CREDITS: Written by Henry Gilroy (a Taz-Mania alumnus who would go on to work on Clone Wars and other action cartoons) and Sean Catherine Derek (who wrote the Smurfs cartoon); directed by Boyd Kirkland, who as a layout artist worked on Thundarr, Spider-Man, Hulk and Mister T.
REVIEW: The Scarecrow makes his debut in the first of two looks, and it's the inferior of the two, I think, but the episode does draw a nice parallel between Jonathan Crane and the Batman, which I don't see exploited nearly enough in the comics. That is to say that both men use fear as a weapon, and so both get a taste of their own medicine (literally, in the case of the Scarecrow, in a sequence reprised in Batman Begins). In Scarecrow's fear gas is usually a good opportunity to show others' greatest fears and delve into their psychology. Sadly, that feels very contrived here. Bruce Wayne just so happens to get his playboy persona insulted by one of his father's old friends, priming him for visions of Thomas Wayne being disappointed with him. Convenient and since playboy Bruce Wayne is just a necessary fiction anyway, why is this Batman's greatest worry? Probably the best use of the Waynes is the final shot of Bruce at their grave, but the story doesn't really earn that moment (nice music and mood though). And then it just so happens Crane's own phobia is bats? That's one detail I always found rather facile and silly.
Batman's relationship with the police continues to be all over the map, which is either a side-effect of the episodes being produced out of broadcast order, or just a case of the production team not knowing what to do with it. He was a vigilante menace in On Leather Wings, but here cops run to him to see if he's okay and Bullock calls him the Commissioner's "pet bat" (hey, Batman WAS stealing evidence). Not a big deal, but that might have been tracked better. Speaking of jumbled continuity, this is the first real introduction of Summer Gleeson (keep wanting to write Summer Glau), as a Vicki Vale-like reporter, though in production/DVD order, she was one of the Joker's Christmas hostages. She makes me wonder why Vicki wasn't used on the series instead, especially if they're going to be physically identical (drawn as Vicki, changed at the recording stage?).
The episode does show Batman powering through psychological torture, and introduces one of his core villains to the series, so complaints aside, it has things going for it. Once again, we get a night watchman with personality - this one laughs his head off reading a Tiny Toons comic - though the Scarecrow's goons are perhaps a bit too archetypal as dumb brutes. And there's a nice action sequence involving a blimp, with those guys firing tommy guns into the airbag and air slowing escaping from the bullet holes.
IN THE COMICS: The Scarecrow first appeared in World's Finest Comics #3 (Fall 1941), but the episode takes a lot of its cues from Batman Annual #19 and the miniseries Scarecrow Year One, in particular his evident fear of bats. Among the chemical companies Batman looks into, we find DC Comics mainstay S.T.A.R. Labs, and Axis Chemicals where Burton's Joker fell into the vat that bleached his skin and drove him crazy.
SOUNDS LIKE: Scarecrow is voiced by Henry Polic II from Webster. That's Richard Moll (Two-Face) as Thomas Wayne's "ghost".
REWATCHABILITY: Medium - Good, but not great. The attempt at character development feels too contrived to make a lasting impact.