A History of Fear Part 2 – Detective Comics #73

  • Writer: Don Cameron
  • Penciler: Bob Kane
  • Inkers: Jerry Robinson, George Roussos
  • Letterer: George Roussos
  • Editor: Jack Schiff

What do men fear most? Things they do not understand — cunning tricks that seemingly do not make sense, and so cannot be warded off by ordinary intelligence!

– Detective Comics #73, Introduction

By popular demand, Jonathan Crane, a.k.a The Scarecrow, has escaped from prison in ‘Return of The Scarecrow!’. This is his second and final appearance in the Golden Age of comics, published in March 1943, in a story all about three letter words, left behind as clues for the dynamic duo Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder, as they once again must use their wits and muscle to bring The Scarecrow to justice. 

Return of The Scarecrow

In this issue, Crane continues to carry out his crimes with a gun, as his now famous fear toxin is not part of his arsenal in the Golden Age of comics. Instead, his greatest weapons are his athletic abilities and his mind, which help to bring out Batman’s great detective skills throughout the story, as Scarecrows clues mean very little to the Gotham Police force and the city’s citizens, but to Batman, working out the clues is almost too easy. However, the Scarecrow is not just a master of fear in his early appearances, he is also a master of wits, and he will not be taken back to jail so easily. 

This issue also gives us a fun look at how Bruce Wayne deals with troublesome situations when he is unable to reveal his secret identity or change costume. When Scarecrow and his goons attempt to steal from a shop, Bruce pretends to act clumsy, falling into one of the goons to knock him into a display, and then whilst pretending to help him up, he knocks into the goon behind him. It’s a very fun early look into Batman’s alternate life as a billionaire playboy who can’t allow anyone to know he is a hero, but has a compulsive need to save the day whenever he can. 

Bruce Wayne attempting to stop a robbery without the guise of Batman

Batman and Robin find themselves in a troublesome situation when Scarecrow traps them in a vat that begins to quickly fill with water, leaving them tied up at the bottom as he makes his escape to continue his criminal escapades throughout the streets of Gotham, Pistol whipping anyone who gets in his way. 

As with the majority of comics in the Golden Age, the colours are bright and vibrant, with some but not a lot of use of dark colours, unless it is used to portray the time of day or shadow of an environment. Each character is given their own colour palette to signify who they are on the page, even when they are in an alternate costume, such as when Scarecrow appears in the wrestling arena as Jonathan Crane, his suit remains the same colour and tone of brown that his villainous Scarecrow costume holds. This way, the reader is able to understand who they are focusing on, even if the captions on the page didn’t point it out.

Crane’s motive to steal money for books stays true to this story as it did in his first appearance, which only gives the character a single dimension, meaning that if he had continued to appear in the early comics series, he might have become somewhat dull, as the motive feels a little less criminal and a little more ‘desperate bookworm’. Comparing that to the villain we know today, he sounds very dull in comparison to ‘Master of Fear’

A brief moment of Psychological information with little depth to it

Overall, this story was very entertaining, with the usual Golden Age humour of puns and rhymes from uneducated thugs who use short,  slang type dialogue. The art, as ever is incredible to behold, because at this point, it’s classic. Jonathan Crane is represented as more than a weak, skinny, fragile villain, and actually poses a big threat to the dynamic duo, which is what makes him such a great adversary for Batman. In some of the modern depictions, he poses no physical threat to Batman, but in the Golden Age of comics, He is a force to be reckoned with due to his lanky stature giving him incredible athletic ability. Whilst I would have loved for them to have focused more on fears in these stories, it was early days and the focus was simply to make a new villain to rival Batman, and in doing so they created an iconic character that would go on to become the opposing force to Batman. Whilst Batman uses the element of fear as a force for good, scaring criminals, Scarecrow uses fear as a force for evil, scaring innocent victims and even using it against Batman and his allies himself. 

Reading these two Golden Age appearances is a great look into how the character began, as a somewhat less than average criminal, using the fear of firearms to commit his crimes, with his only intention being that of a common crook on a larger scale. This story gets a 3.5/5 from me as it mentions fears but doesn’t focus on them which to me is what a good Scarecrow story should do. 

Detective Comics #73 is available to buy on DC Comics and Comixology app for £0.69

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