Harvey Dent is the former District Attorney of Gotham City. An ambitious man, he worked alongside Mayor Borg and Police Commissioner James Gordon to clean up crime and corruption to make the city's streets safer. These efforts were also assisted by the vigilante Batman, who helped in their efforts to combat Carl Grissom and the Joker.
However, after a series of riots instigated by criminals inspired by Batman and the Joker, Dent began a campaign to take down the Dark Knight and expose his identity. This also included outing officials that sanctioned his operations, including Gordon. Eventually disfigured in an incident caused by Batman-copycats, Dent began to lose his sanity, becoming a criminal called "Two-Face".
Harvey Dent grew up in Burnside, a prominent black neighborhood in Gotham City. He lost his mother as an infant when she was hit by a drunk driver whilst walking him. In his childhood, Harvey spent time at Royal Autobody owned by Jerome Otis. From a young age, Dent would become obsessed with his fate being decided by the flip a coin; heads dictating he'd do good whilst tails dictating he'd become a "bum". Since Otis always used a double-headed one, the outcome would always be in Harvey's favor, though he later claimed that he knew that it was rigged. At some point, he took the coin into his possession and used it to reassure his decisions.
As a teenager, Dent had the opportunity to go out drinking with friends, though refused to stay inside and study. The incident meant he avoided being caught with the friend and a criminal record. Dent's efforts ultimately led to his enrolment at law school and a career in law. Some time during Batman's early career, he was elected as Gotham's District Attorney.
Exposing Grissom front companies
During Batman's early operations, Harvey worked with Commissioner James Gordon to uncover various front companies owned by the city's most powerful crime lord, Carl Grissom. Unknown to either party, their efforts were also helped by Batman, who secretly provided them evidence for these. At a press event organized by Mayor Borg, Dent announced their efforts and progress to Gotham's public.
The following day, Dent and Gordon discussed preparations for the city's 200th anniversary celebrations with Borg. Despite the Mayor's enthusiasm for the prep, both he and the Commissioner express concerns of budgeting and public safety. In response, Borg suggested that businesses will return to Gotham once they'd arrested and imprisoned Grissom. Dent also attended the fundraiser at Wayne Manor, attending with Gordon, his wife and the Mayor. During the event, Alexander Knox confronted him on rumors of Batman, which he dismissed as "[stories of] ghosts and goblins".
Joker's Reign of Terror
After the assassination of mob boss Vinnie Ricorso, Dent appeared on an Action News report with the mayor. When they asked him for a quote, he refused to provide a comment for them. When the Joker tainted various health and beauty products with the Smylex nerve agent, Mayor Borg placed more pressure on Dent to find the deadly products to bring order in time for the festival.
Though Batman provided them the deadly mixtures, Dent and his allies failed to make the streets safe in time for the 200th Anniversary Parade. He appeared with Gordon and Borg at the announcement that they would be cancelling it. This was ultimately hijacked by the Joker, who not only announced he'd be hosting the event (even providing "free money" as an incentive) and delivered a challenge to Batman.
- "We've received a letter from Batman this morning. 'Please inform the citizens of Gotham that Gotham City has earned a rest from crime. But if the forces of evil should rise again, to cast a shadow on the heart of the city, call me.'"
- ―Harvey Dent[src]
After the Joker's defeat at the hands of Batman, Dent helped organize a press conference with Borg and Gordon to inform the city of the disbanding of his organization. Prior to it, he received a letter from Batman, who vowed to protect the city from evil. Dent read the letter aloud at the conference, during which Gordon unveiled a signal to call him.
After the Penguin's defeat, Harvey began to move his ambitions to become the state's Attorney General. At the time, he also started dating Barbara Gordon, a sergeant in the GCPD and the Commissioner's daughter. During the Halloween celebration, Harvey took Barbara to the Janus restaurant to propose to her. However, the occasion was interrupted by riots started by a gang of criminals modelled after the Joker and others dressed as Batman. Once outside, Harvey called in the National Guard to help clear the chaos.
When one of the Joker Gang members stole Barbara's purse, Harvey chased after him but was quickly ambushed by another member. Pretending to surrender his watch, Dent instead fought against the would-be muggers and tossed his coin, threatening to kill them if it landed on heads. When Barbara arrived, Harvey reassured her he'd simply scared them off and reassured her he was safe. As they watched Batman drive by in the Batmobile, Dent mused that the streets of Gotham had become more dangerous with "copycat criminals [and] copycat vigilantes".
Going after Batman
At some point over that night, Dent decided to blame Batman for inspiring the riots and criminals. He also decided to remove Commissioner Gordon, believing that he was either becoming too reliant on the vigilante or using him as a personal enforcer. Dent also convinced Barbara to help by using her access at the GCPD to uncover Batman's identity, despite his plans for her father.
