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]
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]
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]
[Image from Batman: Arkham Cityby Rocksteady Studios]
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]
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]
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.
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]
[Image from Batman: Year One(1987) by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli]
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]
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]
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]
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)]
Copyright © 2010 Ziff Davis Publishing Holdings Inc