The Green Lantern Corps Podcast

Scarecrow, the master of fear

Posted in Profiles by mrread7 on January 29, 2008

Zooming a bit off of the main Green Lantern road, we turn to my favorite Batman villain, the Scarecrow. This character has been a constant favorite of mine for years. I found the villain scary growing up but to the point I wanted to keep reading. Years later, when Batman Begins finally came out, the Scarecrow was the second featured villain and boy did they get the villain right. For a guy who specialized in fear, it is amazing that the Scarecrow hasn’t been more active in Green Lantern or the fact it took until just recently for a Sinestro Corps ring to find him. Even if he got denied.

Golden Age

Elements of the Scarecrow fear gas appeared in Batman publications prior to his first appearance. For instance, the idea of fear gas first appeared in Detective Comics #46 in December 1940, in a story featuring Hugo Strange, in which Strange uses a special fear dust in order to scare the police and successfully rob a bank. Later Strange gets the idea to take over the US Government.
In his first appearance in World’s Finest #3 during the Golden Age of Comic Books, the Scarecrow is first introduced as Jonathan Crane, a professor of psychology, who turns to crime after he is fired; an expert in the psychology of fear, he had fired a gun in a classroom full of students to illustrate a point. The only thing revealed about his early life is that, as a child, he had liked to frighten birds. Ostracized by his fellow professors for his appearance and reclusiveness, he turned to crime to make himself part of the social elite. His modus operandi is to use his Scarecrow persona and threaten his victims into doing whatever he wants. In terms of his costume, he merely wore ragged black hat, trenchcoat, mask, and wielded a Tommy gun.
His first crime involved a businessman named Frank Kendrick being sued by a former partner, Paul Harold. When Herold refused to cooperate upon meeting and hearing his demands, the Scarecrow killed him and became a media sensation. Bruce Wayne, who happens to be a patron and trustee of the university, investigates the matter as Batman and discovers Crane’s disturbing behaviour and forced resignation, leading him to suspect the professor. In his second appearance, he approached a store owner named Dodge with the offer to rob other establishments, in order to increase his sales. After Batman and Robin learn of the plan and question Dodge, Scarecrow attempts to kill him, but the Dynamic Duo capture him in the nick of time. He is then sent to Gotham State Penitentiary.
Two years later in Detective Comics #73, he escapes from jail and forms a gang of criminals to do his bidding. While he struggles to rob a Chinese antique dealer, Batman and Robin foil the plan, and he and his cronies are sent back to prison. This version of the Scarecrow was much like other gimmick villains in that he based a lot of crimes around nursery rhymes and words that rhymed with “hat.” He does not appear from 1943 to 1955, but it is revealed that he developed a hallucinogenic chemical toxin that could be used to invoke deep phobias within those who breathe it in. When Batman tries to intervene, he is affected by the toxin and hallucinates that all of his allies have disappeared. Feeling he has no once else to turn to, he confides in an old enemy, Catwoman, to help him stop Crane, and she is successful in helping stop the Scarecrow and getting Batman over his delusions. Exactly what happened to Crane is not revealed because of the revelation that the Golden Age universe was actually Earth-2, part of the Multiverse.

Silver Age

Throughout the 1960s Silver Age of Comic Books, the Scarecrow was revived to be one of Batman’s most recurring rivals. He is a frequent member of the Injustice Gang. Ironically, in this Earth-One incarnation, Crane has a strange fear of birds, even though he has a pet magpie named Craw.

Post-Crisis, Modern-Age Version

Following the 1986 multi-title event Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, Crane’s origin story was greatly expanded in the 1989 graphic novel Batman/Scarecrow #1, part of the Batman: Year One continuity. In the novel, he becomes obsessed with fear and revenge from being bullied throughout his childhood and adolescence for his lanky frame and bookish nature. He commits his first murder at the age of 18 by brandishing a gun in his high school parking lot during the senior prom. Dressed in the ghoulish scarecrow costume that would later become his trademark, Crane causes the head bully, Bo Griggs, and his girlfriend, Sherry Squires (who had rejected Crane), to have an automobile accident which paralyzes Griggs and kills Squires. From this, Crane discovers a savage delight in literally frightening people to death.
He grows up to become a professor of psychology at Gotham University, specializing in the psychology of fear. The flower pot incident[clarify] is left intact, but the real reason he is fired is due to injuring a student by accident. After his dismissal, he kills the regents who fired him and becomes a career criminal. Following this, he transferred to Arkham Asylum and became a psychiatrist, where he performed more fear-induced experiments on his patients. He takes the moniker “the Scarecrow”, the favorite taunt of the hated bullies, as part of his revenge. The 2005 miniseries, Batman/Scarecrow: Year One, expands upon the earlier origin story. The novels explains that Jonathan Crane is born out of wedlock and also suffers terrible abuse from his fanatically religious great-grandmother. His father takes off before he is even born, and his mother does not show any love or affection towards her son at all. He develops a taste for fear and an affinity for crows when his grandmother locks him in a dilapidated church full of birds. The story also shows Crane murdering his grandmother, and learning that his mother gave birth to a baby girl.
During a Batman Confidential story arc, he is shown out of costume at Arkham Asylum still working as a pyschiatrist, while planning the renovation of Arkham, and he briefly comes face to face with the criminal who will one day become The Joker.
In the Knightfall storyline, Scarecrow is one of the prisoners that escaped from Arkham after Bane blows it up. He first attacks one of The Joker’s henchmen, who tells Scarecrow that his boss is after the commissioner. Scarecrow goes to the Joker and decides to become partners in terrorizing the mayor. Soon they go to the sewers with the mayor, where Batman arrives. Scarecrow gasses him with fear toxic but instead Batman gets angry. Panicked, Scarecrow makes the water come into the sewers. Batman escapes with the mayor but Joker and Scarecrow escape as well. Later, at Scarecrow and Joker’s hideout, the Joker savagely beats Scarecrow with a chair after he tries to poison him. He is then sent to Arkham.
In the Shadow of the Bat storyline, Scarecrow escapes and brings together a small group of boys to terrorize the city while he enjoys the chaos. Soon, Batman’s successor, Jean-Paul Valley, and Anarky arrive and together they defeate the Scarecrow and save the boys.
In stories written by Jeph Loeb, such as Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Hush, Crane is shown to have an inclination to sing nursery rhymes at times. In the Elseworlds story Batman: Crimson Mist, Crane is shown to be singing a modified version of “Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead”, from The Wizard of Oz.
Crane undergoes a major change in the 2004 Batman story arc As The Crow Flies. While working with the Penguin, he is mutated into a monster. He turns into this “Scarebeast” during times of great strain or when it is necessary to defend himself.
Scarecrow rejoins the new Secret Society of Super Villains, and is part of the assault on the Secret Six (Villains United #6). He is caught in an explosion caused by Parademon. He is later seen in Villains United Special #1, alive and well. He is also seen in Detective Comics #820 as part of One Year Later, where he is defeated by Batman and Robin. In this appearance he is depicted in a costume that appeared to be an amalgamation of his original costume and the costume seen in Batman Begins.
Recently, the Scarecrow has decided to stop using his typical fear gas, as he feared that other Arkham Inmates were right that he was nothing without them. Instead relying on his training as a psychologist, he drives two inmates to suicide using only his words, also apparently terrifying the rest of Arkham’s inmates. After manipulating the guards to freeing him, Crane embarks upon a string of vicious serial murders, terrifying Gotham without using his trademark gimmicks.

If I ever get a chance to write a Batman story, it will feature the Scarecrow, I just love this twisted guy. Too bad he just missed being a Sinestro Corps member.


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