Two-Face: Who is the Dastardly Double Act?

The Strange Case of DA Dent and Mr. Face

Two-Face: “You either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

The Dark Knight

It is a quiet day in a Gotham bank. Loud bangs near the entrance interrupt the routine sounds until the security guard falls dead from two bullets to the chest. Pairs of goons secure the bank and hold the customers at gunpoint. 

A handsome man wearing a fashionable black suit walks in and examines the scene. Half his face is scarred an angry dark pink. His clothes are a jumble of sleek fashion and rags. He hands a woman behind the counter two bags and demands fifties and hundreds. He glowers while she leaves and returns with stuffed bags.

Suddenly he grabs her and snaps her arm across the counter.

“One eye is still good, bitch. The alarm’s busted.”

With practiced ease, the stranger pulls out a damaged quarter and flips it. Time slows as he watches it slowly land undamaged side up. Two-Face grabs the bags, gestures for his men to leave, and calls an ambulance for the dependable woman on his way out.

Two-Face rivals Mr. Freeze for the mantle of Batman’s most tragic villain. He started as a crime boss with a gimmick before writers doubled down on a new backstory. So who is he? How did he get those scars? What’s the deal with the quarter? Let’s find out. The prosecution is ready to present its case.

Heads, I Win…: Two-Face’s Backstory

Two-Face:Yes, I suppose I look queer, but I’m not ashamed anymore! I flaunt both of my sides like a flag! The flag of… Two-Face!

Detective Comics #66

Two-Face debuted in Detective Comics #66 in 1942. He was created by Bob Kane, who drew inspiration from Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, and the Phantom of the Opera. His last name was originally Kent, but that was changed to provide separation from Clark Kent.

Harvey Dent was the Gotham City District Attorney and one of Bruce Wayne’s friends. While prosecuting crime boss Sal Maroni, Dent showed the jury Maroni’s signature double-headed coin. The furious mobster attacked Dent with smuggled-in sulfuric acid. Batman, in court as a witness, was a hair too slow and half of Dent’s was destroyed.

Dent hated his scars and felt that he was treated like a criminal because of his appearance. The stress broke him, and he left his future to a flip of Maroni’s coin after he defaced one side to serve as tails The quarter landed bad side up, and Two-Face was born.

Police struggled to track the new crime boss because his actions were random. He killed and stole when the coin landed tails side up, but gave to charity and helped others when it landed on heads. Batman tried helping his former friend who was always one coin toss away from relapsing.

…Tails, You Lose: Two-Face’s History

[A gangster is threatening to expose Harvey’s DID to the public]
Harvey: [furious, but visibly calms] “There’s just one problem.
Thorn:What’s that?
Big Bad Harv:You’re talkin’ to the wrong Harvey.

Batman: the Animated Series “Two-Face” (Season 1, Episode 10)

Two-Face was redeveloped after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Harvey Dent’s father was an abusive gambler who promised not to beat him if he won a coin toss, but Harvey didn’t know that his father always used a double-headed coin. The trauma caused Harvey to develop Dissociative Identity Disorder and an alter-ego to embrace the anger he was too scared to show.

Dent became Gotham’s DA and began working with a vigilante called Batman to take down Gotham’s criminal families. Accumulating stress and a different flask of acid turned Dent into Two-Face. He became a crime boss, but one that showed mercy if Harvey won the coin toss.

Harvey fell in love with police detective Renee Montoya and tried to woo her. She wasn’t interested, but tried redeeming Harvey as well. Two-Face responded by outing Montoya as a lesbian. They became archenemies, with Montoya taking up The Question’s mantle to foil his schemes. As the story ended, Harvey overcame Two-Face’s influence with her help. .

Double Jeopardy: Two-Face’s Powers and Personality

Two-Face:The whole language and logic of computers is contained in two values. One and zero. One. Zero. One. Zero. Into infinity. Two values that can be made to mean anything. The sum of human knowledge in just those two. One and zero. Two sides of a coin. Two possibilities leading to endless possibilities.”

Robin #11 (1994)

Two-Face doesn’t have superpowers and succeeds on skill.. He’s one of the best lawyers in the DC Universe, a capable martial artist, and a sharpshooter. He often dual wields handguns or uses a Tommy Gun to match Gotham’s film noir aesthetic.

Two-Face is obsessed with his scarred coin. He struggles to make decisions without it because Harvey and Two-Face sometimes deadlock. When supported by others, he can temporarily ignore the compulsion to flip it. On the rare occasion that Harvey and Two-Face agree on something, they also don’t need to flip the coin.

Harvey Dent is compassionate and wise, but broken down by a bad life. He wants to be helped, but struggles to resist his compulsions. Two-Face embodies all of his wrath, spite, and is willing to do anything for revenge. Writers often use the damaged side of his face to represent Two-Face and the flawless side for Harvey. Some disagree, portraying Harvey Dent as the scarred man while Two-Face is a monster with an angelic face.

The Actors Who Play Two-Face

Richard Moll – Batman: the Animated Series
James Remar – Batman: the Brave and the Bold
Andy Daly – Harley Quinn
William Shatner – Batman vs. Two-Face
Billy Dee Williams – Batman (1989), The Lego Batman Movie
Tommy Lee Jones – Batman Forever
Aaron Eckhart – The Dark Knight
Misha Collins – Gotham Knights

Didya Get All That?

A hero who lived long enough to become the villain.

Image: Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face/Harvey Dent in “Batman Forever”. Copyright and courtesy Warner Brothers Home Entertainment.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Get Netflix Dates emailed free to you every week