The Origin of Fear: Jones talks "Year One: Batman/Scarecrow"

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This summer the world will be introduced to the menace of Jonathan Crane AKA the Scarecrow. The Scarecrow is one of the villains Batman must contend with when the Dark knight returns to the silver screen in June with the eagerly anticipated "Batman Begins." Because he's a movie star, the Scarecrow is getting his own two issues prestige format series, but he must share the spotlight with his archenemy. The series, "Year One: Batman/Scarecrow," is by Bruce Jones and artist Sean Murphy begins in May. CBR News spoke to Jones via e-mail about the project.

"Batman/Scarecrow" came about when DC Comics decided they needed to update the origin of the Scarecrow. "Scarecrow is involved in the new Batman movie, so that gives our villain the high profile advantage movies give any character," Jones told CBR News. "Also, DC thought it was time to give one of their staple characters a bit of a fresh spin-a darker take than we'd seen previously. My writing has always been kind of down there in the cellar with the spiders and discarded roach husks. Matt Idleson called and asked if I'd be interested in giving it a shot. I was several issues into a 'Legends of the Dark Knight' arc for Joey Cavaleri at the time--beginning to feel my Batman oats--so the timing seemed right."

"Batman/Scarecrow" takes place early in the Dark Knight's career. Dick Grayson is Robin and he's still a teenager.

Jones used the Scarecrow's first appearance to assist him in updating the character's origin. "To some extent we started with a clean slate, without completely turning a deaf ear to continuity," Jones explained. "Scarecrow was originally conceived as part of the Batman mythos and Robin was part of that mythos so I knew I'd be working with both icons on the book. I took the basic structure of the first Scarecrow story in 'World's Finest,' used that as a springboard and tried to bring a fresh sensibility to the table. I also wanted to retain the noir feel that was the Batman verisimilitude from the beginning. The 'World's Finest' introduction to Scarecrow was somewhat simplistic, partly out of page count necessity and partly in keeping with story-telling techniques of the time. But from the beginning Scarecrow used psychology rather than muscle as his arsenal so I knew this wasn't going to be your typical slugfest. I wanted to show the underpinnings of Scarecrow's penchant for 'mind games'-their gestation-so I made his initial appearance take place literally from the womb, then began painting in his parents and immediate family and those things that shaped his formative years; the events responsible for forging his adult persona."

Family plays an important part in "Batman/Scarecrow." Jonathan Crane's relatives are huge a influence on him and his immediate family plays an important role in the book and, according to Jones, "…one elderly woman in particular."

Robin, one of Batman's closest family members also plays an important role in the story. "I tended to view Robin as a younger Batman in a different costume-- with the attendant adolescent mindset, of course," Jones said. "I tried to shy away from the old TV show 'this is my ward-this is my mentor' idiom which I thought we'd all seen. That's there, of course if you look for it, but I hope it comes through as an ongoing part of the narrative rather than a tacked-on afterthought. It's nice, because really what we get to see is Batman 'screwing up' as his younger self. Yet at the same time (there's a specific scene with a young woman Robin's age, for instance) we can also see that being young and brash can have its advantages. And Robin provided a good foil/analogy to the youthful Scarecrow, who occupies a good hunk of 'screen time.'"

Jones wanted "Batman/Scarecrow" to be more than your average first confrontation between a superhero and villain. "This is only my take on the mythos, but by trying to make the good guys as arresting as the villains (Disney said villains are why people go to movies), my hope was that Batman and Robin wouldn't come off as straight men to Scarecrow's stand-up, if you will," Jones said. "To that end I employed some analogous elements to the lives of both the heroes and villain. One way that can be effective is to point up things in a villain's character which make him empathetic to the reader, while at the same time allowing certain flaws in the hero's personality to show through, things you might ordinarily tend to play down. I deliberately exploited the childhood trauma in both characters' histories as metaphor, and as a way to dig deeper into their psyches. This became a kind of running motif. You want to create something that respects Kane's initial inspiration while dovetailing with modern concepts of who these characters are. It's a tightrope act. I'm not sure one ever feels completely comfortable walking it--someone's always going to take issue with your choices--but then, who but a very few ever achieve the perfect story?"

Jones described "Year One: Batman/Scarecrow" as a dark psychological tale, but is hesitant to call it horror. "I've given up trying to maintain any kind of meaningful modern definition of the word 'horror,'" Jones explained. "It's like the term '3D.' It used to mean the illusion of things jumping off a movie screen in stereo. Then it was the illusion of flat computer modeling made to look rounded. It's confusing, you know?"

Guiding Batman through the darkened streets of Gotham City was a delightful experience for Jones. "Matt Idleson and Dan Didio are a joy to work with. It was a lot of fun and I wouldn't at all mind doing another one someday," he said.

Jones has enjoyed working with DC and has a number of projects in the works for them. "I mentioned the 'Dark Knight' arc earlier. If I'm successful at getting a current pitch I'm working on past the front office, I'll be doing a DCU character that shares the same shadowed streets with Batman," Jones said. "I'm also doing my version of 'Deadman' for Vertigo, have completed my run on 'Vigilante' for Wildstorm, and I am in the running for several projects DC would probably just as well I didn't jump the gun by divulging."

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