Superheroes use weapons to achieve a specific purpose; like bonking someone over the head, manipulating feeble-minded targets to do one's bidding, or just blowing up a planet. Useful weapons do that kind of stuff, and so much more!
But there's also the kind of weapons that whistle, fart, and shoot wads of useless goo. These are the kind that are awkward to use, or don't work at all. Or they're redundant, taking up valuable space in the adventure pack. They're the kind of weapons that fail to have any justifiable use in the DC universe.
Check out our collection of fifteen instruments of battle from DC Comics that might as well be used to smash open clams at the Justice League picnic.
15 Police-Whistle Batarang (Batman)
Batarangs! Batman’s dependable whirlygigs; whizzing through the air and around corners, knocking out bad guys, slicing wires, and doing a whole bunch of super-useful stuff.
Batarangs are such a part of Batman, in fact, that, in Issue #144 of Detective Comics (“The 100 Batarangs of Batman!”), he spends his adventure time regaling Boy Wonder with fond memories of batarangs past. Like, for instance, there was that time he had to dodge devastating Bomb Batarangs that criminals were throwing at him, or the time he found bandits in a building with his super-practical Seeing-Eye Batarang... And then there was that time he poked a hole in a batarang and, when he tossed it down a street, it totally made a whistling sound and made Commissioner Gordon turn around.
And that was actually the Police-Whistle Batarang’s finest moment. After the Commissioner finished turning around, it’s purpose was pretty much fulfilled, and Batman hammered it into a wall.
14 Hallucinogenic Prisms (Dr. Spectro)
Doctor Spectro, a mild-mannered Silver Age scientist, was trying to see if he could solve humanity’s problems by farting around with a bunch of colored lights. (Yes, this was the '60s.) A noble endeavor, surely, but the guy--like many superheroes and supervillains before him--fell into a big pile of science equipment. He turned evil, of course, and was granted the awesome power of… manipulating prisms to induce hallucinations.
It could be an trippy power, for sure. You could, for instance, surround somebody with a whole bunch of Doctor Spectros, like Doctor Spectro did! Or you could transform yourself into a three-headed demon and scare the crap out of people, which is something that Doctor Spectro also did.
He can also “conjure images” at you... which sounds suspiciously like "inducing hallucinations," but let's not freak the Doctor out with a bunch of questions right now.
Interesting? Yes. Useful? Meh.
13 Ketchup and Mustard (Condiment King)
Clearly, Condiment King is not an enemy to strike terror in the hearts of Batman fans. Nor are his weapons, which are, unsurprisingly, ketchup and mustard.
Sure, ketchup and mustard could be threatening in mass quantities. For example, he could submerge the entire Eastern Seaboard under a tsunami of French’s. But of course, he would need to develop a weapon to discharge that mustard all over the country, and it just doesn’t seem like this guy’s got the vision to pull that kind of thing off. As it stands, in the books and on the screen, he just shoots limp wads of condiment at his enemies, an attack accompanied often by a loud farting sound. And, even then, his guns frequently jam up.
We think the Eastern Seaboard can rest soundly.
12 Dart Gun (Hawkgirl)
Hawkgirl’s proficiency with weaponry is impressive and, coupled with that bad-ass mace she typically carries around, she is a formidable hero. Constructed of the mighty and magical Nth metal, her mace and belt allow her to fly, give her awesome strength, and protect her from the elements. She wields that mace with deft prowess and deadly skill, leaving her foes cowering and whimpering in her wake.
And she also owns a dart gun that can knock someone out for five minutes.
Designed by a reformed weapons-dealer to beef up Hawkgirl’s arsenal before a major galactic battle, the “magazine-fed semi-automatic crossbow with a pistol grip” dart gun sounds like it could mess somebody up. But in the end, the thing just induces a quick nap, something her mace could accomplish with a light tap.
11 Joy Buzzer (The Joker)
In the Golden Age, the Joker’s most familiar weapon was the Joy-Buzzer, a contraption in his palm that would introduce 200 volts into a victim’s system, potentially resulting in… unconsciousness! But times change, and hideous, painful death is the order of the day. To those ends, the modern Joker has jacked up the specs of his novelty weapon to a cool 50,000V, enough to turn a person’s brain into a steak.
