As a warm-up, I read back over Detective Comics #36, 46, & 471-472, the Hugo Strange story from Batman #1, and Batman and the Monster Men #1-6. Now that I’ve finished “Prey,” I’m reading over its direct sequel, “Terror” (LOTDK #137-141), which is also a sequel to Doug Moench’s Scarecrow origin story in Batman Annual #19.
“Prey” is predominantly inspired by Steve Englehart’s characterization of Hugo Strange from the aforementioned 'Tec #472, where the deranged doctor dons the cape and cowl after capturing Batman and discovering his true identity. Moench had already written a Hugo Strange story in the barely pre-Crisis Batman Annual #10, so it’s unsurprising that his work in this book most closely resembles the Bronze Age version of the character. Very little is taken from his early appearances other than his supposed death (which takes its cue from Strange’s fall-to-possible-death fates from 'Tec #36 & 46). “Terror,” on the other hand, seems to be a conscious effort to update 'Tec #46, where Strange uses a fear gas about 2/3 of a year before the introduction of the Scarecrow.
The relationship between “Prey” and Batman and the Monster Men is a bit, well, strange. Both “Prey” and its sequel were written years before Matt Wagner wrote BATMM (though Wagner made his first contribution to LOTDK, “Faces,” about a year after the last issue of “Prey”). Despite the fifteen-year gap between the publications, Monster Men still does treat “Prey” as semi-canonical. In fact, the last issue of Wagner’s book leads directly into the opening of LOTDK #11. However, Wagner establishes that Batman had just faced off against Hugo Strange, while “Prey” gives no indication that the characters had ever met previously. (To be fair, they never actually say outright that they HAVEN’T met, but the intention is obvious.) Also, Bruce makes a Batmobile near the end of BATMM, and he’s already making a new one in the first issue of “Prey.” Slow it down, Wayne!
I’ll admit that I have mixed feelings about both Moench’s and Wagner’s attempts at a first appearance of post-Crisis Hugo Strange, and I think Moench did much better with his sequel. Granted, the character’s original debut wasn’t the greatest Golden Age story either: his scheme is to create fake fog so that his cronies can rob some banks, and Batman inexplicably already thinks of him as “the most dangerous man in the world” before even facing him. His next two appearances were a vast improvement, and it’s no wonder that these authors took their cues from those stories and from Strange Apparitions when reviving the character.
I just wish that I could honestly say that either of these reboots were more than just decent. “Prey” gets really sidetracked with a vigilante cop subplot and a rather pointless series of Catwoman cameos (which seem to be there simply to serve as a callback to Year One), while Monster Men feels like it owes as much to Mask of the Phantasm as it does the original monster men story from Batman #1.