Batman: TAS – S1 – Beware The Gray Ghost Review

They say you should never meet your heroes, will Batman regret meeting one of his?

Gotham has been suffering from a string of explosions as various buildings have been blown up, including the Gotham Bank. Batman investigates and finds an old, damaged note demanding one million dollars or the bank will be next (which it was) signed by The Mad Bomber. Bruce Wayne dreams of his younger days watching his favourite TV show The Gray Ghost, in this particular episode The Gray Ghost is up against The Mad Bomber (sound familiar). In his dream he recalls The Gray Ghost finding an old, damaged note from the bomber demanding one million dollars or he will blow up the bank, which he does. Bruce wakes up and puts two and two together, now if only he could remember how that episode ended.

No one seems to know how the explosives get inside the building without security or the police knowing. Bruce wonders what it has to do with The Gray Ghost TV show. No matter where he goes Bruce can’t find a copy of the show, even the studio that made it burnt down 20 years ago. Bruce visits the actors’ guild to find the whereabouts of Simon Trent the actor who played The Gray Ghost (in what must come down to genius casting Adam West is the voice of Bruce Wayne’s childhood hero).

In an apartment block a landlord is banging on the door of out of work actor Simon Trent. He owes the landlord rent but he can’t get any work as people only see his as The Gray Ghost and nothing else. His apartment is full of merchandise from the show which he sells to a toy shop owner called Ted to make some money. Simon even sells his costume from the show. Ted can’t pay him that much as there isn’t a demand for Gray Ghost merch anymore. In a near empty apartment Simon falls asleep in his chair.

The next morning when Simon wakes up he is shocked to see all his Gray Ghost merch back on his shelves and his costume hanging over a chair with a note. It asks for him to meet “a friend” at the Gotham Art School tomorrow. Simon turns up at the school but when he sees Batman he runs away. Batman easily catches up with him and asks for help with the bombing case. Batman explains the similarities between the bombings in Gotham and the bombings in the show; he asks Simon how the Bomber did it. Simon claims that he can’t remember and starts to walk away but suddenly he hears a sound which he finds familiar and then BANG the school blows up. Batman pushes Simon to safety but Simon runs off again as he is unwilling to help.

Simon returns home to find Batman there. Batman asks him about the sound he recognised, Simon goes to his closet and reveals film reels of every episode of The Gray Ghost and gives Batman the Mad Bomber episode and demands that he leaves. Batman tells Simon that he used to admire The Gray Ghost and what he stood for, Simon exclaims that he is not The Gray Ghost, Batman says he can see that now and leaves disappointed in his hero.

Bruce watches the episode (with popcorn) and he is surprised to see that the explosives where transported by radio controlled toy cars. Batman tells Commissioner Gordon to look out for RC cars at the next target for The Mad Bomber, the library.

That night outside the library the police are out in force waiting for trouble. Out of nowhere not one, not two but three RC cars (all identical to the cars on The Gray Ghost TV show) appear and charge towards the police. In a darkened room we see the shadow of someone controlling the cars. The police take out one car but two still remain and have now reached the entrance of the library. Batman runs out of the library and uses a flamethrower to blow up another. The remaining car changes direction and drives down a nearby ally. Batman runs after the car and finds that it has over turned. He picks it up to find that it was unarmed. As Batman realises it was a decoy car he see two more cars driving towards him. Trapped in the ally Batman looks lost as he has nowhere to go (I assume he left his bat grapple in another utility belt) thankfully a rope drops into view and Batman climbs to safety.

On the roof we see Batman’s saviour, The Gray Ghost. Batman shows Ghost the decoy car and he recognises it as one of the actual cars on the show. Before Batman takes the car back to his lab to check it for prints The Gray Ghost thanks him for getting his costume back. As Batman starts to climb down he stops and asks The Ghost to help him at the lab.

The Gray Ghost notes that the bat cave looks just like his own lair on the show. Batman shows him a room dedicated to The Gray Ghost and tells him that he was his hero. The bat computer has scanned the car and found finger prints on it that belong to……that belong to Simon Trent. Simon says it can’t be him as he sold his cars months ago to pay for rent. He realises who The Mad Bomber is.

We see Ted the toy shop owner hitting a control panel with a Batman toy. He turns to discover the real Batman standing behind him. Batman knows that he is The Mad Bomber; Ted explains that he needs the money so he can buy more toys. The Gray Ghost swings in and knocks Ted into some shelves, the shelves fall onto the control panel and it starts a fire (now a fire and some exploding cars do not make a good mix). Batman grabs Ted and everyone escapes Ted’s secret lair (his toy shop) just before it blows.

