Following the success of Superman back in the late 1930s and early 1940s, Detective "DC" Comics doubled-down on development of new superheroes - with Bob Kane and Bill Finger collaborating on a slightly more ominous hero. First appearing in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939), after a brief tease in Action Comics #12, The Bat-Man was introduced as a ruthless vigilante who, despite what fans might expect now, often killed his enemies - within the pages of pulpy mod tales. Nevertheless, while it may have taken a bit for the character to develop his "no killing" code, many elements of modern day Batman were introduced shortly after the hero's debut, most notably: Bat-gadgets.
Over the last 75 years, Batman's arsenal has evolved significantly - as criminal (and sometimes monstrous) threats to Gotham City have become more powerful. In the lead-up to Warner Bros.' Batman V Superman movie, many moviegoers have questioned whether the Dark Knight can really beat the Man of Steel - a question that has been answered multiple times in comic book form: yes... owing to quick thinking and well-timed use of bad-gadgets. As a result, we're taking a look back at the best gadgets in Batman's arsenal - several of which play a pivotal role in Dawn of Justice. As usual, our list is not all-inclusive, so make sure to share your favorite Batman gadgets in the comment section.
Essential to the operation of Batman gadgets in the field as well as maintenance and security of the Batcave, the Batcomputer uplink provides Bruce Wayne 24/7 access to information and remote resources around Gotham City (and the rest of the world). Supplied with a steady stream of data (courtesy of hacked police records, top secret government agencies, and private sector documents), the Batcomputer allows Batman unparalleled research, processing, and investigation assets - all cross-referenced for maximum efficiency. Early versions of the Batcomputer were simply platforms for research and exposition but as tech (both real-world and fictional) have evolved over the years, so has Batman's implementation of Batcomputer functionality.
Thanks to remote satellite uplinks, Batman can now access security networks and other hackable tech around Gotham City - letting the Dark Knight turn automated systems against his adversaries, process DNA and other materials at a crime scene, search criminal databases for physical or genetic matches, and use known associate records and GPS tracking to locate suspects. Near-future versions of the Batcomputer uplink even feature an artificial intelligence, A.L.F.R.E.D., modeled after Wayne's longtime caretaker Alfred Pennyworth.
15 Grapple Gun and Line Launcher
Non-comic book readers might be surprised to discover that Batman's grappling gear was introduced into the Caped Crusader's arsenal early in his crime-fighting career. Next to alien heroes like the Man of Steel, DC Comics quickly realized that providing Batman with tech would be necessary to ensure the character was just as exciting and capable as his super-powered colleagues. The original grappling equipment was rudimentary - with a bat-shaped "hook" at the end of a rope; however, over the years, the tool was regularly upgraded - resulting in the modern grapple gun (aka the Batclaw).
The grapple gun has become a pillar of Batman on the big screen and the Batclaw is a key piece of the Caped Crusader's arsenal in comic book stories - used to disarm opponents and navigate Gotham City's dense verticality. Batman also developed a steel line launcher for horizontal traversal. Where the grapple gun fires a single line, allowing Batman to safely ascend or descend, the line launcher shoots two point-tipped wires in opposite directions - creating a zip line that Batman can use for traversing rooftops and rafters, far above street level (and unsuspecting enemies).
14 Sonic Emitter
Batman didn't just use bats as an inspiration for his crime-fighter costume, he has (on more than one occasion) utilized the bats themselves to aid in vigilante work. While Batman cannot directly control bats, Bruce Wayne eventually fitted the Batsuit, Batmobile, and other Bat-gadgets with a sonic emitter - which allows Batman to call bats to a specific location. Thanks to enhanced sonar senses, the bats are able to pick-up the sonic emitter signal from miles away - providing Batman with a swirling horde of flying rodents. In various iterations, Batman has used the bats, via sonic emitter, to swarm enemies as an offensive attack or, conversely, to create a distraction (and ease his escape from danger).
