Batman: Fear State Alpha just revealed which Gotham City villain is the smartest, at least in the eyes of the Dark Knight’s most fearsome foe.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Batman: Fear State Alpha, on sale now from DC Comics.
Gotham City has no shortage of iconic villains for Batman to face. Over the years, criminals such as the Joker, the Riddler and the various members of the Suicide Squad have become as recognizable as the Dark Knight and have played larger roles in the greater DC Universe. Although the villains of Gotham work together when they have to it is rare for them to compliment each other, but Scarecrow just crowned the Mad Hatter as the smartest criminal in the city.
With Joker on the run after the notorious A-day Massacre at Arkham Asylum, Scarecrow has become one of the foremost villains operating in Gotham City, and he seems primed to make the most of his time in the spotlight. The much anticipated Batman: Fear State Alpha (by James Tynion IV, Riccardo Federici, Chris Sotomayor and Clayton Cowles) begins with a flashback to a conversation between Simon Saint and Jonathan Crane- the Scarecrow- who was still an inmate at Arkham Asylum at the time. When Saint asks Crane what he would need to bring his “Fear State” to fruition, he makes it clear that he needs Mad Hatter’s mind-control technology. Crane even goes so far as to say that Mad Hatter is “Six times smarter than any of the usual costumed coterie in Gotham.”
Mad Hatter, also known as Jervis Tetch, first appeared in 1948’s Batman #49 (by Bill Finger and Lew Sayre Schwartz) and he has been an unsettling presence in Gotham ever since. Tetch has always been obsessed with Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland and has modelled his villainous alter ego after the Hatter featured in Carroll’s books. As Scarecrow points out, Mad Hatter is a strange, childish man whose penchant for petty crime has landed him in Arkham Asylum on numerous occasions. But in spite of his madness, Tetch is also a neuroscientist and inventor who uses a variety of hats to control the behavior of others and enhance certain feelings in himself and others.
Though hats are his trademark, the mad scientist has never limited himself to one type of mental manipulation technology. In Andersen Gabrych, Chris Marrinan, Andrew Pepoy, Alex Sinclair and Pat Brosseau’s Batman #642, Tetch distills his technology into a single chip that he inserts directly into Killer Croc’s brain. The Hatter then used the tech to coerce Croc into helping him rob a bank. Had the Mad Hatter had more sinister intentions, he could have easily caused irreparable damage all over Gotham City.
It is particularly impressive that Scarecrow of all people acknowledges Mad Hatter’s intelligence because he has personally fallen prey to Tetch’s nefarious technology. In Gerry Conway, Don Newton, Alfredo Alcala, Adrienne Roy and Ben Oda’s Detective Comics #526 Scarecrow is rendered speechless and catatonic by one of Mad Hatter’s hats until Tetch uses the same device to command him to attack Talia al Ghul.
Since their run-in, Scarecrow and Mad Hatter certainly haven’t become friends, but it is clear that Scarecrow respects the bizarre villain’s intellect and ingenuity. While Crane appears to be the undisputed mastermind behind the chaos of Fear State, Mad Hatter’s contribution won’t go unnoticed. Even though Jervis Tetch is not a top-tier rogue, he does have a laundry list of heinous accomplishments and inventions that have managed to impress the Scarecrow, one of Batman’s most formidable villains.
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