But, no matter the voltage, the limited scope of the Joy Buzzer makes it an awkward and risky to employ. For one thing, it can only kill one person at a time; even if it was capable of more than a single shock, you can’t back-slap everyone in a crowd before people start catching on. It’s also extremely short-ranged: face-to-face, you’re going to smell your victim’s breath before you strike. It's as intimate as murder can be, sure, but also a huge and unnecessary risk. Even the crowbar he used to beat Jason Todd’s head in with gave him a bit of distance from the kid's flailings.
10 Nuclear Levitating Force-Field Illusion Vest (Shade)
Like Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, Shade the Changing Man was on the run for a crime he didn’t commit. But, unlike Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, he had a nuclear-powered vest that projected magical illusions that make him look like a big, ugly monster. Oh, and it also levitated the wearer. (Sorry, Harrison Ford... it’s a long way down that waterfall.)
Driven to clear his name, our hero Rac Shade got sent to another dimension and probably could have used more help fighting his way out of it than a crappy vest that gave him the power to look really gross. Later versions of the character and vest updated its power to give it the ability to "warp reality," which sounds pretty neat, but don't tell that to In-the-Past Rac Shade.
9 Female-Villain Repellent (Batman)
A relatively new entry into Batman’s arsenal of non-cosmetic sprays, gels, and explosives, the offensively titled Female-Villain Repellent is, presumably, an ironic one-time gag. Let's all hope.
Besides, it’s useless. First of all, sprays don’t have much range. And, second, it’s common knowledge that people close their eyes and mouth when being sprayed in the face with an aerosol can. Plus, now Batman would have to carry around two spray cans; one for female, one for male, and we would assume the Bat-Utility Belt is pressed for space as it is. And, what if he happened to be cornered in a crowd of male and female villains? You have to use both hands, spray each foe individually, and hope they don’t just turn their head or back up a couple of feet.
Let’s just let the smell of this weapon drift away in the breeze, shall we?
8 Bees in a Belt (Red Bee)
While the modern (and short-lived) Red Bee has some pretty decent weapons and powers—a mechanized battle-suit, robotic bees, enhanced physical abilities, and pheromone-powers to stimulate people into a sexual frenzy—her grand-uncle just pulled on some red tights and filled a utility belt full of bees.
Rick Raleigh, the Golden Age “Red Bee,” decided he would fight crime by opening up that belt buckle and shooting bees at people. That’s it. That’s all the dude had. There was a “favorite” bee, though: Michael, whom he kept with him at all times. How he could tell them apart is a mystery..
Anyway, for some reason, the poor fellow never caught on with the public and, after debuting in 1940 (with single appearances in the '80s and '90s), he disappeared into the superhero scrap heap. Alas, it was not to bee.
7 Sword That Looks Like the Hand of a Clock & Superior Knowledge of Clocks (Clock King)
A tale as old as time itself. Guy takes care of invalid sister, guy is incorrectly diagnosed as terminally ill, guy tries to rob a bank, guy gets tossed in jail, guy’s sister dies.
What to do after all that calamity but get super-involved with clocks? Well, that’s what William Tockman does. But, with no special ability other than knowing what time it is, Tockman needed a totally boss weapon to aid him in the life of crime he wished to pursue. What mind-blowing weapon would he forge using the awesome power of TIME? A time-displacer? An axe that rips a gaping hole in the fabric of space-time? A giant clock that shoots lasers?
Nope. He makes a sword in the shape of the minute-hand of a clock. No lasers. No space-time. He gets into a few fights with Green Arrow, and demonstrates deft swordplay, and he might have beaten him if he'd been using an actual sword. But it also served as a walking stick, so maybe that's why he kept it.
6 Canary Cry Bomb (Black Canary)
Projecting intense sonic vibrations from your mouth isn’t just a fun thing for humans to do in public parks and fancy restaurants. Augmented with Black Canary’s superpower, these oral disturbances can serve as a devastating weapon, incapacitating crowds of enemies and destroying physical obstacles. And, if you really cheese her off, she’ll shatter your damned skull.