Should the Dark Knight's winged compatriots be too far away to heed his call, Batman has found other ways of utilizing his sonic emitter in action. Swift retooling of the sonic emitter can scramble enemy communications, leveling the playing field when Batman is facing a squad of well-coordinated enemies but, in certain situations, Batman can also set the sonic emitter to deafen and incapacitate his opponents - via an ear-piercing blast of sonic noise.
13 Power Armor
Prior to Batman V Superman, many casual filmgoers were unaware that Bruce Wayne has, previously, constructed suits of power armor to take-on super-strong opponents - even though comic readers are well-acquainted with Batman's power armor (an iconic part of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns). As shown mirrored in Dawn of Justice, Miller's Dark Knight develops the power armor to battle Superman - who has become a blunt instrument for the U.S. government. Despite its armored bulk and shock absorption, the reinforced Batsuit is deceivingly nimble - enabling Batman to put up a respectable fight against (an admittedly weakened) Man of Steel. An integrated hydraulic exoframe enhances Wayne's movements and attacks - while also protecting him from the full-force of Superman's abilities. In the power armor, Batman can deliver ground-shaking punches and kicks, capable of sending the Man of Steel reeling, while also providing enough flexibility for the Dark Knight to dive, dodge, and counterattack.
Batman might not be able to kill a fully-powered Superman but the power armor gives him enough of an edge to succeed in his primary goal: reminding Kal-El (and the rest of the world) that even god-like beings can bleed. Still, power armor is only one of many specialized Batsuits - each designed for specific occasions and unique threats. Beyond basic heat-resistant and anti-freeze suits, Batman has also developed apparel for use in outer space and under water - as well as countless variants of the traditional suit: ranging from flexible spandex to a plated liquid armor system.
12 The Batplane
Throughout the decades, Batman comic and TV (as well as some movie) writers have stretched the Bat-(insert vehicle) idea to the point of absurdity - resulting in transport options like the Batcopter and Batboat, which weren't noticeably different from a regular helicopter and boat (aside from Batman colors and design aesthetics). Still, that isn't to say that every Dark Knight vehicle is as thinly drawn - others have developed and evolved over the years into iconic pieces of DC Comics mythology.
Another example of the Caped Crusader's on-the-nose naming conventions, the "Batplane" was a fixed wing jet (evolved from the original Batcopter aka "the Batgyro") but has, in the years since, been drastically reimagined. The vehicle was rebranded the "Batwing" in Tim Burton's 1989 Batman film - setting the stage for modern hybrid-jet redesigns in comic books, TV animation, and live-action going forward. Much like the rest of Batman's tech, the Batwing has enjoyed regular updates, as writers and designers pushed the boundaries of what the aerial transport could do - providing the Dark Knight an extensive set of weapons and tools even when airborne, including: stationary hovering (and dead-cargo lift) capabilities, adaptive stealth camouflage, explosive munitions, mobile crime lab, and a transformer-like mechanism that conceals the Batwing within a Wayne Industries corporate jet facade (for discreet take-off and landing).
11 Remote Control Vehicles and Weaponry
The Batcomputer provides Bruce Wayne wireless hacking capabilities, while in the Batcave or in the field, to access and control external networks - including automated weapon systems. While hacking gives the hero limitless information and combat assets, the Dark Knight has also developed the ability to remote-control his own vehicles, including the Batwing, as well as numerous tools in his arsenal. Batman Arkham Knight features remote hacking, remote controlled batarangs, and even remote batmobile driving - but the 2015 video game is hardly the first (or last) time that fans will have seen Batman wield gadgets wirelessly.
Michael Keaton's Batman operated select functions of his Batmobile with a voice-activated comlink and, two years later, even introduced a programmable/auto-targeting batarang in Batman Returns - while comic book iterations of the character have used remote controlled tech in a variety of situations. Avoiding injury is one reason that Batman might rely on remote tech but, more often than not, the Dark Knight has utilized unmanned tech to create distractions and/or outmaneuver opponents. Remote-detonating smoke bombs to agile spy drones, the World's Greatest Detective rarely needs to be at the scene of a crime - which makes it all the more terrifying that Bruce Wayne, more often than not, chooses to put himself at the center of danger.