The newspapers report that The Gray Ghost helped save the city from The Mad Bomber and now everyone loves him again. At a signing for the new The Gray Ghost VHS release Simon in full custom signs a copy for a very big fan Bruce Wayne, Bruce thanks him and tells him that he was his hero and in fact still is. We see a sense of realization on The Gray Ghosts face (I think he knows who Batman is and I’m sure Batman’s secret is safe with him).

This was one of those rare episodes which didn’t suffer from the absence of one of Batman’s rogues. In fact it is one of the best episodes of the season. Having Adam West play the hero of Batman is one of the highlight of the entire series to me.

Batman: TAS – S1 – See No Evil Review

This is one of the few episodes where Batman didn’t see the bad guy coming.

Little Kimmie is sleeping in her bed when she is awoken by her invisible “imaginary friend” Mojo. He gives her a locket (which is quite impressive for an imaginary friend). He promises to get her a necklace on his next visit but Kimmie tells him that she and her mother, Helen are moving away very soon, this upsets Mojo and he leaves.

The next day a man, Lloyd Ventrix enters a jewellery expo and goes straight to the toilet. He puts on a grey costume which covers his entire body, he turns a dial and disappears, and even his briefcase vanishes. The now invisible man returns to the expo and starts stealing everything, he takes a watch out of Millionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne’s hand (Bruce was going to buy that watch too). Bruce runs into the same toilet and puts on a costume of his own. Suddenly three security guards are pushed over and our invisible friend enters a part of the building that is under construction. Batman follows the path of chaos is almost decapitated by a trowel. Batman notices footprints in wet cement and throws paint over the cement. He sees the shape of Ventrix and his briefcase. Before Batman can apprehend him Ventrix turns the dial on his costume and it heats up evaporating the paint. Batman dives towards him but he ends up covered in the cement. Ventrix then proceeds to beat Batman up and leaves him lying in the wet cement.

Ventrix returns to his apartment where we see a picture of his daughter Kimmie and he tells the picture that he won’t let Helen take Kimmie away from him. After Helen drops Kimmie off to school we see that Ventrix is following her. A few hours later Helen goes to lunch and Ventrix starts to pester her and claims that he has made parole, he can provide for Kimmie and be a good father. Helen tells him to stay away from them both and she wants him to just disappear. He says she should be careful what she wishes for.

Bruce visits a Wayne Tech research lab and asks the scientists if Wayne Tech is responsible for inventing the invisibility suit, they assure him that it is not. They do mention that an inventor named Karos who wanted them to go into business with them so he could develop a plastic which he called The Cloak of Invisibility. Wayne Tech was interested but Karos pulled out of the deal at the last minute. They inform Bruce that Karos has since died but his assistant Giddell was trying to carry on his research.

That night Batman pays Karos’ old lab a visit. He finds Giddell and asks if he was the invisible man, Giddell says he is not and the lab security can give him an alibi. Giddell shows Batman some of the invisibility plastic and explains that after a while the plastic turns toxic. Batman asks if anyone had access to the plastic, the only person Giddell could think of was an assistant, an ex con named Ventrix.

Batman tracks down Helen and asks for her help in locating Ventrix. Batman informs Helen that the toxicity in the plastic could damage his mind and body. Helen goes to Kimmie’s room but Kimmie is gone and her window was left open. Helen figures out that Mojo was real and he or should I say Ventrix has kidnapped Kimmie.

In an abandoned drive-in Cinema Ventrix unmasks and tells Kimmie who he really is but Kimmie wants to get away from him as her mother has told her to stay away from him. Ventrix is having none of it and demands she goes with him; thankfully he is interrupted by Batman. While Kimmie runs off to find her mother Ventrix gets in his car which he then turns invisible. Batman does his best is avoid a car that he cannot see and he somehow manages to jump on its roof. As the invisible car speeds through the streets a couple of guys see Batman wiz past as if he was flying. As the car drives through some garbage cans the front of the car becomes visible. Ventrix drives on to train tracks and aims the car at an oncoming locomotive. Ventrix jumps out and Batman uses his grapple to swing away just in time. Ventrix finds Batman and starts to beat him up. Batman warns Ventrix about the suit but he won’t listen. Batman throws some ninja stars at a water tower and as the water pours out we see Ventrix slowly appear. Batman punches and kicks him until he goes down. Batman unmasks him and tells him that he will be pulling another disappearing act that will last between 10 to 20 years.

Kimmie is talking to a new friend and tells them that she and her mother are moving so when her dad gets out of jail he won’t be able to find them. Helen bursts in asking who Kimmie was talking to, Batman she answers and Helen is relived as she thinks Batman is Kimmie’s new imaginary friend. Outside we see Batman standing on the roof of the house.

This was a good episode but it wasn’t particularly exciting but I think that will change in the next one.

