"Reel to Real"
"While Justice Needs Me"
Writer: Dan Slott;Ty Templeton;
Artists: Rick Burchett(p), Terry Beatty(i), Heroic Age(c)
The Gray Ghost, as voiced by former Batman Adam West, debuted on the animated series. The character was meant to pay homage to the Shadow who was one of Bob Kane's inspirations in the creation of The Batman.
To keep the continuity of the series stable, the Gray Ghost was ironically made into an old television character, as opposed to an actual vigilante, which young Bruce Wayne watched as reverently as some may have watched Batman: The Animated Series. I never missed an episode, even that weird one where Batman fights against evil, genetically enhanced farmers and their livestock. Hopefully, that was meant to be funny.
In the first story in Batman Adventures, its passing I mourn every second, Dan Slott integrates the Gray Ghost into a plausible adventure once again teaming Batman and Simon Trent--the actor who portrayed the Ghost. As usual every moment that could have been painful is turned into utter magic.
The opening which flashes back to an episode of The Gray Ghost reflects Batman's relationship with Phantasm. This is not only a joke however. It provides the impetus for the motivation of the villain. In a rare instance, revealing the name of the villain adds more drama to the story even if it does take away the mystery.
Cutting to the present day, Mr. Slott shows how Simon Trent has fared positively after his original encounter with the Batman. Batman is partially responsible for the renewal, and continues to be a force as Bruce Wayne in his inspiration's life. Thus, we see Bruce/Batman as a positive, optimistic figure that fits him like a spiked gauntlet.
There's no guano in Batman Adventures. Batman wants to make the world a better place. He does not brood and watch people die. He does not alienate his friends. He does not denigrate women. As in the series, Batman is portrayed as a hero.
While the solution to the mystery is known to the reader, it's still fun to watch Batman go through the motions evocatively depicted by Rick Burchett. The method he uses to solve the crime refers back to "Leather Wings" the very first episode of the show.
Soon after Batman discovers the identity of the criminal, the villain snares the Dark Knight in a classic death trap, which has a plausible reason for existing in the story. Here, Slott brilliantly directs Burchett's juxtaposition of the two heroes dealing with their particular dilemmas, and in the case of Batman, I'm reminded of an old Denny O' Neil/Michael Golden story where Batman is encased in Houdini's water death trap. Batman learned escapology to survive not to perform. Batman's escape is blunt and to the point. The Gray Ghost's escape is more elegant because he recalls the escape that was written for him in his show.
Batman returns from the Slott adventure to the Cave and into Ty Templeton's vignette. Instead of brooding about his encounter with the villain and wallowing in angst, the bona fide Dark Knight removes his cowl and sits back to watch an episode of The Gray Ghost. This stirs his memories and makes him think of a more innocent time when he was a child and his parents were alive. His mother is portrayed with such sweetness, that you cannot help feel for Batman.
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