Why Two-Face, a Depression Metaphor, Is Batman's Scariest Villain

"He's constantly telling us this is who you are, you truly are what you fear."

Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr. are putting Batman through the worst road trip of his life. All-Star Batman, written by Snyder with art from Romita Jr., premiered with a first issue on August 10. The issue follows Batman as he transports Harvey Dent, now transformed into Two-Face, out of Gotham and across the surrounding landscape. Two-Face reveals that he’s put out a massive hit on Batman’s head, and it becomes obvious that every villain — and many seemingly innocent citizens — have taken up the challenge. Even Alfred, the Wayne family butler, tries to shoot the Batmobile, though Snyder assures Inverse this isn’t a reveal of that character’s secret villainy.

The series’ second issue is available September 14, and it follows Batman on his perilous road trip with Two-Face as they both dodge new villains, including Killer Croc and Penguin. Snyder says he purposefully grouped Gothamite villains together in categories for All-Star: the meaty juggernaut humanoids, the sexy poisonous women, the conniving crime lords, etc. “I wanted it to be a celebration of all the crazy villains we have in the Batworld,” Snyder says. “We forget how the villains are often more fun than Batman. The story here is, on the surface, fun and bombastic and zany, but beneath the surface, it speaks to something a little darker.”

Though the villains who pepper All-Star are indeed colorful and a little goofy, Snyder’s quiet focus on Two-Face is what makes the comic emotionally disturbing. Batman can punch out someone like King Shark and wrap his busted hand, but Two-Face has the voice Bruce Wayne hears in his head before going to sleep. In All-Star, we see Two-Face telling Batman that the call to kill him has ignited the worst, and most true natures, inside everyone around him. Snyder says that negative inner voice is personal. “To be perfectly frank, my experience with depression informed this story. I feel like I’ve been someone in the past who I don’t like, and I’ve had people in my life find themselves unable to overcome their demons in a tragic way. All of that was swirling around when I decided to write this story. When you’re not in a good state, the world is very ugly and you believe you’re the ugliest thing about it. That’s what Two-Face feeds on.”

Though more well-known villains like The Joker and Harley Quinn challenge Batman’s view of Gotham, or his view of human nature, Two-Face doubles down on that strategy by trying to convince Bruce Wayne, his former friend, that he, too, is irredeemable.

Though Ben Affleck has announced that Deathstroke will be the primary antagonist in his upcoming Batman solo film, in DC’s growing Snyderverse, there’s an argument to be made for including villains who are more intellectually sinister than physically foreboding. For comic book fans who prefer seeing Batman grapple with psychology, rather than engage in shoot-outs, that side of the character lives on in the comics.

All-Star Batman, Issue 2, is available on September 14 in comic book stores.

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