What Lies Ahead for The Batman - The Long Halloween, Part II
The details of the upcoming DC Comics film, The Batman, are very much under wraps. However, rumors have circulated that the comic book classic, The Long Halloween, will serve as a major inspiration for the plot and tone of the film itself.
So, I thought I would take the time to revisit the story and discuss why it is such an impactful one on the Batman mythos.
Before I continue with my analysis, be sure to revisit part one, here.
Sins of the Father
Chapters eight and nine break the form of The Long Halloween as they dig deep into the past, specifically that of the Wayne family. Specific moments from the past include the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents, a memory that persists within his subconscious.
As a result, when Scarecrow blasts Batman with his notorious fear toxin in this chapter, that tragic moment is the first memory that consumes Batman. He remembers the pearls scattering across the ground of Crime Alley as his mother took her last breath. Of course, Bruce could never forget this moment not only due to its tragic nature, but also because it is a tether to the identity of Batman himself. As long as Bruce is operating as Batman, he must hold onto that memory and never let it go.
As aforementioned, The Long Halloween is a story about parents and their children. Chapter nine digs further into that theme when it is revealed that Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne, once saved Carmine Falcone’s life. Thus, one can only wonder who would have possessed Gotham City had Thomas not saved Carmine. Perhaps Thomas did the most human thing he could have done by saving the future crime lord. Perhaps he was too human and sympathetic. Either way, it is likely that another crime lord or supervillain would have taken over the city in Carmine’s place.
Thus, perhaps Gotham City truly is immutable.
Sins of the Son
Despite the perception of Thomas’ actions, he was fulfilling his duty as a doctor as well as a human being. Additionally, his intentions were genuine because he was a good man and a good father. Through this perception, Bruce does indeed parallel Thomas.
On the other side of this story, we see Carmine as a father. He is the opposite of Thomas in every way possible. He continuously expresses indifference towards his children, particularly when it comes to their involvement in his business affairs. When Sofia gives him a Father’s Day present, he reacts with apathy.
Carmine is likely not happy with her involvement in his business. It is also likely that he does not understand how to act with those who do not live directly within his criminal world.
Interestingly, despite the fractured state of the Falcones, there are still those who would do anything to have even a semblance of family. During the sequence where Carmine reacts oddly to Sofia’s gift, we see that Catwoman was witnessing the entire exchange. She almost appears envious of the father-daughter interaction despite its awkwardness. Catwoman most likely does not envy the relationship between Carmine and Sofia. However, what she does want is an affirmation of her identity so that she knows she comes from somewhere and is not alone in this world.
Gilda Dent's Sorrow
Gilda Dent is the center-point of Batman: The Long Halloween not only because of the story’s conclusion, which I’ll discuss later, but because she is the only one who notices and understands Dent’s descent into darkness. She expresses her concerns about Harvey to Gordon’s wife, Barbara, in chapter ten.
She believes Gotham City consumes people, good people, and turns them into something unrecognizable. Specifically, Gilda believes Dent’s involvement in bringing down Carmine Falcone has transformed him. She wonders if the Harvey Dent she fell in love with will ever return to her or if his duties have changed from maintaining loyalty to his family to what he believes to be justice.
Considering the way Gilda speaks, she seems to believe that day will never come. Gotham City has sucked all the hope out of her. To Gilda, Harvey has fallen too far into the abyss. So, the only way to get him back is to follow him in the dark and accept the consequences.
The Birth of Two-Face
“Roman Holiday,” the eleventh chapter of The Long Halloween, features the most iconic moment of the series and comic book history: the birth of Two-Face. Before that moment takes place though, Gilda confronts her husband after she finds a .22 caliber pistol in their basement, the same weapon Holiday has been using to commit their murders. In this moment, she actually believes that her husband could be capable of being a serial killer.
Of course, he denies the claims and rushes to court where Carmine’s rival mob boss Sal Maroni is waiting to splash acid across the left side of his face, the tragic event that changes everything.
This catastrophic moment is ultimately the trigger that catalyzes Dent’s complete descent into villainy. When he is transported to the hospital, he actually stabs a doctor in an effort to escape. He no longer feels the need to suppress the violence from within as his duality is now exposed. It gives him the balance he has been seeking and validates the perception of justice he’s struggled to come to terms with.
One may have doubted Gilda’s confrontation of Harvey, believing her claims to be outlandish.
She knew. She knew what her husband was capable of, and she knew that all he needed was a little push.
A Life Lost
Harvey Dent is dead. He is now amongst the lost souls of Gotham City with Solomon Grundy.
Chapter twelve depicts a scarred Dent escaping into the sewers of the city. He meets Grundy, who surprisingly inspires him. Dent asks himself:
“Can a man live two lives?"
The answer is he can and he has. In this chapter, the Calendar Man describes Dent as “Har v. Dent. The Gemini.” Dent has always been at odds with himself and who he was expected to be as a man of the law. He was reduced to one persona. Now, he is free to be whoever he desires.
