Readers of February's Batman and Two-Face #28 got quite a shock on the final pages of the comic, as Harvey Dent appeared to commit suicide, shooting himself in the head.
The shooting, which writer Peter Tomasi confirms to Newsarama did happen the way it seemed, was only the latest surprise in the comic's portrayal of Two-Face, who was given a new origin for the New 52.
Two-Face's suicide reinforces that the former Batman and Robin comic is still relevant since it lost its second title character. More than a year after the death of Damian Wayne/Robin, Tomasi and artist Pat Gleason have not only kept the series going, but have been building Batman's world while introducing mysteries along the way that the writer promised (in this interview) will get some big pay-outs during an upcoming "uber-arc" and series of oversized issues.
Tomasi also dropped a few hints about a "humongous" Batman 75th anniversary event that starts in July, and addresses his book's upcoming concentration on Batman's mission to recover Damian Wayne's body from Ra's Al Ghul.
Newsarama talked to Tomasi about the new origin for Two-Face, his apparent suicide, and what's coming up as Aquaman and Wonder Woman co-star in the next couple issues.
Newsarama: In the revised origin for Two-Face, you've strengthened the connection between him and Batman. Was that one of the goals you had in mind when you started coming up with this Two-Face story?
Peter Tomasi: It was the main goal for me, Vaneta. The thing with the New 52 is that you have to find a right balance when altering past continuity, but you also have to be willing to take a few risks and shake things up.
I wanted his new origin to spring from something deeply personal that comes back to haunt him and also be visceral and grab readers who aren't familiar with the mythology. It's important to write for new readers as much as established one's familiar with the DCU at this juncture, but as long as you stay true to the DNA of the characters, you keep yourself out of danger as a writer — and with a little luck, add something that people like and feel brings an unexpected element to the mix.
I feel that intertwining Bruce and Harvey's history so closely — and more importantly from an even younger age — makes their battle against each other resonate even more, along with having new characters like the twin sisters Erin and Shannon McKillen also hit that duality theme, which is something I really wanted to explore and thread into a new Harvey Dent origin.
Nrama: What was the thinking behind Two-Face knowing Batman's identity? Was it merely a case of...he would know?
Tomasi: It boiled down to playing off the fact that I felt it deepened the relationship and illustrated Dent's duality in a very specific way, which was spotlighting the battle he waged with himself over knowing Bruce is Batman, day in and day out.
I felt it really would give us, and Bruce, a different perspective of Dent, to discover that this internal struggle was going on for so long between the better angels of Dent's nature and his demons.
And knowing Bruce so long and also working with him as Batman, it only felt right that Dent would have figured it out, just as I feel Gordon knows that Bruce is Batman, but it always goes unspoken between them. Playing these particular characters smart and "in the know" ups the drama, in my opinion, because of the knowledge they have but don't act on.
Nrama: You've mentioned the theme of duality with Harvey, and that's been one of the core themes associated with Two-Face stories for awhile now. But you put a new twist on it with this third "edge." How would you describe the two halves of Harvey, and the "edge" that you introduced?
Tomasi: Well, of course the basics are the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other shoulder. But as I was writing this story, I kept a silver dollar on my desk and would knuckle it between my fingers or spin it on the kitchen counter when I was spacing out and doing free association notes (which I do every issue).
And I zeroed in on the edge of the coin and started thinking about the production of it at the U.S. mint, and how they would join the different sides — the heads and tails — and from there came the idea of an existing third side to a coin that could be considered in a new way.
Nrama: It's interesting to think about that third part of Harvey, but is there still a Harvey to think about? I mean… I'm going to cut to the chase here — did we really just see Two-Face die at the end of this issue?
Tomasi: Seems like it to me, Vaneta. Are there repercussions? Yes. But anything else would be telling, and I wouldn't want to spoil how it all plays out.
Nrama: It happened off-panel, so was it not Two-Face?
Tomasi: Nope, no red herrings, no dream scenario. It was absolutely Harvey Dent putting that gun against his head. No clone. No twin. No imposter with a mask. The trigger was pulled and the deed was done. That was Dent's blood that spattered against Gilda's picture.
Nrama: OK, so we'll have to wait to find out what happens next, I suppose. Let's talk about what's coming in next month's issue — Aquaman's guest role in the book. What type of story can readers expect with that issue?
Tomasi: First of all, #29 is the opening chapter in the "Hunt for Robin" arc, so be warned that issues #29 thru #32 are the prologue for one of Batman's BIG 75th Anniversary stories this year within the family of Batbooks. And it leads to our humongous and major story that starts in July, which I'm sure DC will be announcing in a month or so.
This issue's an action-packed story about Batman and Aquaman joining forces against Ra's as Ghul on the island where Talia gave birth to Damian — and all the insane experiments she was working on to take over the world —and how Ra's is taking up the reins again.
As Batman looks to put to rest the bodies of Damian and Talia that Ra's dug up and stole, he begins to uncover something that will eventually put him on a path he never expected and will lead to a life-altering event!
Nrama: I assume we'll be getting that stuff in the next few months, then. Beyond all the hints you just threw out there, is there anything you can tell us about the Wonder Woman or Frankenstein issues?
Tomasi: Don't want to give away too much, but the Wonder Woman issue finds Batman and Diana going to Paradise Island to search for Damian's body, with some surprises, and the Frankenstein issue has Batman and Titus teaming up with our lovable Frankie as the hunt continues.
Nrama: I think I can speak on behalf of most fans by saying that we're glad Titus is sticking around, even though the dog makes us think of Damian. Did you always plan for the comic to continue this long without a Robin? And will it continue that way for awhile?
Tomasi: Yep, it's been my master plan since taking over the book with Mr. Pat Gleason when the New 52 started! I still have lots of story to tell, and I'm looking forward to seeing my vision through.
When all is said and done, I expect my run on Batman and Robin (along with a couple upcoming very special, extra-sized issues by a very special artist) will, in the end, feel like a massive uber-arc that I'm hoping readers feel took them on a personal and emotional journey that focused on the characters they love!
Nrama: And the hints keep coming. So you've got a major Bat-story in July, and over-sized issue with a very special artist on board. But Pete, you know, the creative teams who're still working on their same 2011-launched books are getting few and far between. Are you and Pat on Batman and... for awhile?
Tomasi: Wow, you know, until you mentioned that, Vaneta, I didn't realize how true that was. Right now Pat's wrapping up issue #30, which means when you look at the book since its launch, out of 30 issues, Pat's missed only two-and-a-half of them, which is pretty damn spectacular when you see the quality of work he's put into each and every issue. I can't imagine there are many New 52 books that can point to that amount of consistency.
And to answer your question about how long Pat and I will be on the book, Vaneta, I'll leave you with: 'Til they pry it from our cold dead fingers!