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The Scarecrow is a harbinger of Batman’s dystopian future in Fear State

Talk about a nightmare college professor

Batman and the Scarecrow in promotional art for Batman: Fear State Image: DC Comics

At out of the 2021 San Diego Comic-Con, DC Comics’ current Batman writer James Tynion IV talked about the evil doctor’s plans to bring fear to Gotham. In Fear State, the next crossover event to pull the whole Bat-family together to fight a single threat, Scarecrow sees Batman not as an obstacle, but an inspiration for his goals. “Through fear, Gotham can evolve,” said Tynion. “He wants to do to Gotham what it did to Batman.”

Counter to Scarecrow’s usual methods, he isn’t using his trademark fear toxin, which Tynion admits is something other writers have used as a crutch with the character. As a self-professed fan of the character, he found a new angle for the villain to take.

“He won’t use a drop of fear toxin,” Tynion promised, likening Scarecrow to a conductor in a “fear orchestra.” With help from Simon Saint — leader of a vigilante-hunting private military task force in the employ of Gotham’s government — it’s been easier than ever for Scarecrow to build up the city’s fear as it recovers from the Joker War. But it won’t be much of a double act for long: Tynion promises that Scarecrow is the big bad of Fear State, and the Peacekeepers will be as much of a victim as the city itself.

Tynion’s segment was included in a larger video featuring other writers of the Batman-adjacent books that will tie into Fear State. Detective Comics writer Mariko Tamaki focused on Gotham’s new mayor, Christopher Nakano, who allowed Simon Saint’s Peacekeepers to gain a foothold in the city. He has his own traumatic experience with Batman, though Tamaki wasn’t interested in labeling him a villain.

“Nakano and Bruce aren’t entirely dissimilar,” she said, pointing out their shared desire to improve Gotham. “Nakano is invested in justice, but in a limited vision of it.” In her eyes, the system he’s been brought up in has affected how he wants to improve the city, but she hopes that a forced reunion with Batman during Fear State will change his viewpoint.

No matter what happens, readers of DC’s Future State event know that eventually the Magistrate, a shadowy fascist figure, will turn Gotham into a cyberpunk dystopia and hunt down its vigilantes. That villain’s rise to power is already playing out in the pages of Catwoman, where high-tech police forces are deployed in Gotham’s Alleytown as a PR scheme by Nakano. “What he doesn’t realize is that things are about to go very wrong,” Catwoman writer Ram V warned.

When that happens, we’ll see the birth of a new Batman: Jace Fox, aka Lucius Fox’s estranged son. Jace will don the cowl in I Am Batman after previously debuting in Future State. Though his writer, John Ridley, was unable to make the panel, he did tease future developments for 2022. “It’ll change the Fox family, and maybe the DC universe forever,” Ridley said in a pre-recorded video.

Tim Fox as Batman (horizontal crop) Image: John Ridley/Nick Derington/Laura Braga/DC Comics

You can’t have an event with “fear” in the title and not dig into a character’s deepest worries. That’s where Harley Quinn and Catwoman come in. Ram V wanted to use Fear State to explore Selina’s worries of ending up alone, not her commitment issues, as her on/off relationship with Batman would have you think.

“She’s coming to the realization that it doesn’t matter if she’s a thief, hero, or something in between […] people tend to get hurt,” Ram acknowledged. But to him, she and Batman work so well because he’s one of the rare people who she doesn’t have to worry about being hurt.

Where Selina’s fears extend to those around her, Harley’s are all about herself. Harley Quinn writer Stephanie Phillips says she will delve into the reformed villain’s worries of failing to achieve redemption during Fear State.

“She’s really excited to prove herself,” hinted Phillips. But her past as the Joker’s partner makes that a much harder ask for the people of Gotham, even as she tries to be a street hero similar to Batman or his extended family. “You can still do everything right, and that doesn’t mean Gotham is going to love you,” warned Phillips.

With all that’s going on, Batman will need some help, and that’s where Nightwing comes in. The former Boy Wonder will come to Gotham after learning how not to handle things in his usual stomping grounds of Gotham’s sister city, Blüdhaven, according to writer Tom Taylor. During Fear State, he’ll be teaming up with Tim Drake and Barbara Gordon, who will suit up again as Batgirl for the event alongside her proteges Stephanie Brown and Cassandra Cain.

Dick Grayson, Robin, and Barbara Gordon discuss naming his rescued, three-legged puppy either Bitewing or Haley. “You’re telling the people in this room we can’t have two names?” Robin asks. Barbara is wearing a shirt with the Batman Slapping Robin meme on it, in Nightwing #81 (2021). Image: Tom Taylor, Bruno Redondo/DC Comics

But don’t expect Dick’s trusty dog, Bitewing, to show up in Fear State, something Taylor made very clear. “I’m not bringing a puppy to Gotham during this,” said Taylor, speaking for Dick. Bitewing will happily be watched by Dick’s neighbors, away from all the fear.

Fear State will begin properly with Batman: Fear State Alpha on Aug. 31.