10 Kryptonite Gauntlets
Batman has toyed with kryptonite weaponry in several comic book storylines, both as a cautionary measure and as an offensive resource against Kryptonians (most often Superman). While the Dark Knight has infused dust from Superman's home planet into everything from smoke bombs to liquid capsules, on two separate occasions Batman outright forged kryptonite weapons in service of punching the Man of Steel into submission.
Kryptonite gauntlets were introduced in the divisive follow-up to Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again - in which Batman lures Superman (who has been coerced by Lex Luthor) to the Batcave and softens-up Kal-El with kryptonite gauntlets until other Justice League heroes can fully subdue the Man of Steel. Given that Batman can't always predict when he might need to fight-off Superman (and it isn't practical or fashionable to bring kryptonite gauntlets everywhere), the Dark Knight is revealed to carry a kryptonite ring in the center pocket of his utility belt - after being ambushed by Superman (this time under the influence of a Poison Ivy neurotoxin). Thanks to the kryptonite ring, and calculating use of other traps, Batman is able to put up a solid defense against Superman until Kal-El could regain control of his actions.
9 Utility Belt
Not just a fashion statement, or a storage accessory for weapon ammunition, Batman's utility belt is a functional piece of the Caped Crusader's arsenal - with a built-in reel of emergency "Batline," GPS, as well as a two-way communication radio. Furthermore, the utility belt is fitted with a failsafe security measure - releasing a near-lethal electric charge should an opponent attempt to forcibly remove the strap.
Of course, what's inside the utility belt's numerous pockets and clips is even more interesting. In addition to the previously mentioned kryptonite ring (which is held in a lead-lined compartment) plus combat staples like teargas and smoke pellets, the utility belt also holds (or has held at one point) batarangs, tracer darts, the grapple gun and line launcher, lock pick tools, miniature laser cutter, an underwater rebreather, fingerprint dusting kit, thermite grenades, electric taser, as well as many of the other gadgets on our list - providing the Caped Crusader with countless combat resources within reach, whether investigating a crime, stalking enemies, or making a quick getaway.
8 Laser Sword
Not to be confused with the Sword of Azrael storyline, Batman's laser sword debuted in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Rise of the Blue Beetle!" - when Batman (and Green Arrow) battled clockwork robots. After the pair escape from the Clock King, as well as his henchmen, Tic and Toc, Batman takes hold of his belt clip, unsheathing a blue laser sword from his utility belt, quickly dismembering Clock King's mechanical creations. Batman sheaths the laser sword seconds later - a brief but fun confirmation that Bruce Wayne's utility built is limited only by the imaginations of DC animation writers.
Still, in spite of limited screen time for the laser sword, the Dark Knight has proven to be a skilled sword-fighter on several occasions - thanks, especially, to his training with the League of Assassins. As evidenced by Batman Begins, as well as multiple comic book arcs, Batman has trained with swords; however, for a man who prefers to suppress his enemies, rather than kill them, the lethality of bladed weaponry poses a significant risk of collateral damage. As a result, it makes sense that Batman would reserve his laser sword for special occasions - specifically, when fighting lifeless objects.
7 Tech Cowl
Possibly Batman's most important asset in the field, the Bat-cowl has evolved significantly over the years - from simple disguise (and intimidation) to an advanced sensory system. The modern cowl is filled with tech - including X-Ray vision, vital sign monitors (of both Batman and external parties), voice distortion, a lie detector, enhanced audio feedback, radio signal scanning, microscopic, telescopic, and thermal imaging modes, as well as augmented detective vision. While the various imaging systems allow Batman to cycle through a variety of enhanced sensory options, depending on his environment and circumstances, uplink to the Batcomputer, presented through Google Glass-like optical displays provide the Dark Knight real-time access to police files, scientific records, and other resources - not to mention direct comlink with allies in the field.
