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Comic Book / The Scarecrow

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The Master of Fear. The Lord of Despair. Cower before him in witless terror.

"'s okay to be afraid."

Scarecrow is a comic book supervillain in the DC Comics universe, who primarily appears as a member of Batman's Rogues Gallery. He first appeared in World's Finest Comics #3 (Fall 1940). He was created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson. Dr. Jonathan Crane has been an iconic Batman villain for being the embodiment of Nightmare Fuel in quite literal ways.

A psychologist who seemed more interested in studying the fears of patients than in curing them, Crane eventually developed a chemical toxin that when converted into a gas or injected into a victim, creates powerful hallucinations that has its subjects experience their greatest fears. Prolonged exposure to Scarecrow's gas often does drive his victims into madness and in some cases death.

Often seen as one of Batman's darkest villains, Scarecrow made just two appearances in the Golden Age before being shelved and forgotten during the Lighter and Softer Dick Sprang era of The '50s. He wouldn't be revived until 1967 where a number of writers and editors slowly and gradually sought to return Batman to his darker roots in the late Silver and early Bronze Age of comics. His prominence in Batman's rogues gallery increased substantially since then. On account of his dark aesthetic and general under-representation, he didn't appear in the Batman (1966) TV show. He finally achieved a level of cultural fame and renown during The '90s thanks to several notable appearances in Batman: The Animated Series (including one episode where in response to his hallucinations, Batman utters his famous "I am the night" speech), following which he appeared in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Trilogy where he was portrayed by Cillian Murphy. Likewise, Scarecrow played a prominent role in the Batman: Arkham Series, becoming the Big Bad of the final game of the series.


Appearances in Media

Comic Books


Live-Action Television

Video Games

Western Animation


Scarecrow Provides Examples Of:

