Raised by an alcoholic mother who beat him viciously, Ebenezer would be rewarded afterwards when his mother's guilt drove her to give him presents. Learning that rewards followed punishment, Ebenezer began deliberately misbehaving to receive beatings. Growing into a socially stunted young man, the abnormally flexible and agile Ebenezer worked as sideshow "rubberman" Umberto the Uncanny. When Iron Man chased a criminal into Umberto's stage show, Ebenezer acrobatically subdued the thief as a publicity stunt. Realizing the criminal potential of his abilities, Umberto stole a flock of trained birds from a fellow performer to assist him in his new costumed criminal guise as the Scarecrow. After defeats at the hands of Iron Man and Spider-Man, Scarecrow took part in an unsuccessful mass super-villain attack on the wedding of Reed and Sue Richards. Next, he joined the Maggia under Count Nefaria, battling the X-Men alongside Eel, Plantman, Porcupine and Unicorn.
The Cowled Commander later had Scarecrow and his partners spread chaos to emphasize the need for a stronger police force, but they were defeated by Captain America and Falcon, sparking Scarecrow's obsessive hatred of the Captain. Placed in solitary confinement for nearly a year after another unsuccessful clash with Captain America, the already unstable Scarecrow snapped. Upon escaping, he went on a killing spree until Captain America captured him. Imprisoned in the Vault, where Hawkeye and Iron Man recaptured him during a mass breakout, Scarecrow eventually escaped and committed further serial slayings, seeking to "free the fear" within his victims, but he was defeated by Ghost Rider (Daniel Ketch). Left for dead, Scarecrow was rescued by the shadowy organization the Firm, who instilled in him the ability to feed off fear, after which he again battled Captain America.
Dying in another battle with Ghost Rider, Scarecrow was resurrected by the demon Blackheart, who sent Ebenezer's bodiless spirit to possess the dead body of Barbara Ketch, sister of Ghost Rider's human host. Following a harrowing battle, Scarecrow's soul was once again cast into Hell. Somehow returning to physical life, Scarecrow battled the Falcon before being sent to the Raft super-prison, where he escaped during a recent massive breakout. He was hired by the Chameleon to serve within his team, the Exterminators, seeking vengeance against Spider-Man after his secret identity was made public.