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The Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Character
Harvey Dent, a.k.a. Batman villain
Harvey Dent, known in his villainous mode as "Two-Face", is a mentally ill former city prosecutor who is one of the oldest and most important villains in Batman's rogue's gallery.
Two-Face appears, by all accounts, to be non-religious in the traditional sense of the word. He has never identified himself as an adherent (or even former adherent) of any organized religious denomination. He appears to be manifestly an atheist, although given the fact that his criminal persona is a result of severe psychosis, it is debatable to what extent it is meaningful to characterize his religious beliefs. As "Two-Face," his principle preoccupation is clearly not religion or adhering to any societal standards of morality. In his psychotic state he is obsessed with committing duality-themed crimes and with being a foil to Batman.
Above: Is Two-Face a Taoist? Yes and no. In this picture, we see Two-Face wearing the Tao symbol as a belt buckle. [Source: Batman #653 (July 2006), DC Comics, page 22; reprinted in Batman: Face the Face trade paperback (DC Comics, 2006), page 144; written by James Robinson, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher.]
Is Two-Face a Taoist?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the answer is "yes and no." Harvey Dent is clearly familiar with Taoism and aware of the fact that dualism is central to Taoist philosophy. Two-Face's obsession with dualism does not stem from Taoism, but due to his obsession with Taoism, he apparently feels an affinity for the religion. Two-Face does not make a big deal about Taoism, but if asked what his religious preference is, he would enthusiastically answer "Taoism" - or at least half of him would.
Two-Face is by no means a "normative Taoist." With regards to his beliefs and practice, he is not orthodox in any actual Taoist sect. The Tao Te Ching is an extremely ethical book and over the centuries Taoist religions, sects and philosophical systems have emerged in response to this book - systems of thought which have developed further ethical guidelines. Two-Face's behavior is not actually guided by any of these ethical teachings. Any affinity that Two-Face has for Taoism is actually a veneer, a primarily symbolic or visual affectation that he uses simply to enhance his total duality-oriented life.
This does not mean, however, that Two-Face is a purely "pseudo-Taoist" or in any way a "phony" with regards to his allegience to the philosophies of Taoism. Indeed, in many ways, Two-Face is a living, breathing manifestation of key philosphical principles of Taoism. Two-Face carries these principles to illogical, dangerous extremes - striving to live out these ideas in ways that even Taoist clergy and Taoist philosophers would never recommend. So while Two-Face's behavior is not motivated by true Taoism, he can in some twisted ways be said to be an uber-Taoist.
Left: Harvey Dent has been cured of the severe physical scarring that made him into "Two-Face." But the mental damage remains. Note how when he looks in the mirror, he still sees himself as "Two-Face," despite the fact that his actual physical face is unblemished. Note also the Tao symbol he wears as a belt buckle, even during the time that he is supposedly "healed" of his psychosis.
After the "Infinite Crisis," Batman and Robin took a year-long vacation from their superheroic identities, leaving a cured Harvey Dent in charge of fighting crime in Gotham. He did an admirable job. But when they returned, Harvey slips back into his old patterns and his obsession with dualism emerges once again. He even uses a knife and acid to physically deform his own face so he will once again look have the visage of the villainous "Two-Face."
[Source: Batman #653 (July 2006), DC Comics, page 18; reprinted in Batman: Face the Face trade paperback (DC Comics, 2006), page 140; written by James Robinson, pencilled by Don Kramer, inked by Wayne Faucher.]
Left: Talking to Batman, the therapist in charge of psychological treatment for Harvey Dent ("Two-Face") in Arkham Asylum discusses the villain's "obsession with duality."
[Source: Batman: Arkham Asylum graphic novel (1989; reprinted in 2004), DC Comics: New York City; written by Grant Morrison, art by Dave McKean; page 27.]
Above: Dr. Bartholemew Wolper, a popular psychologist and social scientist, explains how Batman's existence actually creates the conditions that lead to the emergence of super-villains such as Two-Face (Harvey Dent) and the Joker.
[Source: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #s 1-2 (1986), DC Comics: New York City; reprinted in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns hardcover edition, DC Comics: New York City (2002), pages 47, 66; written and pencilled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, colored by Lynn Varley.]
Text from: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1 (1986), DC Comics: New York City; reprinted in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns hardcover edition, DC Comics: New York City (2002), page 47; written and pencilled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, colored by Lynn Varley:
DR. BARTHOLEMEW WOLPER: Yes, Merv. I am convinced of Harvey's innocence. Absolutely. However, I won't go so far as to say I'm sure he hasn't returned to crime.
Text from: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #2 (1986), DC Comics: New York City; reprinted in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns hardcover edition, DC Comics: New York City (2002), pages 65-66; written and pencilled by Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson, colored by Lynn Varley:
I know that sounds confusing. These things often do to the layman. But I'll try to explain without getting overly technical. You see, it all gets down to this Batman fellow. Batman's psychotic sublimative/psycho-erotic behavior pattern is like a net. Weak-egoed neurotics, like Harvey, are drawn into corresponding intersticing patterns.
You might say Batman commits the crimes . . . using his so-called villains as narcissistic proxies . . .
MAN ON THE STREET: . . . a ruthless, monstrous vigilante, striking at the foundations of our democracy -- maliciously opposed to the principles that make ours the most noble nation in the world -- and the kindest . . .
