Batman is many different things to many different people. To some, he is a hero that keeps Gotham safe from the tyranny of evil clowns and former politicians that elected to forgo facial reconstructive surgery. To others, he is a villain that just as worthy of a trip to Arkham as those he puts away. There is a select third group that see him in a different light, however. They don’t care about whether he’s a hero or a villain; they’re just happy that Batman continues to use a variety of gadgets to do his duty, as those gadgets allow them to turn a tidy profit. They are the toy manufacturers.
Yes, there are few heroes in the comic book world that so easily contribute to their own toy lines quite the way that Batman does. No hero is immune from sporting a variety of gadgets, gear, and tools, but Batman has made a career off of constantly debuting some new and wonderful invention designed to help him out of a jam. That’s great, but there comes a point when you realize that the Dark Knight is a tad bit wasteful. In fact, there have been many points throughout Batman’s career when he used a gadget once and casually tossed it aside into the utility belt discard pile.
Here are the 15 Gadgets Batman Has Only Ever Used Once.
15 The Mirror Mask
The vast majority of Batman’s most obscure inventions come from the character’s Silver Age. Much like how old Superman comics featured random powers that were convenient to whatever situation the Man of Steel happened to find himself him at the time, Batman comics of this era were characterized by the appearance of random gadgets that generally seem painfully useless. Fortunately, such gadgets were eventually phased out in favor of mature stories and smart characterization.
Still, there are some relics of the past you can’t help but love. Consider, for instance, the time that Batman found himself facing off against Mirror-Man and needed to find a way to prevent the villain's armor from revealing Batman’s true identity. Despite the many ways Batman could have accomplished this, he decided to build a special mask made of mirrors that would reflect the reflection -- or something like that. Actually, given that Batman wore this mask under his regular mask, we’re not entirely sure what the logic here was. Then again, that implies that there was any logic behind this one to begin with.
14 Freeze Cluster Grenades
One of the appealing things about Batman as a character is that he’s got a bit of a dark edge to him. As a hero who recognizes that fear is his greatest weapon, there’s always been a villainous side to Batman’s personality that gives him a little more bite than your average hero. Still, Batman is ultimately a good guy, and that means that means he must obey certain rules. Chief among them is the rule that Batman can never kill anyone.
This brings us to the Freeze Grenades. These grenades made their one and only appearance in Batman: Arkham City and, just as the name implies, they literally freeze whoever happens to be in their blast radius. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the grenades were reworked by Batman using Mr. Freeze’s technology. Actually, maybe reworked isn’t the right word to use here, considering that these sound like the exact kind of device that Mr. Freeze himself would use. Even if you put aside your disbelief that someone could survive being completely frozen for a long period of time and left to their own devices, it’s certainly odd that Batman would use such a clearly villainous weapon.
13 Bat Skates
Speaking of Mr. Freeze, what countdown of one-off Batman gadgets would be complete without a look at one of Joel Schumaker’s most infamous contributions to the franchise? You know, for as much flak as this gadget catches, it really isn’t that outlandish as a concept. After all, if you faced an enemy that trafficked solely in ice, you might also think that it’s a good idea to come step into some ice skates just in case the terrain gets a bit frozen.
Still, there’s a difference between concept and execution. Watching Batman shoot out a pair of ice skates from beneath his boots and start skating around while participating in a bizarre game of hockey with Two-Face’s thugs really emphasizes how ridiculous it is for the world’s greatest detective to pack a pair of ice skates just in case. It’s possible for someone to look dignified while skating around the ice, but a man dressed up like a giant combative bat prancing around a frozen museum while still trying to look menacing will just never look right.
12 Live-Saving Robot Assistant
Once upon a time, Batman did a solid for an alien creature. Rather than destroy the Earth anyway or take a moment to appreciate the absurdity of a man dressed as a bat helping an alien, this being decided to gift Batman with a robot companion. Ideally, this robot would step in whenever Batman was in mortal danger and save our hero. The problem was that its sensors were incredibly sensitive, and soon interpreted any time that Batman was in the slightest of danger (i.e. doing regular Batman things) as mortal peril. This led to many hilarious incidents of the robot companion interfering with Batman’s day and helping criminals escape.
With the exception of the ever-rotating series of Robins and a few trusted companions, Batman tends to work alone. This robot is a tremendous example of why that is. It was not created by Batman, but it's one that he, perhaps, may have created himself if the inspiration struck him. Because it was not tuned to the unique needs of the modern urban crimefighting environment, however, Batman had to end up tricking the poor thing into destroying itself.
11 The Knightfall Gloves
Stepping away from the goofy for a moment, let’s look at one of the coolest gadgets Batman has only used once. Well, actually, this one might be a bit controversial, considering that Bruce Wayne never used this particular gadget. Instead, it was wielded by Jean Paul Valley following that incident where Bane broke Batman’s back and will to fight in Knightfall. As with most changes in management, Jean Paul Valley’s tenure as the Batman brought with it a few new policies. Most notably, Valley didn’t really have as many qualms about using lethal and otherwise dangerous methods.
