A serious drinking problem brings out the worst in Superman
and Batman in World's Finest Comics
#173,(Feb 1968), when the caped crimefighters become "The
The trouble begins in a laboratory near Gotham City, where
a rogue scientist is experimenting on a decidely unwilling
subject. Strapped to a chair, the victim is injected with
a substance that sends him into a mindless, screaming panic.
"My powerful mind drugs have produced in his brain
the very substance of fear!" observes the unscrupulous
Dr. Arron, obviously pleased with himself.
His elation is short-lived, however, as Superman and Batman
burst into the laboratory and break up the party.
Superman flies the victim to a hospital while Batman stays
behind to turn the researcher over to the authorities.
Days later, the heroes make a public appearance at the
Metropolis State Fair, giving a talk at a "Hall of
Villains" waxworks exhibit. During the Q & A session,
an audience member bundled up in a hat, scarf and sunglasses
raises his hand with a question: "I want to know which
enemies you fear the most!"
Hmm...a stranger with a hidden face asks a question about
fear, mere days after a scientist specializing in fear vows
revenge on Batman and Superman. Nothing suspicious there,
right? Besides, what can it hurt to announce a psychological
weakness to the world at large when you're waging a war
on crime? And so they answer: Batman says Two-Face
is his most worrysome foe because he's so unpredictable.
Batman's secret to beating his many foes is to figure out
their M.O. and stay one step ahead, but Two-Face leaves
everything up to the toss of a coin, meaning even the villain
himself doesn't know what he's doing next. (Of course, all
his crimes center on the number TWO, so in that sense he's
no less predictable than any other member of the Rogue's
Gallery, but nevermind).
Superman's answer comes totally from left field, as he
says he's most afraid of Kralik, the Conqueror.
If you've never heard of him, don't worry; nobody else has,
In a flashback, we learn that Kralik once tussled with
Superman on an alien planet and nearly took him in a brawl
by fighting dirty. Superman won by getting in a lucky punch.
And that's it. One fistfight in one adventure we never
heard of before, and he's Superman's worst nightmare. Anyway
he made enough of an impression to rate a wax figure in
the Hall of Villains, joining A-listers Luthor and
Parasite (either of which has come closer
to offing Superman, and multiple times). Whatever.
In a pre-planned photo op, Superman and Batman make a show
of drinking the newly-released "Bat-Cola and "Super-Cola"
drinks, scheduled to arrive in stores soon with all profits
going to charity. Then suddenly, they both dash off, even
though they'd earlier promised to hang around for more of
Speeding off to the Fortress of Solitude under some strange,
powerful compulsion, Superman takes the costume from a Kralik
mannequin and puts it on over his own. Returning to Metropolis,
he feels himself undergoing a bizarre transformation, and
we see that his face and even his mind have changed to that
Meanwhile, Batman is undergoing a similar transformation;
donning a Two-Face costume from his Hall of Trophies in
the Batcave, he drives the Batmobile to the edge of Gotham
before Bruce Wayne's face and mind are transformed into
those of Two-Face.
Now we see the real reason for Kralik's inclusion in this
story over the more logical "worst nightmare"
candidates in the mythos: with his bushy hair, wild eyebrows
and menacing features, he gives off a "Mr Hyde"
vibe in a way Luthor et al never could. Likewise Two-Face
is more "Hyde" than, say, the Joker would have
In his laboratory, Dr Arron celebrates.
"Kralik" leaves a path of destruction through
Metropolis, upending buildings and demanding a rematch with
"that coward" Superman. Meanwhile "Two-Face"
and his gang blast their way into a jewelry store with shells
from a double-barreled tank. (It's worth pausing at this
juncture to note Batman's incredible, wasted abilities as
a super-villain, having acquired both a custom-made tank
and a complete gang of costumed accomplices in what is,
at most, a matter of hours.)
As "Two-Face" readies his tank to blast open
the 2nd National Bank, he's beaten to the punch by "Kralik",
who comes bursting through the bank wall. In time-honored
tradition, the villains quickly turn on each other.
After a few moments of struggling, "Kralik" escapes
the giant hand, fully intending to kill "Two-Face"
for the humiliation, but suddenly he feels a powerful compulsion
to leave the scene. "Two-Face" feels the same
impulse, leaving his confused gang behind in the tank.
In a wooded area outside Metropolis, Superman regains his
true face and personality, and heads back to the city in
a state of confusion. There he meets up with a similarly
restored Batman, and while the Caped Crusader investigates
the scene of "Kralik" and "Two-Face's"
rampage, the Man of Steel rebuilds the various smashed structures.
Looking on from the sidelines, a TV reporter says what's
on the mind of his viewers; where were the heroes when the
villains were running wild? "Some believe Superman
and Batman are hiding from the men who, by their own admission,
they fear the most!"
Some time later, Robin returns from a
Teen Titans mission and figures the whole
thing out in about five seconds, not that it does him any
The heroes run off again and Robin, following Batman, sees
his partner undergoing the transformation to "Two-Face."
Alfred's coffee, like the sodas at the Fair, has been spiked
by the omnipresent Dr Arron. As "Two-Face" makes
a call from a payphone, Robin watches from a hiding place,
but he in turn has been observed by Arron, who knocks him
"Kralik" and "Two-Face" waste no time
resuming their grudge match. When "Kralik" accosts
the bifurcated baddie on the streets of Metropolis, "Two-Face"
answers with a blast from a (double-barreled) anti-matter
weapon, but the alien villain shrugs it off and seemingly
kills "Two-Face" with a single punch. Or does
he? Suddenly, "force rays" rain down from above,
and "Kralik" looks up to see a second "Two-Face"
circling in a helicopter overhead (how come nobody ever
hears a helicopter before they see it in comics?).
