Two-Face’s Coin Originally Made Him A Hero, With A Twist


Two-Face is one of the most interesting villains in comics because he makes every important decision based on the outcome of a coin toss. However, the unpredictable nature of his actions only creates dramatic tension when writers remember that the outcome can also lead to Harvey Dent performing acts of true heroism.

Before his hideous transformation into Two-Face, Harvey Dent was a devoted civil servant. Throughout his professional career as District Attorney, Harvey was committed to fairness and frustrated by inequality in Gotham’s notoriously corrupt criminal justice system. Two-Face’s obsession and reverence for the outcome of each coin toss preserves that foundational element of his character. An arbitrary game of equal chance is the ultimate embodiment of fairness. Harvey’s nickname was “Apollo” before his “great physical beauty” was destroyed by acid to the face.

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Harvey’s “Apollo” nickname is introduced alongside his Two-Face origin story in Detective Comics #66, written by Bill Finger and illustrated by Jerry Robison. Apollo is the Greek God of rational thinking who appeals to logic, purity, and reason. Meanwhile, Apollo’s brother Dionysus is the Greek God of chaos who relies on emotions, instincts, and passion. When viewed through this lens it is clear that Harvey Dent and Two-Face are not rivals, instead Ancient Greeks would consider them as brothers entwined by nature. In The Birth of Tragedy, a work of dramatic theory written by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, the Apollonian and Dionysian relationship represents “two competing but also complementary impulses in Greek culture.”

According to Greek mythology, human beings originally had four arms, four legs, and two identical faces on opposite sides of their head. As punishment for daring to challenge the gods, Zeus cut every human into two equal parts instead of simply destroying them. Apollo was tasked, like Harvey, with healing the remnants of humanity by stitching broken halves to create a new person. This myth was designed to explain the concept of soulmates. Harvey Dent and Two-Face are destined to be together forever. This is best illustrated by some of the most iconic Two-Face moments which reconcile both halves of the character.

During the Batman:No Man’s Land comic book crossover storyline, Two-Face abducts Commissioner Gordon and places him on trial at Gotham City Hall for failing to honor his word. Gordon insists that Harvey Dent act as his defense lawyer leading to one of the greatest courtroom dramas in DC Comics history. In Detective Comics #739, written by Greg Rucka and illustrated by John Floyd, Harvey’s commitment to justice prevails and Two-Face declares Gordon as innocent. Two-Face’s origin story is wildly popular, but often when it is retold, some important nuances are lost. Even after officially entering a life of crime in Detective Comics #66, Two-Face is shown doing good deeds such as donating stolen loot to a charity and paying off the debts of random residents. The good side of the coin causes at least some of Gotham’s citizens to view him as a philanthropist.

The dichotomy of Harvey Dent and Two-Face has always been complicated. Any attempt to simplify that arrangement by reducing his status to a simple villain, tarnishes the character’s legacy. Harvey’s acts of heroism can only exist alongside his villainy and any properly told Two-Face story should allow for either outcome in equal measure. Duality is the foundation of Harvey Dent’s character which is rendered meaningless when comics forget to show the other side of Two-Face’s coin.

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