Lawrence Cranston, a law school classmate of Matthew Murdock (Daredevil), hated Murdock ever since he was defeated by him in a mock trial as an underclassman. Cranston, who suspected that Murdock was secretly Daredevil, once overheard Daredevil's enemy, Samuel "Starr" Saxon force the original Mister Fear, Zoltan Drago, to reveal the location of his costume and gun. Once he had the information, Saxon shot Drago in cold blood. Saxon assumed the Mister Fear identity until he was defeated by Daredevil, apparently killed. Cranston masqueraded as a relative of Saxon and obtained a court order allowing him custody of the Mister Fear costume and equipment. When both Murdock and Daredevil had moved to San Francisco, Cranston believed his suspicious had been confirmed. As a partner in the law firm of Broderick, Sloan, and Cranston, Lawrence convinced his partners to hire Murdock as an associate. Cranston used the job to get close to Murdock so he could ambush him. However, Daredevil recognized the scent of the fear gas, enabling him to avoid its effects. Daredevil unmasked Cranston as Mister Fear; Cranston leapt off the building to escape. However, Cranston had left behind his jets and fell to his apparent death.
Upon what appeared to be Cranston's demise, the Mister Fear outfit came into the possession of Cranston's nephew, Alan Fagan, a wealthy businessman. Cranston had somehow survived his fall, and later was secretly living as a professor at Columbia University Law School under the assumed name Harold Cranstone. There he used his fear gas to take vengeance on the faculty members who had overlooked him as a student. As Mister Fear, he kidnapped Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich and held him alongside the kidnapped faculty members in order to draw Daredevil into a trap. Daredevil defeated Mister Fear, and freed his hostages, but Cranston escaped capture, and returned to Columbia to teach as Cranstone.
Cranston secretly continued to plot against Daredevil, sending agents such the manic woman Insomnia and the mentally controlled Molten Man against him. Mister Fear then led Murdock to Ryker's Island where Fear initiated a violent revolt, and then sent a new Gladiator against him. Another of Mister Fear's pawns, Victor Grazia, rebelled against Fear, and used a fire hose against the Gladiator enabling Daredevil to gain the upper hand. Meanwhile, Mister Fear escaped capture, breaking out the psychopathic criminal, Charles Boroughs.
Under Cranston's guidance, Boroughs went on a killing spree, eventually stalking Murdock's legal secretary, Karen Page, until she was forced to kill him in self-defense. Cranston arranged for Page to he framed for Borough's murder, but Murdock got the charges against Karen dropped when Daredevil linked Mister Fear to the crime. Escaping capture yet again, Cranston still lives his secret life as a professor, waiting for the right time to strike again. He has also been seen frequently at the Bar with No Name.
Recently Cranston has explored other scents beyond just fear. He empowered Lily Lucca, (who was employed by Vanessa Fisk) with a "Memory Scent" that reminds men of their greatest love. For Daredevil, the smell reminded him of Karen Page. Lucca later sought Murdock's help to remove the scent. Mister Fear employed Turk Barrett and the Enforcers to distribute street drugs and then lured Daredevil into a trap where he exposed him to a new drug causing hallucinations. After Daredevil escaped the hallucinations, Cranston was confronted by the Hood, and Cranston explained that he had started a war with the Hood for the single reason of getting at Daredevil. After being defeated by Daredevil in combat, Cranston confesses to drugging Melvin Potter and Daredevil's wife Milla. However, Cranston does not care about going to prison, because the "Memory Scent" he used on Lily Lucca was now on himself, and he could persuade anyone in the prison to do whatever he wanted.