Bat Signal

Issue 68 – “The Man Who Led a Double Life”

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Hey there folks, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics, in random order, and with basically no context. And we have a pretty fun little issue to talk about today, everyone. It’s a Two-Face story! We haven’t seen Two-Face in almost two years on this project, and he’s been sorely missing. I’ve made it clear during this project that the Riddler is my personal favorite Batman villain, but I think that Two-Face is probably the best villain. He has so much pathos with Batman, and makes for such a fascinating adversary for the Dark Knight. And today we’ll be talking about one of the earliest stories he ever appeared in. And it’s pretty fun!

The story begins in media res, apparently because this is actually the second part of an origin story that had been in a previous issue, with Batman confronting Two-Face in his bifurcated hideout. Two-Face has agreed to flip his famous coin, promising Batman that if it comes up on the good half he’ll give up his life of crime and return to being Harvey Dent (or Kent as he was called in these early issues). Unfortunately, the coin lands perfectly on its side, and Two-Face decides that that takes him off the hook. He pockets the coin, just as a police officer bursts into the room and fires a bullet at Two-Face. Batman tries to stop the man, and in the chaos Two-Face ends up escaping. It turns out that the cop’s bullet was stopped by the coin, and since it was specifically the bad side Harvey decides that that’s a sign he should stay Two-Face. He then meets with his goons and prepares a new crime wave, which begins with a strange wrinkle I’ve never seen Two-Face have before. He flips his coin and it comes up on the good head, which means they’re going to commit a robbery in the daytime, but give the money to a charity.

 

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After the successful robbery of a tennis match, Harvey flips his coin once again, and this time gets the dark side, which is exactly what his men have been waiting for. And, the next day word breaks that a local matchstick mogul (lol, wut?) has been kidnapped. Batman and Robin assume that this is the work of Two-Face, and respond to a Bat Signal alert from Commissioner Gordon to help find him. But, there’s a strange wrinkle, because Gordon ends up driving them to the home of the mogul, whose name is Henry Logan, and it turns out he’s not been kidnapped. It was actually a double he hired to go to society occasions so that he can stay home and build massive matchstick sculptures. Because Gotham is insane. Harvey knew about the double from before he was Two-Face, and is now blackmailing Logan for the man’s release.

But, that also means that they know exactly where Two-Face is going to be, since Logan was supposed to bring the money to him, so Batman and Robin get crafty. They dress themselves up as Logan and the double’s wife and arrive at the predetermined location, ready to spring a trap on Two-Face and his men. They beat up the goons, and Two-Face is able to escape. And, afterwards, he gets an idea. The makeup that Batman and Robin used was really convincing, so he decides to go get some wax-based makeup to hide his scarred face to try and reconcile with his wife Gilda. She’s kind of shocked to see Harvey, especially one with one face, and invites him in. Unfortunately, while having a candle-lit dinner the wax melts off, and Harvey flies into a rage, which is when Batman reveals himself to have been lurking outside the entire time, waiting for Harvey to lose it.

 

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Harvey escapes from the awkward evening, and ends up fleeing into the night, furious that his fake wax face melted. He then marches straight to the strange store of the make-up seller, and ends up burning the establishment down, getting some sort of petty revenge from it. And, a few days later, Harvey ends up expanding his criminal roster. One of his goons end up finding a famous getaway driver, literally named “Getaway George,” at a bar and they bring him to Harvey’s hideout to audition. Harvey’s very impressed with the guy’s credentials, and ends up hiring him to be his new driver, which is important, because they have a big heist coming up.

Apparently Gotham has an annual baseball game between the police and the firefighters, and because Batman and Robin are deputized they get to participate. The stands are packed, primarily to watch Batman and Robin play baseball in their costumes, and they end up racking up $50,000 for charity. Which Two-Face and his goons arrive to steal. Robin springs into action, fighting off the goons, while Two-Face holds the mayor hostage, escaping. He and Getaway flee from the stadium, and Two-Face ends up smelling a rat. He assumes that Getaway is actually Batman, and starts ripping the wax from his face. But, it isn’t Batman. It’s the son of the make-up guy whose business Two-Face burned down! He wanted vengeance, and started working with Batman to bring Two-Face down. Batman then leaps into the room, having lurked outside again, and is able to knock Harvey out, bringing him to prison in the hopes that he’ll be reformed.

 

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I love Two-Face so much. I really do think that he’s the best Batman villain, and even though this issue doesn’t get too deep into the friendship that Bruce and Harvey once had, it still shows how strange and fun he could be. Everything was really here from the very beginning, the mismatched suits, the coin, the crimes that revolve around the number 2, but there was also a strange little tidbit that I really wish had stuck around. The idea that Harvey could potentially become a Robin Hood figure if he gets the good side of his coin is really cool, and I wish that it would come back. But, as it stands, the issue is just a fun little story, full of all the weird elements that make Gotham City the weirdest place on Earth. They have a matchstick mogul, baseball games where firefighters demonstrate their ability to put fires out, and whole stores that sell wax makeup. It’s a crazy place, and I love it.

 

“the Man Who Led a Double Life” was written by Bill Finger, penciled by Bob Kane, inked by Jerry Robinson and George Roussos, and lettered by Ira Schnapp, 1942.

 

 

 

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