In 1989 Billy Dee Williams took on the roll of Harvey Dent in our favorite crime-ridden city for the first Batman series movie starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as the Joker.
Sadly, Williams never got to see his act become a two-ring circus, considering Big Bad Harv came back in the third production of Batman’s initial film series, however this time portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones.
Finally, in 2017, D.C.’s realm of geekdom payed Williams back. Not only did the Lego Two-Face from the Lego Batman Movie partially resemble the dashing district attorney we knew in the first production of the Batman film series, Williams himself took on the roll of voice acting for the doubled and dastardly.
“You can feel it too, right? The way the city changes.”
The steel claws of Catwoman’s gloves dug into the soft limestone where she perched on the roof’s decorative capstone. Batman winced inwardly for the ruined work of the bygone craftsman, even if most of it had already been eroded by time and acid rain.
He watched her as she smiled down at the streets below them, cold and anticipatory. Like she enjoyed the way Gotham bucked the trend of every other U.S. city and became more criminally active in the fall.
Maybe something about the heat breaking gave the mob the energy to start murdering each other again. In every other city burglaries and muggings tended to drop off in the fall and winter. So did assault and domestic violence.
Not in Gotham. Everyone from the dealers, to the syndicates and gang members, to the drunks who started fights and the men who hit their partners, seemed to get a shot in the arm around late September.
It wasn’t always a big difference: some years it wasn’t even statistically significant, and Batman wondered if the spreadsheets he had on the seasonality of Gotham’s various types of crime were even worth maintaining.
But every year that he’d been out on Gotham’s rooftops had given him the same suspicion, the same vibe. Like the city’s underbelly thought autumn was the big finale before the end of the year. Before going into hibernation after New Year’s, dropping off for the worst months of winter, only to pick up again in the late spring.
Even the biggest names in crime always had a fall lineup.
Maybe Ivy was doing fall planting and metaphorical bed-clearing – she always seemed to break out or resurface around the equinoxes.
But she was meaner in the fall. Her thorns were sharper, her schemes aimed to hurt more people. Did she resent the imminent long sleep of winter that she so often spent in Arkham?
Harley often accompanied Ivy in the fall, Batman wasn’t sure if it was a conscious pursuit of Halloween hijinks or some deeper compulsion. He’d once caught her stealing school supplies and dropping them – none too neatly – in poorly funded public schools. While wearing a Santa hat and beard. In October. He had wondered later if she was more active in the fall because she was remembering the high of academic success. Every fall a fresh start to a new school year.
Harvey seemed drawn to the equinoxes, too. The days that were equal parts light and dark. Bruce always meant to ask him if that was on purpose, but before he knew it Big Bad Harv was snarling in his face and it wasn’t until it was all over, and he was done feeling the loss of his friend, again, that Bruce remembered the question.
Selina, too, often returned to Gotham in the fall.
“If I’m going to be hot I’d much rather do it somewhere that doesn’t stink like this city does in the summer.” she had said, when he asked. But they hadn’t been in masks then, and Bruce didn’t think it was the whole truth.
“Yes,” he answered her, listening to the wail of sirens in the distance.
The noise of squad cars and ambulances hummed through the air in the hot, humid months of summer: annoying and whiny and gnat-like. Once the temperature dropped and the winds picked up – whipping around the skyscrapers and distorting them in the thin, crisp air – then they sounded more like wolves.
Clark had once described spring to him as the smell of damp earth, and rain, and the feeling that anything was possible. Bruce had immediately thought of woodsmoke and the smell of wet, rotting leaves. He’d packed the thought away, discomforted by it. Later he realized that the feeling of possibilities was something he associated with Fall, not Spring.
Selina turned her cold grin on him, a kind of fierce joy she rarely expressed. It made his blood fizzle in his veins.
Maybe it was something intrinsic to Gotham and Gothamites, as his data sometimes, tantalizingly, seemed to suggest.
That the dying of the year felt like the ripest season.
In the early days of Batman’s crime fighting career, he had two allies within the justice system: the by the book lawman Commissioner Jim Gordon, and Gotham City’s golden boy district attorney Harvey Dent. Dent was willing to accept help from the Batman and his outside the lines methods, if it meant cleaning up the corruption that was choking the city. But underneath Dent’s pretty boy good looks lurked a heart of darkness, just waiting to be unearthed. While prosecuting one of top gangsters in the court room, the vicious criminal had smuggled acid into the court room, and hurled it at the unsuspecting Dent. The left side of Dent’s face was horrifically scarred, and the scars he’d carried through his life had room to break through the surface.
As a child, Dent had suffered abuse from an alcoholic father, and he struggled with dissociative disorder, paranoia, and bipolar issues. Throughout his life, Harvey had suppressed all of these problems, creating a perfect facade of a personality, but Dent’s carefully crafted persona snapped when he was disfigured. Dent’s mental, physical and emotional trauma pushed him into a downward spiral, leading to the creation of a new persona: Two-Face. With his dissociative disorder in overdrive, the two sides of Two-Face’s scarred visage represented the war within him: parts of Dent called out for justice and order, while Two-Face wanted to wallow in the crime and filth Dent seemed to wash away. To choose between his two paths, he would flip a double headed coin, with one side scratched and scarred. To represent his own duality, he’d often pursue crimes based around the number two, such as robbing the banks at 2 pm or kidnapping sets of twins. Pursuing Two-Face was often a personal mission for Batman, as he’d try to reconnect with and save his former friend and ally from himself.
Like a lot of Batman’s top villains, Two-Face has been adapted for television and film. The best two portrayals come from two different sources. On Batman: The Animated Series, Richard Moll voiced Harvey Dent, and his fall from grace was tragic. Moll was a perfect choice to play Two-Face, giving Harvey a smooth talking persona, and giving Two-Face, or Big Bad Harv as he was known in this series, the perfect amount of gravel in his voice. In Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Aaron Eckhart was cast as Dent/Two-Face, and more than held his own amongst the rest of the film’s all star cast. In all fairness, his role may have been overshadowed by Heath Ledger’s Joker due to Ledger’s unfortunate passing, but Eckhart was every bit Ledger’s equal, capturing Dent’s tragic fall perfectly.
Real talk time: Two-Face is Batman’s most interesting villain. The idea that heroes and villains are broken reflections of each other is nothing new, but in the case of Batman and Two-Face, it’s the perfect cliche. Both faced tragedies at an early age. Both feel the pull between chaos vs order, emotion vs reason. The deciding factor that pushed Dent over the line is that both of his faces are constantly on display, where Bruce Wayne layers his dual personalities, hiding behind the mask.