"Two-Face" and his men let loose with "super-force
beams" which for once seem to have an effect on the
"Kralik", until the alien deflects the beams with
a hastily constructed mirror. As his gang lays down a covering
ground fire, "Two-Face" beats a retreat to a secluded
building in the hills outside Metropolis. It turns out to
be the laboratory of Dr Aaron, much to the scientist's dismay.
"Two-Face" tosses a coin to decide whether to
kill Arron, who passes out in fear. "Two-Face's"
men try to revive the scientist with a glass of water just
as "Kralik" shows up to mop the floor with the
lot of them. It certainly looks like someone's going to
buy the farm, but suddenly we see what looks like Batman's
fist knocking out Kralik. Then a Superman-shaped blur takes
out Two-Face with a super-speed tackle.
Sometime later, Superman and Batman awaken on the floor
of Arron's lab, having regained their normal appearances
and personalities (and costumes!). Robin is with them, having
finally escaped the bonds with which Arron had tied him.
He fills them in on their double lives, but they're understandably
confused about how it was all resolved; who stopped them
from killing each other in their villain identities? Surely
Robin couldn't have taken them both out?
He didn't, we learn; instead it was...Dr Arron, who to
everyone's surprise now looks an awful lot like the Composite
Superman, minus the green complexion.
But why both of them, asks Superman? "I feared you
both equally," Arron relates. "This caused an
enzymic mishap which gave me more a "split personality"
than Two-Face himself...and allowed me to retain my memory!
I whipped up this costume at super-speed, using some scrap
Anyway, this explains why we saw "Batman's" gloved
hand knocking out Kralik and a blurry "Superman"
subduing "Two-Face." In both cases it was the
Composite Arron-Man, doing heroic deeds in his newly valorous
And so the mystery is solved, but Batman is concerned with
one major loose end; since Arron knows the location of the
Batcave, it's reasonable to assume he knows the Dynamic
Duo's true identities, and that once he regains his old,
evil personality, nothing will stop him from blabbing those
secrets to the whole world. Composite Arron-Man says there's
no need to worry about that.
Poor devil, the only thing he'll be good for now is writing
There's tons of problems with this whole story, obviously.
First of all, every time the heroes become the villains,
they have to go to the trouble of actually putting on the
bad guys' clothes, as only their faces change. And yet when
they "wake up" at the end of the story, they're
back in their good-guy outfits, with no explanation. By
rights, Batman should wake up as Bruce Wayne in a half-and-half
Two-Face suit, his cowl having been left behind in the Batcave.
To be fair, there is a possible out here, as Robin is on
the scene; a canny editor might suggest that the Boy Wonder
dressed the heroes in their proper attire while they lay
unconscious. Still, that doesn't explain why Superman "comes
to" earlier in the story wearing a Kralik costume and
fails to put two and two together. We don't see Bruce Wayne
come out of his trance, but logically he'd have to have
figured something was up when he found himself dressed like
his famous enemy.
It's a huge stretch to have a complete unknown like Kralik
declared Superman's most fearsome foe, but really the bigger
"supervillain nobody saw coming" is Dr Arron,
who in his one appearance outdoes a dozen Lex Luthors in
scientific genius and manages the "everywhere at once"
schtick better than Darkseid. Consider; here's a guy whose
area of expertise is, apparently, the effects of fear on
the human brain, but in a matter of days he perfects a formula
that can completely change the personality and physical
appearance of human subjects, finds a way to make it work
on Superman's Kryptonian body when alcohol, poison and even
corrosive acids have never affected him before, and just
for good measure, figures out the secret location of the
freaking Batcave and contaminates its water supply. Talk
Then we have Batman's impressive acomplishments as "Two-Face."
He keeps mentioning a criminal organization called "Intercrime"
which seems to be supplying him with items like tanks, anti-matter
guns and super-force rays -- so I guess that negates the
need for him to have invented and built those things so
quickly himself -- but this is the first time I've heard
of Two-Face being involved in a larger organization. Moreover,
even if Harvey Dent is a member, how would Batman -- as
a fake Harvey Dent -- know how to reach the organization
and collect these goodies? Even if we accept that Arron's
potion gives him a criminal personality, it couldn't possibly
give him Harvey's memories. So we have to assume
that if Batman/Two-Face knows how to contact Intercrime,
it's because that information is stored in Bruce Wayne's
mind. And if so, why hasn't he shut the gang down?
Robin is, frankly, totally unnecessary here, showing up
just long enough to get hit over the head and disappear
again til story's end. Yes, he deduces the split-personality
thing, but we already know all that anyway, and he never
gets to do anything about it.
Even more superflous, and ultimately detrimental, is the
"Composite Superman" cameo. There's frankly no
good reason for Arron to dress like this, or change his
clothes at all, when his personality is shifted to "good."
All it does is remind us that if anyone should stand out
in Superman's mind as THE villain to fear, it's the Composite
Superman, the one villain to score a complete victory over
him not once but twice, and to outmatch him in power several
I was all ready to pat myself on the back for having recognized
the fingerprints of a young Cary Bates
on this story, but according to the Grand Comics Database,
this one was written by Jim Shooter. Shows
what I know. The art is by the great team of Curt
Swan and George Klein.
This one's pretty to look at, but probably best enjoyed
after drinking something stronger than Super-Cola.