The Dark Knight Rises: Batman's best gadgets

Published Date
22 - Jul - 2012
| Last Updated
22 - Jul - 2012
 
The Dark Knight Rises: Batman's best gadgets

What do you think is the most important quote from the 73-year-old Batman mythos?

Would you answer: "Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot" (from Detective Comics #33, 1939) or "Where does he get those wonderful toys" (from Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Tim Burton's Batman, 1989)?

If you picked the latter, then you've come to the right place. Yes, Batman's black rubber Batsuit is its own work of art (according to Wikipedia, it is constructed of 110 separate pieces), but it's those fantastic toys that have us salivating with gadget lust. It's impossible to separate the Batman from his Bat-gadgets—some are strapped to his utility belt, after all. James Bond may go without visiting Q once in a while, but Batman never leaves the Batcave without his arsenal of bad guy-busting goodies.

As The Dark Knight Rises comes to theaters today, ending the latest Batman movie trilogy, we decided once again to delve into the technology and toys used by one of the world's most recognizable super heroes. (You can read up on the tech used in your other favorite sci-fi flicks like The Avengers, Prometheus, and The Amazing Spider-Man.) Batman writers have constantly pushed the envelope when it comes to the tools used by the caped crusader, coming up with some years before they became standard in real-life crime-fighting. Here's a list of our favorites.

Did we leave out your Bat-tech of choice? Be sure to pipe up in the comments section at the end.

All images are copyright DC Entertainment, Rocksteady Studios, Warner Bros., and Legendary Pictures]


 

Batcomputer
 
Batcomputer
 
What could be closer to our hearts than a Batcomputer? Introduced in the 1960s as the term (if not the actual thing) came into vogue, it was just in time for the Batcomputer to become a plot-device of epic power for theBatman TV show. It didn't matter what you fed into it—punch cards, Batman's own spoken questions (pre-Siri!), or even an entire phonebook—the Batcomputer would spit out a little piece of paper telling the Dynamic Duo where to head next. It even had a "Special Escaped Archcriminal Bat-Locator" for that purpose. 

Later, the computer went a little more mainstream, as actors like Michael Keaton sat in front of big monitors in the Batcave, using it both to gather information and watch media. Variations on it include the Bat-Wave (from the 2004 animated series The Batman), which was like a mix of computer network/police scanner/Batsignal. 

[Image from the 1960s Batman TV show, featuring Adam West and Burt Ward] 
 

 

Cryptographic Sequencer
 
Cryptographic Sequencer
 
In the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City video games, Batman never gets a chance to return to the Batcave to check his Facebook page or how the WayneTech stock is doing. For that, he needs a handheld, and rather than go with an iPhone with a Bat-App installed, he keeps a cryptographic sequencer in his belt. 

This little handheld computer, with a projected 3D screen, is used primarily for cracking codes and getting into locked areas, but it's also great for listening in on radio signals. Batman uses it a lot to catch game scores. 

[Image from Batman: Arkham City by Rocksteady Studios]

 

Smoke Pellets
 
Smoke Pellets
 
There is no greater way to confound your enemies than by disappearing in a cloud of smoke. From the comics to the cartoons to the movies to the games, Batman is constantly putting these small explosives to use to camouflage his getaways. Couple this with some infrared vision and it's also a great way to sneak up on henchmen right under their noses. But mostly, they're for getting away while outgunned. 

[Image from Batman: Arkham Cityby Rocksteady Studios]
 


Night Vision (aka Bat-Goggles)
 
Night Vision (aka Bat-Goggles)
 
Whether thermal or infrared, you can bet that Batman has night vision built into his cowl at all times. He works in the dark a lot, after all. 

In The Dark Knight, this ability was paired with a sonar technology created by Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman), which Batman co-opted; he turned every phone in Gotham into a scanner to listen for the Joker. With the goggles turned on, Batman could see where the bad guys were without even being in the room. 

[Image from The Dark Knight, 2008]
 


Batarang
 
Batarang
 
When you put together a bat and a boomerang, you get a batarang. Batman first used it as a throwing weapon that would return to him in 1939. Later, it also doubled as a grappling hook. (Adam West tossed a lot of batarangs attached to ropes.) Recently, the batarang is more of a shuriken; it acts like a ninja throwing star. 

Ignoring the fact that some batarangs have explosives, making them edged grenades, there are also several variations on the weapon from the cartoons and video games. The coolest is the remote-controlled batarang in Arkham City, which the player can control as it moves in all directions, looping back as needed. It's a great way to set off remote switches or clobber a bad guy in the back of the head when you're nowhere nearby. 

[Image: The 14-inch batarang included with the Batman: Arkham Asylum Collector's Edition game box, pictured at bat-blog.com]
 


Explosive Gel
 
Explosive Gel
 
As Batman traveled around Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, he found an inordinate number of walls, floors, and ceilings that needed to be eliminated. Since they weren't made too well in the first place—Gotham's known for its architecture, not its construction—they weren't hard to take out with a little explosive gel. Batman carries a never-ending supply in a little applicator device on his utility belt. He always paints a little bat when he uses it because he is really, really into his own theme. Then, he blows it up, usually with just a look away as shards of stone pelt him in the face. He's the Caped Crusader. He's tough that way. 