These gloves that Valley wore during his fights represent this ideology pretty well. They’re not only outfitted with claws that can slit a throat with a single slash, but they also come equipped with several neat tricks that equal anything Bruce Wayne has ever dreamed up. They even shoot out Batarangs at a machine gun pace. That may not be non-lethal friendly, but they sure are cool. In fact, we sincerely hope that Bruce keeps these bad boys tucked away in a spare Batcave compartment just in case.
10 Bat Napalm
Tim Burton’s Batman Returns retains a controversial legacy. Some see it is a unique take on the Caped Crusader as envisioned by the legendary director. They praise the movie for its alternate view of Gotham, Batman, and several other core components. Others, however, can’t help but notice that the Dark Knight does a lot of out-of-character things in this movie -- like killing people. In fact, Batman arguably kills more people outright in this movie than he does in the entirety of the comics universe. This is a much more vicious version of the character than we're used to seeing, one who isn’t afraid to let pesky ethics stand in his way.
Still, it seems a bit unlikely that Batman would ever decide to carry a pocket full of napalm around. While this gadget is never directly referred to as napalm at any point in the movie, it’s hard to deny that the blue sticky substance that bursts into flames upon use sure does resemble the controversial wartime weapon. Batman’s used similar chemical weapons in the past, but few seem to have the same potential for mass casualties that this one does.
9 The Three-Dimensional Bat Restorer
How much are you willing to buy into the belief that Bruce Wayne prepares for every possible contingency? It’s an important question to answer if you’re going to be a Batman fan. There are many instances throughout the Batman universe that see our hero use this reasoning to justify why he happens to possess just the gadget he needs in order to get himself out of a particular situation.
If you can’t accept this reasoning, then just stay far away from the ‘60s Batman show. Otherwise, you’re going to have to deal with things like the Three Dimensional Bat Restorer. See, when Batman, Robin, and Batgirl were doing battle with the made for TV villain Dr. Cassandra Spellcraft, they found themselves turned into cardboard cutouts after being hit with the doctor’s ray gun. The only way the crew could restore themselves to proper form was for Alfred to pop them into the Restorer and grant them a third dimension once again. You know, the real question here isn’t necessarily why this device exists, but how many such devices Batman has had to train Alfred in the use of just in case he needs them.
8 Robotic T-Rex Guardian
Start reading Batman comics, and you’ll eventually come to discover that the comic book version of the Batcave is loaded with curiosities collected by Batman over the years and maintained by the series’ writers and illustrators. As impressive as it is that such a curious collection of convoluted contraptions have remained consistent, there comes a point when you will start to wonder just why certain objects like the giant T-Rex are in the Batcave at all. Well, according to lore, Batman added this animatronic creation to the Batcave after hunting it down with a bow and arrow on an expedition.
In case that’s not strange enough for you, consider that Batman then decided to turn the dinosaur into a sentry. We didn’t learn this until the villain Hush came knocking and quickly discovered that the T-Rex doubled as the world’s most intimidating guard dog. One really must wonder how far down the checklist of contingency plans Batman was before he realized that the last line of defense must be converting a robot dinosaur into an intruder-chasing final measure.
7 Bat Female Villain Repellent
Ah, the bat sprays. For sheer absurdity in the face of comic book danger, look no further than the collection of aerosol weapons that Batman keeps around. In defense of the sprays, there came a point in the Batman legacy when writers decided to turn the notion of bat sprays into a bit of a running joke. Batman would never use a spray to resolve a serious danger, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t use one in order to invoke a cheap laugh or two.
During the Batman/Planetary crossover event, several generations of the character came together. Among them was the Adam West version of the character who ran afoul of a female villain. Rather than do something so uncivilized as punch a woman, this Batman decided to reach deep within his utility belt and use his trusty Female-Villain-Repellent to keep this new foe at bay. This is one of those inventions that only get better when you imagine Bruce Wayne sitting in his lair one night wondering what the least effective way to keep female villains at bay might be and what chemical compound might get the job done.
6 Bat Cowl Lie Detector
Most Batman gadgets that are used once and quickly tossed aside earn that status because they are either very stupid or very specific to a situation. Some, however, never make an appearance again because it’s likely that someone realized that the continuous use of this device would be a tad overpowered or unethical. The Nolan Batman movies explored this concept with the introduction of that sonar device that Lucius Fox was so opposed to, but it’s a concept that the comics have delved into many times before.
