Saturday, October 27, 2007
Seven Days of the Scarecrow: Other Media
I mentioned at the outset of Seven Days of the Scarecrow that one of the things that attracted me to the character was how he was a relative unknown, at least compared to some of the bigger stars in Batman’s Rogue’s Gallery. Part of his lower profile is owed to the fact that he hasn’t appeared in quite as many adaptations of the comics into other media, at least not with the frequency that, say, The Joker or Catwoman have.
But Jonathan Crane has still made it into quite a few different media adaptations, and it’s interesting to look at the different ways in which different designers have tackled the designs for the character.
In the1968 Filmation Batman cartoon, which was well before my time, the Scarecrow didn’t get his name-dropped in the seizure-tastic opening credits scene, but he does appear.
Check it out:
I really like this version of the character. It looks like they’re basically using him as a more rustic version of the Joker, with a sort of clown-like face and bemused, high-pitched voice. I really like the face, and how the costume looks so last minute. Like he literally stripped a real scarecrow in the middle of a pumpkin patch and just put its clothes on before going off to rob the auction.
Scarecrow was also one of the 13 villains who made up the Legion of Doom in 1978 series Challenge of the Superfriends, a cartoon I was alive to watch, and remembered quite fondly.
Well, I thought I remembered it, anyway. I remembered liking it as a wee one, but when I rewatched old episodes on Cartoon Network a few years back, I realized that a) that show was fucking horrible and that b) The Scarecrow was in it. I had no memory of ever seeing him from back when I was little. Did he ever do anything on the show, except fill up one of the seats around Luthor’s podium?
He and The Riddler both seem pretty out of place on that line-up of super-powered villains, seeing as they can’t really, you know, do anything. Anyway, this is what he looked like there:
His…peculiarity among his teammates is underscored in those old Cartoon Network promos featuring the Legion of Doom, like the one where Brainiac demands pants, and Luthor tries to give the Legionnaires little pep talks about they each already possess all they really need to succeed. When thinking of something nice to say to Scarecrow, he stumbles, “Scarecrow you’re-- you’re-- you’re made of straw!”
(In the other Cartoon Network/Legion of Doom short, the Powerpuff Girls totally set Scarecrow on fire and make him scream like a little girl).
He would have a lot more to do in the 1990’s Batman cartoons, Batman: The Animated Series. He had two distinct looks in the original series, and received one of the more radical redesigns when the show redesigned many of the characters (Jeffrey Combs played him in the second iteration of the show).
Here’s a little featurette in which the producers discuss his evolution, with images of all three versions:
Despite my affection for the character, I don’t think the animated series did much for him. At least, his showcase episodes didn’t reinvent him or show him to be full of heretofore unrealized potential the way that episodes focusing on, say, The Mad Hatter or Mr. Freeze did those rogues (Honestly, those first appearances by each of them are probably the best stories to ever feature either character, in any medium). And Two-Face and the Joker always shone like gold in the animated series. Scarecrow more or less was just the same old comic book Scarecrow…except moving.
DC Comics produced a series of ongoings based on the animated series, and the Scarecrow’s appearances there would reflect his animated ones. Of them, the later, Hanged Man look proved to be the most influential. I was honestly quite surprised to see Alex Ross using that version of the character—or at least echoing the design for it—in his Superfriends celebratory series, Justice, since Ross usually hews so closely to the official late Silver Age/early Bronze Age versions of the characters. Ross' Justice version seemd to cut the third Animated Series version into a more standard Scarecrow design.
Scarecrow, like most of the original Bat-villains didn’t show up in Batman Beyond, although in direct-to-DVD movie Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker one of the Joker’s henchmen, Ghoul, resembles a sort of goth, teenage version of the Scarecrow.
I haven’t watched much of The Batman, but it doesn’t look like The Scarecrow ever showed up there, yet…at least, not according to its imdb page. (Odd too, considering they’ve had Bane, Firefly, Killer Croc and The Ventriloquist there).
As for live action, The Scarecrow didn’t make it onto the 1960s TV show or into the first cycle of feature films, but he was, of course, one of the bad guys in 2005’s Batman Begins.
And he was apparently the very bottom of the barrel of the Rogue’s Gallery, along with Ra’s al Ghul. Since they’re starting over with the Joker in the next Batman movie, it seems Scarecrow and Ra’s were like the last two kids picked at recess when splitting up into teams, last resort villains used because all the flashier ones were already used. (Which doesn’t bode well for the likes of Killer Croc, Clayface, Mad Hatter or Man-Bat—those guys are never gonna be in a movie now).
He was played by Cillian Murphy, which makes the live action version of The Scarecrow by far the dreamiest version. Those piercing eyes, those delicate features—why oh why did Dr. Crane turn to a life of crime, instead of a life of fashion modeling?
He didn’t really get all that much screen time, all things considered, and it wasn’t a horribly cinematic take on the character, as Murphy basically just donned the mask over his fashionable doctor’s suit now and then. He did ride a horse though, and that was cool.