I have long maintained that the best episode of the now classic Batman: The Animated Series is the Mr. Freeze story, “Heart of Ice.” It is not, however, my favorite episode of the show as that honor belongs to “Beware the Gray Ghost.” That episode introduced the character Gray Ghost, a superhero from television who was the in-universe inspiration for nearly every aspect of the Batman character. There’s a terrific sequence at the start of the episode where shots of young Bruce Wayne watching his favorite program are cut with acts of Batman in the present virtually mirroring his childhood idol. We’ll find out during the episode that not only are many of Batman’s mannerisms based on the character, but even the very layout of the Batcave. Turns out, Batman is just a nerd in a cape and shares more similarities with his audience than previously thought.
Peeling back some of the untold origins of the Batman character can certainly make an episode memorable, but what really makes “Beware the Gray Ghost” work is the casting of the Gray Ghost himself. In the show, the Gray Ghost was played by actor Simon Trent, who following his show’s cancellation found himself typecast and unable to find consistent work. He’s a Gotham resident and nearing the end of his rope as he’s forced to sell nearly every piece of memorabilia he saved from the show just to make rent. And playing Trent is none other than Adam West. Come 1992, when the episode first aired, West was quite similar to Trent in that he struggled to land big roles following his turn as the caped crusader in the 1960s television series Batman. His campy character had also been usurped by a more brooding Batman as seen in 1989’s Batman. West was viewed more as a punchline as a result, his Batman being a dork while Keaton’s was a brutal enforcer.
For those who worked on BTAS, that wasn’t the West they grew up with. For them, and even kids in 1992 like myself, West’s Batman was the first Batman we really knew. He wasn’t campy, he was smart, capable, and could kick the butt of any hoodlum thrown his way. It was only as we grew older that we realized what that show, and character, were aiming for. And it’s a great show! I recommend it to anyone. No, you’re not getting the same Batman Frank Miller wrote, but this is a character that’s been around for nearly 100 years and has had lots of contributing writers. There is no one Batman, no “best” Batman, just many Batmen. And this episode felt like the show trying to take that back, to shine a light on actor Adam West and provide almost a final say on that era of the character. We loved him as children, and we love him as adults. It’s a beautiful episode of the show and it’s only more poignant with West’s passing.
Because of my love for that episode, and that character, I was immediately drawn to the DC Collectibles Gray Ghost action figure from its line of figures based on Batman: The Animated Series. Even though it wasn’t a line I actively collected, I wanted to make an exception for this figure. I assumed I’d run into it eventually at a comic or collectibles store as one of my routines was to walk to a local one near my office in Boston, but I never did run into this figure. And once COVID arrived, I found myself working remotely and those casual strolls are long over. I sort of lost track of this one, but when I got the new Batman over the summer from the sequel line The Adventure Continues I was reminded that I really wanted a Gray Ghost to pair with it. Unfortunately, so did many others as after-market prices were ridiculous as DC Collectibles was folded and production ceased. A lot of the figures, especially the ones released late in the line, are now prohibitively expensive save for a select few. I kept my eye out for a deal, but honestly never really expected one to happen.
Fast-forward several months later, and a deal was found! Prices have been falling on Gray Ghost, maybe in anticipation of more re-releases, or maybe the COVID bubble is starting to burst on collectibles. Whatever the reason, I started seeing lots of “Buy It Now” listings on eBay just sit and finally a true auction came along and I was able to snag it! No, I didn’t pay retail for the figure, but I also didn’t pay triple retail. I paid enough though as this is a line that isn’t great. There are a lot of bad designs, many characters that look fine, but can’t move or function very well. Even that Batman I got over the summer is just “okay.” Aesthetically, it’s pretty great and in some respects I like it more than the far more expensive MAFEX Batman I bought around the same time, but he’s not very posable and feels a bit fragile. I certainly had concerns about Gray Ghost as a result, but the construction of the figure looked okay from a distance, and now I know for sure since I have it in-hand.
The Gray Ghost is depicted in his costume from “Beware the Gray Ghost” when Trent puts it on and helps Batman in solving the mystery of the mad bomber. Even though Trent was an older guy, he’s still in pretty great shape so his body shape is pretty much the same as Batman’s. Broad shoulders, long limbs, he looks like a guy who could handle himself in a fight. He also stands nearly as tall as Batman coming in at 6 1/8″ roughly, which is about an eighth of an inch shorter than the caped crusader.
As the name implies, the Gray Ghost is clad almost entirely in gray. His hat and cape are more of a slate gray, while the uniform is a paler gray and quite close in color to Batman’s uniform. He has black shoes and a black ribbon around the hat to go along with gray goggles that blend into his gray hair. It’s odd to see the hair and goggles painted in the same shade of gray, but the show looks to have done the same. The only other color on the figure is the flesh of his face and the blue on the lenses of the goggles. And that’s fine as it’s in keeping with the character’s look in the show which seemed to have a philosophy of “keep it simple, stupid” for animation reasons. The coat of the Gray Ghost is like a double-breasted coat without a collar. The buttoned portion is sculpted on the figure while the cape is laid over it and likely affixed with glue. The only other sculpted detail on the figure really are the folds in the bottom of the pants and the cuffs of the gloves. The face is done well as the designers captured his sunken cheeks and the lines around the mouth are sculpted in as well. He has a serious, almost grim, expression and it’s suitable for when he was stalking the night alongside Batman.
