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Batman: The Animated Series – When the Dark Knight Met His Idol

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Batman: The Animated Series – When the Dark Knight Met His Idol

Continuity Notes

For unknown reasons, Rick Burchett seemed think the Gray Ghost wears a bald cap when penciling Batman Adventures #14.

Unfortunately, the Batman Adventures issue also made the mistake of referencing the eighteenth episode of the Gray Ghost’s show as “Waxworks of Woe,” when the original “Beware the Gray Ghost” informs us that the eighteenth episode of the series was known as “The Mad Bomber” — the episode Batman is on a quest to find. Since “Beware the Gray Ghost” was also the eighteenth episode of Batman, this is likely what Slott was referencing, forgetting that the producers had already chosen that number.

For the record, here are the (legible) titles of previous Gray Ghost episodes, as seen on the tapes in Simon Trent’s collection:

  • “Have A Heart”
  • “Red Ghost Run”
  • “The Claw”
  • “Take A Hike”
  • “One On One”
  • “Dr. Death”
  • “Jimmy’s Homecoming”
  • “The Doll Maker”
  • “Gray Ghost Returns”
  • “Missing Link”
  • “The Card Shark”
  • “Spy Smashers”
  • “The Secret Chamber”
  • “The Road Trip”
  • “Terror in the Sky”
  • “Earthquake”
  • “Sweet Revenge”
  • “The Mad Bomber”
  • “Electronic Man”
  • “Sweating Bullets”

Hey, I Know That Voice

Adam West isn’t the only famous guest to appear in this episode. Series co-creator and father of the DCAU Bruce Timm provides the voice of Ted Dymer, a.k.a. the Mad Bomber. He’s also the inspiration for the character’s visuals. Timm has actually played numerous small parts in various DCAU cartoons, but this is his largest role.

Over the Kiddies’ Heads

Not only would children not be able to fully grasp adult memories of an obscure piece of childhood entertainment, but no kid today would understand the quest Bruce Wayne undergoes to find copies of the Gray Ghost television show. Any kid watching this episode today is surely streaming the video, and questioning just why Bruce is driving around town, searching for something he can easily pull up on his tablet.

Battle of the Ghosts

“Real to Reel” is a treat for Batman fans with fond memories of “Beware the Gray Ghost.” It’s also a way to draw together two separate threads of continuity, and do one final story focusing on Clayface’s showbiz career. The story leans more into camp than its animated predecessor, playing off Adam West’s unique line deliveries (with the expectation that the reader can mentally fill in that voice), and creating a more absurd idea of what the Gray Ghost TV show was like. It’s fun, but not that deep. Fans tend to view it as an unexceptional entry in an otherwise incredible run.

“Beware the Gray Ghost” is notable for not taking the obvious route of portraying Gray Ghost as a typical 1960s camp figure. (And the score by Carl Johnson is a work of art, perfectly capturing the sound of a bombastic movie serial, and then growing somber during Simon Trent’s moments alone.) Although a hypothetically thirty-five year old Batman in the early ’90s would’ve been a kid in the Batman ’66 era, representing the 1960s pop art movement just wouldn’t work with the show’s design sense. Since the world of Batman: The Animated Series is sort of today and sort of yesterday, it’s fitting that Bruce’s childhood hero is from the same era that inspired Bill Finger and Bob Kane to conceive of Batman in the first place. And while West’s voice will always evoke Batman, he’s legitimately convincing as a 1940s-era movie serial star. “Beware the Gray Ghost” is a genuinely touching episode, and one of Adam West’s most significant contributions to the Batman mythos.

That’s all for this week. Special thanks to the World’s Finest crew for research assistance. If you have any suggestions for future installments, just leave a comment or contact me on Twitter.

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