The person you are on the outside and the person you are on the inside. In some cases it's the same, but admit it. There are some things you don't let out.
Assistant DA Harvey Dent had that problem, and you might know how that went. But Harvey's decent into the criminal mastermind known as Two-Face is an origin worth studying deeper, and not just because of the upcoming movie. In the two-issue miniseries Two-Face; Year One, DC comics examines the fated path of the Assistant DA through fire with friends such as Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne try to save their friend while battling a deadly new nemesis.
Two-Face: Year One writer Mark Sable is coming into his own with the recently debuted DC Special: Cyborg miniseries and a string of independent work including Hazed, Fearless and Grounded. Teaming with artists Jesus Saiz and Jeremy Haun, Sable is set to unfold Two-Face's origin with new wrinkles beginning July 16th.
For more, we talked with Sable.
Newsarama: Everyone knows who Two-Face is, but it's hard for the man he was before that to get out of his shadow. So Mark, the question is this: just who is, or was, Harvey Dent?
Mark Sable: He Gotham's first crusader for justice in the modern age, pre-dating not only Batman but Jim Gordon as well. He's the first to challenge a system that's rotten to the core, and he doesn't have a gun or a Batarang to back him up.
He's also someone that's deeply troubled even before he gets acid thrown in his face. I don't delve to deeply into the source of Harvey's split personality, but I do show that he and his psychiatrist are aware of what ails him before he becomes Two-Face.
Part of the original twist I'm adding to the Two-Face mythos is that this psychiatrist decides not to integrate Harvey's fracturing personalities, but rather to get him to channel his dark side into doing something good. I liken it to the Showtime series Dexter, where the cop father of a serial killer tries to get his son to only kill "bad" people to relieve his urges.
In both cases, sick people are aided by noble - if misguided - father figures that wind up creating monsters.
NRAMA: How does this work with the already established origin of Two-Face?
MS: The first issue (of two) concerns Harvey's transformation into Two-Face.
The actual origin...I try to be extremely faithful to what's come before, particularly Year One and The Long Halloween/Dark Victory stories. Certain things are set in stone, like Maroni throwing the acid in his face. At the same time, there would be no point in me telling this story if I was just regurgitating what's come before. So expect to see things from a different perspective, and to see characters and events both new and old tie in to Two-Face's origin in ways we haven't seen before.
By the second issue, Harvey has already become Two-Face. Because he's still on the ballot, he decides to run for re-election against the acting District Attorney, a former mob lawyer who had a hand in Harvey's demise. Two-Face's election platform is that, in a city as corrupt as Gotham, you are more likely to get justice from a flip of the coin than from a judge and jury that are most likely bought and paid for.
NRAMA: Harvey's origin isn't a one man tale - who are the other big players in this series?
Well, you can't tell a Two-Face tale without Batman and Jim Gordon. Bruce Wayne - 1e establish a previously unseen relationship between Harvey and Bruce that's separate from his dealings with Batman. The Falcone and Maroni crime families. Just about every freak I could fit in, from the big guns to some really obscure villains as well. And I don't want to spoil all the cameos by Batman's supporting characters, but longtime fans should find plenty of Easter Eggs.
There's also original characters, chief among them Mort Weinstein, the aforementioned acting D.A. He starts out as a law school rival and becomes a mob lawyer when Harvey edges him out for an assistant D.A's position.
But, like many a real life mob lawyer, he crosses the line from advocate to consigliere, and by the time he's ascended to D.A. he becomes Gotham's ultimate power broker. He's the arch-villain of this story, more ruthless in many ways than any Freak.
NRAMA: Rumors is said to have some ties to the classic Gotham Central book from a few years back. Are we crazy, or is there some truth to that?
MS: Yes. Jim and Harvey assemble the few honest cops they can find in Gotham to take down Salvatore Maroni, who then find themselves tasked with taking down Two-Face and Batman. This group of "untouchables" will one day become the core of Gotham Central (a superb book whose tone I very much tried to capture). I'll leave it to the readers to see who exactly they are.
NRAMA: Getting back to the lead in this… No one views themselves as the villain. How does Harvey see himself before and after his turn to Two-Face?
