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Bat-Mirrors to Batpoon: Batman’s Goofiest Gadgets

On one level, Batman is a meticulous planner who prepares for his career as a crime-fighter by thinking ahead about every possible eventuality. But on another level, he’s also a guy with a weird hobby and an unlimited amount of money, and that combination can lead to some pretty strange purchases — particularly when it comes to the crime-fighting gadgets that he seems to have on the ready for any situation, no matter how absurd.

And when I say “absurd,” I mean it. This is, after all, a guy for whom a bat-shaped boomerang is considered normal, so when he gets out of hand, it’s in a pretty big way. And today, we’ve got a look at the biggest — and weirdest — Bat-gadgets he’s given us.

THE BAT-MIRROR MASK

During the Silver Age, Batman had a lot of problems, and it’s fair to say that at least 80% of the time, his solutions were even more trouble than the original problem. Case in point: his scuffle with Mirror-Man, whose special mirror would reveal Batman’s identity through his mask, a problem that was neatly circumvented by gluing jagged shards of glass to his mask and then putting another mask on over it.

That’s not quite the level that he went to when a crook made him afraid of his own logo in 1951 (forcing him to adopt the new identity of Starman and roam around Gotham in a flying saucer that wasn’t seen again for around 48 years), and the idea of distorting his features underneath his mask to protect his identity worked out all right, but when your solution involves lining your face and neck with broken glass and then getting into fights, you may want to consider just straight-up punching a bad guy.

THE “FAMED BATARANGS”

At its heart, the batarang is a pretty simple concept: You throw it at a guy. If you miss, it comes back, if you conk him on the head, we all get to go home early and enjoy freshly prepared Chicken a la Pennyworth. And yet, there is no concept so simple that the Silver Age would not attempt to improve upon it, as evidenced by the “specialty” Batarangs. And needless to say, they are fairly problematic.

The Magnet Batarang, for example, is meant to disarm crooks by pulling their guns away, but since Batman routinely achieves the same effect with his traditional, less-famed Batarangs, it’s more a matter of gilding the Batarang lily. But for most of them, it just comes down to the fact that there are things stuck on them that were never meant to be stuck on a boomerang, like a camera, a gigantic old-style camera flash, and a gigantic cylinder of TNT. I mean, not to get into the actual logistics of whether it could work in the real world (because really, that’s a game nobody wins), but there’s no way you could throw that thing and not immediately blow yourself up when it hits the ground three feet away.

My favorite, though, is the Police Whistle Batarang, which has the advantages of a) being hot pink, b) pioneering the technology that would later be incorporated to only the most annoying of Nerf footballs, and c) being less effective and more difficult to use than an actual regular police whistle.

But amazingly, none of these are the craziest Batarang. No, that honor belongs to…

BATARANG X

One of the recurring themes in Silver Age Batman stories would be a tale where Batman and Robin would be chilling in the Batcave, and one of them would mention a some new piece of paraphernalia that they hoped they would never have to use — which of course would mean that they were going to end up having to use it in about fifteen minutes. This is the case with Batarang X, which was kept in a suitably mysterious locked room in the cave until it was time to be used, with the Dynamic Duo occasionally making remarks about how it was the most amazing Batarang of all.

And what makes it so amazing? The fact that it’s a gigantic boomerang (!) launched from a catapult (!!) that Batman rides on top of (!!!). It’s essentially a hang-glider with the added bonus of dizziness, and it makes no sense, given that Batman has…

THE BAT-JETPACK

The fact that Batman has a jetpack isn’t what’s weird, even when you throw in the gigantic, weirdly attached wings. It’s that Batman has a jetpack and he doesn’t use it all the time, instead only dusting it off when it’s time to deal with larcenous pigeons. Heck, now that I think about it, I’m not even sure why there hasn’t been a comic just straight-up called “Batman With a Jetpack” running continuously since 1956. That thing would sell itself.

And yet, despite the potential for Bat-jetpackery, Batman just kept on developing even more embarrassing personal flight solutions.

INFLATABLE BAT-WINGS

And then there was the time Batman watched “Temple of Doom” and realized that you could survive jumping out of a plane with an inflatable raft… if only you had enough prep time.

THE BAT-EYE

Batman’s entire gimmick is that he puts fear into the superstitious, cowardly hearts of criminals everywhere, but there’s a fine line between “frightening” and “just plain creepy,” and with the floating, bowling ball-sized eyeball and the unmarked van he uses to control it, Batman crosses that line pretty thoroughly.

The Bat-Eye is ostensibly designed to patrol the streets of Gotham City for crime, but with the way it hovered outside open windows taking in the sights with its unblinking eye, it was also a good reminder for citizens that Bat-Brother is watching, and that we have always been at war with Eastmetropolis.

BATPOON

FACT: Batman’s got more Batpoon than he knows what to do with.

THE BAT-WHALE-WOMAN-FIGHTING SCUBA SUIT

Just so nobody comes away from this article with the idea that Batman’s goofy gadgets are purely a product of the Silver Age, rest assured that they still crop up every now and then. Witness, for instance, the made-for-Hasbro SCUBA suit that Batman wore so that he could fight Orca the Whale Woman in 2000, which gave him the ability to both function underwater and match his opponent’s ability to shout his name in bold-face red type. I can only assume that’s one of the many powers granted by the underwater bat-wing pods on his gauntlets.

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