It’s that time of year when everyone wants to be scary, so who better to take a look at than the man who weaponized fear itself? Who is the man behind the mask, and how did he go from the way of psychology to the way or terror? Can you make the fear gas at home? No, don’t do that. Let’s see what we can learn of the gangly guy with the scary gas. That doesn’t sound very creepy, but it will!
Jonathan Crane was always an awkward child, tall and gangly, he was frequently teased by the other children and called “scarecrow.” At home, it was even worse being raised by his great-grandmother, a religious fanatic, and she would frequently abuse him. His father had abandoned him and his mother showed him no love whatsoever. Why would anyone turn to fear with a home like that?
As Crane grew up, the teasing continued until prom night in high school where he donned a scarecrow mask to deliver vengeance. He ended up causing so much fear in his rivals that the jock crashed his car, paralyzing himself and killing the cheerleader in the process. Crane realized his love of inducing fear, and this would follow him to college and beyond. Crane would become a psychologist focused on fear; who would have thought?
Arkham Asylum would hire Crane, who used his time to experiment on the inmates; what a great guy! Eventually Crane’s teaching methods would lead to him being kicked out of academics. He shot a gun in class at Gotham University, what did he think would happen? This would prove his breaking point in which he donned a scarecrow costume to test out his newly designed fear gas on those who kicked him out. About now is when Batman shows up, and things get all punchy and kicky with Crane ending up locked up in the place he once worked.
Scarecrow would go on to become a constant thorn in Batman’s side, able to bring just about anyone to their knees in fear. Batman was often immune, either because he’d taken an antidote or was just willful enough to break out of the false fear. Scarecrow would take to his namesake of Crane and learn the fighting style of Shaolin Kung Fu. In some incarnations, Crane has chiroptophobia, the fear of bats, making Batman all the more awful. In others it almost seems as if Crane has lost the ability to be afraid of much of anything.
Out of many of Batman’s villains, Crane seems to be the most likely to team up with other rogues. Using his fear gas to manipulate others in addition to whatever his teammates planned. Some of Scarecrow’s plans involve putting fear toxin into toys for children on Christmas, what a guy! It makes sense that a man so dedicated to spreading fear would get called upon by the Sinestro Corps to become a wielder of a yellow ring, for very short instances.
On a few occasions, Crane shows that his fear toxin is just a tool in his terrifying arsenal. When looked down upon for being too dedicated to his toxin, Crane proved everyone wrong by inducing fear by using psychological insights to bring others to death. When he does use his toxin, sometimes Scarecrow will use it to bring about truly terrifying alternate realities of the mind.
World’s Finest #3
Detective Comics #73
Batman: The Long Halloween
Batman: Dark Victory