The loss of Dent is one that strikes a chord with Batman. In a confrontation with Gordon, Batman refuses to believe that Dent could be capable of the Holiday killings. Gordon believes Batman has been too close to the situation and too close to Dent. Batman reached out to Dent. He believed Dent to be an ally and a friend. Now, the man once known as Harvey Dent will become one of his greatest enemies.
Thus, Batman is experiencing a tragedy. His faith in Gotham and its people has been struck. As a result, Batman enters a state of limbo in which he must determine how to be a hero when his faith has been compromised and not go down the same path Dent did.
Let Justice Reign
The final chapter of The Long Halloween features a grand reveal. After shooting and killing Sal Maroni, Alberto reveals himself to be Holiday. Batman nearly beats Alberto to death but stops when Gordon reminds him that’s not the type of hero he is. Batman’s rage ultimately stems from his guilt in his failure to solve the Holiday mystery. The World’s Greatest Detective couldn’t solve this crime, and that shortcoming haunts Batman. He feels as though the blood is on his hands.
However, Batman ultimately escapes his limbo when Gordon reminds him of his identity. Batman remains a symbol of hope despite his shortcomings.
Later, we come to discover that Alberto claimed to be Holiday to spite his father. Falcone never allowed him to be a part of his business affairs, but now Alberto is more notorious than his father will ever be. Thus, Alberto decides notoriety is better than invisibility.
Despite this reveal, the story is far from over. A grand fight takes place in Carmine’s apartment between a multitude of characters including Batman, Catwoman, Solomon Grundy, Joker, and Two-Face. All members of the Falcones have either been killed or defeated. Now, Gotham’s most infamous villains are taking over, claiming their spot in Batman’s tale.
At the climax of the fight, Two-Face kills Carmine, taking matters into his own hands.
In this moment, he decides Carmine’s fate by the flip of a coin. Now, he perceives randomness as order. To Two-Face, randomness is the only way in which true justice can be served. Chaos brought upon by criminals is often random; therefore, the punishment to chaos should be like so.
The Unmasking of the Holidays
Upon Carmine’s death, Two-Face declares Gotham City is his. Now, we have reached the pinnacle of the battle between Gotham’s mafia and Batman’s rogues’ gallery. The mafia never had a chance. Gotham City belongs to the costumed villains who have nothing to lose.
Following this though, Two-Face turns himself in, believing he’s fulfilled his duty to justice and order. During his arrest, he claims that there were, in fact, two Holiday killers. Batman responds that Alberto and Dent were both Holiday in the end, since Dent killed Carmine Falcone.
What Batman does not know though is that he is completely wrong.
Now, despite his shortcomings in the Holiday killings and the fact that no one won in the end, Batman still maintains hope upon the end of the story. Batman vows to continue upholding his promise to his parents because he believes there are still good people in Gotham City. Despite the darkness that consumes the city, he believes there is still a light waiting to break through it, and he is its herald.
The Real Holidays
I mentioned previously that Gilda understood Harvey’s darkness. That’s because she was right there in it with him the whole time. In fact, she didn’t have to follow him in because she was there before him.
Alberto was never Holiday.
He only assumed the title to spite his father and die in notoriety. The true Holiday Killer of this story is Gilda Dent. In order to have the life she wanted with her husband, she decided to take matters into her own hands. By killing off the Falcones, she believed Harvey wouldn’t have to spend so much time out of the house and neglect his duty to his family.
Ironically though, Harvey had the same idea as his wife. He too is Holiday. He attempted to kill Alberto on New Year’s Eve and ultimately murdered Carmine in the final chapter. Thus, he and Gilda are two sides of the same coin. They had always been in the darkness together. Gotham City had taken them both because Holiday is an idea, deeper than the mob or Batman’s rogues’ gallery.
Holiday is an exemplification of Gotham City pushing its citizens to the edge.
Still, Gilda didn’t win. Yes, she got away with her crimes, but she lost Harvey. Yet, her final words affirm her belief in him. She believes that one day her crimes will be justified because she did her duty to her family.
What Lies Ahead for The Batman
Batman: The Long Halloween would spawn a sequel titled Batman: Dark Victory, a series that ran from 1999 to 2000. Though the sequel doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor, it’s a solid series that revisits the setting Loeb and Sale expertly established.
This setting that Loeb and Sale created is wonderfully unique. It’s brutal, opposing Batman in every way.
The Long Halloween remains one of Batman’s most popular stories because of Loeb and Sale’s originality. Holiday is not your ordinary villain, and the narrative structure certainly isn’t ordinary either. Thus, Loeb and Sale brought down plenty of risks in composing this unorthodox story.
However, these risks, among others, prevail.
The saga is one that every Batman fan and even every comic book fan should read, because it is just that phenomenal.
As aforementioned, we do not know what stories will lay the foundation for the upcoming Batman film. However, I fervently hope The Long Halloween is one of them.