As a young boy, Jonathan Crane had an interest in fear, scared two girls of his school with two snakes on one occasion. Years later, he became a professor at Gotham University, where he began experimenting with fear on students. Terminated by Gotham University for his unethical experiments, Crane hatched a plan to reduce the university to shambles. He hired two goons to commit arson, while he would cause the professors and board to constantly experience their greatest fears with the Fear gas, a gas created he created that caused victims to hallucinate their worst fears or nightmares. Dubbing himself The Scarecrow, and adopting a fitting costume, he chemically bombarded the university members who had ousted him, reducing them to a paranoid state. In tandem with the arson, where Crane planned it for the counting room to literally destroy the cash reserves of Gotham University (though he invited his goons to help themselves to as much money as they could carry as "payment" for aiding him in his plot). His plans, however, came to ruin upon the intervention of Batman. Though he was able to incite the same fear within the hero, the Dark Knight overcame it and imprisoned his foe. Ironically, Crane fell victim to his own weaponry as he realized he left the tanks leaking and shut them off, lightly exposing himself to the fear gas. When Batman appeared to confront him, Crane whimpered in fear as he imagined Batman as a gargoyle-like avenger.
Some time later, the Scarecrow escaped from Arkham Asylum. His funds all but dissolved, the scientist needed a quick source of cash. He created a chemical residue which turned adrenaline into fear; applying it to telegrams he personally delivered to star athletes, he gambled against those athletes (or their respective teams) and began raking in quick cash. With no clear cause behind the sudden fear from the athletes, his plan progressed perfectly.
Unbeknownst to the Scarecrow, however, Dick Grayson shared a room with Brian Rogers at Gotham University. Though Rogers underwent the same debilitating fear attack after receiving the Scarecrow's telegram, at a crime bust, Robin underwent a similar attack. To Batman, the events seemed more than coincidental, he and Robin investigated the scene. Discovering the ploy, the two once again apprehended the Scarecrow and imprisoned him in Arkham.
While in Arkham Asylum, the Scarecrow discovered Arkham's water supply in an underground cavern. Using this, he managed to continue his criminal operations while still assuming the guise of a psychiatric patient. Unlike his previous schemes, this time he prepared for Batman's intervention. The first stage of the plan was to contaminate the Gotham Health Spa's water, information the Scarecrow had leaked to the Gotham underbelly. A henchman (in radio communication with the Scarecrow) performed the deed, and as Batman tried to stop him, both were sprayed with a mind-manipulation gas. Batman began hallucinating, and after an accident, was checked into Arkham Asylum.
With Batman out of the picture, the Scarecrow began the next phase of his plan: contaminate Arkham's water supply. From there, he would be able to study the effects of fear on a massive control group. Batman, however, escaped. Despite suffering constant hallucinations, he managed to halt the Scarecrow's operations and arrest the criminal once more, who became paralyzed with fear after falling victim to his own gas once more.
The Scarecrow, like most of Batman's rogues, was present for the Trial of Batman as a member of the jury and a security guard. Likewise, he was also one of the numerous villains who suffered under Lyle Bolton's brief security regime at Arkham; indeed, he actually broke out just to get away from him. Later, when Bolton was apprehended, a pleased Scarecrow vowed to teach him new lessons in fear.
More than three years later, the Scarecrow returned in a much more fearsome costume, having developed a gas that did not cause fear, but instead rendered the victim incapable of it altogether. After testing the gas on a few civilians and a disguised Bruce Wayne, the Scarecrow planned to hold Gotham ransom or the city would become chaotic with the absence of fear. Though Batman began ignoring his principles, Robin managed to subdue him and retrieve the antidote, and the two captured the Scarecrow.
Shortly thereafter, the Scarecrow attempted another heist. Though he was once again caught, he managed to spray Batgirl with one of his gases, and she entered a deep sleep and began living her greatest fear: a war between Batman and Commissioner Gordon over her participation and her death in the Dark Knight's mission.
Abilities and equipment
For the most part, the Scarecrow was physically unimposing, with a thin, lanky build. However, his psychiatric genius and chemistry background often proved a deadly combination for his opponents. He typically employed some form of fear-inducing compound (most frequently, a gas) in his schemes.
In the battle following Batman's kangaroo trial at Arkham Asylum, the Scarecrow was briefly seen wielding a scythe, which he used to try to kill Batman and Janet Van Dorn when they were escaping from the asylum. After adopting a new costume, the Scarecrow would take to carrying a simple, unvarnished wooden stick, which he occasionally used as a weapon.
When Bruce Timm revamped the series as The New Batman Adventures, the Scarecrow received one of the most extensive redesigns, looking more like an undead being than a typical scarecrow. His new look resembled a puritan preacher’s outfit with a long black wig, a leathery, corpse-like mask, and a hangman's noose around his neck. This version of the character was voiced by actor Jeffrey Combs (instead by Henry Polic II, Scarecrow's voice actor in Batman: The Animated Series), who spoke very softly at all times as the Scarecrow.
The broken noose that appeared around the Scarecrow's neck in his revamped version was popular enough that it was incorporated into later versions of the Scarecrow in other media, including the one played by Cillian Murphy in Batman Begins and the gas-masked Scarecrow in the video games Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham Knight.
The in-universe reason for the change is later revealed in DC and IDW's crossover comic book mini-series Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures #5, where Crane caught sight of The Kraang, and wanted to modify his costume to look scarier.
There were plans to include Scarecrow in the Legion of Doom in the third season of Justice League Unlimited, but due to the Bat-embargo, this wasn't possible. This would have been a tribute to the fact that he was one of the original 13 members of the Legion of Doom in the show Challenge Of The Super Friends.
- "Nothing to Fear"
- "Fear of Victory"
- "Dreams in Darkness"
- "Joker's Wild" (Cameo)
- "The Worry Men" (Cameo as a jack-in-the-box)
- "Harley's Holiday"