As a boy, Jonathan Crane had been his father's guinea pig in his experiments with fear. While his father saw the relationship as one of mutual exploration, his lack of compassion and empathy with regard to the horrors and pain that he put Jonathan through left the boy jaded with an implacable desire to please his abuser.
Now, Jonathan Crane is the Scarecrow, and he has captured, finally, the Batman. The Batman will become his guinea pig for explorations in fear. He readily admits that his kidnapping of Commissioner Gordon was merely bait for getting the bat to come to him. With his prey already dosed heavily with fear toxin, Scarecrow holds up a mirror, urging the Batman to recollect his past, despite the fact that the past is familiar territory. He promises that this experiment will be more than a simple retread. In any case, he doesn't care what Batman sees; only how it makes him feel.
Bruce remembers his childhood, and the moment when he was terrified by a swarm of bats after falling into a disused well on the family estate. His mother had comforted him, reminding him that fear is just a part of being human. Bruce's father held a less sympathetic position. Hoping to please his father, Bruce had tried to explain that he wasn't really as scared as he seemed. At the time, Thomas Wayne had been too busy to listen, as he and Martha were going to the opera - leaving Bruce at home by himself again. He had learned, eventually, to take the pain of that loneliness and swallow it whole; make it his own.
The next week, Bruce and his parents had gone to the Monarch Theatre for a showing of The Mark of Zorro. The film's violence had been more than Bruce could handle, and he turned to his mother and admitted he was frightened. Sternly, his father had taken his hand and led them out of the theatre before crouching down before his son, and explaining that he would have to learn not to be afraid of everything. Young Bruce could only say he was sorry. Not long afterwards, it was Bruce crouching over the corpses of his parents, after they had been murdered in the alleys of Park Row.
Stretching his willpower, Batman begins questioning Scarecrow about his past. Crane claims that he has put his past to rest in the same way that Batman has. He recalls internally having tried to escape his father's home, and then being frightened by a murder of crows. He developed a stutter which made him a target for mockery. He felt so alone, but, like Bruce, he had taken what he was given, and swallowed it whole - until it was his. He became a professor of psychology, and when he spotted an opportunity to do further experiments in fear, his methods were misunderstood. He was fired, and set up a private practice, hoping that a one-on-one situation might suit his methods better. However, it had only led him to exercise murderous tendencies.
He gave up, returning to his father's home, and embraced the role of the scarecrow; his true self. Still practice made perfect, and practice he did. After all this, Scarecrow believes that he understands Batman. The vigilante fears nothing but fear itself, but while the Scarecrow has mastered fear, Batman still runs from it.
While conducting research, Scarecrow is troubled by questions from the young girl he kidnapped recently. When she hears his stutter, she comments that she once had one herself, but learned that it was just something that made her special. Angrily, he snaps that she should keep her observations to herself, lest he make her regret them.
Scarecrow returns to torturing Batman, conjuring images of home and family, loved ones, the city he loves. Batman notices that each of these things looks entirely normal to him. Scarecrow explains that that is exactly his point. Even with its great protector gone, the city goes on. Nobody will be waiting to welcome him back. All of the distance that he put between himself and the things that he loves has resulted in those things being relatively unmoved by his absence. This, Scarecrow muses, is what Batman wants: not to exist - which means not to feel loss, pain, or fear.
Bruce recalls having returned to the Manor after his parents' murder. With his mother's words of comfort resonating in his mind, Bruce ran back to the hole he had fallen into, and leapt down into it. Standing there, the bats swarmed around him, but Bruce did not fear them. His mother had said "It's part of being human," but what if Bruce didn't want to be human anymore?
- Scarecrow (Flashback and Main Story)
- Scarecrow's Father (In Flashback Only)
- James Gordon
- Thomas Wayne (In Flashback Only)
- Martha Wayne (In Flashback Only)
- Mad Hatter (In Flashback Only)
- Two-Face (In Flashback Only)
- Killer Croc (In Flashback Only)
- The Joker (In Flashback Only)
- Mr. Freeze (In Flashback Only)
- The Penguin (In Flashback Only)
- Clayface (In Flashback Only)
- Alfred Pennyworth
- Damian Wayne
- Natalya Trusevich