Recently, someone got the idea that it would be a good idea to outfit Batman’s cowl with a lie detector. There are a few problems with this idea. While it makes sense that Batman would get use out of a device that would determine facts from lies, it kind of takes something away from the character when you think that he has to rely on a machine rather than his instincts to make such determinations. Plus, what fun are those classic Batman interrogation sequences when you think that Batman is just waiting on a computer readout to know if he should make a grave threat? There's an implication that Batman retains the ability to use this gadget, but it's never really shown to be directly in use since its introduction.
5 The Boom Tube Gauntlet
Boom Tubes aren't so much a device as they are buzzwords for the idea of moving between dimensions in the DC universe. They’re kind of a deus ex machina. Sometimes they’re used as quick transport to Earth, while other times we see them perform feats that allow the user to move pretty much anywhere they want. Primarily, they're the tool of creatures like Darkseid and other such universal entities that often find themselves in need of such powers. They’re rarely used by someone like Batman, who mostly stomps around Gotham fighting crooks.
Thanks to a crossover event, however, Batman was able to incorporate boom tube technology into his arsenal. The boom tube gauntlet is a device engineered by Batman in order to (in his words) generate worm holes. The really great thing about this gauntlet is that Batman doesn’t grab it off of some other person or entity that might naturally have such a device; it's implied that he just had this thing sitting in the Batcave all along. Seriously, how paranoid is this guy?
4 Batarang X
The Batarang is arguably Batman’s greatest gadget. In any case, it’s certainly his most versatile tool. While little more than a branded throwing star, the Batarang has allowed Batman to escape many a hairy situation and usually allows him to get the jump on just about every enemy he encounters. It’s his first line of defense and his last resort. At least that’s true of the generic Batarang. Once you start exploring the world of custom Batarangs, however, things get a little wilder.
Of all the uniquely designed Batarangs in Batman’s arsenal, the one that Batman once prominently used and then quickly shelved is the fabled Batarang X. The functionality of this mysterious Batarang was used as the cover tease for its debut issue. Readers couldn’t help but wonder just what the most secret of all Batman’s Batarangs was capable of doing. As it turns out, Batarang X is the name Batman gave to a giant glider in the shape of a Batarang. Why would Batman ever need such a glider when he has a dozen more convenient ways to soar above the ground that don’t involve standing atop an unstable kite?
3 Ultrasonic Bat Caller
Okay, okay…you caught us. Technically, Batman uses this gadget twice. The first time is in the Frank Miller classic Batman: Year One. when the Caped Crusader fends off an entire SWAT team by calling in a swarm of bats. The second time is when he uses it to do pretty much the same thing in Batman Begins. However, since the latter example is pretty clearly an adaptation of the former, we figured that we’d bundle this one into a neat little package.
Besides, the real question is: “Why has Batman not used this one more often?” Not only is this device a pretty handy way to escape from a particularly tight spot, but it has the added benefit of fitting into the whole “Human Bat” motif that our hero is going for. Calling in a swarm of living bats that descend upon the enemies of Batman generates fear, looks incredible, and is significantly more practical than something like female villain repellent. It’s high time that this gadget was worked back into the rotation.
2 Shark Repellent Spray
Of all the numerous absurdities featured in ‘60s Batman timeline, none is more infamous than shark repellent spray. It’s worth asking just why that is. In a series that featured absurd inventions on a weekly basis, what is it about this particular gadget from the Batman movie that has stood the test of time as the one-off piece of equipment that is worse than them all?
Well, the visual design quality of the shark itself certainly doesn’t help, but the real beauty of this spray is how reluctant Batman is to use it. There he is with a shark gnawing away on his leg like a toothing toddler, and he doesn’t even bother to call Robin for the spray that we assume he developed for this very reason. Instead, he’s perfectly content with throwing a couple of well-placed hooks to the shark’s sternum instead. We can only assume that his hesitation has to do with the fact that Batman is well-aware of just how powerful this spray truly is. Indeed, as the shark (which it later turns out was a robot) falls below and explodes once it hits the water, one can only imagine Batman making a solemn vowel to never use this dangerous gadget again.
1 The Bat Credit Card
We’ve only seen Batman use this particular gadget once in Joel Schumaker’s regrettable Batman and Robin, but is it really that difficult to imagine that Batman would consider instant access to his cash a top priority? After all, it’s not like the man is being funded by some major public conglomerate. He’s an independently supported hero that relies on a considerable pile of cash to get things done. If you were in that situation, would you really rely on the same card that the folks at the gas station need to cover with a plastic bag just so they can charge you for your 10 gallons of gas and ginger ale?
In all seriousness, this is certainly a low point in the history of Batman. There are two ways in which this card came into existence. Either Batman was contacted by a credit card company and offered this custom credit line (which would be fascinating given the whole secret identity thing), or he credited his own functional credit card from scratch. Regardless of the details, we’re just glad Batman keeps this in the bat wallet (which we assume exists as well).
What's your favorite one-off Bat device? Let us know in the comments.