Spoilers ahead for Batman: Fear State Alpha #1!
DC has confirmed that the Mad Hatter is Batman’s most underrated villain. In Batman: Fear State Alpha #1, on sale now in print and digital, the Scarecrow professes his admiration for the second-string villain, revealing that there is much more to the Mad Hatter than fans realize. And whether the Hatter knows it or not, his technology is about to help usher in a new era of terror for Gotham City.
The Mad Hatter first appeared in 1948’s Batman #49 and was created by writer Bill Finger and artist Lew Sayre Schwartz. The Mad Hatter is neuroscientist Jervis Tetch. Shunned by society due to his appearance, Tetch uses his scientific training to develop mind-control techniques that he uses to commit crimes. Interpretations of the Mad Hatter have varied over the years, from a harmless goofball to a cold-blooded, child-killing monster. However, he remains a minor member of Batman’s rogues’ gallery, even after appearing in various animated series and video games. There is vast potential in the Mad Hatter, and in Batman: Fear State Alpha #1, the Scarecrow reveals even he admires Tetch. The book is written by James Tynion IV, with art by Riccardo Federici, colors by Chris Sotomayor and letters by Clayton Cowles.
The issue opens with Simon Saint visiting Scarecrow at Arkham Asylum. Saint has read Scarecrow’s writings on the Fear State and wishes to help make it a reality. Saint is a powerful man, with billion-dollar defense contracts and contacts in every level of government, and Scarecrow agrees to help, on a couple of conditions. The first is he’s granted access to all of Mad Hatter’s mind-control technology, which he knows the FBI confiscates every time the villain is apprehended. Saint is surprised at the mention of the Hatter’s name, but Scarecrow assures Saint that the Mad Hatter, while childish in appearance, is six times smarter than the average villain. Scarecrow goes on to praise the Hatter’s understanding of human psychology and tells Saint that the Hatter’s technology is crucial to evolving his own work—and creating the Fear State.
The Scarecrow has recently undergone a terrifying upgrade. With Simon Saint’s resources at his disposal, the Scarecrow is finally ready to bring his nightmarish vision of the world to fruition. Yet in this issue, readers learn that a good portion of Scarecrow’s Fear State, which is coming together in the various Batman stories, is built on the work of the Mad Hatter. The Mad Hatter’s understanding of the human mind impresses even Scarecrow, who was eager to incorporate it into his own work.
The Mad Hatter has not been seen recently, so it is not known if he survived the attack on Arkham—or if he was even in Arkham Asylum at the time, meaning he may not know that his work has been co-opted by the Scarecrow. Despite establishing Mad Hatter’s reputation as Batman’s most underrated villain, he appears nowhere in Batman: Fear State Alpha #1, but the stage is now set for an epic return.