The Scarecrow: there’s nothing to fear but fear itself
Scarecrow, formerly known as Jonathan Crane, is one of the most fascinating and interesting villains in the DCU; with an extraordinary intellect, a deep knowledge of the human mind and chemistry, Crane declared himself the ‘’Master of Fear’’, and developed an extremely powerful toxin with his chemist skills, which he uses to spread terror around Gotham City. Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, Crane only made two appereances in the comics in the 1940s, although he was reused in the 60s, and he has been featured additional times in stories since then.
Crane’s childhood and teenage years were not simple: he was severely abused by his grandmother. She was an extreme, fundamentalist christian woman who used to punish Crane by locking him up in an old chapel every time she thought he was committing an act of sin. Moreover, this incredibly harsh cycle of punishment gave birth to Crane’s fear of crows, which he eventually managed to overcome.
Being an easy target for his apparence and shy personality, Crane was often bullied and beaten up in school. Soon enough, he grew tired of being a victim. He learned his own version of Martial Arts - which he calls ‘’Violent Dancing’’- and proceeded to scare some of the people that bullied him by dressing up as a scarecrow. This caused the death of one of the bullies, indirectly due to the intense fear he caused. Fascinated by the event, Crane then proceeded to murder his grandmother who, as we said, exposed him to severe abuse: both physical and psychological.
With an extremely dramatic backstory and a complex yet fascinating personality, Crane was often featured in comic books in the past, and he even appeared in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, portrayed by Cillian Murphy.
Murphy’s portrayal of Jonathan Crane was extraordinarily spot on and disturbing, and he made justice to the character.
Besides Nolan’s trilogy, Crane was also featured in the Batman: Arkham video game series: Voiced by Dino Andrare in the first two games, Scarecrow had a pretty marginal role; in Arkham Knight, however, voiced by John Noble — a personal favorite — Scarecrow became the principal supervillain, and his main goal was to destroy Batman.
Even though Scarecrow is an outstandingly interesting character, he is not being used to his full potential in the DCU: Crane became, in fact, no more than a character used only to fill some gaps in the current comics. Besides his incredibly short cameos where he does not even speak, Crane is even being used as a literal ‘’punch bag’’ where he is, as a matter of fact, simply beaten around until he passes out, without even trying to fight back.
Writers should not be fooled by Scarecrow’s delicate frame: as I said before, he learned his own version of martial arts, and he developed his own toxin. These things make him a very formidable opponent, not to mention his ability to easily manipulate a person’s mind.
Scarecrow certainly deserves to be recognized for the great criminal mastermind he is, and in pursuit of this, writing comics with an accurate characterization would be a great start.