The Scarecrow, Jonathan Crane, is a man obsessed with fear. As a boy, he was ridiculed for his bookish nature and lanky physique. Instead of dealing with things like a regular person he became obsessed with the study of fear in order to get revenge on his enemies. This obsession led to a doctorate of biology of fear, or something or other. With his doctorate he lands a steady job at a university. He insists on only teaching the mechanics of fear to his students and even goes as far as to use a gun for an object lesson. For this he loses his job. Surprise, surprise. This is roughly where our trilogy of stories begin.
The first story I read was his very first appearance way way back in World’s Finest Comics #3 from 1941. He was created by the dynamic duo of Bill Kane and Bill Finger.
In this version of his origin he is very similar to Batman in that he has spent his whole life learning about and studying fear. But instead of using his mastery for good he uses it for his for profit. As the Scarecrow he searches out men who are having business troubles and offers to take care of their competition, for a fee. He looses his teaching job later on in the story, and goes after the board that let him go. The appearance of Scarecrow at both the business and school related crimes puts Batman and Robin on his trail and they take him down. This version of Crane is inspired by The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (See Last Post), but doesn’t reference the book, nor does he use his signature fear toxin. His childhood is not referenced other than that he used to fear crows as a child.
The best part of this version is his similarity to me. What inspires him is to go after people for money is when he hears his coworkers mocking him for spending all his money on books. He says “they’d respect me if I had more money. And if I had more money, I could buy more books!!!” Yep, that’s what I’d do too.
The next story I looked at is an expansion of this story and keeps most of the same elements. It’s from Batman Annual #19, 1995. It was written by legendary Batman scribe Doug Moench with art by Bret Blevins & Mike Manly as part of a Year One annual theme.
The story is basically the same, except that Scarecrow loses his job first and then starts his work for hire. Additionally, more of the established elements of his character are added. He uses the fear has, both to escape Batman by inducing memories of his father, Thomas Wayne, and also to convince prospective clients to hire him.
This version of Crane is even more deeply inspired by Sleepy Hollow. He is called Ichabod as a child while being taunted about his appearance and demeanour. While reading the short story he is inspired by Ichabod’s skills of dance (which I failed to notice as important and reference in my last post.) and takes a quick break to frolic and dance in a field. Oddly, his dance turns violent and he starts beating on a scarecrow. He also has time in this quick little break to turn his dance into a type of martial arts, specifically the style of the Crane. You may not believe that someone can just teach themselves martial arts in a short afternoon of violent field dancing, and that’s why you’ll never come close to taking down Batman. It’s ok, I tried it myself and just got Kung Fused. These skills he learned help him fight Batman, but obviously, aren’t enough.
This was my favourite version of his origin. It incorporates normal aspects of his origin, adds a little reason, gives some background, and keeps it dark without losing itself in the abyss, as our next story does.
The next and final story I looked at was 2005’s Year One: Scarecrow Batman 1 and 2 by Bruce Jones with fantastic art by Sean Murphy. Before I get into story I have to say that the art in this book is what makes it even worth looking at. It’s got a perfect balance of dark and depressive looking that Batman stories have, but balances it with a slightly cartoonish look that are more typical of a Nightwing story.
This story really looses itself in trying to be disturbing. There is a weird flashback story of Jonathan’s twisted family roots, from being raised by his evil Grandmother who trains birds to attack him to him being abandoned at birth by a mother who didn’t want him and considered him an abomination. He is still a professor that gets fired from his job, but this story has him getting revenge on a series of people such as his father and old professor and anyone who wronged him. He uses a combination of gas and his own group of birds that he has trained to attack his foes to get away with what he wants. And in the end all he wants is the dead to his old grandma’s house which ended up being burrows with her.
I didn’t enjoy the story, but it wasn’t as bad as I remember it being the last time I read it. I don’t think I will read it again any time soon though. However all the use of the bird attacks and fear of birds has really gotten me into a mood to watch The Birds. But if I’m going to be honest the back of my mind has been looking for excuses to rewatch that flick! Maybe that will be my next post. Maybe.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it… Or that it frightened the sh…yeah I hope you enjoyed it.
I missed one.
This version is a much more gruesome version, and completely dismisses the Year One origin. In this world his father is also obsessed with fear. As a child, Jonathan was torchered while his took notes. This went on for a great deal of time until finally little Johnny snapped and killed his Pops.
This origin is played against a current encounter between Scarecrow and Batman. Again, this version is a little more brutal, he sews his lips together, but can still speak, and looks a quite a bit more terrifying. He is able to kidnap Batman, and administers his toxin, but what happens is nothing new. Batman relives his parents death. They also add a city wide threat to scarecrows plans. Again nothing new.
The plot wasn’t anything original, but Gregg Hurwitz’ dialogue is still written well, and the action is great, though it makes for a pretty light read. The whole 6 issues took me about 30 minutes to read. But it was 30 minutes of beautiful art. David Finch is at the top of his game here. I loved him in New Avengers and here he is even better. Especially his Scarecrow.
Ok, for real this time. I think this is it.
Pictures from: http://ratman90.deviantart.com/art/Scarecrow-Batman-Year-One-203031752, http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Batman_Annual_Vol_1_19, http://www.comicbookherald.com/history-of-the-batman-6-crane-cobblepot-batman-1941-pt-2/