In real life, gelignite (blasting gelatin) has been around since 1875 and was created by Alfred Nobel, the same guy who invented dynamite. It's even a little safer than TNT, which explains why Batman would dare put it so close to his pelvis.
 

Memory-Cloth Cape
 
Memory-Cloth Cape
 
For decades, Batman stalked the streets of Gotham in what Edna Mode of The Incredibles believes is the absolutely dumbest thing any superhero can wear: a cape. There were times when it could serve a purpose, like as a makeshift parachute, but mostly it just creates atmosphere. 

Then, in Batman Returns (1992), Michael Keaton actually wore a cape-like hang glider. How the cape itself becomes the glider is explained inBatman Begins when Lucius Fox tells Bruce Wayne all about memory-cloth—a fabric that stiffens when an electrical charge passes through it. Luckily, Bruce is not just a playboy but an electrician and tailor, so he quickly got himself an atmospheric cape that also slows his descent. 

Or will it? Some physicists who hate fun and joy recently calculated just how well a memory-cloth cape/glider with a 15.4-foot wingspan would keep a man in flight. Turns out, that's not wide enough, so Batman would have probably hit wherever he aimed at 50 miles per hour. 

[Image from The Dark Knight, 2008]
 


Sonic Bat Call
 
Sonic Bat Call
 
You might not want bats around (even though they eat mosquitos and very seldom bite anyone), but Batman does. In the legendary Batman: Year Onecomic, for perhaps the first time, Batman gives them a call when he finds himself surrounded by police and needing a smoke-screen more effective than his usual smoke pellets. The swarm of flying rodents does the trick, creating an image so indelible that director Christopher Nolan used the same stunt in Batman Begins

[Image from Batman: Year One(1987) by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli]
 

Grapple Gun
 
Grapple Gun
 
Since 1989's Batman film, it's impossible to picture the character without his signature grapple gun. Its purpose is two-fold: it shoots a tiny grappling hook attached to super-small thread that can hold a quarter ton of weight and then a motor inside the gun reels the cable back inside, pulling Batman and whoever he's carrying along for the ride. 

The grapple gun is one of those devices that pragmatists say will never work. To which I say, look at Siri! (Okay, maybe don't look at Siri.) 

The grapple gun has very close siblings that pop up in the Arkham Asylum and Arkham City games. There's a line launcher that sets a tight-rope between points and, even better, the Batclaw (pictured), a version of the grappler for grabbing things, such as bad guys or trophies. It can even pull down walls. 

[Image from Batman: Arkham City by Rockstar Games]
 

Tumbler/Batpod
 
Tumbler/Batpod
 
The Batmobile has gone through several iterations in seven decades. After driving convertible sedans for a while, Batman graduated to vehicles with big fins and dark colors. By 1941, his wheels had a big bat-head ornament in the front grill. You know, for stealth. 

The Lincoln Futura Batmobile of the TV show is legendary and introduced the rocket-launcher back-end. In later years, we see tank-like monster-truck versions (The Dark Knight Returnscomics) and an art-deco drag-racer (the Tim Burton films). 

But nothing has looked as amazing nor seemed more appropriate to Batman's mission than the Tumbler. It's never called the Batmobile in Batman Beginsor The Dark Knight, because that would be silly. Wayne Enterprises built the Tumbler for the military as a bridging vehicle, but, apparently, it works best when crashing through walls in Gotham's parking complexes. 

In the second film, after the Joker wrecks the Tumbler, Batman ejects himself by turning the two front wheels into a separate vehicle: the Batpod (not Batcycle!). Look for all of these vehicles to return in The Dark Knight Rises...but not necessarily driven by the good guy. 

[3D models available as wallpaper at Bat-Blog.com]
 

The Bat
 
The Bat
Batman has many ways to fly in addition to his cape. Bruce Wayne is mega-rich, so he's had helicopters and planes at his disposal for years. Perhaps the best known is the original film's Batwing, an almost perfectly round plane that Jack Nicholson shoots down with one shot from a gag pistol. 

Just as the Tumbler improved on the Batmobile, the Bat (coming in The Dark Knight Rises) improves on previous Bat-planes. In fact, it looks a lot like the Tumbler, but with propellers instead of wheels. Finally, a flying car! That it has machine gun turrets, rocket launchers, and an electro-magnetic pulse cannon should give Batman and Catwoman quite an edge. 

[Image of The Bat Vehicle toy for sale from Mattel, $29.99 on Amazon.com]
 

Shark Repellent Bat-Spray
 
Shark Repellent Bat-Spray
 
The greatest invention ever from the mind of the Dark Knight Detective comes in the form of an aerosol. 

In the 1966 movie (a production that in all respects looks just like the TV show, since it was filmed between TV seasons) there comes a time when Batman, dangling from a rope ladder below the Batcopter, gets a short ocean dunk and is attacked—by an exploding shark. Thankfully his trusty old chum Robin hands down the spray can, giving the fish a good dosing, and the great white is repelled instantly, releasing Adam West's grey-tights before detonating in the water below. 

This scene clues the Dynamic Duo that all their worst enemies have teamed up on a submarine with plans for world dominance. But that is beside the point. Why isn't Wayne Enterprises marketing that spray to surfers everywhere? 

[Image from the Batman: The Movie(1966)]

 

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