Superman: TAS – S1 Round-Up

Definitely Not in Kansas Anymore

I had every intention of actually having the entire series completely reviewed by now, but here we are only recapping the first season. There are a lot of reasons for this, and some of them are covered over in my other recent article, “The Many Deaths of Superman”, but I will also add a little bit more to it.

In that article I wrote about how I am struggling to enjoy adaptations these days. I thought I was struggling with Superman: The Animated Series because of this, but in fact, watching the Death and Return of Superman, rewatching Superman: Doomsday and then going back to the first season of Superman: The Animated Series for a second and third watch in a year (yes, I went back two more times during this hiatus) finally helped everything click.

As I said in the other article, I struggle with adaptations, and yes, Superman: The Animated Series is an adaptation of already existing characters, the series also pays homage, tweaks, displays and showcases the best of what the mythos has to offer. So, if when I start seeing this series, and by extension, the Timmverse as an original piece of art, it becomes a different viewing experience altogether.

Batman: The Animated Series was an incredibly successful series, as I’ve written time and time again, but there seems to be zero indication that Bruce Timm, DC or Warner Brothers were thinking much past this series and thinking “bigger”. They would eventually, and that would become Superman: The Animated Series.

As you’ve read throughout my first season reviews, it was a foundational year for the series. For a first season containing only thirteen episodes, it laid a lot of groundwork: the origin of Superman, the introduction of the obvious characters, but also Lex Luthor, a modified Brainiac, Bruno Mannheim/Intergang, Toyman, Parasite, a brilliant interpretation of Metallo, Darkseid, the Metropolis SCU and and the countless easter eggs and scripted references! Again, in thirteen episodes.

It certainly had its weak moments, and even a weak episode or two, but the true measure of its success at the time was the fact that it accomplished so much in such little space. It had created a space in which the Man of Steel could exist in… season two will be about world building. On a personal note, as an adolescent the second season was my personal favourite, and the one that I remember the most. Let’s see just how well it holds up.

Batman: TAS – S1 – The Cat and the Claw Part 2 Review

Bat meets Cat, a global terrorist wants to steal a plague, Bat and Cat must stop her.

Batman meets with the mob boss he threatened in part one. He gives Batman some information on Red Claw’s next move, a train heist in Gotham. Batman and Gordon deduce that it is a military train so Gordon tries to find what he can about its cargo. (It’s a plague Jim; didn’t you watch the first episode?).

Later that night on the train a few soldiers are guarding the important cargo and one of them wonders why they need to guard it as no one would want to steal a plague. Little does he know they are about to get a not so friendly visit from Red Claw and her men. They easily take out the soldiers and Red Claw claims her prize but before they can get away Batman swoops down onto the train from his Batglider. Batman is surprised to see that Red Claw is a woman; Claw asks if he has a problem with that? Batman says that he is an equal opportunity crime fighter. Red Claw warns Batman not to come any closer or she will release the plague and it will kill everyone within a 10 mile radius. Batman has no choice and let’s her escape.

Before he meets Selina for their date Bruce using his Batman voice calls Gordon. Gordon tells him that Red Claw demands $1 billion in gold bullion or she will release the plague. Bruce picks Selina up in his car (no not that one). As they chat another car starts ramming into theirs. Bruce leads them to a bridge and plays a game of chicken with them. Bruce holds his nerve as the bad guys swerve to avoid a head on collision and they end up in the river. Selina asks Bruce how he learned to drive like that, he tells her that he has been going to the Paris Grand Prix for years and he adds that one year he may enter it himself.

Bruce drops Selina off at her apartment. As soon as he leaves Selina changes into her Catwoman costume. She tells Maven she is going to investigate the site Multigon would not sell to her for her proposed mountain lion sanctuary. Bruce arrives at the Batcave he gives Alfred his coat. Alfred finds a hair on it which he believes is Selina’s. Bruce has a closer look and finds out that it is a cat hair (I think Bruce is finally putting 2 and 2 together).

Back at Selina’s apartment Maven is trying to relax with a drink but one of Claw’s men tries to attack her. Batman shows up and hangs the goon out of the window. Maven tells Batman where Catwoman has gone and she also tells him that Catwoman loves him.

At the Multigon site Catwoman incapacitates a guard as a mountain lion looks on. She finds a vent which leads into an underground bunker and The Red Claw’s base of operation. She starts to take pictures of the bunker but is interrupted by two goons with guns. Batman sneaks up behind them and bangs their heads together. As they try to escape Red Claw traps them and her men tie them up. Before she departs she places the canister with the plague next to them, she drops a tiny bit of acid on the canister so once it eats through the metal exterior the plague will be released. When they are alone Catwoman cuts the rope with her claws. Batman tells her to escape the bunker and he will join her shortly. Batman finds a tanker full of flammable liquid and starts to spray it everywhere. In a badass move Batman throws a grenade onto the liquid and as it explodes the liquid catches fire and destroys the bunker and the plague.

