Bat Signal

Issue 73 – “The Scarecrow Returns”

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Well, that’s odd. I don’t think I’ve ever pulled two issues in a row with the same villain. But there we go, another adventure with the master of terror himself, Dr. Jonathan Crane, the Scarecrow. And it’s a very different story. Primarily because of the age, which I believe is a first for this project. A story set in World War II. Which is pretty fascinating. I knew that the Marvel characters would always march out to Europe or the Eastern Front and actually wage war with the Axis powers, but I don’t really think that that was the DC heroes style. They didn’t actually go fight in the war, they just supported it back home, telling you to buy war bonds and whatnot, which is the scene that we’re going to get this week. But that’s enough preamble, let’s dive on in and see Batman and Robin square off with the Scarecrow.

The issue begins with a brief prologue featuring Jonathan Crane sitting in his lair, writing on a little chalkboard and planning his next crime spree. And it all begins with the word hat. And wouldn’t you know it, we then cut straight to some sort of hat expo that Bruce Wayne and his floozie du jour. It’s a very weird little scene, with Bruce wandering around with the woman and complaining about how stupid and ugly he finds women’s hats. Which seems pretty rude, since the woman is so into it, but Bruce isn’t always the most loving boyfriend, so I guess it’s par for the course. But he does have a point, because most of the hats are pretty heinous, like one that’s inspired by the war and has a propeller powered by a little engine on it. But disaster strikes when Scarecrow and his goons come into the expo, ready to rob it of all its priceless antique hats. And since Bruce Wayne is there with someone, and he apparently doesn’t feel like pulling a Peter Parker and sneaking off, there’s nothing he can do about it. Well, unless he does something stupid.

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Yeah, Bruce Wayne just walked up to the thugs while they were breaking into some sort of hat display, pretended to trip, and started to beat the goons up mid-trip. Unfortunately this plan is terrible, so the Scarecrow just walks up to Bruce, pistol-whips him in the back of the head, and then he and his goons leave with the hats while Bruce lays there unconscious. And when he finally wakes up, probably nursing a minor concussion, and finds that the Scarecrow is apparently taking a page from the Riddler, and has left behind a clue. Namely the little chalkboard we saw him using earlier, but this time it has a new word on it, mat.

So Bruce ditches his lady friend, picks up Robin, and the two head out to stop the Scarecrow. Because, like he always does, Bruce has already figured out the answer to the puzzle. Apparently that night there’s a special charity wrestling match to support the war effort, and Bruce realizes that that’s probably what mat meant on the chalkboard. So Batman and Robin sneak into the wrestling match, and watch from the rafters, waiting for Scarecrow’s plot to hatch. And hatch it does, because Crane has slipped some of his goons into the group of wrestlers, hidden guns throughout the arena, and as soon as some guards show up to take the money that was spent on war-bonds away, the goons spring into action. They begin waving their guns around, and Scarecrow himself shows up to grab the lock-boxes full of cash, and starts to head out. But Batman and Robin aren’t going to stand for that, so they do the only logical thing, and jump into the ring to wrestle those thugs.

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Right on. So Batman and Robin whoop the thugs asses, but run into a bit of a problem when Scarecrow fires a machine gun into he rafters, and drops a giant light system down onto the stage, crushing the Dynamic Duo and letting him and his goons flee again. Oh, and he leaves another damn chalkboard, so when some paramedics pry Batman and Robin out from under the light and wake them up, they have another puzzle to solve. Bu this time it’s pretty obvious, because the word this time is vat, and has the business card of a dry cleaners on it. So Batman and Robin head out to the cleaners, and sneak into an upstairs window, surprising Scarecrow and his goons who are waiting for them. The two groups get into a fist-fight, until a trap is sprung. Apparently the whole thing was a trap to catch Batman and Robin, and Scarecrow drops Batman and Robin into a waiting vat, where some goons knock them out. They tie up the Dynamic Duo, and start flooding the vat with water, ready to drown them like rats.

And with Batman and Robin out of the way, Scarecrow and his gang are ready to keep up their crime spree. First stop Chinatown! They end up going to some sort of antique shop, called Yat Sing to keep up with the rhyming thing, and they begin stealing everything in sight, including a fancy jade scarecrow that he obviously wants. But their plan is ruined when Batman and Robin show up, having escaped their vats and solved the clue of where Scarecrow would be. They then have a silly fight in the shop, throwing what I assume are priceless antiques at each other, until Batman finally gains the upper hand and knocks out Scarecrow, ending his crime spree. So the police show up, arrest Scarecrow, and Batman mocks him with that stupid chalk board.

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This was a fun little issue. I talked about it a lot last week, but I really like Scarecrow as a villain, and it was interesting to see him in such a different light. It’s been interesting reading these really old issues and seeing the villains before their powers got too ridiculous. We’ve seen a pretty straightforward Hugo Strange, a Clayface who is just a master of makeup and not a mud monster, and now a Scarecrow that doesn’t spray people with fear toxin, and just dresses like a scarecrow. It’s a tad more realistic, or at least as realistic as a story that features three men dressed up in crazy costumes can be. I also kind of wonder if some part of this story inspired the creation of the Riddler, what with having Scarecrow leaving all these crazy clues that led Batman and Robin into his web. It’s just a good issue of comics, with Batman and Robin being heroes and doing some actual detective work to stop a villain from robbing war bond salesmen.

“Scarecrow Returns” was written by Don Cameron, drawn by Bob Kane, inked by Jerry Robinson & George Roussos, and lettered by George Roussos, 1943.

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