An impressive power and a formidable weapon. The Arrow television series transfers that power to a practical grenade for its non-augmented heroes. But, in the comics, there’s simply no need for Dinah Drake to toss one of these into the fray. The range of her Canary Cry is already quite large, so there’s really no need to toss a bomb when you can just open wide and let those devastating vibrations fly.
5 Tops (Top)
Tops were pretty popular in the 1950s/early 60s. Kids would go outside on a sunny morning and gather around the top. Someone would spin the top. The top would go around and around and around. Before you knew it, you were getting called in for dinner.
Roscoe Dillon was probably one of those kids. He was enraptured by his tops and, after staring at them for a long time, and then spinning himself around like a top, he started to experience INCREASED INTELLIGENCE.
Well, perhaps he wasn’t so bright to begin with. The only superhero name his new centrifugal brain-power could cough up was “The Top.” As far as weaponry goes, he developed… a bunch of mechanized tops. These were clearly inferior knock-offs of the batarang, and he deployed them in service of his crimes, but never made much of an impact as a weapon. Keep spinning, Roscoe… Maybe something else will come to you.
4 Inanimate Lump of Rock (Stone Boy)
Stone Boy is… well, a boy made of stone. Hailing from the planet Zwen--a world with such a slow rotation that night lasts six months--Stone Boy and his fellow Zwenians adapted to their solar cycle using the natural bio-evolutionary path: by turning into stone during for six months.
Stone Boy eventually reaches Earth, where he joins the Legion of Substitute Heroes, a group of Justice League rejects who band together to create a team that actually performs worse collectively than they do as individuals. Stone Boy does find some purpose when his Legion pals use him as a heavy projectile to be thrown at, or occasionally dropped on, their enemies. He is also used as an obstacle. Because stones are sometimes obstacles.
Admittedly, these powers have some practical use, but so does an actual rock, so...
3 Boxing Glove Arrow (Green Arrow)
In comics, Green Arrow’s Boxing Glove Arrow is considered one of Ollie’s favorite go-tos. But it’s hard to understand his affection for this thing: it's a boxing glove on a stick. In the comics version of the weapon, it seems unwieldy, and it must really take up a lot of room in the quiver. You can bet it’s a pain in the ass to thread the thing, too. As for being effective in battle, a boxing glove is not aerodynamic, and if it's going to knock someone out, it has to have weight to it. So it's not exactly an ideal long-range weapon.
Yes, it works, and it can deliver a satisfying knock-out punch from a distance (somehow), but it's basically a rip-off of the multi-functional batarang, and it's too inefficient and impractical to truly be of good use.
2 Dismembered Body Parts (Arm-Fall-Off Boy)
Floyd Belkin’s mother noticed something unusual about her new son. He didn’t lift a car by its bumper, or kick a soccer ball into space. Nope, his arm fell off! This sort of thing happens when you’re raising children, but the unusual part is that Floyd could just stick that thing right back on! And thus, Arm-Fall-Off Boy was born.
It wasn’t just his arm that could be removed and reattached, though. Arm-Fall-Off Boy could drop any body part like it was hot. (Let your imagination go wild!) Being that he could rip off an arm and bludgeon his enemies with it, he aspired to join the Legion of Super-Heroes and auditioned for them. Sadly, his audition proved too stressful and poor Floyd fell to pieces. Literally.
Also, after the tryouts, a bird grabbed a ring on his finger and flew away with his arm in her beak.
Taunted by high school girls and insulted by a prostitute, the anonymous guy who became Codpiece felt ashamed at being under-endowed, and compensated by building a weapon-suit that featured a giant crotch-weapon that could “discharge” an arsenal of weapons and utilities. Freud's head would have exploded.
Admittedly, the canon and rocket launcher did have some degree of usefulness in making a big mess of the city, but he’s also packed a lot of other dumb crap into his groin, including the ubiquitous DC boxing glove. And, anyway, whatever usefulness the groin-gun might have had is short-lived: the villain-to-be blows his entire crime-load in a single afternoon: After only 10-pages of carnage, Coagula liquefies his crotch with her very-useful Melting Touch. A "premature" ending for Codpiece, wouldn't you say?
What other weapons are floating around DC Comics serving no discernible purpose? Let us know in the comments.