That all said, the cowl is also fitted with a number of defensive safeguards. In addition to kevlar-plates and cushioning (to reduce head injury) and lead-lining (preventing kryptonians from identifying Bruce Wayne under his mask), certain batsuits have also included security measures that, similar to Batman's utility belt, discourage opponents from attempting to forcefully remove the cowl - most notably a powerful electric discharge.
6 Gliding Cape
Initially just a decorative accessory on Batman's suit, comic book writers have spent the last fifty years finding ways to ensure the Caped Crusader's "cape" is function as much as it is form. Originally, "The Bat-Man" wore his cape with the edges draped forward over his shoulders - mimicking the silhouette of folded bat wings. As a result, even early-on, the Dark Knight would use the cape as a form of intimidation (holding the scalloped fabric aloft to create a haunting outline) - and as Batman's reputation for beating-up criminals grew, so did the fear criminals would experience when they saw the caped figure standing on the edge of a rooftop silhouetted by the night sky.
Still, intimidation is only the cape's most basic function - and, in recent years, the cape has been given a range of new abilities (backed by pseudo-scientific explanations). Thanks to modern reinventions, the cape has evolved into a short-range mode of transportation – allowing Batman to glide over rooftops and, in more extreme situations, use the cape to slow a high altitude descent. Different materials have resulted in a variety of justifications for the cape’s conversion from a flexible fabric to a rigid glider – with Batman Begins positing the most intricate design: electrified memory cloth. The cape has also been shown to possess other hidden features for specific situations - including resistance to fire and bullets.
5 Bat-Grenades and Launcher
Given Batman's no killing clause, the Dark Knight (and the writers who craft his stories) were tasked with developing non-lethal but still effective means to take out opponents. Even though hand-to-hand combat remains Batman's preferred method for subduing enemy combatants, Bruce Wayne also utilizes a range of grenade-like bombs to stun or restrain criminals. Instead of shooting or outright blasting enemies, the Dark Knight started experimenting with explosive concussion and stun grenade recipes - to disrupt the flow of battle (and give Batman an upper hand). Thanks to the Batsuit's mobile uplink, Bruce Wayne can retune these grenades on the fly for timed, proximity, or remote detonation.
Still, as the Caped Crusader's enemies grew tougher and more organized over the years, Batman further expanded his arsenal with specialized hand-bombs - including freeze and electromagnetic pulse grenades, among other volatile mixtures (example: kryptonite dust grenades for weakening and disorienting kryptonians). To keep himself out of harm's way, Batman also created portable as well as mountable grenade launcher designs, for the Batsuit and Batmobile, respectively - allowing the vigilante to disperse crowds, target oversized bad guys, and blast through walls from a safe distance.
Not exactly Batman's most elegant gadget - and, depending on the comic book version, not even a gadget that was always developed by Batman, the Bat-Signal is still an iconic piece of the hero's mythology. In certain storylines, it is Commissioner Gordon that creates the Bat Signal (by retrofitting a standard Klieg searchlight with the Batman emblem). Other Bat Signals were gifted by Bruce Wayne or "mysteriously" installed on the Gotham City Police Department's roof in the dead of night (by Batman).
Regardless of how the Bat-Signal came to be, it's purpose is universal - as a call to the Batman (or, in some cases, as a way for Batman to summon his enemies). In a world where the internet and mobile devices keep people connected and plugged-in every second of the day, there's no question that the crude nature of the Bat Signal carries a special significance to the people of Gotham: a public symbol that, even on the blackest nights, the Caped Crusader is on the prowl, defending the innocent and holding criminals accountable. It might not be the most efficient communication device but, it's got flare, and - if nothing else, it certainly beats a red (rotary dial) Batphone.
