Bat-Week | Review > Joker, Batman, Gray Ghost (JLU, Mattel)


One of my favorite episodes of Batman: The Animated Series (B:TAS) is “Beware the Gray Ghost.” It features Adam West as an aging actor who once played Bruce Wayne’s favorite television hero, the costumed avenger known as “the Gray Ghost.” There’s a wonderful paradoxical quality to the idea of the animated 1990s Batman being inspired by an ersatz 1960s Batman. The show also slyly replaced the aging cliché of Zorro having served as part of Bruce’s inspiration; kids in the early 1990s barely had any idea who Zorro was, and even the Antonio Banderas remake was years away.

Of course, while casting Adam West in the role of aging Gray Ghost actor Simon Trent was a coup, the Gray Ghost wasn’t just a tribute to the 1960s TV show. His distinctive appearance represents a tribute to other early pulp heroes such as the Shadow, the Spirit, the Spider and Sandman. (As you may have noticed, the redesign of PGPoA owes more than a little to the Gray Ghost as well as B:TAS.)

Mattel released an exclusive, single-carded version of the Gray Ghost as their 2010 holiday card. Unlike Holiday Hal Jordan, however, he was always intended for a retail release, which came in a three-pack with B:TAS-inspired repaints of Batman and the Joker.

Packaging: The three figures come in the standard JLU blister card. It’s not really that interesting.

Design & Sculpt: One of the things that appealed to me about this set was getting a Batman with the inside of his cape colored blue and the outside black, as on the show. But for me, the effect is ruined by the fact that this is a Justice League Unlimited Batman, not the real B:TAS version. He’s got the wrong belt (pouches instead of capsules); the very narrow, spiky JLU head; and a heavily scalloped cape (the B:TAS cape was smoother).

The Joker, like Batman, appears to be a JLU figure in B:TAS colors.

Finally there’s the real reason for this set–the Gray Ghost. The head sculpt appears to represent the older Simon Trent dressing up as the Gray Ghost as in “Beware the Gray Ghost,” rather than a representation of GG as he appeared on his own show.

I like the Gray Ghost figure, but I know a lot of diehard JLU fans were unhappy with it, particularly due to the height.

Plastic & Paint: Again, Gray Ghost fares the best here. He’s mostly molded in light gray, and his cape is loose and pliable.

Batman gets the gray and black parts correct, but the blue of the inside of the cape looks too dark to me. Finally there’s the Joker, whose arms and legs are a darker shade of purple than his jacket.

Articulation: Standard JLU articulation: swivels at the head, shoulders, and hips. I’ve never liked JLU figures, and the limited articulation is part of that. But since that’s standard for JLU figures, I won’t dock them too much for it.

Accessories: None. Not a one. Not even one of those small radio-controlled car bombs from the episode.

Quality Control: JLU figures are typically pretty solid–no problems here.

Overall: Disappointing. For me, the Gray Ghost is the only interesting part of this set.

I’ll be frank and admit that I may be missing the point here. Maybe the point was to get a JLU Batman and Joker repainted in B:TAS colors, rather than accurate versions. But the mismatched Joker plastic colors render that figure disappointing either way.

11/2000

Where to Buy:

Comments now closed (10)

  • I loved this episode when it first aired, before I even realized Adam West was involved. I should go watch it again; it's been years.

    I love the idea of the JLU toy series, and I could probably even overlook the nonexistent articulation if they could at least hold a standing pose. The consistently underwhelming accessories are just icing on the crappy cake.

  • The right arm on The Gray Ghost is just a waste of time. Why no bent elbow with a gun? He's a pulp hero, he shoots everyone. That's what pulp heroes do.

  • When I saw this was coming out I knew I wanted it. I also knew I'd never see it at retail and I didn't. Which is pretty much the case with everything Mattel. Never the less I'm still looking online for it at a reasonable price.

  • From What I remember the Gray Ghost is based off my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE character from the live action Flash TV series,The Nightshade(Seriously this dude needs an action figure and maybe also live action Flash).

  • "…he was always intended for a retail release…"

    No Mattel product is ever intended for retail release. More like retail dick-tease, then it somehow ends up online for ridiculous secondary-market prices as if somewhere in Kansas or Indiana one shipment of seventy thousand units arrived at one store and were added, one by one, to eBay.

    I take that back. A lot of Mattel product is intended for retail release, it's just Mattel product no one wants (I'm looking at YOU seventeen aisles of Green lantern movie toys!)

  • Did these ever make it to retail? I bet they were scalper bait cuz I've never seen 'em. This is one I'd pick up without a second thought.

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