Batman The Animated Series: Nothing to Fear

"I am not a disgrace! I am vengeance! I am the night! I am BATMAN!"

This one is something of a mixed bag.

The Scarecrow is the one member of Batman's rogue's gallery that the show took the longest time to get right. One of the many reasons why I consider BTAS to be the absolute best version of Batman is because it always managed to get the looks of every character, whether hero or villain, perfect every time. More often than not the character design on this show was bloody exceptional. I wasn't a big fan of all the revamps when the show became The New Batman Adventures partly because it replaces almost all of those designs with ones that were, well, less than exceptional. The Scarecrow was the only villain to get a serious redesign before the revamp and it's not hard to see why.

The design here is uncharacteristically bland for this show and devoid of anything resembling even PG-13 menace. It's more like someone's Wizard of Oz Halloween costume than the stuff of nightmares. Same goes for Henry Polic II's performance, which isn't creepy enough for someone as messed up as Jonathan Crane. The show also fails to do anything really interesting with the character. BTAS was often quite faithful in how it realised Batman's rogue's gallery and would usually add some extra pathos or nuance. But the Scarecrow is simply a crazy guy in a goofy costume doing crazy things because he's crazy. Which wouldn't have been a major problem if he'd at least been a little bit creepy. Even his scheme is your bog standard "Someone wronged me so I'm going to become a costumed villain to get back at them" plot.


While the Scarecrow side of the episode was a little underwhelming, the Batman side was some of the series' best and most iconic work. It still amazes me how this Saturday morning kids' cartoon was willing to delve deep into the psychology of its hero and actually see what made him tick.

Bruce starts this episode by getting a severe tongue-lashing from one of his father's old university friends, Dr. Long. He wastes no time letting Bruce know what he really thinks of him, telling him that he has tarnished the once great Wayne name with his playboy antics and that if his father were still alive he would be ashamed of the man he's become. Harsh, but not entirely inaccurate, because that's exactly what Bruce wanted to world to think he's like.

Bruce's entire public persona has been carefully crafted to ensure that no one would ever suspect that he's the one dressing up as a giant bat to fight criminals. To the world "Bruce Wayne" is nothing more than a shallow, spoilt playboy living off his family's inheritance. But Bruce obviously never considered what effect such a public disguise would have on his family's image, which is why Long's words get under his skin. On any other day he would've just gone back to his cave, sat in the dark and brooded for a bit then got on with his business. Unfortunately, this day he got injected with the Scarecrow's fear toxin, which just sent his insecurity and self doubt into overdrive, tormenting him with visions of his father's ghostly head telling him what a disappointment he is like some a really Gothic remake of The Lion King.

"Bruce, you have forgotten me."
Good thing he has his other dad, Alfred, around to give him a nice pep talk before tucking him into bed. It really is a mystery how Bruce ended up as messed up as he is when he had someone as wonderful and loving and supportive as Alfred to raise him. Hmm, maybe he was too loving and supportive? I mean, he really should've staged an intervention when Bruce proposed the whole dressing as a bat to fight crime thing.

I know That Voice

The Scarecrow was voiced by Henry Polic II (Webster) and Dr. Long by Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Innerspace). Thomas Wayne was voiced by Richard Moll, who normally voices Harvey Dent/Two-Face.

Comic Book Connections 

The Scarecrow was created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson and first appeared in World's Finest Comics #3 (1941). Gardner Fox and Sheldon Moldoff revived the character years later in Batman #189 (February 1967), which introduced his trademark fear gas. The character never appeared in the Adam West series, but was a regular member of the Legion of Doom on Hanna-Barbera's Challenge of the Super Friends.

Notes and Quotes 

--After getting a taste of his own medicine, the Scarecrow hallucinates a monstrous Batman. This idea was reused for Batman Begins.

--Kevin Conroy is probably doomed to repeat the "I am vengeance! I am the night!" speech at conventions for the rest of his life.

--Martha is MIA from Bruce's visions. I guess he didn't care too much about what his mother thought of him.

--The security guard at the bank is reading a Tiny Toon Adventures comic book.


--At the beginning of the episode the Scarecrow has a helicopter and at the end he has a flippin' airship.

--At one point the Batmobile computer shows a list of nearby chemical companies, one of which is S.T.A.R. Labs.

--Bruce Wayne is so emo he wears sunglasses even when the sky is pitch black.


Dr. Long: "Your father and I attended university together. He had big plans for you."
Bruce: "Well, I guess he'd be pleased. Wayne Industries is more prosperous than ever."
Dr. Long: "Pleased? When your father was alive, Wayne was a name that commanded great respect. Now all Wayne stands for is a self-centered, jet-setting playboy. It's lucky your father didn't live to see what you've done to his good name. He'd have died of shame."

Nigel: "Awacka-what?"
Scarecrow: "Arachnophobia. Fear of spiders, you dimwitted dropout!"

Scarecrow: "My revenge is complete, the university is in the grip of fear, and Batman has been annihilated!"
Nigel: "Huh?"
Scarecrow: "Annihilated! Destroyed! Dead!"
Anthony: "Then who's that?"

Three out of four Gothic remakes of The Lion King.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

3 comments:

CoramDeo said...

This one wasn't too great. I don't mind the Scarecrow here, even though he isn't anything special. And of course, the 'I am vengeance. I am the night.' speech is some of this series' most foundational work. Great review, Mark.

sunbunny said...

I don't know but isn't it possible they de creeped the Scarecrow on purpose so as not to terrify the children watching?

But yeah this one is kind of forgettable. Dr. Long is a huge dick for saying that. Like...why would you do that to another human you jerk?

I love that you're reviewing this show because I have an excuse to rewatch it.

Chris said...

I agree with your comments about the Scarecrow, he is the one character they took a long time to get right. I think it's partially the design, but mostly the voice work Henry Polic II, who makes Crane sound more pompous than scary. He sounds like a disgruntled professor, which I guess is true to his origin story, but not really something that invokes terror and fear. Incidentally, the Scarecrow is one of the things they actually improved on the New Batman adventures.