Batman The Animated Series: Beware the Gray Ghost

"When crime haunts the night a silent crusader carries the torch of justice. Those with evil hearts beware for out of the darkness comes the Gray Ghost."

With 'Beware the Gray Ghost', the makers of Batman: The Animated Series pay loving tribute to the man who helped turn the Caped Crusader into the global cultural icon he is today.

Gotham is terrorised by a series of bomb attacks being carried out by a figure calling himself the Mad Bomber. While investigating, Batman soon discovers a link between the Mad Bomber and his favourite TV show as a child, The Grey Ghost. To find the Mad Bomber and stop the attacks, he teams up with the man who played the Grey Ghost, Simon Trent, now a washed up actor unable to escape typecasting and reduced to selling all his old merchandise just to pay his rent.

In an inspired piece of casting, Trent is voiced by none other than Adam West, TV's most famous Batman. It really isn't hard to see the similarities between West and Trent. Both played costumed heroes on TV and then struggled to escape typecasting once their respective shows ended, although West never suffered the same financial strains as Trent due to the success of his show in syndication. Makes you wonder why Trent held on to the tapes of his show as long as he did. Dude was sitting on a goldmine.

This entire episode is really just one big thank you from the producers to West. They were obviously people who grew up with him as Batman and didn't want to be counted among those who were quick to reject his colourful Caped Crusader in favour of Burton's brooding Dark Knight. 'Beware the Gray Ghost' was their way of telling their childhood hero, through Batman no less, that what he did was important for them. He was their hero and still is.

But this episode is more than just a tribute to West. It's also a love letter to the heroes of 1930s pulp novels and radio dramas that inspired Batman, such as The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Phantom Detective, as well as the classic adventure serials that the character made his first live action appearances in.They, along with West, are what helped make Batman the character we all know and love. And I think it is just wonderful that this is just as true inside the show as it is outside of it.


Comic Book Connections

There have been two characters named the Gray Ghost in DC Comics. The first, created by Michael Fleisher and Tony DeZuniga, was a 19th century villain, described as the sworn enemy of all those that betrayed the Confederacy, and first appeared in Jonah Hex #85 (June, 1984). The character was likely based on Major John Singleton Mosby, a Virginia officer in the Confederate Army, whose nickname was "Gray Ghost". There was a TV series in the 1950s based on Mosby's life called The Gray Ghost. It was cancelled after one season. The second, created by Bryan Q. Miller and Lee Garbett, was Clancy Johnson and first appeared in Batgirl Vol 3 #9 (June, 2010). He was a mentally unstable small time crook who was inspired by Batgirl to become a hero and adopted the Gray Ghost persona. Simon Trent was incorporated into the main comics in Gotham Academy #4 (March, 2015). This Trent is a retired actor, best known for playing the Gray Ghost on TV, who teaches drama at Gotham Academy.

I Know That Voice

As well as being Batman, West was best known for playing a crazed version of himself on Family Guy. He sadly passed away in 2017. Ted Dymer/The Mad Bomber was voiced by Bruce Timm and even designed to resemble him. Make of that what you will.

Notes and Quotes

--In the final scene, the issue of People Weekly with Simon Trent on the front cover is dated October 19, 1992. It also mentions Matt Hagen, who would later become the villain Clayface. For some reason, the mention of Hagen was removed for the show's Blu-Ray release.


--Gotham City doesn't have colour TV, but it has VHS?

--Love Alfred tutting at the video store's dust and then cleaning it up. You can take the butler out of the mansion...


--The Mad Bomber's explosive remote control toy cars are very similar to what was used in a scene in the last Dirty Harry film, The Dead Pool.

--It's also nice to see some flashbacks to Bruce's childhood that aren't centred around his parent's death.

--The studio that produced The Gray Ghost was called Spectrum, which was also the name of one of the animation studios that worked on the series. They were credited with the animation on this episode, but it was actually carried out by Studio Dust. And they did a pretty great job of it too.


Batman: "I used to admire what the Gray Ghost stood for."
Trent: "I'm not the Gray Ghost!"
Batman: "I can see that now."

Bruce: "So many actors..."
Alfred: "I wish I knew the one you're looking for, Master Bruce, but I don't watch television. I prefer my fireplace."

Bruce: "You know, as a kid I used to watch you with my father. The Gray Ghost was my hero."
Gray Ghost: "Really?"
Bruce: "And he still is."

Four out of four dearly missed childhood heroes.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

3 comments:

Patrick said...

This was always one of my favorites when Batman TAS was on television. Getting Adam West for the role was sublime casting. The sincerity in both Kevin's and Adam's performances elevated the episode beyond what could've been a cheap stunt into a moving tribute. Without spoiling anything, there's a fun little nod to the Grey Ghost in an episode of Batman Beyond, as well.

sunbunny said...

This is a really good one, although it does involve a truly superhuman feat of memory from Brucey.

Chris said...

I wish I grew up with the Adam West show, so I could enjoy the nostalgia of this one a little more. It's still very enjoyable and it's nice to see Bruce just as a normal kid, idealizing some fictional hero. It humanizes him a lot.