By Andrew Kiess
Nothing to Fear is the third produced episode of Batman and premiered tenth on September 15, 1992. This episode was written by Henry Gilroy and Sean Catherine Derek, and was directed by Boyd Kirkland. It stared Kevin Conroy as Batman, Bob Hastings as Gordon, Clive Revill as Alfred, Robert Costanzo as Harvey Bullock, Mari Devon as Summer Gleeson, and Henry Pollic II as the Scarecrow.
I am fear incarnate. I am the terror of Gotham. I am the Scarecrow!
Nothing to Fear opens with an encounter between Dr. Long, a Gotham University professor, and Bruce Wayne. Dr. Long criticizes Wayne for failing to live up to his father’s name. While Summer Gleeson assures Bruce that Dr. Long was just blowing off steam because of a recent crime wave at the University, Bruce seems unconvinced, and is hurt by the comments. Later, he discovers the criminal responsible for the crimes, The Scarecrow, and attempts to put a stop to his reign of terror. However, Scarecrow has other plans in mind. Gassing Batman with his signature fear toxin, Batman begins to hallucinate about his greatest fear: failing his parents. Investigating the toxin, Bruce discovers the identity of Scarecrow to be a disgruntled professor of psychology, Dr. Jonathan Crane, and enters into his most personal battle yet.
I am vengeance. I am the night. I am Batman!
While the first two episodes of Batman had their bumps, Nothing to Fear is one of the series’ most iconic episodes. Most remember it for the quote above, this episode is the introduction of many of the elements that make Batman who he is. It is a succinct origin story wrapped around an exciting battle with one of Batman’s more unique adversaries. In many ways, this is Batman at its finest, and is the first of many to expand on the pathos of the characters that inhabit Gotham City.
Credit undoubtedly needs to go to director Boyd Kirkland, who would later go on to direct many fan favorite episodes, including Joker’s Favor, Joker’s Wild, Harley and Ivy, and It’s Never Too Late. Throughout many of Kirkland’s episodes, characters find themselves in positions that they normally would not face. Yes, this episode is “A Scarecrow episode”, but the real villain is Bruce’s insecurities, which is what makes it soar.
From a production stand point, Nothing to Fear is the first major success of Batman, and is the first in a long list of classic stories yet to be told. The camera work is precise and quick, the animation style continues the tradition of the Fleishcer 1940s Superman cartoons, and in many ways, emulates the look better than the episodes before it, particularly in the early scenes with Bruce and Dr. Long with the Art Deco design of the set. Overall, this is a classic episode and is what we as fans expect to see when we sit down to watch an episode Batman—quality storytelling, a compelling villain, and a hero overcoming obstacles in between him and the safety of the city and people he cares about.