"Beware the Gray Ghost" is the thirty-second episode of Batman: The Animated Series. It first aired on November 4, 1992. It is noteworthy for featuring Adam West, most famous for his portrayal of Batman in the 1960s, as the lead guest star.
In flashback, a young Bruce Wayne is watching an episode of his favorite show, The Gray Ghost. Cutting between the past and the present, the same thing is seen happening in the present as in the episode: A whirring sound is heard, followed by a massive explosion that destroys a building. The police receive a ransom note, signed "The Mad Bomber". In the show, the Gray Ghost is shown jumping off a neighboring building to investigate, while in the present Batman does exactly the same thing.
Batman sees the connection, but does not remember the end of the episode, since he fell asleep before it was over. Bruce Wayne tries to find a tape of the show, but is told that it is impossible to find, as the prints were lost in a studio fire. Looking up the show at the library, Bruce finds Simon Trent, the actor who played the Gray Ghost is still alive, and is living in Gotham.
An elderly Trent lives in a seedy apartment, with his landlord demanding the unpaid rent. Trent gets a call from his agent, and finds he has been rejected for another part. He has been unable to get work since his glory days as the Gray Ghost, due to being typecast. In despair, Trent trashes his apartment in a rage. Fed up with his Gray Ghost memorabilia, he takes it all to a toy store, selling it for as much as the owner, Ted Dymer, is willing to pay.
Trent returns home and falls asleep. When he wakes up all his stuff has been returned, and a note from Batman is attached to his Gray Ghost costume, summoning Trent to a meeting.
Trent shows up and Batman asks for his help regarding the show's "Mad Bomber" episode. Trent, having made so many episodes that aired a long time ago, doesn't remember any of the details. He angrily tells Batman to leave him alone, but then the same whirring noise is heard, and the Gotham Bank explodes. Batman goes to investigate, while Trent runs back to his home.
When Trent arrives, Batman is already there. Before Trent can call the police, Batman shows him the ransom note. Having remembered the episode, Trent opens his closet and reveals old film reels, a complete collection of "The Gray Ghost". He gives Batman the episode, and asks to be left in peace.
Bruce watches the episode at home, and discovers the source of the whirring noise: Radio-controlled toy cars, carrying explosives. Forewarned, he and the police to lie in wait at the next target, the Gotham Library. As a set of cars speed toward the library, one is destroyed by a police sniper, another by Batman with a flamethrower. The last car breaks off and Batman pursues it into an alley. At the end of the alley, he finds the car is a decoy, and turns to see another trio of cars racing toward him.
Batman is trapped, but then a rope falls from above, and Batman climbs it just as the cars crash and explode. Reaching the top, Batman finds Trent, dressed in full costume as the Gray Ghost. Batman gives him the toy car, which Trent identifies as an authentic piece of Gray Ghost merchandise. Batman invites the Gray Ghost to help him. Trent reluctantly agrees, but then another set of toy cars appear. Both heroes jump into the Batmobile and speed away, managing to evade the trap and detonate the cars harmlessly.
Batman takes the Gray Ghost to the Batcave. The Gray Ghost notices its similarity to the "Gray Ghost Lair" from the TV show. Batman also reveals a special corner where he still keeps some Gray Ghost merchandise from his childhood as a shrine to the hero. Batman tells Trent he watched the show as a child, and that the Gray Ghost was an inspiration to him. Trent realizes just how big a difference the show made to someone.
Batman scans the car for fingerprints, and finds Trent's on it. Batman turns and confronts him. Trent swears he's innocent, as he sold his toy cars months ago... meaning the Mad Bomber is Ted, the toy collector.
Batman confronts Ted, who is obsessed with toys, and needs the money to buy more. Ted traps Batman with a ring of toy cars, but then Trent appears in costume and takes him down. A fire starts, and they escape the building before an explosion destroys the toy shop. Ted cries for the loss of his toys and is taken into police custody.
Trent is hailed as a hero, and his career is restarted by the release of "The Gray Ghost" on video and broadcast television. Trent has been offered a part in a film, and his merchandise is now highly valuable. While signing autographs at a convention, he is approached by Bruce Wayne, who says that he used to watch "The Gray Ghost" with his father, and the Gray Ghost was his hero... and he still is. Having heard these same words from Batman, Trent seems to suspect who Bruce Wayne really is, which he acknowledges with a smile.
