RTF Retro Review: “Batman: The Animated Series” – Season 1: Nothing to Fear
By: Adam Basciano
“Batman faces off against the Scarecrow whose fear gas makes the superhero afraid of disgracing the Wayne name.”
This episode of Batman: The Animated Series, marks the first appearance of Jonathan Crane, aka The Scarecrow into the DC Animated Universe. Unlike with Batman, who pre-existed in this animated world, prior to when we first see him, this is the first time Batman, or the citizens of Gotham are getting a dose of the Scarecrow. This is probably my favourite origin for The Scarecrow. A professor of psychiatry with a specialization in phobia, who is so obsessed with the effects of fear since being bullied as a kid. When he begins testing his fear toxin on his students, he was fired. He adopts the Scarecrow persona, and begins stealing money from the university out of revenge. This origin is so simple and seems more natural. I feel the origin that has Dr. Crane working at Arkham feels a bit contrived and forced. When Batman is exposed to the fear gas, we get the first reference to the Death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. It turns out that Bruce Wayne’s greatest fear is not the moment his parents got gunned down, but instead, it’s the fear of shaming his family name. This is an ingenious spin on things, as more often than not, it is his parent’s actual death that is his fear and defining moment. This plot point gave us our most emotional/best vocal performance from Kevin Conroy as Bruce Wayne/ Batman, up to this point. In the span of 22 minutes, we get sadness, pain and a sense of terror emanating from his characters voice when Batman’s been hit with fear gas. Then, suddenly, as Batman hangs perilously from Scarecrow’s helicopter, and he’s looking at a vision of Thomas Wayne’s disapproving face, Batman utters the famous phrase; “I am vengeance, I am the night…I AM BATMAN! I get chills just thinking about that moment. The only vocal performance that doesn’t resonate with me, is that of Clive Revill, who voiced Alfred Pennyworth. Scenes that were supposed to resonate emotionally with me, didn’t because his performance just fell flat. I can see why they recast the role with Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
From an animation standpoint, the Scarecrow of Batman: The Animated Series, looks the most like an actual scarecrow here. Did anyone notice a bit of a Freddy Kruger vibe with this version of The Scarecrow? He’s got the hat, the right coloured shirt and the long fingernails. It’s all there really. I love the animation when the Scarecrow gets hit with his own fear gas, and sees Batman as a giant monstrous bat. I wonder if Christopher Nolan and David Goyer took cues from this episode, when they crafted a similar moment in Batman Begins. The scene at the end, where Bruce Wayne visits his parents’ grave, and leaves a flower. As he walks away, we see Batman’s shadow on the ground behind him. For me, that is one of the most powerful pieces of imagery in the character’s 75 + year history.
To this point, like Krypton, which our E.I,C. Mario, still hasn’t watched; every episode of Batman: The Animated Series, has been better then the last one. This episode is actually episode 3 but episode 2 is a Christmas episode, so I’ll circle back to it, when the time is right. This episodes focus, is on a great Batman story, and it does just that. A good action adventure episode, with psychological drama and horror, mixed all in one!
I'm a long time fan of superheroes. I love DC and really like Marvel. Will be contributing comic book review columns, to Revenge of The Fans.