Saturday, September 05, 2009

Hero of the Week #14: Scarecrow

Real Name: Jonathan Crane
First Appearance: World's Finest Comics #3 (Fall, 1941)
Group Affiliation: The Society
Gaming Credentials: Batman: The Animated Series (1993); Adventures of Batman & Robin (1994); Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu (2004); Batman Begins (2005); Lego Batman (2008); Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009); DC Universe Online (TBA)
Infinite Wars Cumulative Ranking: #313

By inferrence, if not popular demand, I am compelled to spotlight Scarecrow as Hero of the Week!
If there's a phrase I've heard more than 'zOMG Mickey & Spidey' this week, it's that Scarecrow "steals the show" in the critically acclaimed comic book release, Batman: Arkham Asylum.

Since his creation in the forties, Scarecrow has gone on to be one of the enduring stars of the famous Batman rogues gallery, but arguably never quite reached the A-list status he received from appearing in the cinematic revamp, Batman Begins. The character gets another boost into the mainstream consciousness through Arkham Asylum, where the outlandish potential of the villain is explored with a fitting visceral interpretation sure to solidify his status with gamers.

Over the decades, Scarecrow has been interpreted in a multitude of ways. The movie appearance inspired a new subset of horror fans who saw great potential in the fear-inducing villain, while in the comics, the character has ranged everywhere from an inconsequential weakling fighting out of his weight class, to a torturer fixated on the torment of his victims. With a consistent undercurrent of "fear" -- the Scarecrow has proven to be as versatile a character as The Dark Knight himself.

One of my favourite interpretations is of a Dr. Jonathan Crane who, after years of experimentation with fear gasses and innoculations, has himself been rendered almost incapable of feeling such an emotion. A distanced character of esoteric interests and reference, unaffected by the threatening world around him, and consequently empowered to devise his own nightmares.
This version was implied in a 2004 B&W Geoff Johns/Tommy Castillo back-up story in Batman: Gotham Knights #49. It suggests a version of the Scarecrow motivated to commit crimes both in the interest of experiencing the fear of others, while also dancing with the fate of fearing Batman himself. A poetically double-edged sword of horror and delight for the demented villain.

Batman: Arkham Asylum makes full use of the context of the character, using it to create scenes in the game that capture an unsettling atmosphere befitting of the gothic Arkham setting. It's no doubt those Silent Hill-esque scenes of nightmarish hallucination are what led many to proclaim Scarecrow as the unlikely star of the game, even though battling the villain takes on a disappointingly conventional and stilted "video game" approach. I discussed exactly that in a previous article about the game, which you might like to read.

Despite any flaws, I think Arkham Asylum has to be considered a resounding success. It has made a contrasting effort to balance the harmony of game and comics license, and in doing so, consequently made it impossible to deny Scarecrow as this week's HOTW!

Secret Wars on Infinite Earths: The Comic Book Fight Club is updated with varying consistency, promising a feature fight for every Friday on the calendar (even if sometimes they're late). The site acts as an information resource, discussion site, review blog, and frighteningly good time.

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