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Batman: The Animated Series
by yo go re

To some people, the scariest thing in the world is change.

Dr. Jonathan Crane has spent as much time lurking in the dark corners of the human psyche as he has hiding in the shadowy parts of Gothma City. Obsessed with the idea of fear in its many forms, Crane has adopted the role of the Scarecrow, a living embodiment of things that go bump in the night. A career supervillain, Scarecrow lives to clash with the Batman, intent on making the Dark Knight cower in fear.

There was already one Scarecrow in DC Direct's Batman: the Animated Seires line-up, but it was the Season 4 "Wild West Minister Leatherface" design, which is nobody's favorite. (It's not that no one likes that design at all, it's just that it only appeared in two episodes, so it didn't have a chance to win anyone over.) So it's really no surprise that DCD went back and made the classic Scarecrow as figure #44 in their lineup; unfortunately, it was one of the last things they released before DC shut them down, so it was never what you'd call "plentiful." Todd McFarlane with a repaint to the rescue!

It's 2023 and Todd still doesn't credit his artists, but as this is just a repaint of that older figure, we can report it was sculpted by Irene Matar and art-directed by Miguel Nash. Irene's sculpting was good back then, and it still looks good today, with simple, smooth lines that duplicate the animation model. Well, the second animation model: as you know, Bruce Timm was unhappy with the original design and redid it between Scarecrow's first and second appearances. It really wasn't a drastic change, with both versions featuring baggy clothes tied with rope at the wrists, ankles, and waist.

What did get changed was the head. Originally Dr. Crane just wore a simple, smooth bag over his head (which somehow was a different, narrower shape than the phyical head inside it), but the redesign fixed that. Scarecrow kept the big hat, but now had hair made out of straw, a round head, visible eyes looking out through his mask, and three jagged teeth sticking up from the mouth. The original look wasn't awful, but this is definitely superior.

The thing that underscored how weird the original BtAS design was was when he pulled off his mask and his skull was suddenly twice as wide. This figure includes an alternate unmasked Johnathan Crane head, with a narrow chin, large ears, and a scrunched-up face. The head swap easily thanks to the balljoint at the top of the neck - we've come a long, long way from the days when the figures were all breaking with no provocation!

Scarecrow includes a pair of open hands, a left fist, and a right hand for holding. His sole accessory is a large scythe, and he has enough articulation to look good swinging it around: balljoint/hinge head, balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, elbows, and wrists, a swivel waist, swivel/​hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. Shame the solitary "holding" hand isn't tight enough to actually hold it properly.

To keep this from being just a straight re-release of the DC Direct figure, McFarlane Toys has opted for a "cel shaded" paintscheme, which honestly isn't great. The painted shadows do blend in better here than they do on the rest of the figures in this series, but flat colors would have been preferable. We understand why the choice was made, but that doesn't make us like it.

Another change is that this release inludes a Build-A-Figure piece! Buy all four, and you can assemble the Condiment King. Scarecrow's got the chest and head.

If all that weren't enough, Scarecrow is the figure in this series to get a Platinum Edition. "Platinum Edition" is McToys' name for a chase variant, identified by a silver sticker on the packaging (in case you find it alone in the store and thus have no "standard" version to compare it to). You might expect, given that Scarecrow was the only character to be redesigned before Season 4, his chase variant would include his original head instead of this scarier version. No, instead they've changed his shirt from red to brown, and his accents from tan to yellow. Even his scythe now has a brown handle instead of grey. Huh, okay then. Scarecrow never looked like this in the cartoon, so why is this what they chose? We can come up with only two things it might be referencing: the first is Scarecrow's appearance in Challenge of the Superfriends as a member of the Legion of Doom, who did wear browns, but still didn't look like this; the second is the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures comic, which was a crossover between the world of BtAS and the 2012 Nickelodeon Turtles; that book colored him more brown than red, like this, and it also provided an origin for his later spooky look. If that's what Todd was going for, though, weird choice.

-- 12/20/23

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