DC Comics really had a hit on its hands when Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee teamed up to create "Hush," the best-selling Batman story that had the Caped Crusader facing off against all his biggest foes. Now DC Direct has a hit on its hands, having so far squeezed three series of action figures out of the tale, a number matched only by their Kingdom Come line.
Part of the reason they could create so many figures was the story's structure - Jeph Loeb crafted a parade of Bat-villains, giving Jim Lee the chance to try his hand at many of Arkham Asylum's most notable residents, from dumb bruisers like Killer Croc to more cerebral threats like the Scarecrow.
Psychology professor Jonathan Crane developed a chemical that induces terror in victims, allowing him to act as the sinister Scarecrow!
Jeph Loeb's a good writer, but he's never really seemed to have much of a handle on the Scarecrow. In "Hush," and in The Long Halloween before it, the straw man was little more than a nursery rhyme-spouting fool who was easily dispatched by the Dark Knight. But if his appearance in the story was a disappointment, his appearance in the art wasn't. Jim Lee gave us a Scarecrow without any major redesigns, but the character still looked great.
Scarecrow is a scrawny guy, with no visible muscletone. His costume hangs loose over his wiry frame, tied around the waist, ankles and wrists.
There are patches and stitching all over the surface. In a really subtle move, his ribcage, spine and shoulder blades are pressing visibly against the suit, adding to his creepy look. His fingers are thin and spindly; his left hand is curled a bit (perfect for holding Mattel's Scarecrow's skull accessory) while his right is splayed wide. He's got ropes tied around his feet and toes to make his little booties into something that more resembles a ninja's tabi boots - the biggest clue that this is a Jim Lee design.
The best bits of the "Hush" Scarecrow are all above the neck. His hat is bent and twisted, with a few moth-eaten holes running through it. A strand of rope serves as the hatband. His mask has the look of a sack pulled over someone's head and tied with a rope - its patchwork surface is covered with deep vertical creases. There's stitching around the mouth and a triangular purple nose resting between the gaping eyes. Crane's eyes and teeth are visible through the mask and are handled well, actually looking like they're behind the surface instead of just sculpted into it.
Just like the Superfriends version, Lee's Scarecrow has hair. Or, well, "straw," technically, but you get the idea. The bright yellow really stands out from the brown of the suit, and the sculpt is terrific - beyond the straw texture, the length is varied to give the appearance that someone actually used fistfuls of the stuff to immitate hair.
Scarecrow only has one accessory, and it's easy to overlook if you don't know about it. In Batman #617, Scarecrow attempted to use his fear gas on ol' Bats, but rather than something pedestrian like a glass vile or a pumpkin bomb, Crane pulled a false piece of straw from his head and snapped it in half to release his formula. It didn't work, but the idea was still tremendously creative.
To that end, Scarecrow's got a stray piece of straw sticking out of his temple.
It looks just like all the rest, but instead of being part of a bundle, it stands alone. Hmm, curious. Pull on it - gently, it's brittle - and it slides out of place. It fits tightly enough that it won't fall out on its own, but that doesn't mean it won't be easy to lose. There's no way for Scarecrow to hold this little piece, but it shows DC's dedication that they'd include something like that.
The paint apps are very good, though the colors are quite muted. Where Mattel's Scarecrow was orange and yellow, DC Direct's is much darker, a muddy brown and dusty tan combination. The stitches are silver, and the seams beneath them appropriately dark. Articulation is the DC Direct standard - neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. As usual, there's no reason why he couldn't have a waist, but the addition of ankles gives him enough stability for a few different poses.
When this figure was announced, I thought it would end up being part 6 of "DC Direct schools Mattel," our continuing comparison of the ways in which even a company new to the world of toys can outpace the industry's old guard by making good decisions, but instead it seems that Mattel got tired of having its butt whupped. These are both good figures, definitely worth owning, but Mattel's Scarecrow has the obvious edge. One's cartoony, one's more realistic, but the only thing that DC did indisputably better than Mattel was make sure that fans could actually find their version when they wanted it.
What mental block keeps Jeph Loeb from writing Scarecrow well? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.