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Batman Adventures Annual #1 features five short stories by Paul Dini, about various Batman villains trying to go straight and how and why they fail (mostly)

One of the beauties of Batman: The Animated Series, was that it could handle the light and it could handle the dark.

Now the series, in the early years, was limited by what was permitted to be shown in cartoons at the time (Which is why, for example, the Joker never killed anyone in the early episodes). The comics, however were not. They didn't go to the "grim" often, which made the times it did all the more powerful.

Please be warned, this post contains material that may be triggering for rape or sexual assault.


Batman is pondering how even some of his villains feel the need for some normalcy in their lives, to retire and withdraw from the insanity of supervillainy, but don't always choose the best method of trying it...




In full Scarecrow gear, Crane promises to make the course as interesting as possible for Mr Bromley, a captive audience and the only one in attendance at this unplanned night class.

Fear can be triggered by many things, and the Scarecrow has specialised in developing chemicals which trigger hyper-specific results... And he wants Bromley to know absolute fear, so is prepared to run the gamut, starting with an obvious one...



But why has the Scarecrow picked on this guy?

The Scarecrow had been in Arkham, pondering the dead-end future that being a supervillain was. What would happen when he got too old to challenge Batman regularly, or if he won sometime, what would he do then? He'd been a teacher once, and often thought about returning to that life (Remember that this Scarecrow is a scrawny little weed of a man, a book-loving former professor, not the seven foot tall corpselike thing he was redesigned to be later in the series (a redesign I never liked I might add))

So, escaping from Arkham, he created a new identity for himself as Irving Deidrich, a professor of English Literature, and gained a job as a lecturer at a small college near Gotham. His students were, in his mind, a bunch of slack jawed, mouth-breathing illiterates, but he found he was enjoying the work, it was what he had trained for his whole life though, and there was one exception to the rule that made it worthwhile...




Please note there's no suggestion that Crane's interest was anything other than that of a professor for a student, he genuinely liked this girl in as close to a normal manner as he probably knows how.

She taught herself to play Bach, because she loved his music so much. But Crane notes that Bromley never took the time to know the REAL Molly, he simply saw her as another pretty face, another evening's entertainment... (He says, whilst dousing Bromley in a drug which induces arachnaphobia, with no real effect, but Crane is determined to see that look of fear...)

And Molly came to see her counselor after her "date" with Bromley. (Klaus Janson really captures this next moment well I think)



That look of appalled horror, moving to the single eye panel and then the shadows falling across Cranes face speak volumes. You know EXACTLY what he's thinking because, let's be honest here, a lot of us would be thinking exactly the same thing in this situation, though we would never go to Crane's lengths. The darkness is coming, and he's going to embrace it willingly.

Next fear-triggering compound out is not an obvious one, but as it turns out, an effective (and apt) one...





At this point, Batman appears, he's been aware of Crane's new identity all along, and at first thought it was part of some scheme, but since his reform seemed genuine, he was prepared to cut him some slack as long as he stayed being a teacher and never became the Scarecrow again. That option no longer exists. We don't know how long Batman has been observing the situation, and it's perhaps better not to ask, but he won't allow Crane to murder anyone.

The end of the fight is inevitable of course, but as the story ends, Batman ponders Crane's motivations..



I like the fact that some villains have their own moral codes, even in the midst of their own madness.

Joker reacting like this wouldn't work, but with Scarecrow it does work, and at a certain visceral level, we might, even for a moment, agree with his plan... up to a point.
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