Unlike most superheroes, Batman has no special powers of his own, unless you count his brilliant mind and highly trained body. That’s just fine when he’s up against purse snatchers and carjackers, but when he goes up against supervillains like Mister Freeze and Darkseid, Batman relies on a huge collection of gadgets and weapons to fill the gaps where fists and kicks just won’t cut it. Over the years, Batman has become known for his cool tools and fans always look forward to seeing what he’ll pull out next.
Of course, not all of Batman’s gadgets have been winners. While some are great, others have made fans roll their eyes. The problems with these gadgets have gone from devices that are too specialized to those that are just plain weird. We’re going to break down 10 of Batman’s gadgets that are absolutely useless and (just to be fair to the Dark Knight) five that he just couldn’t live without. Just to set the ground rules, we won’t be covering any of his vehicles like the Batmobile or locations like the Batcave. We’ll also try not to lean too much on the 1960s Batman, whose endless collection of gimmicks were a running joke.
15. WORST: BAT FEMALE-VILLAIN REPELLENT
In 2003’s Planetary/Batman: Night on Earth (Warren Ellis, John Cassaday), the Wildstorm title Planetary crossed over with the Dark Knight. Planetary was an organization dedicated to finding the secret history of the world, and Night on Earth was about a villain who altered reality, bringing different versions of Batman into their world. One Batman was based on ’60s TV show and sprayed Jakita Wagner with a can of “Bat Female-Villain Repellent.”
What makes this gadget so bad is that it’s so ridiculously sexist. When it comes to male villains like Bane and the Joker, Batman has to get his hands dirty with punches. With a female villain, he just sprays her in the face and runs away. Of course, this gadget is just a goof on the ’60s version where Batman had a gadget (and spray) for every occasion.
14. WORST: MIRROR-COWL
In 1954’s Detective Comics #213 (Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff), Batman fought a strange villain known as the Mirror-Man, who created a device made of mirrors that could see through Batman’s cowl and revealed his secret identity. Batman is exposed the first time as Bruce Wayne, but no one believes him, so Mirror-Man uses the machine a second time. The image fails, but Batman reveals that he made a special mask out of broken mirrors to put under his regular cowl so the machine wouldn’t work.
While the cowl does work against the Mirror-Master’s plan, it’s a terrible idea. Batman is basically putting chunks of broken razor-sharp glass against his face. One punch from an enemy would be like putting his face through a wood chipper. It would have made more sense to just use a reflective mask, but Batman does things the hard way.
13. WORST: BAT-SHARK REPELLENT
In 1966’s Batman: The Movie, Batman was hanging from his Bat-Copter on a rope ladder when a shark clamped onto his leg. At that point, Batman called out to Robin to hand him a can of Bat-Shark Repellent. That means, at some point, Batman thought to himself, “There will come a day when a shark will bite me and I can’t just punch or stab it. No, I want to spray it.”
That’s when he came up with an aerosol can of Bat-Shark Repellent. What makes it even worse is that he didn’t keep it in his Bat-boat where it would make sense, but rather on his Bat-copter, along with cans of other sea life-repellent like barracuda-repellent and whale-repellent. That took up the valuable room he could have used for something else, but it paid off.
12. WORST: BATPOON
The Batrope has been a useful part of Batman’s arsenal since the beginning and remains so today. At first, the rope was just a rope, but over time it evolved to have a batarang attached to it for him to throw. The next upgrade was to attach a grapnel at one end that let him shoot at a wall or other solid object and embed the rope in it so it wouldn’t come loose. The idea was sound, but the name wasn’t: the Batpoon.
Yes, it’s a short version of the “harpoon” combined with “Bat,” but “batpoon” just doesn’t have the right ring to it. In fact, it sounds kind of dirty. Over time, the “batpoon” became a more general system that Batman used to secure and use his batrope, and the word “batpoon” was quietly retired.
11. WORST: BAT-CREDIT CARD
In 1997’s Batman and Robin, the Dynamic Duo were driven crazy by Poison Ivy’s pheromones and started bidding against each other for her. When the bidding reached $7 million, Batman whipped out a Bat-Credit Card, adding, “Don’t leave the cave without it.”
Not only is that a silly joke, but it doesn’t even make sense. Does Batman have his own bank or credit card company? Would he run it through Wayne Enterprises and give himself away or use a Swiss Bank account? Or is the card run by another company? Did he risk giving his secret identity to get the card under his real name or did someone decide to trust Batman enough to give him his own line of credit and custom card? And really, why would Batman need a credit card? Did he expect Poison Ivy to pull out a card reader to process the payment?
10. WORST: BAT CALLER
In 2005’s Batman Begins, Batman was trapped in a building when he activated a hidden device in his shoe. The device sent an ultrasonic signal that caused dozens of bats to swarm the building and the police outside. In the confusion, Batman could escape.
What makes the bat-caller such a lousy gadget is that bats are pretty much useless. While some people are scared of them, the animals themselves are mostly harmless to humans. It’s not like Batman called a stampede of elephants or lions. The bats could fly around and distract people, but Batman could have done the same thing with a set of fireworks or a blast of confetti. He could have distracted people even more by taking a tip from the Joker and throwing $100 bills on the ground.
9. WORST: BATARANG X
In 1961’s Batman #139 (Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff), he used one of his weirdest tools yet. His batarangs are a useful tool, but Batman decided to take it up a notch by launching himself on the back of a giant batarang called the Batarang X. The Batarang X was supposed to let him fly over and spy on the bad guys. It was a ridiculous idea.
A better gadget that could have done the job of carrying Batman over an area is better known as a hang-glider. He didn’t need to build a giant Batarang to do it. Better yet, Batman could have used his Batplane or Batcopter, which he could steer, had a longer range and didn’t involve spinning wildly on a giant boomerang, hoping he could jump off before it crushed him to death.
