Despite the fact that he doesn’t have the lunatic flash of the Joker or the epic scale of Ra’s al-Ghul, the Scarecrow has always been one of my favorite villains.
At the risk of turning this into another one of those pseudo-intellectual essays, I think it has a lot to do with the way he works as a contrast to Batman. We’ve all seen the scene where he establishes that criminals are superstitious and cowardly, but Jonathan Crane’s a nice reminder that those aren’t qualities limited to those who break the law, and as much as Batman’s cape and devil-horn bat-ears are designed to frighten crooks, the Scarecrow uses the same tactics on the (relatively) innocent.
Plus, he’s got an awesome design. Seriously, say what you want about the lanky stitched-mouth of Scarecrow Classic, but that redesign they did for the latter seasons of the animated series? The one with the tattered coat and the noose around his neck? That thing is tight.
He’s got a good track record, too: SuperFriends notwithstanding, he’s been in a lot of good stories, owing to the fact that for such a deceptively simple concept, there’s a lot you can do with him.
Which brings us to tonight’s spoooooooky selection, from Detective Comics #571, which is without question one of my favorite comics of all time.
Seriously, even with competition from its contemporaries–which included Dark Knight Returns, Year One and Jim Starlin’s run over in the pages of Batman–Mike W. Barr’s Detective is one of the greatest runs of all time, and this is one of its high points.
I mean, just check out this splash page:
Man. Alan Davis. I have a feeling that kid’s gonna go far in this industry.
Also, it’s my duty as a comics blogger to point out that this is the issue that gives us this:
Anyway, here’s how it goes down: Following a hunch after two major accidents involving sports figures taking insane chances, Bruce Wayne and young Jason “Jay” Todd hit the racetrack, only to find three time Indy 500 Champion Jack Hogan attempt a reckless pass and end up as a fireball.
Fortunately, one quick change later, Batman and Robin are able to help out by–
NOW CUT THAT OUT!
Anyway, despite the disastrous wreck and some pretty serious injuries, Hogan doesn’t seem to have any regrets about his actions. Why? Well, as Batman discovers with his handy Science Microscope, he’s been dosed with a psychoactive chemical by the Scarecrow. But rather than the usual tactic of bringing out the subject’s deepest fears, this one works to take them away:
Before long, of course, Robin gets kidnapped and Batman gets dosed with the chemical, and that’s where this issue gets upgraded from “great” to “totally kickass.”
Because that’s when we start to get Cocky Batman:
This is what’s so great about this issue: Taking a character that–even in a run as fun and relatively lighthearted as Barr’s–was rooted in dour, methodical purpose and showing the contrast as he gets more and more reckless under the influence of the Scarecrow’s drug and watching him try to force himself to not have fun being Batman.
Plus, Alan Davis does wonders with it:
Thus, hepped up on fear-removing goofballs, Batman’s faced with a gauntlet of traps at a cement factory with what has to be the worst safety record in Gotham City. Seriously, if your job has spinning blade traps and pitfalls that pop up in the middle of a hallway and you’re not guarding the lost treasure of an ancient wizard or something, contact OSHA before you’re run over by a remote-controlled semi-truck.
This, incidentally, is exactly how my Batman vs. Optimus Prime fan-fiction went.
Of course, as with all sinister lairs, deathtraps prove no obstacle to Batman, and before long…
…and it’s revealed that in order to counteract the drug’s influence, Batman conjured up his own worst fear and held it in his mind, using it to focus on getting through the traps, beat the Scarecrow, and rescue Robin.
And that fear? Oh, I think you know where we’re going with this one:
Man. Good thing that never happened, huh?
In addition to the comic itself, “Fear For Sale” was later adapted into an episode of the Animated Series and handily reprinted–along with a lot of other great stuff–in Batman in the Eighties, and it’s well worth picking up.
I mean, come on:
Cocky Batman. He’s worth it for the eyebrow alone.