Perhaps no other costumed crime fighter claims all the weapons, tools, and gadgets that DC Comics' Batman possesses. And for good reason: Unlike most superheroes, Batman does not have any innate superhuman abilities. Instead, he fights with a martial arts expertise that might make Jet Li flinch, the high-tech gadgetry of James Bond, a host of otherworldly weapons, custom-designed vehicles, and razor-sharp detective skills, his ability to deductively reason tantamount to master sleuth Hercule Poirot. The Dark Knight's equipment is often black or midnight blue, bearing a bat insignia.
His utility belt—a fundamental part of the Caped Crusader's costume and the backbone of his crime-fighting arsenal—contains the stuff of boys' wildest imaginings. Containers hold every conceivable apparatus, from fingerprint equipment to a palm-top communicator, complete with encrypted cell phone and e-mail capabilities. Batman's notorious Bat-rope is drawn out of the lining of his utility belt, much like the line on a fishing reel. Because this silken cord is as
strong as steel, it can easily be used as a lasso, or for scaling skyscrapers and swinging from rooftops. Historian Michael L. Fleisher noted that the utility belt has been used on
easily a thousand occasions throughout Batman's long career, its various contents—changed over the years and composed of dozens if not hundreds of implements—used to
rescue him from life-and-death situations and help him apprehend criminals. First introduced as part of Batman's costume in 1939 and last overhauled during the
No Man's Land story arc of 1999 in order to accommodate more weapons and supplies for an earthquake-ridden Gotham City, the utility belt is counted among Batman's strongest crime-fighting assets.
Tucked neatly within Batman's utility belt are various Batarang compartments, first introduced into Batman's staple of battle supplies in September 1939. While the Batarang can be pulled from his belt instantly and thrown and retrieved with Green Beret–like accuracy, Batman also developed, in 1946, a Batarang gun, for firing the Batarang over especially long distances. The Batarang has had many variations, including the magnetic Batarang, the seeing-eye Batarang (which contains a miniature camera), the flash-bulb Batarang (for illuminating a subject or temporarily blinding an evil-doer), and the bomb Batarang (armed with explosives and always useful in a pinch). Used consistently throughout the history of Batman comics, Batarangs have also gone Hollywood in the live-action Batman TV series of the 1960s and live-action feature films of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Other Bat-gadgets created by Batman over the years include the entangling Bat-bolo; the Batpoon, a harpoon with Bat-rope attached; Bat-grenades; and a Bat glass cutter. Bat-darts were also a favorite accessory of the Dark Knight in the late 1950s and, like other items in Batman's arsenal, come and go as needed. Green-tinted infrared goggles allow Batman to see in the dark
just like a real bat (proclaimed Detective Comics #37) and magnifying goggles allow him to see distant objects close-up, though of late Batman relies more heavily on his ultra-tech multifunction binoculars. Shark-Repellent Batspray graced the big screen in the 1966 live-action movie Batman, always useful for battling deadly sea creatures that have started chewing on body parts. Likewise, the 1960s Batman TV show introduced the Bat-shield—a folding, shield-like device doubling as a motorcycle window and protecting the Batman and sidekick Robin—though comic-book fans will probably never see this particular Bat-gizmo in print.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Batman developed a line of gliding and scaling accessories for accessing Gotham, including glider Bat-wings that functioned much like a hang-glider; and a pair of
human jet-power units which—when strapped to Batman and Robin's backs—allowed the heroes to soar through the air at breakneck speed. For scaling skyscrapers, Batman frequently used—what else?—specially crafted gloves and knee pads with suction cups attached. To allow the heroes to walk on water, the Dynamic Duo used
air-inflated raft shoes. When he is not sleuthing about with his various jumplines, today's Batman prefers to travel via his technologically advanced Batmobile, bulletproof Batcycle, or Bat-humvee.
Gone are the Golden Age (1938–1954) spy-like devices like the Flying Eye, a remote-controlled bowling ball-shaped machine that could soar through the air, hover at command, and then televise what it saw and heard back to a receiver located in the Batcave. For checking out the scene of a crime and performing other investigative work, only the most advanced technology will suffice. Batman's ultra-cool Universal Tool is a lightweight, miniaturized self-contained tool kit. His Crime-Scene Kit comes complete with a multispectral, high-resolution camera, fingerprint kit, evidence-collecting bags in various sizes, and forensics software. A fingerlight, fitted with a rubberized mouth-holder to allow for hands-free use, illuminates the scene of any crime. Alter ego Bruce Wayne's WayneTech research often provides the electronics, computer chips, or other equipment necessary to make the Guardian of Gotham's sleuthing tools function.
Other members of the Bat-family have enjoyed their own gadgetry, though most accessories pale in comparison to the Dark Knight's. Robin's utility belt always ran a close second to his mentor's. As Nightwing, the costumed hero sports night-vision lenses in his mask and prefers to keep his weapons arsenal loaded in his glove gauntlets rather than a utility belt. Barbara Gordon as Batgirl wore a weapons belt, complete with a bat-insignia-decorated Batpurse—perfect for lipstick and assorted sundries. As Oracle, Gordon is Gotham's information broker, with her super-computer workstation as her most coveted accessory. In his heydey, canine crime-fighting companion Ace the Bat-Hound, in-character with his black mask and bat insignia on his collar, sported a tiny two-way radio in his collar that allowed Batman and Robin to call for him once he traveled outside voice range, as well as to overhear villains' conversations once Ace had tracked them down.