This week’s Villain’s Corner segment spotlights the DC Comics villain, The ScareCrow, the Master of Fear!
The scarecrow itself has been around for centuries, a symbol of fear and dread, and there is a name for it in almost every language: Bogeyman, Shuft, Rook-scarer, Kelson, Espantapájaros (Spanish), Nuffara (Maltese), Espantalho (Portuguese), Epouvantail (French), Vogelscheuche (German), Vogelverschrikker (Dutch), Kakashi (Japanese), Spaventapasseri (Italian), Bijuka (Hindi).
In the 1719 novel Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe, the main character attempts to keep birds from eating his newly sowed corn stalks. As a discouragement, he shoots several of the birds and then hangs them in rows, such as English prisoners. The remaining birds are so frightened that they refuse to even remain in the area. While not the modern idea of a scarecrow, Crusoe does remark, “…I could never see a bird near the place as long as my scarecrows hung there.” (Crusoe is generally thought of as the first English novel to use the term and it is possible that the term owes its popularity to this appearance.)
On to the DC Comics creation!
The Scarecrow (Dr. Jonathan Crane) is a fictional character, a supervillain, that appears in comic books published by DC Comics. The character first appeared in World’s Finest Comics #3 (Fall 1941) and was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. A psychologist who uses a variety of drugs and psychological tactics to exploit the fears and phobias of his adversaries, the Scarecrow is a member of Batman’s rogues gallery.
Although he made only two appearances in the Golden Age of Comic Books, the character was revived during the Silver Age of Comic Books by writer Gardner Fox and artist Sheldon Moldoff in the pages of Batman #189 (Feb 1967) and has since become a staple Batman villain. The character of Scarecrow has featured in other DC Comics-endorsed products such as feature films, video games, animated television programs, and merchandise such as action figures. Irish actor Cillian Murphy portrayed the Scarecrow in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight and will do so again in The Dark Knight Rises. In 2009, the Scarecrow was ranked as IGN’s 58th Greatest Comic Book Villain of All Time.
First appearing in World’s Finest Comics #3 (Fall 1941), titled “Riddle of the Human Scarecrow”, the Scarecrow is Dr. Jonathan Crane, a professor of psychology and expert in the psychology of fear, who turns to crime after being fired due to testing his fear gas on patients. His modus operandi is the adoption of a Scarecrow persona, used to threaten his victims into doing whatever he wants. Scarecrow is eventually defeated by Batman and Robin and sent to Gotham State Penitentiary. The Scarecrow escapes from jail in Detective Comics #73, not reappearing again until the 1960s-era Batman comics.
From Batman #189 (1967) onwards, the character becomes a recurring foe in the Silver Age Batman stories and also appears as one of the original members of the Injustice Gang.
Following the 1986 multi-title event Crisis on Infinite Earths reboot, the character’s origin story is expanded in Batman Annual #19 and the miniseries Batman/Scarecrow: Year One; revealing that Crane has a fear of bats and is obsessed with fear and revenge from being bullied throughout his childhood and adolescence for his lanky frame and bookishness, especially his resemblance to Ichabod Crane from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. After being humiliated by school bully Bo Griggs and rejected by cheerleader Sherry Squires, he takes revenge during the senior prom by donning his trademark scarecrow costume and brandishing a gun in the school parking lot; in the ensuing chaos, Griggs gets into a car accident, paralyzing himself and killing Squires.
Crane’s obsession with fear leads to his becoming a psychiatrist, taking a position at Arkham Asylum and performing fear-inducing experiments on his patients. He is also a professor of psychology at Gotham University, specializing in the study of phobias. He loses his job after he fires a gun inside a packed classroom, accidentally wounding a student; he takes revenge by killing the professors responsible for his termination, and becoming a career criminal. As a college professor, Scarecrow mentors a young Thomas Elliot. The character also has a cameo in Sandman #5, seeming uncharacteristically friendly.
In stories by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the Scarecrow is depicted as one of the more deranged criminals in Batman’s rogues gallery, with a habit of speaking in nursery rhymes. These stories further revise his backstory, explaining that he was raised by his fanatically religious grandmother that he murdered as a teenager.