MS: Before Harvey's turn, he sees himself as the one man in Gotham who is willing to stand for justice, until he becomes part of an alliance with Gordon and Batman. He's also someone who recognizes he has a problem and is trying to treat it.
But as the odds get stacked against him, and he takes more and more...questionable measures to fight crime, he becomes alienated from Gordon, Batman, and his shrink, leaving him more vulnerable to his sickness - and less able to see that it IS a sickness.
Once he makes the turn to Two-Face, I think he finds it oddly liberating. He sees himself more as a vigilante than a villain. In fact, he thinks he is even more true to himself than Batman, because he's willing to cross the lines that Batman won't.
NRAMA: If it's true what they say that a great hero needs great villains, then the inverse must be true as well. Can you tell us about the rivalry between Batman and Two-Face in this early days?
MS: To me, Two-Face is an even better matched villain for Batman than the Joker. He's the external embodiment of Batman's internal struggle with his dual identity. Like Batman, Two-Face was also born from tragedy, and I think he scares Batman because he's serves as a reminder of what Batman could become if he lost just a bit more sanity.
Of course, the friendship between the two makes Harvey's transformation heartbreaking for Batman. No matter what he says, Batman can never look at Two-Face without blaming himself for what happened. And by extensions, that brings Batman back to that age old question about whether or not he inspired the freaks that plague Gotham to this day.
NRAMA: The other side to this coin so to speak is two artists - Jesus Saiz and Jeremy Haun. What's it been like working with them, and what do you think of the pages you've seen so far?
MS: I've only seen Jesus' pages so far and they are phenomenal. He brings a sense of realism to what is at its heart a hard boiled crime story without sacrificing the dynamic storytelling that makes superhero action work.
I haven't seen Jeremy's pages yet, but I'm a huge fan of his. Battle Hymn, the Image book he did with B. Clay Moore is one of my favorite things to come out in years. It's a 40's period piece, and I wrote the flashbacks in Two-Face: Year One with a nod to noir that should fit his style perfectly.
I should also mention two other members of the art team - inker Jimmy Palmiotti and cover artist Mark Chiarello. Both legends who I feel lucky to have I still on one of my books.
With everyone involved, what I think is great is that no one is aping any of the previous Year One era books stylistically, they are all putting their own stamp on it.
NRAMA: The "Year One" concept is an interesting established way for DC to profile the origins of characters in their universe. Founded by Frank Miller and David Mazuchelli in Batman: Year One, what's it like following in those kinds of footsteps?
Daunting. That's one of those books, along with The Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen and Sandman that completely changed the way I look at comics.
I should also give props to Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's aforementioned Long Halloween and Dark Victory, which I think are worthy successors to the Year: One mantle, and in many ways just as terrifying to follow up.
At the same time...I love the early period as established by the above creators. It's always been a grittier, more visceral Gotham for me than any other time frame - past, present future or Elseworlds. Everyone is still unsure of themselves and more prone to make mistakes. To me, this makes them more human, and that much more fun to write.
NRAMA: Dan Didio has said that Two-Face is his favorite Batman villain. Any apprehension of messing up the boss' favorite?
MS: It's funny, Dan told me that at WonderCon right after my car was totaled in an accident (by a Prius, which Dan likes to ridicule me about), and I felt like I'd been hit again. Then at NYCC Geoff Johns told me about his fondness for Cyborg (whose mini-series I'm writing and is on stands now). And at Emerald City I got to meet Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka, who were responsible for creating and/or defining the Gotham Central characters I use. So yeah, just a bit of pressure, there.
NRAMA: Before we go, let's look at the big picture. This book comes out two short days before the highly anticipated Dark Knight movie which features the begins of Two-Face. Have you had a chance to see the movie, and how do you feel your comic and this play together?
MS: I've been a huge Aaron Eckhart fan since In The Company of Men, which heavily influenced my creator-owned graphic novel, Hazed. And Batman Begins is my all time favorite super-hero film. It's probably at least an unconscious influence on anything Batman related I write.
But I haven't seen the movie or read the script, which I think is a good thing. This is set firmly in the DCU. The movie and the book only tie together in that they offer different takes on some of the best characters in comics history.
What I'm really hoping is that I wrote a book that's not only appealing to discerning, long-time Batman afficianados, but accessible to however many first time comic readers are inspired by the film to pick up the book.