad by the duality of good and bad luck, right and wrong, good and evil, Two-Face obsessively makes all important decisions by flipping a two-headed coin, one side of which is scratched over with an X. Whenever the scarred side of his coin comes up, Two-Face will proceed to go through with his criminal plans.

Although featuring extensively and regularly throughout the 1970s, Gerry Conway never took any chances during his early 1980s run and always made a point of bringing new or unitiated readers up to speed with a short summary portrayal.

 
It was mostly seasoned readers, though, who expressed their views in letters sent to editor Dick Giordano, which were printed on the monthly letters page under the heading of Bat Signals. The missives presented in Batman #346 were mostly praising the newly arrived Gene Colan and his artwork, but there were also a few lines from a reader aged 8 to "Dear Mr. Bat Man".  
 
Not reprinted since its original publication, "Half a Hero..." was widely and almost immediately published outside the US in 1982/83, e.g. in German by Egmont Ehapa (Batman Taschenbuch #17, 1982), in Norwegian (Superserien #19, 1982) and Swedish (Supermagasinet #19, 1982) by Semic, as well as repackaged for the Australian market by Federal (Batman #8, 1983).
 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY
 
KANE Bob (1989) Batman and Me, Eclipse Books
 

BATMAN and all related elements are the property of DC Comics, Inc. TM and DC Comics, Inc., a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.
The illustrations presented here are copyright material. Their reproduction for the review and research purposes of this website is considered fair use as set out by the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. par. 107.



(c) 2012-2016

uploaded to the web 15 October 2016