ANOTHER MAN ON THE STREET: . . . Frankly, I'm surprised there aren't a hundred like him out there-- A thousand people are fed up with terror -- with stupid laws and social cowardice. He's only taking back what's ours . . .
TED KOPPEL (NEWS SHOW HOST): These -- and many, many others -- are the reactions to a pheomenon that has struck a nerve center in our society -- the return of the Batman. Tonight, we will examine his impact on our consciousness. From Metroplis -- we have Lana Lang, managing editor of the Daily Planet . . . Joining us from Gotham City -- Dr. Bartholemew Wolper, popular psychologist and social scientist, author of the best-selling Hey -- I'm Okay . . . With us tonight from his office in Washington -- Presidential media advisor Chuck Brick.
Dr. Wolper -- You have claimed that the Batman is himself responsible for the crimes he fights. Still, crime rates have shown a steady drop in the weeks since his return. How do you explain this?
DR. BARTHOLEMEW WOLPER: I'm glad you asked me that question, Ted. It is true that this Batman has terrorized the economically disadvantaged and socially misaligned -- but his effects are far from positive. Picture the public psyche as a vast, moist membrane -- through the media, Batman has struck this membrane a vicious blow, and it has recoiled. Hence, your misleading statistics. But you see, Ted, the membrane is flexible -- and permeable. Here the more significant effects of the blow become calculable, even predictable. To wit -- Every anti-social act can be traced to irresponsible media input. Given this, the presence of such an aberrant, violent force in the media can only lead to anti-social programming. Just as Harvey Dent -- who's recovering steadily, thanks for asking -- assumed the role of ideological doppleganger to the Batman, so a whole new generation, confused and angry -- will be bent to the matrix of Batman's pathological self-delusion. Batman is, in this context -- and pardon the term -- a social disease . . .
LANA LANG: That's the dumbest load of . . .
TED KOPPEL (NEWS SHOW HOST): Lana-- Please-- The Network-- Mr. Brick-- The President has remained silent on this issue. Don't you -- and he -- feel that the national uproar over the batman warrants, if not action, a statement of position?
CHUCK BRICK: Heck, Ted. He'll get around to a press conference sooner or later. But the President's got to keep his eye on the big picture, y'know? And this Batman flaptrap, well . . . It's noisy, all right. That big cape and pointy ears -- It's great show biz. And you know the President [Reagan] knows his show biz. You just keep your shorts on, Ted . . . Pretty soon now the ratings'll drop on this one and it'll blow over. Besides, I think the whole thing' just as likely a hoax. Networks've done worse. I mean, Batboy'd be pushing sixty by now-- if he ever was real. Funny nobody's ever taken a picture of him . . . mighty funny, I say . . .
TED KOPPEL (NEWS SHOW HOST): Miss Lang, you are the Batman's most vocal supporter. How can you condone behavior that's so blatantly illegal? What about due process -- civil rights?
LANA LANG: We live in the shadow of crime, Ted, with the unspoken understanding that we are victims -- of fear, of violence, of social impotence. A man has risen to show us that the power is, and always has been, in our hands. We are under siege -- he's showing us that we can resist.
TED KOPPEL (NEWS SHOW HOST): Lana-- You haven't exactly answered my question . . .
From: Abby Scott, "Complete with Utility Belt Carrying a Calculator and Ennui," posted 22 June 2006 on "Abby Scott does tend to go on" blog website (http://abbyscott.blogspot.com/2006/06/complete-with-utility-belt-carrying.html; viewed 22 June 2006):
I grew up in a strong atheistic tradition...
From: "Religions of super heroes" forum discussion page started 14 August 2006 on "Wizard Universe" website (http://wizarduniverse.invisionzone.com/lofiversion/index.php/t1595.html; viewed 25 April 2007):
The above is a link to a list of the religions of many of our comic book heroes. Quite cool, actually.
...where are the atheists? ...In the atheist pile we have Lex Luthor, The Joker, Two-Face, Kingpin, Green Goblin, Sabretooth...
Aug 14 2006, 06:17 PM
...Since when is Communist, Liberal Marxist, "fair play", animal rights, mildly feminist, Alcoholics Anonymous, pro-abortion activist, Nazi, obsession with duality, and hates Spider-Man a religion???
From: "The Church of Superman" forum discussion started 19 June 2006 on the "James Randi Educational Foundation" website (http://www.randi.org/forumlive/showthread.php?t=58627; viewed 15 May 2007):
19th June 2006, 06:03 AM
The Church of Superman
Hmmmm... the "religious" affiliations of comic book characters. Huh?
19th June 2006, 12:05 PM
I really think a lot of these supervillains ended up as "atheist" because they're not as humanized to retain their evilness. Unless their religion or religious background fueled their motives to be villains in the first place, it's going to confuse the audience and make the superheroes look bad. If Lex Luthor went to church every Sunday like most of America, sat in services while thinking "hate hate hate kill Superman" it would be unintentionally funny or just confusing to people.
19th June 2006, 01:38 PM
I don't think it's even that complicated. I clicked on a couple of the villain pages, and all they do is quote some usenet or message board post by a guy complaining that comic books discriminate against atheists because the heroes are mostly religious, while the only atheists are the villains, such as [and he goes on to list a few, without any supporting evidence].
From what I can tell, most (if not all) of those villain pages should just list "unknown"...
Webpage created 2 April 2005. Last modified 28 May 2007.
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