8. WORST: NTH METAL BATARANG
Batman Eternal #6 (Ray Fawkes, Scott Snyder, James Tynion IV, John Layman, Tim Seeley, Trevor McCarthy) introduced a new weapon in Batman’s arsenal, a batarang made out of Nth metal. He used the batarang to dispel the Gentleman Ghost and other spirits.
The idea of a batarang that can knock out ghosts is actually pretty cool… until you get into what Nth metal is. Nth metal is one of the most powerful metals in the DC universe. It’s what lets Hawkman (or anyone else who wears it) defy gravity and fly. It also has mystical properties that can help you heal, regrow body parts and even bring the dead back to life. In other words, having Nth metal is a big deal and Batman could sure do more with it than just throw it at ghosts.
7. WORST: ROBOT ANALYZER
We’re going to 1967 for the episode “The Joker’s Last Laugh” of Batman, wherein the Clown Prince of Crime used lifelike robots to spread counterfeit money. At one point, Batman put one of Joker’s robots on a “robot analyzer” to find a clue to the villain’s hideout.
Well, technically, it was called the “Integro Differential Robot Analyzer,” maybe because “Bat Robot Analyzer” was already taken. This gadget makes the list because it’s just so specific, a machine whose sole purpose is to analyze robots. It’s not like Batman had a ton of robots to analyze, so this was pretty much the device’s only appearance, making it a waste of time and money. It also wasn’t needed since Batman could have done the same thing with a machine that analyzed any object instead of just robots. Or, you know, he could have used a magnifying glass.
6. WORST: BAT-CUFFS
One gadget that’s gotten a lot of use over the years is a pair of handcuffs known as the Bat-cuffs. The Bat-cuffs are handcuffs that Batman carries in his utility belt and often uses to hold prisoners for himself or the police. The idea is sound, but the gadget sucks.
While there’s nothing wrong with Batman having a pair of handcuffs, the “Bat-cuffs” are just pure overkill. There’s no reason Batman couldn’t just use a regular pair of handcuffs, and the fact regular handcuffs don’t have sharp wing-shaped edges that could cut or jab the prisoner is a bonus. Using Bat-cuffs instead of using handcuffs would be like Batman having a “bat-rope,” which is a chain of bat-shaped links instead of just, you know, a regular rope he calls a bat-rope.
5. BEST: REBREATHER
One of the reasons we love Batman is that he’s a normal person who doesn’t have superpowers or bulletproof skin. He’s a great but vulnerable man who fights crime with tools and weapons to make up for not having any powers. One of his weaknesses is that he has to breathe air, and that’s a problem when he has to go underwater or he has to go through a room full of smoke and poison gas.
That’s why Batman would have been dead a long time ago if it wasn’t for his rebreather. The rebreather is a small tube he can put in his mouth that filters air so he can breathe in the oceans or in an evil lair filled with nerve gas. Without it, Batman would have a hard time with Scarecrow’s deathtraps or Killer Croc’s sewer lairs.
4. BEST: SMOKE BOMBS
At his best, Batman is a ninja with the gimmicks and skill to make it look like he can appear and disappear like a ghost. He can also take on a room full of enemies single-handed! One of the ways he achieves feats such as this is with a handful of small but powerful smoke bombs, which he carries in his belt. With a ball smaller than his thumb, he can fill any area with clouds of smoke in seconds.
The smoke bombs are a perfect way to throw any group of bad guys into a panic, and they also let Batman move through them quickly without being seen. That lets him beat them up one at a time or he can slip out and escape, seemingly disappearing right before their eyes. He wouldn’t be the Dark Knight without it.
3. BEST: KRYPTONITE WEAPON
Superman and Batman beat up bad guys together for years until their teamwork came to a screeching halt in 1986’s miniseries The Dark Knight Returns, where the aging superheroes fought each other almost to the death. In the modern era, Batman and Superman are usually seen as grudging partners, with Batman not entirely trusting the Man of Steel (or anyone else for that matter). That’s why he always keeps a chunk of kryptonite on or near him.
The reason for his having kryptonite varies from finding it or being given it by Superman himself, but the kryptonite is always kept secure in his Batcave’s vault or in his utility belt. In a few stories, he’s used the kryptonite in weapons or jewelry to bring a rogue Superman under control. With the power to stop the most powerful superhero on Earth, Batman becomes the next most powerful in line.
2. BEST: GRAPPLING HOOK
When it comes to Batman, the image of him swinging through the city with his cape flying out behind him like a bat’s wings is pretty much locked in. That’s why the Batrope is one of his most important tools in crime-fighting. It’s been with him since the very first issue and there aren’t too many versions of Batman where the rope doesn’t appear.
At first, Batman just used a simple grappling hook to attach his rope, but the grappling gun quickly became a smash hit. By pointing the gun at a spot and pulling the trigger, he can launch his rope hundreds of feet in the air, punch a hole into solid rock and swing down on the bad guys. Without it, you’d see Batman just running across rooftops. Not as cool.
1. BEST: BATARANGS
What do you get when you combine a boomerang with a bat? You get the batarang, one of the most useful and versatile weapons in Batman’s arsenal. The basic batarang started out as a boomerang that he would throw, and it would circle back to him. These days, it’s more like a throwing star that he can use to knock out, slice or stab. He also attached the bat-rope to it, so he can hook the rope onto things.
Things get even better when you look back at the Silver Age of comics, where Batman started using trick batarangs for specific reasons. He had exploding batarangs, batarangs that released knock-out gases, remote-controlled batarangs and other uses. The batarangs became his Swiss Army Knife, but he always comes back to the old reliable version.
What’s your least favorite Batman gadget? What’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments!