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BATMAN'S ENEMIES: THE SCARECROW

Updated on April 27, 2016
The cover to BATMAN (1st series)#189 (February 1967), which re-introduced the Scarecrow.
The cover to BATMAN (1st series)#189 (February 1967), which re-introduced the Scarecrow.

In the first few years of his career, Batman started to amass a Rogues' Gallery which would, over time, become one of the most famous and popular in comic book history -- with the Joker, the Penguin, the Catwoman, etc., matching wits with the Dark Knight. And yet, there were those super-villains who had promising starts, but soon faded into obscurity for various reasons, including changing times and tastes.

Of course, there were those super-villains who made strong starts -- then disappeared for long stretches -- and finally returned, more dangerous and popular than before. The Scarecrow, who certainly fit into Batman's nocturnal world, is one example. The super-villain first appeared in World's Finest Comics (1st series)#3 (Fall 1941), courtesy of Batman creator/artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, who already had great success introducing the Joker and the Catwoman in Batman (1st series)#1 (Spring 1940), and would soon do again with both the Penguin in Detective Comics (1st series)# 58 (December 1941) and Two-Face in Detective (1st series)#66 (August 1942). So it would be natural for the Scarecrow to fit right into Batman's world -- right?

There's little question that Ichabod Crane, the main character in author Washington Irving's literary classic The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow, helped inspire the Kane-Finger team to create the Scarecrow's alter ego of college professor Jonathan Crane, who turned to crime using his vast knowledge of psychology and various phobias -- and the connection between both the Scarecrow and The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow wasn't lost on writer Doug Moench and artist Bret Blevins when they retold the villain's origin in Batman Annual#19 (1995), which also revealed his knowledge of science and chemistry (which explains why he created his fear gas, one of the villain's many weapons that has affected even Batman himself).

But after his second appearance in Detective (1st series)#73 (March 1943), the Scarecrow disappeared from the comic book pages without explanation, as was the case with a significant number of comic book super-heroes (and super-villains) during the Golden Age. In the case of the Scarecrow vanishing, it might have had to do with the fact that Batman was starting to lose a bit of his nocturnal edge as a crime-fighter -- that, plus the fact that Jack Schiff, who edited Batman and Detective at that time, felt that the Scarecrow might be a bit too scary for a generation of young readers, and especially during the uncertainties associated with World War II (and later, the post-war period, when the super-heroes' popularity were on the decline -- at least until the mid-1950's).

It wasn't until 1966, when the Scarecrow did make a comeback of sorts, thanks in part to Batman's popularity being reinvigorated, courtesy of editor Julius Schwartz. In some respects, it was the success of the live-action Batman TV series on ABC during the mid-to-late 1960's -- in which the Caped Crusader's Rogues' Gallery played a key role -- which helped to revive the Scarecrow (who, ironically enough, was one of the few Batman foes who didn't appear on the TV series). The Scarecrow reappeared in Batman (1st series)#189 (February 1967), courtesy of writer Gardner Fox and artist Sheldon Moldoff, at the height of the Masked Manhunter's success on TV.

After that, the Scarecrow would make two more appearances during the 1960's -- in Batman (1st series)#200 (March 1968) and Detective (1st series)#389 (July 1969); after that, the villain disappeared for almost the next five years, as did the more colorful of Batman's foes, partly to distance the character from the camp-laden legacy of the 1960's TV series and return him to his dark roots. (Ironically enough, the Batman story in Detective#389 which featured the Scarecrow actually foresaw the Dark Knight's eventual re-emergence as a nocturnal avenger.)

It wasn't until the mid-1970's when Batman's Rogues' Gallery made a successful comeback -- and the Scarecrow was no exception, as was the case when he and another Batman enemy, Poison Ivy, helped form the Injustice Gang in Justice League Of America (1st series)#111 (May-June 1974) -- after that, the Scarecrow solo-clashed with the Gotham Goliath in Batman (1st series)#262 (April 1975); since that time, he's proven to be one of the most popular and durable of Batman's foes.

One of the better Batman stories involving the Scarecrow occurred in The Brave & The Bold (1st series)#197 (April 1983), which established the fact that there was a Scarecrow on both Earth-One and Earth-Two in the DC Multiverse which existed prior to 1985's Crisis On Infinite Earths; that particular story, which saw how the Golden Age Batman and Catwoman fell in love and got married, marked the final appearance of the Earth-Two Scarecrow (who would cease to exist after the DC Universe was revamped at the end of Crisis).

The Scarecrow in a scene from BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES

Though the Scarecrow didn't appear on the 1960's live-action Batman TV series, he would make his first on-screen appearance in one of the Batman animated TV cartoons that Filmation produced for CBS in 1968 -- the character later appeared in several episodes of ABC's Super Friends during the 1970's and 1980's, and later on, Batman: The Animated Series which aired on both FOX and the WB TV network. In 2005, the Scarecrow (or rather, his alter ego, Jonathan Crane) made his feature film appearance in director Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (2005) -- Cillian Murphy, who played the role on-screen, would also appear briefly in Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2011). In recent years, the Scarecrow has appeared on Cartoon Network's Batman: The Brave & The Bold and FOX's Gotham, with the latter TV show focusing on Gotham City during Bruce Wayne's formative years, following his parents' deaths. And in over the past decade, the Scarecrow and other Batman villains have played major roles in numerous video games featuring the Caped Crusader that have catered to older audiences, and especially as the tone of the Batman comic books have become more serious and darker -- proof that, at least, the Scarecrow was and will always remain one of the most enduring comic book super-villains of all time.

John Lavernoich's official website: johnlavernoich.weebly.com

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