Scarecrow appears in Batman: The Long Halloween, first seen escaping from Arkham on Mother’s Day with help from Carmine Falcone, who also broke out the Mad Hatter. Crane gases Batman with fear toxin as he escapes, causing Batman to flee to his parent’s grave as Bruce Wayne, where he is arrested by Commissioner Gordon due to Wayne’s suspected ties to Carmine Falcone. He robs a bank with Hatter on Independence Day for Falcone, but is stopped by Batman and Catwoman. He later appears in Carmine’s office on Halloween with Batman’s future rogue’s gallery, but is defeated by Batman. Scarecrow returns in Batman: Dark Victory as part of Two-Face’s gang, and is first seen putting fear gas in children’s dolls on Christmas Eve, and is defeated by Batman. He later appears as one of the villains present at Calendar Man’s trial. It is revealed he and Calendar had been manipulating Alberto Falcone for Two-Face, with Scarecrow determining Alberto feared his father, Carmine, and had been poisoning Falcone’s cigarettes with fear toxin. Calendar Man had been talking to Alberto, with the fear toxin making Alberto hear his father’s voice rather than Calendar Man’s, and they had been manipulating and tormenting him into killing his sister, to no avail. After Two-Face’s hideout is attacked, Batman captures him and Scarecrow tells him where Two-Face is heading. In Catwoman: When In Rome, Scarecrow supplies Riddler with fear gas to manipulate Catwoman, and later aids Riddler when he fights Catwoman in Rome. Scarecrow accidentally attacks Cheetah with his scythe before being knocked out by Catwoman. At the end of the story, Riddler steals a ring booby-trapped with fear toxin from Catwoman, though it is unknown if Scarecrow gave it to her or if she stole it from him or Riddler.
The Scarecrow appears in such story arcs as Knightfall and Shadow of the Bat, first teaming with the Joker to ransom off the mayor, but they are defeated and escape. Scarecrow betrays Joker by spraying him with fear gas, but it has absolutely no effect and Joker knocks him out by hitting him over the head with a chair. Crane later reappears by himself trying to take over the city with an army of hypnotized college students by having them spread his fear gas all over Gotham, and his lieutenant is the son of the first man he killed. He is confronted by both Batman-Azrael and Anarky, and tries to escape by having the boy jump off of a building. To his surprise, Batman-Azrael knocks him out, and Anarky manages to save the boy. In the 2004 story arc As the Crow Flies, Scarecrow is hired by the Penguin under false pretenses. Dr. Linda Friitawa then secretly mutates Crane into a murderous creature known as the “Scarebeast”, who Penguin uses to kill off his disloyal colleagues. However, the character’s later appearances all show him as an unmutated Crane again, with the exception of an appearance during War Games. Scarecrow appears in the third issue of War Games saving Black Mask from Batman and acting as an ally to Black Mask, until Black Mask uses him to disable a security measure in the Clock Tower by literally throwing Scarecrow at it(which does work). Crane wakes up, transforming into Scarebeast, and wreaks havoc outside the building trying to find and kill Black Mask. The police are unable to take it down, and allow Catwoman, Robin, Tarantula II, and Onyx to fight Scarebeast, as Commissioner Atkins had told all officers to capture or kill any vigilantes, costumed criminals or “masks” they find. Even they cannot defeat the Scarebeast, though he appears to have been defeated after the Clock Tower exploded, and is not seen since.The Scarecrow reappears alongside other Batman villains in Gotham Underground; first among the villains meeting at the Iceberg Lounge that are captured by the Suicide Squad. Crane manages to escape by gassing Bronze Tiger with fear toxin and escapes the Squad. He later appears warning the Ventriloquist II, Firefly, Killer Moth and Lock-Up, who are planning to attack the Penguin that Penguin is allied with the Suicide Squad. The villains wave off him warnings and mock him. He later leads the same four into a trap orchestrated by Tobias Whale. Killer Moth, Firefly and Lock-Up all survive, but are injured and unconscious to varied degrees, the Scarface puppet is “killed”, and Peyton Reily, the Ventriloquist, is unharmed, though after the attack she is taken away by Tobias Whale’s men and has not been seen in the comics since. Despite Crane’s assistance to Whale, Scarecrow is betrayed by Whale simply for touching his shoulder (it is revealed Whale almost pathologically hates “masks” because his grandfather was one of the first citizens of Gotham killed by a masked criminal). The story arc ends with Scarecrow beaten and tied-up by Tobias Whale, as a sign to all “masks” that they are not welcome in Whale’s new vision of Gotham, but the Scarecrow survives the ordeal.
