Bat Signal

Issue 540 – “Something Scary”

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Howdy folks and welcome back to Bat Signal, my stupid project where I pull random issues of Detective Comics and talk about them, with no context! And I have a real weird one for you all today. Plus, it even happened to fit in with Halloween. A couple weeks ago I posted that ridiculous story where Batman fought a straight-up vampire, and was kind of bummed that the luck of the draw gave it to me before Halloween, but apparently the Batman Gods have smiled on me, because I happened to pull an issue that a) is completely confounding, b) crosses yet another villain off of our Batman Supervillain Bingo with the Scarecrow, and c) fits in great with the Halloween theme. But before we dive in, I want to reiterate the point that this issue is completely bat-shit crazy. And I really don’t know why. I’ve had some baffling issues before, but they’ve mainly been confusing because I’m lacking the proper context. They’ve been the second-parts of stories, things like that. But near as I could tell when getting the credits and info about the issue, this issue wasn’t connected to anything. It’s just weird as hell. So buckle up folks, because things are gonna get weird, and they’re gonna get weird quick.

The issue starts off with alternating panels showing Batman and Robin looking for the Scarecrow. They aren’t together, Batman is at a zoo and Robin is at some spooky mansion that they think Scarecrow is hiding out in. The panels switch between the two locales, making it pretty hard to get a grip of what’s going on. Which isn’t helped by the fact that what is going on is insane. Because as soon as Batman enters the zoo he’s affected by the Scarecrow’s new fear device. Which is kind of odd, because it usually has taken the form of gas in the Scarecrow books I’ve read, but this time it comes from some sort of pulse from a skull-shaped device. So Batman runs into a little skull, and immediately starts fantasizing about Robin (Jason Todd here) being attacked by crocodiles.

 

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Meanwhile Robin is investigating the Scarecrow’s mansion, noticing a regular scarecrow hung up in the field in front. He decides to ignore it and just walk into the house when it’s revealed that that wasn’t a fake scarecrow, it was the real one. He springs into action and stars fighting with Robin, tussling all over the field outside the house. The battle goes on for a while while we cut occasionally back to Batman to see him punch crocodiles and whine about what he thinks is Jason being eaten. But things get bad for Robin when Scarecrow is able to get a hold of his fear device, and bombard Robin with the pulse, getting him afraid.

But while Robin chases Scarecrow into the house we see that Batman has finally figured out that he hasn’t witnessed his ward being devoured by crocodiles, and is instead tripping balls. Batman manages to find Scarecrow’s fear device and breaks it, heading out to find Robin and stop Scarecrow’s plot. But before we get back to that, we see what’s going on inside Scarecrow’s house, which is nuts. Turns out Scarecrow has pimped out his house to basically become a carnival haunted house. So when Robin comes in, already reeling from the effects of the fear device, he gets to be spooked by rubber spiders and plastic skeletons jumping out at him. Which is hilarious. Robin primarily keeps his cool, trying to find Scarecrow in the house without losing it.

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But when Scarecrow realizes that Robin is getting too cocky, he blasts him with more of the fear frequency and then drops Robin down some funhouse stairs before dropping down into a cellar full of guys in Scarecrow costumes ready to beat him up. But while Robin is taking care of that, we see Batman running around, trying to find Robin. First he calls Harvey Bullock, I guess in case Robin stopped by? But Bullock doesn’t know where Robin is, and then almost gets assassinated. I assume this is a continuing plot, because the sudden attempted murder of Harvey Bullock was never mentioned again, because we’re too busy seeing Batman calling up Alfred to check if he’s seen Jason. That’s a negative again, so Batman just heads out to try and find Robin.

And things are going pretty well for Robin. He’s beaten up all of the guys in Scarecrow costumes, who turn out to just be dummies that the fear frequency has made him hallucinate into people. And when he breaks through that hallucination he decides to start breaking out of the cellar. He starts digging out of the cellar, while the Scarecrow begins wandering around the house, taunting Robin. But when Robin gets out of the cellar, he’s shocked to find that it isn’t Scarecrow waiting for him, it’s Batman. I’m not sure how Batman found Robin, but whatever, he’s brought along the damaged fear device, and has figured out how to mess with it until it becomes a sort of blocking device. He and Robin tinker with the thing until it successfully blocks Scarecrow’s signal, and then Batman goes off to kick Scarecrow’s ass. Scarecrow isn’t really anticipating the sudden appearance of Batman, especially when Batman delivers the insane line “Yes, me – the terror of all punks like you!” And when Scarecrow realizes that Batman had devised a way to block the signal, he freaks the hell out, and runs away, only to run into Robin who was waiting in one of the spooky traps that Scarecrow had set up, and promptly punches him out. And then they go home, hopefully to begin investigating who tried to shoot Harvey Bullock and why.

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This issue was a whole lot of fun. I really like Scarecrow as a villain, and his whole fear gimmick is really great. Batman Begins didn’t take full advantage of how trippy and frightening a Scarecrow story could be, and while this one didn’t really reach those heights either, it was a lot of fun. The whole thing with the fear devices that looked like skulls and admitted some sort of frequency was a little odd, but the end result was the same, so it’s all good. Honestly, the thing that I really liked about this issue was just how crazy it was. You’re probably noticed by now, but for Bat Signal articles (and several other types of articles on the site) I try to end the article with a particularly goofy image from the issue. And usually that’s not too hard. Basically every issue of Detective Comics has some goofy image or line of dialogue that makes me laugh out loud, and I feel would work great as the stinger on the end of the article. But this time? I could put about 50% of the panels up there. Mainly because of the weird format that the first half of the issue used, where every panel switched between Batman’s psychedelic freak-out and Robin’s Scarecrow tussle. It just led to a really silly, weird, and fun issue that became pretty emblematic of everything I love about these comics. So have a great Halloween everyone, enjoy some of the other Halloween related goofiness I have on the site this weekend, and I’ll see everyone next week for more Batman silliness.

“Something Scary” was written by Doug Moench, drawn by Gene Colan, inked by Bob Smith, colored by Adrienne Roy, and lettered by Ben Oda, 1984.

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