The morning after the riots, Harvey visited Bruce Wayne to ask for his support, though expected he would side with Gordon due to their history. Using reports about the previous night's events, he argued that Batman was callous as the criminals he fought and that his presence inspired more dangerous criminals. He also shared a theory that the vigilante was actually multiple people under Gordon's command. When Bruce politely refused, Dent left the home and warned him about the National Guard's presence in Gotham until they caught Batman. As he left, Dent called Barbara to discuss evidence she'd obtained from confiscated equipment belonging to Batman. This included a computerized Batarang taken during a previous Christmas, which they realized he had access to high-tech.
Deciding to get help from his old neighborhood, Harvey called into the Royal Autobody to met with Otis, claiming his car needed routine maintenance. When Otis confronted him on his absence, Harvey initially claimed he'd come to set a good example for Burnside's children, though gradually charmed him with recollections of his childhood. Able to soften Jerome, he was able to convinced him to get figures from the community to help him, such as Gotham Congressional Church reverend Cecil Culp. With this, he was able to get enough support to call for Gordon's dismissal as Commissioner.
That night, Dent worked with Harvey Bullock and at least three other officers to set a trap for Batman on the GCPD headquarters' rooftops by lighting the Batsignal. However, he knew that it wouldn't work, since it hadn't been used in six months. Whilst waiting, Dent learned from Bullock that Gordon had been communicating with Batman via a communications channel. Unknown to them, the vigilante was monitoring the conversation from a nearby rooftop.
The following morning, Harvey and Barbara visited a park to test the confiscated Super-Batarang. As she talked him through the systems, Dent struggled to target other object, continually being hit by the weapon. Both of them also deduced that the weapon must have cost millions and Batman had access to it. Eventually giving up, Harvey left to pick his car at the Royal Autobody. In reality, he wanted to ask for help from Drake Winston, a young mechanic working at the shop to track down components belonging to the Batmobile. However, the youth refused due to a person grudge against the GCPD.
During the meeting, Culp and other members of the Burnside council interrupted the meeting. Wanting to talk about a confrontation with Batman and the National Guard that had resulted in five casualties including a teenager, the group confronted Dent on the fallout of the actions and that the neighborhood would be protesting peacefully in reaction. Harvey attempted to suggest using the protests to their advantage but Culp immediately stopped him, revealing that the people of Burnside would suffer for his actions.
Deciding to put his campaign aside, Dent agreed to help the group in the demonstrations, even speaking at the event. Rather than giving a prepared speech, Harvey gave an improvised speech, during which he criticized the GCPD and sections of Gotham's structure. Though well received by the borough, it brought mixed reactions from all corners of Gotham.
The following day, Harvey and Barbara were interviewed by journalists whilst entering City Hall. Dent was also confronted by Bullock, who'd felt betrayed despite working with him to bring in Batman. Inside his office, Harvey discovered Bruce, who'd asked to help set up a meeting the the Burnside council. During it, he backed Wayne's proposal to help fund the neighborhood's children in education and gave them his word that Bruce could be trusted.
Fire at the Royal Autobody
Returning home with Barbara, Harvey become suspicious that Bruce had mentioned Nyesha Burroughs despite her not being mentioned in any reports. However, their conversation was interrupted when they noticed a fire at the Royal Autobody. Driving to the scene, Harvey learned that Otis was trying to get back in to rescue Drake. Going in himself, Dent discovered the youth was missing from his room. Whilst leaving, Harvey was knocked unconscious by falling from a collapsing stairway.
Whilst unconscious, Dent experienced a dream of him saving Drake and become the state governor for Gotham. During it, he also came to the conclusion that Bruce Wayne was connected to Batman, realizing he'd have only learned of her name through his involvement. Whilst he unconcious, Harvey was disfigured by battery acid leaking from the incident, burning his face and which he breathed in. He was later recovered by both Bruce and Drake, who were able to bring him out moments before the autobody exploded.
As he regained consciousness, Dent tried to give a speech to the citizens present, only to reveal his disfigurement and horrify those present. He was quickly taken away by paramedics, though many, including Bruce, worried about the damage done by the incident. Paramedics also speculated that he'd likely have six months to live from breathing in the fumes from the acid.
Whilst he recovered in hospital, Harvey hallucinated another version of himself who claimed to be from the world he dreamed. This Dent also showed him possibilities he'd avoided, including him dying in his mother's place and his arrest if he'd gone out with Curtis. Believing these to be split possibilities out of his hands, Dent decided to put himself in control of his own destiny. When he regained consciousness, Harvey took his double-headed coin and defaced one of its sides with a nail file.
Believing it would help chose his destiny, Harvey began using the coin to make his decisions. Among them were whether to continue his relationship with Barbara, to stop fighting for "the soul of Gotham", and to refuse the surgery offered by Bruce. He also began to display a second personality based on the "Harvey Dent" he'd dreamed about. The following night, Harvey mounted an escape from Gotham General Hopsital, knocking out a guard to steal his door keycard and painkillers. During the escape, Harvey also ripped of the bandages and embraced his new appearance.
