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Throwback Thursday: 80 Years of Scarecrow’s Toxic Fear

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Fear is something we all think about, whether we are the type that enjoys the thrill of roller coasters and scary movies or the ones who avoid the feeling at all costs. For Jonathan Crane, fear is an obsession. Crane is a genius in the fields of psychology and biochemistry, who developed fear-inducing gases and toxins, as Scarecrow.

Batman co-creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger created Scarecrow in World’s Finest Comics #3 (Autumn 1941). Since then, he has been a regular combatant, tormenting the Dark Knight and traumatizing Gothamites.

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Jonathan Crane was bullied in school, teased for his gangly, long-limbed frame. On the night of his senior prom, Jonathan donned his trademark scarecrow costume and terrorized his classmates with a gun, causing a car accident that killed one student and paralyzed another.

Obsessed with fear, Crane became a psychologist and took a job at Arkham Asylum where he performed fear-inducing experiments on the patients. He also became a professor of psychology at Gotham University, teaching about phobias. Crane was fired from Gotham U after he took a gun to class and accidentally wounded a student. Wanting revenge for the displacement, he killed the professors who fired him and began his criminal career.

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During the “Terror” storyline, which was set early in Batman’s career, Scarecrow was a resident of Arkham. Hugo Strange broke him out and began his own form of therapy so that Scarecrow would be smart enough to kill Batman. Scarecrow turned on Strange, impaling him with a weather vane, then locked Strange in his own cellar. He confronted Batman in Crime Alley where he decapitated one of his former schoolmates in front of the Dark Knight. Batman eventually captured Scarecrow with Catwoman’s help.

The creative team of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale used Scarecrow several times in their limited series. In Batman: The Long Halloween, Scarecrow escaped Arkham and gassed Batman with fear toxin, then he robbed a bank with Mad Hatter for Carmine Falcone. He resurfaced in Batman: Dark Victory where he put fear gas in children’s dolls (on Christmas Eve, no less) and he used fear toxin to manipulate Carmine’s son Alberto into trying to assassinate his sister.

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Scarecrow and Joker had an alliance (and conflict) in Knightfall and Shadow of the Bat. First, they teamed up to ransom the mayor of Gotham, then Scarecrow betrayed the Joker by spraying him with fear gas. The toxin had no effect on the Joker, who proceeded to beat Scarecrow with a chair. Scarecrow’s next move was to hypnotize college students and make them spread his fear gas until Batman/Azrael and Anarky stopped him.

Penguin hired Scarecrow for a job in “As the Crow Flies” story, then had Dr. Linda Friitawa turns Scarecrow into a murderous creature. Penguin sent the newly transformed Scarebeast after disloyal henchmen. He appeared as Scarebeast again in the “War Games” arc to help Black Mask gain entrance to the Clock Tower, not knowing that the latter’s plan was to throw Scarecrow at it. Crane woke up after the crash and transformed into Scarebeast and caused destruction in his search of Black Mask.

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Batman: Hush, Scarecrow created profiles on the villains of Gotham for Riddler and Hush to use to their own advantage. For the follow-up Batman: Heart of Hush, Scarecrow kidnapped a boy then hit the boy with a dose of venom, causing the boy to attack Batman.

When DC content was rebooted for The New 52, Scarecrow’s origin was changed. In the new continuity, Crane’s father used him as the test subject for his experiments on fear. While conducting an experiment, the elder Crane suffered a heart attack and died after he had locked Jonathan in a small room. The boy was trapped inside the test chamber for days, and after he was rescued, Jonathan harnessed his trauma into an obsession with fear.

Scarecrow learned that a war was brewing at Blackgate Penitentiary with Bane poised to become a leader among the villains. He also discovered that Talons from the Court of Owls were frozen and stored at the prison. With the help of Man-Bat and Killer Croc, Scarecrow stole the frozen Talons while Bane and other villains made their moves to take over the city. He woke the Talons and doused them with fear gas, then put Mad Hatter’s mind controlling tech in their helmets to control them. Bane freed them from Scarecrow’s control and hung his rival between two buildings.

Scarecrow is currently terrorizing Gotham City in DC’s Fear State event. Gotham’s Mayor Nakamura has given scientist and defense contractor Simon Saint approval to create a paramilitary group called Peacekeepers to establish order in the city. What the mayor doesn’t know is that Scarecrow is using Saint’s resources to traumatize Gothamites on a massive scale to instigate the Fear State.