Because Gray Ghost is so lacking in color, DC Collectibles also could save money on paint. Basically, all of the paint is reserved for the head, which makes it hard to explain why my figure has some flesh colored paint near his right armpit. It’s on the front of the figure and kind of a bummer, but I’ve been able to scratch most of it away. I just don’t want to damage to figure underneath. Aside from that, what little paint is present is applied well enough. The painter just barely missed the sculpted outline of the goggles on the left side of the figure, but it’s only noticeable to someone really looking carefully. It wouldn’t surprise me if the cape is painted, but I don’t know for certain. You just may want to exercise caution when flexing it as it’s a soft, rubbery, cape.
Overall, I think this figure looks very good. Especially for this line and he fits in well with the Batman figure I already have. What usually concerns me about this line is durability and articulation. And when it comes to articulation, I am mostly concerned with the aesthetics of it and how it relates to the durability concerns. Thankfully, most of these concerns are for naught with this figure. Gray Ghost is fairly chunky and thus doesn’t feel particularly fragile. The only thing I don’t like is swapping hands as the pegs are small and have a snug fit. I worry about them breaking at the hinge more so than snapping. Otherwise, all of the other joints feel okay. They’re stiff and it was a little concerning out of the box as should I have broken anything it wasn’t like I could easily replace it, but no such breaks occurred.
In terms of points of articulation, Gray Ghost is fairly vanilla. He has a ball hinge at the head. It works fine, but considering that area is about the only paint on the figure you will want to make sure it’s not rubbing any part of the collar below. The shoulders are just ball-hinges and he can raise his arm out to the side just fine, but the cape will prevent him from being able to do Pete Townsend impressions. The elbows are single-hinges with swivels. They can get to about 90 degrees on a bend and look fine as he doesn’t have the weird elbow overhangs that Batman has. In the torso is nothing, as far as I know. The coat is rigid so I don’t think it’s an overlay and if there’s a waist twist or ball joint I can’t tell as the coat comes over the crotch. And at that crotch is one of those soft, plastic, “diaper” pieces that offers some flexibility, though you’re not likely to do much with the legs. They’re affixed via ball joints ditching those awful hinged things this line was known for. There’s a twist there as a result, but not a true thigh cut. He can’t kick that far forward without hitting that diaper. If you wanted to force it you probably could, but I don’t want to risk warping the plastic there. The knees are double-jointed and look great when his legs are straight and just a little messy when bent as they wanted to keep the uniform shape of the pants. The joints can be a little stubborn, but it’s functional if you want to do something like a running pose. At the ankles, there’s a hinge and a rocker. They’re tight, and the feet sit fairly deep in the cuffs of the pants. If they can twist, I haven’t been able to get them to go. It was a little dicey even figuring out the ankle pivot, but it’s there, and it works.
Gray Ghost is okay when it comes to the action portion. He’s best served to mostly stand there, and his accessories at least aid in that. He comes with gripping hands in the box and they’re fairly wide. They look a little silly for default hands as a result, and I wish he had either fists or relaxed hands for a more neutral pose. He also has a right, trigger finger hand and a handgun to pair with it. The handgun is all gray and has a boxy design to it with some sculpted details. It’s not something Trent handled during his evening with Batman, but he was seen with a gun on a poster in the episode. The episode specific accessories are an RC car and VHS set. The car is what the mad bomber used to deliver his payloads. It’s the #3 car and the sculpt looks pretty good. The tires do not rotate so it’s just a brick of painted plastic. The paint job is not great. The base color must be black or gray because some parts of the orange appear thin with the darker plastic seeping through. There’s also some slop as there’s a lot of paint on a small object. It fits in his hands okay, but definitely be careful as I’d hate to see orange paint transferring to the gray hands of the figure. The other accessory is the VHS set Gray Ghost can be seen autographing at the end of the episode. It’s a chunky piece of blue plastic with a front and back printed onto it. It looks great, though it’s a bit weird that one of the images on the back of the set is young Bruce watching the show. I suppose it’s just a nod to the episode, but it doesn’t make sense for Bruce to be there. Gray Ghost comes with another right hand that’s holding a writing instrument so he can be posed autographing it for Batman. The end of the pen is curled on mine and I don’t know if that’s supposed to be like that or not. It works well enough though to achieve the look the designers were going for.
All in all, a light assortment of accessories for the Gray Ghost, but an appropriate assortment. The only thing I miss are just more hands because the car and VHS are so bulky that his gripping hands needed to be wide enough to accommodate them, which means they look kind of silly when not holding anything. I suspect, as a result, most have no use for that right, gripping, hand as he’ll either be holding his gun or signing the VHS. I suppose you could position him looking for a handshake from Batman, but he doesn’t really have a hand shaking hand to go with it. There’s also no stand included, which many of the older figures came with, but was also universally maligned, it would seem. It’s no loss, though I wish he had peg holes on the bottom of his feet. He stands fine without any help. There’s a little weight on the back of the figure due to the cape, but I don’t have to tilt his upper body forward to get him to stand. It’s more of a case of me being fearful of breaking or having this guy take a shelf dive since he’s so hard to get and wanting a little extra security.
DC Collectibles’ take on the Gray Ghost was able to meet my expectations. I suppose in some respects the figure exceeded them as I don’t really have any issues with the figure’s construction. I wish he had more hands and maybe a waist twist, but he looks good and that’s the most important piece to me. This is the Gray Ghost I want and I didn’t trust McFarlane to deliver as that company’s animated characters do their own thing, design wise. This looks like the character I fell in love with almost 30 years ago and that’s exactly what I want. I can position him with my Batman and be reminded of that viewing experience every time I look their way. There are a few other figures from this line I would like to have, but Gray Ghost was the only one I felt I needed following Batman and I’m glad I have him.
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