Breaking into his office, Harvey began stealing files related to the attempted robbery purported by the Joker Gang. After the cops learned of his appearance, he attempted to hide from them. However, an officer entered the room he was hiding in, forcing Dent to attack him and flee. Chased into the Subway system, Dent escaped by running in front of a train, while he argued with his other personality, only surviving by hiding against the wall. Going further into the tunnels, he eventually travelled into the abandoned Burnside station, where he planned to set up his new base of operations.
Tracking down a member he'd been planning to prosecute, Dent kidnapped the man and interrogated him on the Joker Gang's activities. When he refused to talk, he used the coin to decide whether to pay him "double or nothing". With the coin landing up heads, the informant told him of the gang's operations and helped arrange a meeting with its members. With his help, Dent transformed the group into his own criminal organization.
Attack on GCPD Headquarters
With help from his new gang, Dent set up plans to attack the Gotham City Police Headquarters and steal the $31 million confiscated from the Lincoln Job. To evacuate the area, they set off bombs around the building. Dent also organized for at least three snipers to attack civilians in the streets, causing many to flee. Using these distractions, his gang tunneled into the Evidence Lockup and stole from the building.
Whilst fleeing with the cash, Dent was attacked by Bullock, who'd realized his plans and come to confront him. Returning fire, Dent hit the Lt. as Batman and Gordon arrived. Pretending to surrender, Dent equipped the Super-Batarang he'd obtained and used it to attack Batman. This also caused the Dark Knight to accidently hit Gordon with a Knockout Dart. With his men arriving to back him up, Dent took Gordon hostage and gave Batman a choice: stop him or save Bullock from dying. The vigilante chose to rescue the cop, allowing them to flee the scene unstopped.
Returning to the Burnside Station, Harvey began shipping $900 thousand of the stolen cash to citizens of Burnside. Despite wanting to execute Gordon, he kept the Commissioner alive after flipping the coin twice and it resulting in the spare option both times, instead keeping him prisoner at the station. The theft had also provided Dent with documents tying the bank to crime, which he planned to eventually expose. Unknown to Dent, Gordon managed to slip a tracking device onto him, allowing Batman to track him when he returned to the surface.
Having used his men to arrange a meeting with Barbara, Dent eventually left to meet with her at Burnside Park. After buying flowers, he found her at the arranged meeting place and made contact. After he expressed how his dreams were coming true, Barbara placed him under arrest, surprising Harvey. Distracting her by revealing he had her father hostage, Dent was rescued when Catwoman attacked her. At her suggestion, he used the opportunity to flee back to the station, escaping an ensuing gunfight between his men and the GCPD.
Emotionally broken, Harvey confided in Gordon what had happened, believing his disfigurement had affected her feelings for him. However, the Commissioner instead suggested it had only shown his true self and called him out for his opportunistic behavior, causing Dent finally lost his temper and shoot him. As Gordon began to bleed out, Harvey began losing his composure from due to disobeying the coin. Moments later, Batman arrived to confront him.
- Batman '89
Behind the Scenes
A common urban legend spread about Batman Returns was that Dent was planned to appear in the film as one of its villains, but was replaced by Max Shreck. Some claim that he would have killed Selina Kyle due to cover up information about his split personality and that the generator incident would have caused his disfigurement, transforming him into Two-Face. However, a mandate by Warner Bros. required the film to use Penguin and Catwoman as the films' villains, as they were more more prominently known than Two-Face at the time. Dent was absent in Sam Hamm's draft, including as Two-Face. Whilst screenwriter Wesley Strick did confirm he'd planned the character to make a small appearance, he has denied planning to make him one of the film's villain.
The Two-Face seen in Batman Forever was originally intended to be the same character as Dent from the Batman film. However, the role was recast to Tommy Lee Jones, as director Joel Schumacher was not keen on Billy Dee Williams portraying the character. Many have been critical of this change, especially in regards to Williams (an African-American) being replaced by a Caucasian actor. Jones' performance was also poorly received, with some claiming he was either trying to upstage co-villain Jim Carrey or emulate Jack Nicholson's Joker.
The recasting of Jones as Two-Face was often used as evidence against Schumacher's Batman films being the same continuity as Burton films. Some even went as far to theories to create in-universe reasons for the change. After the announcements of Batman '89 and Michael Keaton's return as Batman in The Flash, Jones' Two-Face has been widely regarded as another interpretation of the character.
For a time, Williams was regarded as "the Two-Face that never was" amongst the Batman fandom. However, the actor would eventually be cast as another version of the character for The Lego Batman Movie, a reference to his appearance as Dent in Batman. This also fulfilled the original intention for Willaims' casting.
Harvey Dent featured in Joe Quinones and Kate Leth's original pitch for the Batman '89 comic series, then imagined as an ongoing comic series. Like the final product, the pitch included plans to see his character's disfigurement and become Two-Face. At the time, the pitch was decline for unknown reasons, likely due to likeness fees.
When the concept was revived with Sam Hamm's involvement, it was decided that Williams' Dent and his transformation into Two-Face were to serve as main focuses of the series.