  • Abusive Parents: His great-grandmother was very abusive. In the New 52, he was subject to similar experiments he uses on others when he was a child by his own father, and kept in a basement filled with crows when not.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises he is played by Cillian Murphy.
    • In Year One: Batman/Scarecrow, Crane looks nothing like his previous portrayals. While tall and thin, he doesn't have the same gangly awkwardness as he is usually given, and comes across looking more like David Tennant than Icabhod Crane. Likewise, in Blackest Night when drawn by Ivan Reis, without the mask Crane doesn't look anything like how artists portray him.
  • Adaptational Badass: While he's almost always a threat to some degree, he's rarely more than a minor threat. In the Batman: Arkham Series, his threat level is raised to enormous new heights, especially in Batman: Arkham Knight, where he is the game's Big Bad and unleashes destruction on Gotham that not even The Joker was able to reach, nearly becoming national threat. He is, to date, the only villain in any piece of media to succeed in unmasking Batman to the world.
  • Adaptational Job Change: Usually, he's a university professor before he turned to crime. In The Dark Knight Trilogy, we first see him as the head psychologist of Arkham Asylum.
  • A God Am I: Alan Grant's "God of Fear" mini-arc (which took place shortly after Azrael had taken over as Batman) portrays him with this personality. A student of all the world's mythologies, Dr. Jonathan Crane becomes annoyed that there is no historical record of a god of fear, even though that should be the most obvious god because fear is what sustains the gods. Determined to halt the modern world's "flight from religion," he kidnaps several students from the psychology department at the university where he once taught, drugs them until they are totally stripped of their will, dresses them in scarecrow costumes, gives them plastic skulls containing fear toxin and has them use them to spread chaos throughout various parts of Gotham City, creates an enormous hologram of himself that he projects against the sky to make himself literally look like a god, and orders the Gothamites to officially recognize him as a god or he will destroy the entire city with an entire tanker truck full of his toxin (when in fact he plans to empty the tanker into the city water supply, thus poisoning everyone who uses tap water). While negotiating with him on the phone, Commissioner Gordon tries to get the Scarecrow to see how insane he is acting, pointing out that he is a human being and that, even if Gotham City did declare him a god, he still wouldn't be one. This only enrages the Scarecrow, who, working from completely backwards logic, says that as a god he is incorruptible, and therefore can't possibly be insane. (That's right: The Scarecrow is so insane, he doesn't even know he's insane.)
  • Appropriated Appelation: 'Scarecrow' was a mocking nickname given to Crane by his colleagues at the university. When he turned to crime, he adopted it as his alias, swearing he would make it a name people would fear.
  • Badass Bookworm: A former Psychiatrist and college professor, who regularly faces the Batman and threatens the entire city.
  • Bastard Bastard: At least in the pre-New 52 continuity where he was born in a brief high school fling. This ended up being a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy on his grandmother's part though due to her fanatical Christian beliefs constantly reminding him in how he was born in sin.
  • Birds of a Feather: During the Blackest Night, Scarecrow was temporarily deputised into the Sinestro Corps, a Green Lantern villain organisation who also weaponize the use of fear.
  • Break Them by Talking: Specializes in this after realizing how dependent he was on his fear gas.
  • Cerebus Retcon: Crane's initial backstory was that he was mocked and bullied by his peers because he looked like a scarecrow, culminating in his first act of violence being a case of Who's Laughing Now? when he scared two of his tormentors so bad one died in a car crash and the other was crippled for life. Year One added that Crane was raised by a sadistic great-grandmother, snatched from his teenage mother's arms the moment he was born. Great-Grandmother Keeny made him work on their dying plantation's crops while regularly punishing him via locking him in an abandoned aviary as prey for the birds. It later turned out she was the inspiration he received for his work in chemistry, as the reason the birds always attacked him was because she would soak his clothes in rat's blood mixed with a blend of chemicals meant to drive the birds crazy. Crane's first act of violence was now doing to her what she was doing to him as a matter of survival. Batman and Robin found her bones buried in the aviary years later. This backstory seemed to have stuck before the Flashpoint reboot, since Crane's birth mother was featured in a standalone story, feeling guilty for how her son turned out and attempting to kill herself before she was saved by Deadman.
  • Characterisation Marches On: In his Golden Age appearances he didn't use fear gas, but was simply an extortionist who frightened people with mundane things like guns.
  • Composite Character: Though Crane is a psychologist in the comics, his position in Begins as a corrupt psychologist who partakes in secret, unethical, and illegal activity is often a role reserved for fellow Batman rogue Hugo Strange. Which is funny on itself, as Crane didn't use fear gas before his reintroduction on the post-crsis, as that was one of the weapons of Strange, meaning that by all intents the Scarecrow is a Composite Character.
  • Crack Is Cheaper: In-Universe this the origin of Crane's Appropriated Appelation. Crane spent all of his money on buying books, so he was always very shabbily dressed. As a result, his university colleagues nicknamed him 'Scarecrow'. When he turned to crime, he adopted this as his alias.
  • Critical Psychoanalysis Failure: Being a former psychologist with a knack of toying with people's minds, he's been shown doing this from time to time when stuck in Arkham; most notably in his patient interviews in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
  • Depending on the Artist: Unlike Joker, Two-Face, or Penguin, there's no consistent Scarecrow costume. Crane's gone through a number of different looks with various clothes, masks, color-schemes, hats (or lack there-of), and degrees of resemblance to an actual scarecrow. Some designs, like the Nolanverse, just use the sack mask on top of regular clothing. Though in universe it's just a case of Crane trying new looks and reinventing himself.
  • Evil Mentor: Eventually revealed to be one to an Evil Student, Thomas Elliot aka Hush.
    • He also tortured his student Abigail O'Shay causing her to become Madame Crow and join The Victim Syndicate.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The mask sometimes enhances his voice, and those exposed to his fear toxin generally hear the Voice of the Legion.
  • Fired Teacher: Basically the main thread all of the versions of his origin share.
  • For Science!: When writers decide to go for the Mad Scientist interpretation. Other times, he seems to just spray people with fear gas For the Evulz.
  • Freudian Excuse: Bullies + Abusive Parents + Unstable Nerd = EVIL.
  • Harmful to Minors: Though they sometimes accidentally invoke his sympathy, he is not above using young children in the testing or construction of his fear toxins.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: He gets gassed with his own toxin by Batman in Batman Begins and Batman: Arkham Knight.