Scarecrow fans and comic collectors will soon have the opportunity to bid on his first appearance. Hake’s Auctions will offer a copy of World’s Finest Comics #3 CGC 4.0 in their next premier event. Bidding opens on October 12, 2021, and the auction will close on November 2-3.

Keep an eye on's TwitterFacebookYouTube, or Instagram for more character profiles! And if you're interested in more from the world of Batman, head to your local comic shop and check out the following...

In Shops: Sep 01, 2021
SRP: $4.99

(W) James TynionIV (A) Riccardo Federici
As Gotham's Fear State comes to a close, a new day dawns on the without Batman. But the Dark Knight's absence does not mean the city is without heroes. Join James Tynion IV and Riccardo Federici as they bring "Fear State" to its conclusion and introduce a new status quo that will reverberate throughout the DCU for years to come.
In Shops: Nov 30, 2021
SRP: $4.99

(W) Bill Finger, Don Cameron, Gardner Fox, Frank Robbins, David Reed, Gerry Conway, Mike W. Barr, Doug Moench, Joe Harris, Peter J. Tomasi (A) Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, George Roussos, Sheldon Moldoff, Joe Giella, Bob Brown, Sal Amendola, Don Newton, Dan Adkins, Alan Davis, Paul Neary, Bret Blevins, Mike Manley, Kelley Jones, John Beatty, Juan Doe, Szymon Kudranski (CA) Jason Fabok
The Scarecrow, one of the Dark Knight's greatest foes, stars in this new best-of collection that includes tales from DETECTIVE COMICS #73, 389, 486 and 540, BATMAN #189, 296, 373, 523 and 524, DETECTIVE COMICS #23.3, BATMAN ANNUAL #19, JOKER'S ASYLUM: SCARECROW #1 and WORLD'S FINEST COMICS #3!
In Shops: Feb 03, 2016
SRP: $19.99

(W) Various (A) Various (CA) Jim Balent, Bill Sienkiewicz
  Written by Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, and others
Art by Bob Kane, Dick Giordano, Alan Davis, and others
Cover by Jim Balent & Bill Sienkiewicz
    A spine-tingling new collection spotlighting the greatest moments of the Scarecrow! Featuring eight stories spanning more than 60 years,  from WORLD'S FINEST COMICS #3 (1941) to  BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #23 (2002)!
In Shops: Apr 27, 2005
SRP: $19.99

(W) Bruce Jones, Mark Sable (A) Sean Murphy, Jesus Saiz, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chris Chuckry, Jeremy Haun (CA) Zach Howard
  • Written by Bruce Jones and Mark Sable
    Art by Jesus Saiz, Sean Murphy and Jimmy Palmiotti
    Cover by Zach Howard
        Two of Batman's greatest foes star in this new title collecting YEAR ONE: BATMAN/SCARECROW #1-2 and TWO-FACE YEAR ONE
    Advance-solicited; on sale May 13   200 pg, FC, $19.99 US
  • In Shops: May 13, 2009
    SRP: $19.99
    DC PREVIEWS Page #89

    (W) Matthew K. Manning (A) Dan DeCarlo (A/CA) Eric Doescher
    In the dead of winter, fear is spreading through Gotham like a flu virus. Hundreds of residents have gone mad with fright, and dozens more are affected each day. Fortunately, Batman and his teenage partner, Batgirl, are on this medical case. And soon, the root of the problem is revealed. Scarecrow, the Dark Knight's most frightful foe, has taken over a dentist's chair, and is gassing patients with his evil fear toxin. If he isn't stopped soon, the entire city could be scared to death!
    In Shops: Jan 22, 2014
    SRP: $4.95
    PREVIEWS Page #369

    This article originally appeared in Gemstone Publishing’s e-newsletter Scoop.


    Amanda Sheriff is Gemstone Publishing’s Associate Editor, serving as the writer/editor of the e-newsletter, Scoop. She is the author of The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Movie Posters, The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Concert Posters, and The Overstreet Guide to Collecting Horror, and co-author of The Overstreet Price Guide to Star Wars Collectibles and The Overstreet Price Guide to Batman.

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