Possibly Batman's coolest gadget, no mainstream version of the Caped Crusader is complete without an accompanying Batmobile for transport. Over decades the car, and its features, have evolved significantly from a standard red sedan, bat-motif Lincoln Futura, high-performance sports car, to the tank-like "tumbler" from Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy - and the challenge of reimagining Batman's ride is second-only to reimagining the vigilante himself. New iterations of the Batmobile are often inspired heavily by the version that was popularized in DC comic books and animation: a long, sleek, and low-to-the-ground super-car hybrid with winged side fenders and blue-black paint job.
No one definitive version of the Batmobile exists - as each comic book, TV, and film artist has put their own stamp on the vehicle. That said, for as much as the various Batmobiles are different, many (not all) also share a several key features: enhanced maneuverability, jet engines, wireless batcomputer interface, bullet-proof armor, razor-sharp hub-cap extensions, ejector seats, a mounted canon (capable of firing explosive mines or a grappling hook, among other projectiles), retractable security panels, alternate vehicle modes (such as the Batpod and Batmissile), and max speeds topping 300 miles-per-hour. Even the most out-there Batman stories include a Batmobile - such as a treaded tank in The Dark Knight Returns and the flying pod in Batman Beyond.
Batman's go-to-gadget, the Batarang is a simple but effective piece of crime-fighting tech. The weapon made its first appearance all the way back in 1939 - and, since that time, has remained a key piece of Bruce Wayne's arsenal. The original Batarang was, as the name suggests, a bat-themed boomerang that the Dark Knight could hurl at enemies - and would return to Batman (even after striking opponents or ricocheting off of objects).
Version 1.0 of the Batarang introduced its timeless bat-themed design and was useful enough in the field (especially in knocking-out or disarming enemies) but the relatively simple tool has become increasingly powerful as Batman incorporated additional tech. The result? A number of specialized Batarangs with added functionality - remote-detonatable explosives, electrified, razored-edged, and, as suggested before, a programmable flight pattern (for subduing multiple targets in a single throw), to name a few add-ons. Nevertheless, while the Batarang is most often used at a distance, Batman also relies on them during hand-to-hand combat, to block incoming strikes, or disarm attackers - even dual-wielding two razor-tipped Batarangs in a knife fight.
1 Honorable Mentions
Our list captured the coolest Batman gadgets, not necessarily the most well-known - meaning that there were already a few obscure picks among our choices but for every Batarang or utility belt, there's also a half-baked (or downright goofy) Bat-gadget that some of DC's more eccentric writers couldn't resist introducing - wether in comic books or movies. For that reason, we're including two of the Dark Knight's stranger creations below.
- Bat-Shark Repellent - Batman: The Movie: When a naval officer is reported to be in harm's way aboard his yacht, Batman and Robin attempt an ocean rescue. In the process, Batman is attacked by a great white shark - prompting the caped crusader to use a specialized anti-shark spray to remove the killer fish from his leg (one of four "oceanic repellent bat sprays" in the Batcopter, specifically: Barracuda, Whale, Manta Ray, and Shark).
- Bat-Skates - Batman & Robin: Batman and Robin attempt to prevent Mr. Freeze from stealing a collection of priceless diamonds but when the pun-loving supervillain coats the floor in ice, and sends his goons to take-down the dynamic duo, the titular heroes knock their boots together - releasing hidden ice-skate blades that allow the pair to continue the battle undeterred by the slippery ground.
With countless versions of Batman across a wide variety of entertainment mediums, our list is not definitive, leaving plenty of room for our commenters to weigh-in!
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice will be in theaters on March 25th, 2016; Suicide Squad on August 5th, 2016; Wonder Woman – June 23rd, 2017; Justice League – November 17th, 2017; The Flash – March 23rd, 2018; Aquaman – July 27th, 2018; Shazam – April 5th, 2019; Justice League 2 – June 14th, 2019; Cyborg – April 3rd, 2020; Green Lantern – June 19th, 2020.