  • I Know What You Fear: His gimmick.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: When written by Jeph Loeb, he has a tendency to sing bird-related nursery rhymes.
  • Lean and Mean: Scarecrow is extremely slender and lanky, and of course he's a psychotic killer.
  • Nerd: His original Golden Age counterpart was actually treated this way as an adult. The Post-crisis version is the stereotypical teenage Nerd / Geek fusion seen so often in fiction.
  • Mad Scientist: Well, not quite a scientist, but definitely the gist of this trope.
  • Master of Illusion: Particularly the scary kind.
  • Meaningful Name: He's possibly named after Ichabod Crane.
  • Mind Rape: His shtick. He uses his fear gas to make his victims experience their worst fears.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: In most continuities, he is a legitimate psychological therapist. You'd have to be out of your mind to seek him for treatment now, of course.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Almost literally, as his fascination of fear reaches disturbing proportions, and he may seek out conflict with Batman just to feel afraid.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Literally. The man's signature and deadliest weapon is a fear gas that makes its victims experience their worst fears in horrifying ways.
  • Noose Necktie: Some of his costumes implement this.
  • Odd Friendship: He's been known to hang around the Mad Hatter/Jervis Tetch from time to time.
  • One-Winged Angel: The notorious incident where he became "Scarebeast".
    • Later on, Darkseid turns him into an even stronger creature, Schrocken, that can take on Superman.
  • The Paranoiac: He was violently bullied in his youth and was left with a crippling inferiority complex that developed into an obsession with fear and a career in supervillainy, his "gimmick" being scaring people to death with hallucinogens and drugs. Like most Batman villains he is prone to Bad Boss behavior and violent overreactions. He also believes that the entire world runs on fear; hard to get a bleaker worldview than that.
  • Papa Wolf: He has had these moments especially with students that he either finds very smart like Molly Randall who was raped by her boyfriend or has problems with bullies.
  • Pet the Dog: See Papa Wolf above. Also, in the animated series, he's actually quite nice to Harley, stopping his ranting long enough to smile at her and greet her in one episode, and willingly standing in between her and danger in another.
  • Pheromones: He uses these for his Supernatural Fear Inducer. Sometimes he calls it his 'Fearomone gas'.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: He tries really hard to stick to this, as his motivations are largely economical (there's no way that he'd ever get grant money for his research, so he has to commit crimes to get the money he needs to fund it), but he depends on Batman to validate his existence way more than he'd like to admit.
  • Psycho Psychologist: His oldest and most established backstory is that he's a psychologist, specialising in phobias, who eventually became so obsessed with fear that he went insane and began conducting extreme experiments in inducing fear in others.
  • Relative Button: Inadvertently pushes Batman's during the Knightfall saga. The results were not pretty.
  • Revenge of the Nerd: Took this to a murderous extreme (see Griggs and Squires incident detailed above).
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
  • Sadist Teacher: Okay, so most of the time, the "sadist" and "teacher" parts don't really appear together much, but there was that time when he fired a gun in the middle of one of his classes to inspire fear in his students.
  • Scary Scarecrows: His entire reason for dressing up like a scarecrow is because of the symbolism; after all, a scarecrow's purpose is to scare.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: When not wearing his mask, he tends to have these.
  • Scary Stitches: Most of his outfits feature these, to go with the scarecrow theme.
  • Self-Made Orphan: According to The Long Halloween, he killed his mom. On Mother's Day.
  • Shadow Archetype: Like Batman, he uses fear as a gimmick in his actions, except Crane uses fear for malicious purposes.
  • Sinister Scythe: Depending on the issue, he may wield a scythe as his preferred weapon of choice, although pitchforks are somewhat more common.
  • Speaks in Shout-Outs: Nursery rhymes, when written by Jeph Loeb.
  • Supernatural Fear Inducer: Scarecrow uses fear gas to cause hallucinations, paranoia, and even full on panic-induced heart attacks in his victims. Sometimes this overlaps with I Know What You Fear, while other times it's just straight up irrational terror. In fact, during the events of Blackest Night, he was deputized into the Sinestro Corps, which proves him to be one of the scariest entities in his entire space sector!
  • Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: Pretends to be such a thing.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: In The Dark Knight Rises, he isn't seen again after the trial scene, and no mention of him is made afterwards. Though after the bomb blows up there's a shot of the police who have clearly retaken the courthouse. If Crane was still there, he would have been recaptured.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: He himself is often depicted with either a fear of birds or a fear of bats. His fear gas reveals his victims' greatest phobias.
    • In Blackest Night, it's revealed his constant exposure to his own fear gas has left him incapable of fearing anything. Except for Batman.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Crane's a scrawny man, and while somewhat stronger than he looks (he's often depicted as being able to support his entire body with his arms spread out for a reasonable period of time, allowing him to hang himself like an actual Scarecrow) he is constantly depicted as having low durability and not being hard to overpower. However years of practice in his own personal created style of combat to fit with his body (which he dubs "Violent dancing"- a cross between Crane style Kung Fu and Drunken Boxing) has left him able to trade blows with the likes of Batman, sometimes.
  • Wolverine Claws: Has taken to using a mix of this and Playing with Syringes in the New 52, as per his incarnation in Batman: Arkham Asylum.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Victim of a Prank Date, bullying throughout his school years, absentee parents, and an abusive great-grandmother with trained crows to attack him for the slightest mistake, no wonder the poor kid became obsessed with fear.
    • From Bad to Worse in Blackest Night. Due to being exposed to too much of his own fear gas, he can't even feel fear. Or nearly any other emotion anymore, except when facing Batman. Yeah, it means the Black Lanterns don't consider him a priority target and he brought it upon himself, but it's still a raw deal. By the New 52, however, he seems to have overcome or have never had this problem, as his toxins have become so powerful they even affect him again.
  • You Don't Look Like You: In the New Batman/Superman Adventures cartoon, he went from his iconic scarecrow costume to a new outfit consisting of a burlap face mask, ragged black clothes like some old-timey Western Preacher Man, and a noose around his neck. In an interview on the character's design change between seasons, the artists and directors confessed that he now looked absolutely nothing like a scarecrow and instead looked more like a hanged man who'd come down off of his lynching tree for revenge, but stood by their statement that the redesign made him scary-looking, which had proven problematic for his traditional costume.


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