David Hine - Telling the Tale of Two-Face

Hine on Two-Face

Whose side are you on?

No, we're not talking Civil War… we're talking Two-Face. Are you on his good side, or his bad side? For most, all it takes is a flip of the coin to decide your future and your fate. In the upcoming DC Comics one-shot The Joker's Asylum: Two-Face, The Joker acts as a narrator as we delve into the core of just who Two-Face is. Once he was Harvey Dent, noble district attorney on the side of justice. But now he's somewhere and someone else.

In this upcoming one-shot, Two-Face is sitting in Arkham Asylum once again, but this time he's in the sights of someone who'd home to rehabilitate him: make him the man he once was. What kind of response do you think that get from Two-Face? The Joker's Asylum: Two-Face is by writer David Hine and artist Andy Clarke. This is Hine's first work for DC Comics but he's no stranger to comics, with work for Marvel, 2000AD, Tokyopop and writing Spawn since 2005.

Newsarama: To you, just who is Two-Face?

David Hine: There are all kinds of roots to the character. He’s about duality and the opposition of good and evil. The obvious precursor is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, but this is the stripped down version. Two-Face is both sides of the personality at once. He doesn’t need to transform or even change his clothes.

On a slightly deeper level, he’s about the abdication of moral responsibility. Harvey Dent’s anchor in life was justice, as interpreted through law. When he lost faith in the system he lost his moral compass. He still recognizes the existence of good and evil but he doesn’t value one above the other. Fate decides everything with the toss of a coin.

NRAMA: Your story follows a man trying to rehabilitate Two-Face back to the man he once was. Who is this man to think he succeed where many have tried and failed?

DH: Holman Hunt attempts to mentor Two-Face. He has the crazy idea that because he suffered similar physical scarring he is somehow on the same wavelength as Dent. Holman was a volunteer fireman and had half his face massively scarred in a fire. Where Harvey has the left side scarred, Holman is disfigured on the right side. They’re mirror images of one another. Of course, mirror images are in a sense opposite. So while Holman was able to recover from his injuries and find a positive purpose in his life, Harvey went the other way.

The point of the story is that, just as Holman Hunt could conceivably ‘save’ Two-Face, Two-Face could as easily convert Holman Hunt to his own amoral philosophy. And that’s what he sets out to do. He puts Holman in a situation where choosing to do the right thing has terrible consequences, while an apparently immoral choice benefits everyone. It’s basically “Kill the cheerleader, save the planet.”

NRAMA: These series of one-shots are called The Joker's Asylum. So what role does the Joker play in this issue focused on Two-Face?

DH: He plays a similar role to EC’s Crypt-keeper, Warren’s Uncle Creepy, or Cain in the House of Mystery. I always loved those horror anthology titles when I was a kid. Still do. I think all the writers of this series have used him in that way. He basically introduces the tales and makes a few pointed comments. The exception would be in his own story where he obviously introduces himself. I would guess that he plays the role of unreliable narrator in that one.

NRAMA: There's a common saying that everyone does something for a reason, and no one plans to be 'evil' but are merely doing things they think is right. Is that the case for Two-Face - is he doing bad things to people on purpose?

DH: Absolutely not. That’s the point of the coin toss. He has no choice about whether he pursues good or evil, so when he does bad things, in a sense he isn’t to blame. The coin told him to do it. But he is aware that one action is good, one evil. That’s why the damaged side of the coin represents evil. It reflects the damage that was done to his psyche by the horrific acid attack that disfigured his face. Before the attack he was a decent person, after the attack he became this damaged, psychotic personality.

NRAMA: How do you think Two-Face fits into the bigger picture of Batman's Rogues Gallery?

DH: Batman villains are the most twisted, demented and outright loopy characters in comics. I wouldn’t want to make a case for any one of them being the best or most perfect foil for Batman. Or even the best villain to write. They are all great. I love Joker, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Penguin. But I was drawn to Two-Face because he has the unique position of having been a former friend of Batman. That and the fact that half of his personality is still potentially ‘good’, means that there is always a hope in Batman’s mind that he can be saved. There have been a few attempts by various writers to rehabilitate the character. All mercifully short-lived. Even Grant Morrison gave an uncharacteristically uplifting ending to Arkham Asylum when he had Two-Face ignoring the dictates of the coin and making a positive choice to spare Batman’s life. I’ve resisted the temptation to do anything like that. I prefer to celebrate Two-Face’s right not to choose.

The Joker's Asylum: Two-Face goes on-sale July 30th.

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