Jeph Loeb and the late Tim Sale are a legendary team in the history of comics. But while The Long Halloween is their most popular collaboration, my favorite of their Batman comics is actually “Fears,” the first story in the collection Haunted Knight. I love the theme of Bruce dealing with whether or not he has a choice to live this life as Batman and learning to live with the consequences of his choices.
So when Tim Maxwell at Neuverse Creative and I were discussing short audios for Christian Bale’s Batman, “Fears” came to mind. It was already influential on Batman Begins, so the tone was a natural fit for that world. The interrogation of Flass in the rain in the film is very similar to how Batman interrogates one of Scarecrow’s men here. And if that’s not enough evidence, the line “Dr. Crane isn’t here right now. But if you’d like to make an appointment…” is lifted from the comic version of “Fears” as well.
Scarecrow himself was more of a minor villain in Begins and then had cameos in the other two movies. It seemed that “Fears” could add more to the rivalry between Batman and Crane that we didn’t get to see.
The other aspect that was appealing to me was how Batman Begins ended with Gordon discussing how the Narrows was lost and that they needed to round up half of the Arkham inmates who were freed at the end. Apart from Scarecrow’s arrest in The Dark Knight, this was never really addressed in the sequels. So the universe was ripe for stories set between Begins and The Dark Knight that explored this period of time, especially since, as we learned in the final movie, Batman’s career ended after the second movie.
This also brought me back to the 2005-2008 era of speculating what stories could happen with the fear gas induced inmates running amok. While I know that the anime film Batman Gotham Knight was meant as an in-between-quel for Begins and Dark Knight, there wasn’t a lot that connected them and I thought this would be a closer approximation for a Batman-Scarecrow rematch.
As I went through “Fears,” I realized that it seemed a little extreme for Bruce to consider quitting the cowl and marrying a woman he just met. This, however, did seem to fit Bale’s Bruce Wayne, who was different from the comic book version in treating Batman as a temporary measure, rather than a lifelong crusade. The idea of him being tempted to quit so early in his career in this story, due to falling in love, arguably fits the Bale interpretation more than the traditional comic book one.
I was tempted to describe that Jonathan Crane had evolved more of his Scarecrow costume into something more traditional like the comics, though we’d need an explanation on why he reverted back to the mask and the suit by the time we got to The Dark Knight. I decided instead to just keep it ambiguous and let the reader imagine what Crane looked like in the story.
Another thing that didn’t make it: since Jillian Maxwell’s M.O. would classify her as a “black widow,” I considered hinting that her character would become the Nolanverse version of the Batman 66 character Black Widow, played by Tallulah Bankhead and that one of her aliases was Mrs. Max Black, like in the show. I decided to stick with the Jeph Loeb script instead, as Black Widow was older than Batman in the show and the characters don’t have that much more of a resemblance.
Out of the short stories I’ve written so far for Neuverse’s Batmen, this one probably required the least amount of tweaking to fit its universe. There are Dark Knight universe-specific moments, like Bruce hosting a party at the penthouse rather than Wayne Manor and Anna Ramirez replacing the cop at the rooftop from the comic. But overall, it didn’t need much change to fit into The Dark Knight Trilogy.