Joe Harris - Exploring the Scarecrow

Batman's rogue's gallery is probably the strongest assortment of villains out there. And definitely the craziest. But the craziest of them all might be a former psychologist, committing crimes as "research" into the effects of fear on human beings. Not only does he blind you with science, but he might also drug, maim or even kill you.

In the upcoming one-shot The Joker's Asylum: Scarecrow, writer Joe Harris and artist Juan Doe explore the Scarecrow's story in a new light – as a straight up slasher movie. If that doesn't have you fumbling for your wallet, let's let writer Joe Harris have a bit of your time.

Newsarama: Thanks for talking with us, Joe. What's Scarecrow about as a character?

Joe Harris: I think, with Scarecrow, you’ve got a villain who threatens to tear away that thin veneer that hides the darkness inside of us. He’s able to get past the super-ego... that small, little piece of us that actually makes us human and separates us from the animals. He enables our worst fears, not by necessarily distorting threats or anxieties... but by giving that which we repress, what we stuff down deep and like to pretend isn’t there, the oxygen it needs to burn. He releases our fear, through both the use of his ‘fear gas’ chemicals and his own psychiatric training and malpractice. He doesn’t make us afraid of anything... he just makes us face it on his terms.

NRAMA: What's going on in this one-shot you're writing?

JH: Well, without giving too much away... I decided to tell Scarecrow’s story as though it were an 80s horror movie... with a touch of “Heathers” and various John Hughes films from the era thrown in for depth and context. I was raised on a steady diet of movies like Friday The 13th as well as other slashers, along with higher- concept movies like April Fool’s Day and the A Nightmare on Elm Street series. I treated Scarecrow like a slasher movie threat... a masked maniac in the mold of Michael Myers or Freddy Krueger, but with a pathology known to Batman readers and let loose upon a house of unsuspecting teenage girls having a slumber party. His psychiatrist alter-ego, Dr. Jonathan Crane, has been “treating” a troubled young girl named Lindsay for her social problems and decides a Mean Girls setting of queen bees and outcasts is the perfect forum for a lesson in the both the nature and the power of fear.

Even the title, “Dark Knight of The Scarecrow” is referential.

NRAMA: There's a common saying that everyone does something for a reason, and no one plans to be 'evil' but are merely doing things they think is right. Is that the case for Scarecrow - is she doing bad things to people on purpose?

JH: Oh, **** yes. I don't think Scarecrow is the least bit misunderstood. I mean, he thinks he's doing something bigger than the obvious, I'm sure. But he isn't trying to save anybody. He's dropping flies in the spiderweb and watching, excitedly as the spider comes out to feed. He's a pure sociopathic problem who loves the chaos he sows.

NRAMA: These series of one-shots are called The Joker's Asylum. So what role does the Joker play in this?

JH: He’s the “Crypt Keeper” introducing the story and bookending Scarecrow’s one-shot with some quippy narrative and disturbingly funny thoughts... assuming I did my job correctly I mean. I envisioned his role in this story as akin to the way Cain used to introduce things in the old House of Mystery books I’d dig through the dime bins on Flatbush Avenue for as a single-digits child. Because I intended to tell a horror story, portraying Joker almost as Rod Serling taking me on a tour of the Night Gallery before this week’s demented episode felt especially right.

NRAMA: How would you describe the chemistry between Batman and Scarecrow?

JH: Batman would rather not have to deal with him but he has to... so he does. Batman is a rat's nest of issues and complications which he works so hard to channel and compartmentalize. The idea of it all coming crashing down is a particularly terrible proposition and that's just what Scarecrow threatens. It's Jonathan Crane's pathology.

And Scarecrow hates Batman. He thinks the Caped Crusader is a bully and with each caper there's some great, proverbial clock counting down the moments to when Batman can swoop in and save the day.

NRAMA: How do you think Scarecrow fits into the bigger picture of Batman's Rogues Gallery?

JH: Well, it is the rogues gallery. I always found Batman's cast of villains the most colorful, dark and disturbing all at once. Spider-Man has a cool roster of bad guys to face off with, but nothing like what Batman contends with night after night. I think Scarecrow provides more of a horror bent to things in Batman's world. The very nature of his fear-mongering adds a dimension not gotten from Joker or Penguin or Two-Face or anyone else that immediately springs to mind.

Scarecrow is both a fear merchant and a ruminator on the subject. He wants to frighten you, and then loves to peel the onion and expand and extrapolate on the reasons why you’re afraid. He’s deeply disturbed, as both Batman and the other members of his rogues gallery all seem to be... but Scarecrow intends to be scary. It’s like we’re all playing out his thesis in some twisted clinical trial.

The Joker's Asylum: Scarecrow is due in stores on July 23rd.

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