Outside the police arrive to stop Red Claw getting away in a helicopter. A very angry Red Claw tries to kill Catwoman but a mountain lion attacks her and pins her down. Catwoman thanks her feline friend and disappears before the police find her too. Batman gives Gordon the good news regarding the plague and tells Gordon he has one more thing to do.

Catwoman makes it back to her apartment where Batman is waiting for her. She walks over to him but he handcuffs her as she is a wanted criminal. You can see that it is one of the hardest things he has ever had to do as he loved her too. Even love cannot corrupt Batman’s quest for justice.

Quick note The Red Claw was wonderfully played by Captain Kathryn Janeway herself Kate Mulgrew.

Batman: TAS – S1 – The Cat and the Claw Part 1 Review

So far The Joker, The Penguin, Two Face, Poison Ivy and Mr Freeze have had their chance to shine but finally it’s the turn of Batman’s most complex villain/love interest/ally to steal the show.

We find Catwoman climbing an apartment block in Gotham City. After she cuts a hole in a window she gets one of her cats to steal a priceless necklace. Batman catches them in the act and chases Catwoman and her feline friend across the Gotham rooftops. Catwoman appears impressed that Batman can keep up with her. She eventually gets the upper hand by kicking a stack of trash cans onto him. Catwoman is free to get away, her cat on the other hand is about to be run over by a truck. Thankfully Batman saves the cat from being roadkill. For some reason Batman stops chasing her and let’s her get away.

Its animal rights celebrity auction time, the one person who can part with the most money will win a date with Mr Bruce Wayne. The bidding starts at $500 (too cheap in my opinion) but soon rises to $1000 and it’s going once, twice….. suddenly we hear a mysterious voice at the back of the hall call out with a massive bid of “$10,000”. The person steps forward and its Ms Selina Kyle, she has won the date and also earned the undivided attention of Bruce Wayne. Selina explains to Bruce that she bid that amount for the animals and tells Bruce he is off the hook (thing is he doesn’t want to be left of the hook). Bruce manages to still get a lunch date with Selina before the sound of gunfire can be heard outside the hall.

A gang have stolen some high calibre weapons from an army base and are trying to escape the police. The police are no match for the gang and are easily outgunned. Batman on the other hand doesn’t let a little thing like a machine gun stop him. He leaps onto the roof of the gangs van and uses a batarang to hook the steering wheel which makes the van topple over and crash. The gang escape through the sewers. Commissioner Gordon warns Batman that Red Claw, the most ruthless terrorist leader in the world is in Gotham and no one knows what Red Claw looks like. Batman will see what he can do.

Selina is getting ready for her date with Bruce but she confides with her assistant Maven that she wishes it was with Batman. As Bruce arrives Selina’s lawyer phones her. He tells her that the deal is off and she explodes with anger. Selina was trying to buy some land for a wildlife reservation but a cartel has muscled her out of the deal with Multigon International. Bruce gets Selina a meeting with the chairman of Multigon.

The chairman apologises to Selina but he will not change his mind. He plays a tune on a keyboard and a model of the land rises from the under the floor. The land will be turned into a major resort with a golf course, tennis courts etc. etc. Selina is not impressed, she claims that the land is worthless and is only useful to animals such as wild cats. The chairman promises that Multigon will take care of the cats. After she leaves a tall lady dressed in red meets with the chairman. She is Red Claw, she and the chairman agree that they need to keep an eye on Selina Kyle.

Batman threatens the local mob, if they don’t get him information on Red Claw his will make sure they all get sent down for a long time. Catwoman infiltrates the Multigon office. Nearby Red Claw tells her crew that a military train will be passing through Gotham tomorrow night and it will be carrying a strain of viral plague and she wants it by any means necessary. Catwoman finds a secret console which contains classified Multigon documents, she takes photographs of documents. Thanks to her cat Catwoman escapes into a ventilation shaft just before Red Claw shows up. Catwoman makes it to the roof but Red Claw and company are waiting for her. As Catwoman jumps to another rooftop Red Claw fires a grenade at her. Catwoman is falling to her doom but Batman swings in and catches her. She kisses him as they land. Batman wants Catwoman to turn herself in but instead she throws him off a building. As Batman clings onto the side of the building Catwoman warns him to never trifle with a woman’s affections. Back at Selina’s home Catwoman leaps onto the balcony, Maven welcomes her in. Catwoman unmasks revealing herself to be Selina Kyle, ok I know we all know who she is but to the person watching her on behalf of the Red Claw it’s a surprise.

This was most definitely a good episode.  There is certainly an attraction between the bat and the cat but the law seems to be the thing keeping them apart. Will they be able to work together to stop Red Claw and her unruly mob of terrorists? Find out in the next part of my retrospective look at Batman The Animated Series.