- Bruce still keeps his Gray Ghost merchandise in the Batcave at the time of Batman Beyond, 50 years in the future. In "Black Out", he dons his old hat and goggles as a disguise to shield his identity from Inque when she infiltrates the cave.
- The release of the series on video appears to have revived an interest in the character; the film "The Gray Ghost Strikes Again!" would be made in the future, seen in the theater by the young Terry McGinnis and his parents, as seen in Justice League Unlimited, "Epilogue".
Home video releases
- The Adventures of Batman & Robin: Batman (VHS)
- Batman: The Animated Series, Volume One (DVD)
- Batman: The Complete Animated Series (DVD)
- There is some ambiguity surrounding this episode's title. On the title card, it's spelled "Beware the Gray Ghost". On the box of the original VHS release, it was called "Beware the Grey Ghost". The box of the DVD release calls it "Beware of the Gray Ghost", and that DVD's menu refers to it as "Beware of Gray Ghost".
- Alfred's moustache is white in this episode, while in all the others, it is black.
- Ted Dymer is visually based on and voiced by series producer Bruce Timm. The video store clerk resembles Paul Dini, Timm's writing partner, who was quite heavy at the time (it is said he was inspired to lose weight after seeing himself caricatured as such on Tiny Toon Adventures).
- Ted Dymer himself appears to be the basis for The Batman villain Cosmo Krank, aka Toymaker.
- Adam West, who voices the Gray Ghost, played Batman in the 1960s. Timm and Dini have stated that they wanted West from the beginning to voice Simon Trent, and they would not have done the episode had he refused, since they feared he would be offended by an animated parody of his typecasting. West, however, was happy to voice the character; it has brought him newfound respect among Batman fans.
- Although Adam West had a reasonable career following his stint on Batman (he was paid in royalties and does voice-work in animation), Simon Trent's financial troubles mirror those of Al Hodge, the actor who played the lead role in Captain Video and His Video Rangers in the 1940s. Don Hasting, Bob Hastings' younger brother, played the Video Ranger, Captain Video's young sidekick.
- The Gray Ghost's appearance is very similar to the Golden Age superhero The Sandman, The Spirit, and the pulp magazine hero The Shadow.
- The Gray Ghost poster that shows a giant version of the hero standing above skyscrapers is homage to the Shadow pulp cover for the story "Shadowed Millions".
- The poster in the shrine in the Batcave features the Gray Ghost holding his cape the same way as the Batman: The Animated Series logo.
- The Gray Ghost episode "The Mad Bomber" was episode 18. This episode of Batman is also episode 18 (production-wise).
- Another episode is labeled Dr. Death, which is also the name of one of Batman's first villains from the comics.
- Another episode is called "Terror in the Sky", which is also the name of a Batman: The Animated Series episode.
- A poster at the signing event mentions Matt Hagen, who would later become the villain Clayface. This is his first appearance.
- In the final scene, the issue of People depicting Simon Trent on the front cover is dated October 19, 1992.
- West performed a similar self-parody on an episode of Disney's Kim Possible, voicing a retired actor famous for his role as crime fighter "The Fearless Ferret". Not knowing that the Ferret was just a television character, he passes on his costume to Kim's sidekick, Ron Stoppable (voiced by Will Friedle, who voices Terry McGinnis on Batman Beyond). Similarly, in that episode Ron's forays into crime fighting are monitored by West's character over the radio, in the same fashion that Bruce Wayne monitors Terry as the new Batman.
- The Mad Bomber's remote control toy car explosives are very similar to what was used in a scene in the film The Dead Pool from the Dirty Harry series. Like this episode, the film featured a mysterious villain who monitored the cars' movements when attacking the hero.
- The Gray Ghost is alluded to in the 2015 video game Batman: Arkham Knight, through posters of a film titled The Ghost in Gray. Simon Trent appears on the poster as the Gray Ghost.
|Kevin Conroy||Bruce Wayne / Batman|
|Bob Hastings||Commissioner Gordon|
|Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.||Alfred|
Piedmont Police Chief (uncredited)
|Mari Devon||Summer Gleeson|
|Bruce W. Timm||Ted Dymer|
|Adam West||Simon Trent / The Gray Ghost|
Simon Trent: (To an old Gray Ghost poster, after selling all of his memorabilia) Well, old friend, you've paid the rent for the last time...
Batman: I used to admire what the Gray Ghost stood for.
Batman: Time to put your toys away, little man.
Bruce: You know, as a kid I used to watch you with my father. The Gray Ghost was my hero.