Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Half an Evil

“Half an Evil" from Batman #234 (August 1971)

This is a classic Batman story that, in the space of 15 pages, highlights pretty much every single aspect of Batman that makes the character so awesome. It was written by Denny O'Neil, who was one of the best Batman writers of the Silver Age. The artist was Neal Adams--who was one of the best Batman artists of the same era.

The plot involves Two-Face, with Harvey Dent stealing several apparently unrelated objects before setting a 19th Century sailing ship adrift and sinking it.

Why? At first it makes no sense, but Batman--using old fashioned deductive reasoning--figures it out and is waiting to confront Two-Face at the end.

There are several things that make this issue particularly interesting. For instance, it was the first time in years that Two-Face had been appeared. He had popped up a number of times during the 1950s, but had since been largely forgotten. Nowadays, because of the last Batman movie and his appearance in the various animated shows since the 1990s, Two-Face is reasonably well-known even among non-comic book fans. But in 1971, O’Neil had to take time to explain Harvey Dent’s origin to comic book geeks. 

But this is also a notable issue in that it highlights all the strengths of O’Neil’s storytelling and his understanding of the character of Batman. In 15 pages of concise, well-organized plot construction, the story highlights the Dark Knight’s skill as a detective along with his talents in martial arts and escape artistry. He shows a keen understanding of his opponent’s psyche and he maintains his dark ambiance without tilting over into Crazy Town. 

That’s how you write Batman, people. It’s not easy for any but the best writers to do in practice, but the theory is clear. Batman doesn’t have to be a crazed loner. He doesn’t have to be drowning in angst. He can have his tragic background and scary ambiance and STILL be a hero!

Gee whiz, I miss this Batman. 

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