Scarecrow appears in Batman: Hush, working for the Riddler and Hush. He composes profiles on the various villains of Gotham so Riddler and Hush can manipulate them to their own ends. He later gases Huntress with his fear gas, making her attack Catwoman. He attacks Batman in a graveyard, only to learn his fear gas is ineffective (due to Hush’s bug), but before he can reveal this he is knocked out by Jason Todd. Scarecrow also appears in Batman: Heart of Hush, kidnaping a child to distract Batman so Hush can attack Catwoman. When Batman goes to rescue the child, Scarecrow activates a Venom implant, causing the boy to attack Batman. He is defeated when Batman ties the boy’s teddy bear to Crane, causing the child to attack Scarecrow. After he is captured, Batman attacks him in prison to get Hush’s location, much to the joy of a watching Joker.
His mastery of fear is such that the yellow power ring of Amon Sur tried to seek him out at Arkham after its masters death, though it was stopped before reaching him.
In the “Battle for the Cowl” storyline, Scarecrow is recruited by a new Black Mask to be a part of a group of villains that are aiming to take over Gotham in the wake of Batman’s apparent death. He later assists the crime lord in manufacturing a new recreational drug called “Thrill,” which draws the attention of Oracle and Batgirl. He is later defeated by Batgirl and once again arrested.
Scarecrow briefly appears in the fourth issue of the “Blackest Night” storyline. His immunity to fear (brought about by frequent exposure to his own fear toxin) renders him practically invisible to the invading Black Lanterns. However, his current status of fearlessness has taken a further toll on his sanity, exacerbated by the long disappearance of Batman in the “Batman R.I.P.” storyline; he develops a literal addiction to fear, exposing himself deliberately to the revenant army, but knowing that only Batman could scare him again. He again appears in the sixth issue as he is deputized into the Sinestro Corps for 24 hours in order to combat the Black Lanterns. Overjoyed at finally being able to feel fear, Scarecrow gleefully and without question follows Sinestro’s commands. His joy is cut short when Lex Luthor, overwhelmed by the orange light of Avarice, steals his ring.
Some time later during the events of Brightest Day, Scarecrow begins kidnapping and murdering college interns working for LexCorp as a way of getting back at Luthor for stealing his ring. When Robin and Supergirl attempt to stop his plans, Scarecrow unleashes a new fear toxin that is powerful enough to affect a Kryptonian. The toxin forces Supergirl to see visions of a Black Lantern Reactron, but she is able to snap out of the illusion and help Robin defeat Scarecrow. He is eventually freed from Arkham when Deathstroke and the Titans break into the asylum in order to capture one of the inmates.
Powers and abilities
The Scarecrow uses a variety of toxins that cause his victims to hallucinate that their phobias have come to life. He wears his Scarecrow mask to enhance the effect of the hallucinogen (instilling fear in all who see him) as well as to avoid being poisoned by his own toxin. Although not physically intimidating, Scarecrow can resort to physical combat, using a style called “violent dancing”, based partly on the crane style of kung fu and on drunken boxing.
The Scarecrow is an expert in psychology, with a focus on fear, and is a former certified professor on the subject. Due to prolonged exposure to his own gas, Scarecrow went from being frightened of bats to only being frightened of Batman. Scarecrow is both addicted to fear and incapable of fearing anything except Batman, whom he compulsively seeks in order to ease his addiction after the Caped Crusader’s apparent death. Scarecrow is chosen as a bearer of the twin of Sinestro’s yellow ring as a temporary Corpsman, giving him the powers of a member of the Sinestro Corps.
Read more about this frightful villain at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scarecrow_%28comics%29
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