The episode begins with a episode of The Gray Ghost
, a television series Bruce watched as a boy. In this particular episode ("The Mad Bomber
") a series of bombings rock the city, with a ransom of a million dollars demanded otherwise there will be future attacks.
Cut to present day Gotham, where a series of bombings rock the city, with a ransom of a million dollars demanded otherwise there will be future attacks. Batman realizes that the bombings are the same as the ones in The Gray Ghost
and he begins to investigate what the connection is.
His attempts to locate the old episode fails, as he learns the studio behind it burned down in a fire that also destroyed the entire Gray Ghost
archive. He instead tracks down the show's main actor, Simon Trent, who is now a broke recluse who cannot find work since the role typecast him for life. In fact, he's just had to sell off almost all his remaining Gray Ghost
memorabilia to toy collector Ted Dymer just to pay the rent.
Batman buys back his merchandise as a goodwill gesture, along with a note to meet. When Trent realizes it's The Dark Knight
looking for him, he's understandably nervous, but agrees. No sooner do they meet than another bombing strikes Gotham, with Trent taking the opportunity to flee. Batman is not deterred however and waits for Trent at his apartment. Angry at being stalked, Trent threatens to call the police, but Batman believes Trent knows something about the bombings and convinces him to help. Trent reveals he has copies of all
the old show episodes and reluctantly gives them to Batman, before telling him to leave him alone.
Bruce watches the film Trent gave him, with fond memories of watching The Gray Ghost
with his father. Watching the "Mad Bomber" episode, he discovers toy RC cars delivered the bombs, something Bruce finds unbelievable. Nonetheless, Batman calls Commissioner Gordon with the information, who positions police and SWAT outside Gotham library, the next bomb target.
Sure enough, the toy cars appear. The first one is sniped. Batman takes out the second with a flamethrower, but the third escapes. Batman chases it down but finds it was only a decoy. More bomb-cars are sent after Batman, but someone drops a rope for him to escape: it's Simon Trent, dressed as The Gray Ghost. Batman shows him the toy car and asks for his help in investigating. Intrigued, Trent agrees.
Trent is taken to the Batcave, which leaves him in awe, as it is modeled after The Gray Ghost's lair. Batman had in fact used him as an influence, and shows Trent the memorabilia he had collected in a shrine. The computer picks up fingerprints on the toy car belonging to Simon Trent, but he denies being involved. Under interrogation he realizes that Ted Dymer, to whom he'd sold some of his toy cars earlier, must be The Mad Bomber.
Batman confronts the collector, who sets more bombs after him. Trent smashes through a window and knocks him into a bookshelf, which causes Dymer's toyshop to catch fire and explode. Batman saves him, before he breaks down in front of Batman and Trent over losing his precious toys.
The incident hits the papers and Trent is filled with new purpose at his revitalized image, he also hands over his film reels of The Gray Ghost
to be published to video. At a later signing event, Bruce asks Trent for his autograph and hints that he is really Batman.
- Actor Allusion: Natural given it's Adam West.
- Adam Westing: With the real Adam West, no less, playing a character very similar to Live-TV Batman.
- Ascended Fanboy: As a kid Batman was a big Gray Ghost fan. It was a lot of his influence that he used for The Dark Knight.
- Badass Longcoat: The Gray Ghost sports one.
- Broken Pedestal: Batman was such a fan of the fictional Gray Ghost, even he has a hard time with the realization that his childhood hero was just an actor in a role who's become a bitter and jaded man.
- But I Play One on TV: An in-universe example: Simon Trent played a Batman-like superhero named Gray Ghost in an immensely popular TV show which little Bruce was a big fan of. Decades later, Trent is now facing poverty partly because he cannot get any roles because everyone still thinks of him as the Gray Ghost. Then Batman comes along on a case and ropes him in to assist him. Much to his own surprise, Trent makes a passable superhero (and more importantly, learns that the Big Badass Batman was primarily inspired by his portrayal of one). A fairly meta example, when you consider the actor voicing Trent is none other than Adam West.
- Captain Ersatz:
- The Gray Ghost is inspired by The Shadow, who himself also inspired Batman.
- The Gray Ghost is also a Captain Ersatz of early DC pulp-hero The Crimson Avenger, who wore a Shadow-like costume. Unfortunately, Batman supplanted him a year or so after his debut.
- Crack Is Cheaper: An in-universe example — Ted Dymer turned to crime to finance his toy-collecting habit.
- Cool Old Guy: Simon Trent, who in turn is voiced by real life Cool Old Guy Adam West.
- Darker and Edgier: Simon Trent/The Gray Ghost, who is not only less concerned with criminal's welfare than Batman, but is darker than Adam West's portrayal of Batman.
- Descended Creator: Ted Dymer is played by series creator Bruce Timm.
- The Dog Was the Mastermind: The Hidden Villain Mad Bomber is the young toy collector that bought Simon Trent's Gray Ghost memorabilia earlier in the episode.
What did you find? Batman:
Fingerprints on the toy car. And they belong to you, Simon Trent. Simon Trent:
That's not possible. Batman:
Your prints are on this car. You had the only copy of the show. The Mad Bomber followed the show step by step. Simon Trent:
But I'm not the Mad Bomber, Batman. I'm not. I sold my Gray Ghost cars months ago to pay for my... No, it can't be him.
- Eureka Moment: Simon realizes the toy collector is the Mad Bomber, before Batman no less.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: At the end of the episode, look at the top of the blown-up People magazine cover when they pan up to show it clearly, and you'll see "Matt Hagen: Man of a Thousand Faces" across the top above the People logo.
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: The Gray Ghost (a thinly veiled black and white Batman TV show copy) is voiced by Adam West.
- Ink-Suit Actor: The toy collector-cum-Mad Bomber is one for Bruce Timm himself, who also voices the character!
- Jaded Washout: Simon Trent, the typecast actor who played the Gray Ghost, years after the show was cancelled.
- Kill It with Fire: Batman bursts out of the Gotham library with a flamethrower to destroy one of the car bombs.
- The Knights Who Say Squee: Subdued, as is most of Batman's emotion usually, but Batman and Gray Ghost aren't this trope's image for nothing.
- Mad Bomber: Played straight
- Old Superhero
- Rage Against the Reflection: When Trent learns he's just been turned down for a role again, he smashes most of his Gray Ghost memorabilia collection in a rage, before collapsing in the corner of his apartment, sobbing.
- Red Herring: The show makes it look like the video store manager is a suspect.
- Shout-Out: While The Gray Ghost is similar to Batman, his appearance and style is closer to The Shadow.
- Type Casting: In-Universe: Simon Trent was unable to get any parts since a lot of people (the ones who still even remember) still see him as the Gray Ghost. At the end of the episode, things are looking up for him (later, a Grey Ghost movie marquee appears in the Justice League episode "Epilogue").
- The Unmasking: When Batman shows Trent the Gray Ghost shrine he says, "As a kid, I used to watch you with my father. The Gray Ghost was my hero." He says the same thing as Bruce at a autograph signing.
- You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!: Bruce's reaction to the toy cars.