The Scarecrow(pop culture)
Gotham City's gangly fear-monger made his spine-chilling debut in World's Finest Comics #3 (1941), in “Riddle of the Human Scarecrow” by writer Bill Finger and artists Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, and George Roussos. Underneath the Scarecrow's burlap-bag hood and tattered brown hat and rags is Jonathan Crane, who, as a child, became obsessed with fright after deriving cruel pleasure in terrorizing birds. As a Gotham University psychology professor, the adult Crane, a disheveled recluse nicknamed “Scarecrow” by his colleagues, is an expert on phobias. Adopting the identity of the Scarecrow as a bloodcurdling “symbol of poverty and fear combined!” he extorts money from businessmen and resorts to killing as part of his scheme—but since murder is the last straw in Batman's turf, the Caped Crusader, through detective wizardry, tracks down Crane and captures the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow returned “by popular demand” (or so said the cover) in Detective Comics #73 (1943), orchestrating a string of word-related crimes seemingly out of character for a so-called Master of Fear. His second outing was his last during comics' Golden Age (1938–1954). Twenty-four years later, Batman #189 (1967) resurrected the Scarecrow (with a slightly altered origin) and introduced his modus operandi known to fans and readers today: fear-inducing chemicals. In “Fright of the Scarecrow” by writer Gardner Fox and penciler Sheldon Moldoff, Scarecrow taunted Gotham with hallucinogens powerful enough to turn Batman and Robin into sniveling cowards. A curious omission from the live-action Batman (1966–1968) television rogues' gallery (one might picture Jimmy Stewart or Danny Kaye as the Scarecrow, spooking Adam West and Burt Ward's Dynamic Duo), for the next two decades the Scarecrow crept into various DC Comics titles, including a stint with the Injustice Gang of the World in Justice League of America #111 (1974) and a clash with the Clown Prince of Crime in The Joker #8 (1976). While Batman producer William Dozier overlooked the Scarecrow for TV, animators did not. The Scarecrow appeared on CBS's The Batman/Superman Hour (1968–1969) and The Adventures of Batman and Robin (1969–1970), and was the most frightening of the Legion of Doom on ABC's Challenge of the Super Friends (1978–1979); this Super Friends version of Scarecrow was produced as an action figure in a 2003 two-pack with Batman. A renowned Scarecrow story appeared in The Brave and the Bold #197 (1983), an adventure set in the year 1955 on Earth-Two, then DC's parallelworld home for its Golden Age characters. While Alan Brennert and Joe Staton's tale is best remembered for its Batman/Catwoman romance, it was also the third appearance of the Golden Age Scarecrow, and the only time the Earth-Two version of the villain used fear toxins. In the grim-and-gritty world of Batman that evolved after the mid-1980s classics Crisis on Infinite Earths and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, the Scarecrow's fearsomeness was ripe for exploration. Tweaks to Scarecrow's origin revealed that young Crane, a spindly, self-conscious nerd, was persecuted by his classmates, who likened him to both a barnyard scarecrow and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow's Ichabod Crane. Harboring extreme resentment toward his tormentors, Crane studied phobias, as he did in his 1941 origin, but as an adult college professor his unorthodox classroom techniques so unnerved students that he was fired from the university. Detailed revelations into his background were published in Batman Annual #19 (1995) and Year One: Batman/Scarecrow #1–#2 (2005). The Scarecrow's fear gas, which he created, induces paralyzing hallucinations that simulate one's deepest dreads, producing panic attacks so severe that many of his victims have died of cardiac arrest. For added eerie effect, Scarecrow has been known to dispense his compound from an atomizer shaped like a human skull. Posing an additional threat is his bizarre combative style, a turbulent mix of frantic dance and unpredictable flailing movement. The Scarecrow's one weakness is chiropteraphobia, an overwhelming fear of bats, which Batman has used to his advantage during his often psychological clashes with his twisted foe. Despite his indomitable willpower, Batman has on occasion been debilitated by his personal demons once poisoned by Scarecrow's fear gas, being haunted by the deaths of his parents and of the second Robin the Boy Wonder (Jason Todd). In the best-selling Batman storyline “Hush” (2002–2003) by writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee, the Scarecrow used his toxins on other Batrogues including the Joker and Killer Croc—and even the superheroine the Huntress—to goad them into fighting Batman. (Lee's startling version of the Scarecrow was sculpted as an action figure in 2005). Another Batman story arc, 2004's “As the Crow Flies,” introduced the Scarebeast, a repellent monstrosity with a secret connection to Scarecrow. Yet no matter how the Scarecrow may attempt to harass Gothamites, the Dark Knight always manages to send the Master of Fear where he belongs—Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane. Throughout the 1990s, the Scarecrow appeared in several episodes of Batman: The Animated Series and its continuations, played by voice actors Henry Polic II and Jeffrey Combs; this cartoon interpretation of the character inspired an action figure from Kenner Toys. In the blockbuster motion picture Batman Begins (2005), actor Cillian Murphy—who at first auditioned for the Batman role—portrayed Dr. Jonathan Crane, a sicko psychologist who conducted fear-gas experiments on Arkham inmates, sadistic “research” often embellished by his donning of a macabre Scarecrow mask (but no hat or costume); makeup-plastered rocker Marilyn Manson was considered for the part. Murphy's Scarecrow appeared in various Batman Begins merchandising, including action figures, an adult-sized latex mask, and a child's Halloween costume. The cinema Scarecrow was lampooned in “Battyman, Begone!,” a movie parody in MAD magazine #455 (2005), in which the character introduced himself thusly: “I'm Scarycrook, the secondever Battyman movie villain to have a face made out of burlap. The first was Tommy Lee Jones.” Two other supervillainous Scarecrows exist. The first is a minor-league Marvel Comics character named Ebenezer Laughton who premiered in the Iron Man story in Tales of Suspense #51 (1964). A contortionist turned superhero, Marvel's Scarecrow soon switched camps and became a criminal, fighting Spider-Man, Captain America, the Falcon, the XMen, and Ghost Rider. The second Scarecrow is a cartoony crook featured in a 1966 episode of the animated program The Mighty Heroes.
The Supervillain Book: The Evil Side of Comics and Hollywood © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.