Batman's utility belt is one of the most characteristic portions of Batman's costume. Similar belts are used by the various Robins, Batgirls, and other members of the Batman family.
Batman historian Les Daniels credits Gardner Fox, (the first writer other than Bill Finger to write the adventures of Batman in Detective Comics), with introducing the utility belt concept in Detective Comics #29 (July 1939). In its first appearance, Batman's utility belt "contain[ed] choking gas capsules." Two issues after the utility belt debuted, Fox also wrote the first appearance of a bat-themed weapon, when the batarang debuted in the story "Batman vs. the Vampire" in Detective Comics #31 (Sep 1939).
Up until 1989, most artists drew the utility belt as a simple yellow belt with a buckle and cylinders around it. In 1986, Frank Miller drew Batman's utility belt with military-style pouches in the Batman: The Dark Knight Returns limited series. This rendition was utilized again in Batman: Year One and used by almost every artist in the Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight comics series. In 2000, the pouches became a standard feature in the depiction of the utility belt.
One feature added to the utility belt in Tim Burton's live-action films, Batman and Batman Returns, was a small motor which would move items from the back of the belt around to the front allowing Batman easier access to his weaponry and tools.
A common gag amongst comic fans is Batman's apparent ability to carry a tool for almost every eventuality on his belt, all prefixed with the word 'bat', such as bat-cookies, bat-milk and bat-shark repellent. Often, especially in the Adam West series, Batman could carry everything needed for a particular scenario, from typical batarangs to a miniature batphone which remotely linked to the one in the Batmobile.
Although seemingly unremarkable in appearance, the utility belt is one of Batman's most important tools in fighting crime. Consisting primarily of a strap and buckle, the utility belt houses ten cylindrical cartridges that are attached to the outside of the belt. The buckle itself typically contains a miniature camera and two-way radio. A secondary compartment behind the length of the belt houses Batman's supply of batarangs.
Each of the ten cylinders contains various tools integral to Batman's war on crime, and are interchangeable with other cylinders depending on Batman's needs. Through the years, Batman has modified the contents of his belt to accommodate various crime-fighting scenarios.
During the events of No Man's Land, Batman made use of a simpler workman's belt with larger pockets due to the necessity of carrying more equipment. After No Man's Land, he designed a new bulkier version of the belt, which resembled the workman's belt he wore but with high-tech upgrades and security measures.
In the animated series Batman Beyond, the belt is incorporated into the batsuit Wayne's successor, Terry McGinnis wears, with features such as the buzz blade belt buckle, and button on the buckle to activate the suit's camouflage system. In one episode where a malevolent computer intelligence named Vance seized control of the suit, McGinnis donned one of Wayne's old utility belts, loaded with vintage equipment, to confront the menace.
In the more recent animated series The Batman, the belt contains highly advanced gadgets that allows Batman to summon his vehicles, thaw him out in case of being frozen, and control his surveillance batarangs. The utility belt incorporates security features to prevent anyone other than Batman from wearing or using it. Batman once extended the design of the utility belt to shoulder and chest for carrying a number of vampire-fighting gadgetry such as garlic bombs, the garlic-treated batarangs, vaccine to counteract the vampiric virus, and presumably sacred items commonly known to enable warding off the creatures such as holy water, Christian cross, and rosary in The Batman vs. Dracula when Gotham had an outbreak of vampirism caused by Count Dracula. The extension of the belt would also create a shape of a cross, resembling a Christianity icon.
Elements of the utility belt at times include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Batarangs: Perhaps the most famous piece of equipment used by Batman, it is a customized throwing weapon used by Batman. Interpretations of the weapon have varied from the boomerang to the shuriken. Recent interpretations have shown a large array of different types and sizes for different effects (i.e. blunt impact, edged, slashing).
- Bat-lasso: Thrown around the feet of Batman's enemies to tie them with a composite-nylon cord. Often causes an escaping opponent to trip. With the push of a button in Batman's glove it can deliver an electric shock.
- Bat-cuffs: Bat shaped handcuffs, resembling the kind used by Special Forces units. These restraints are made of a lightweight diamond-impregnated nylon overlaying a banded steel core. Using a one-piece design, they slide closed and have to be cut off. Batman has given a special tool with a diamond-edged cutting implement to the Gotham PD for removal.
- Bat-Tracer: Used to track enemies Batman cannot follow closely.
- Communications device: Often an earbug housed in an ear of Batman's cowl, but sometimes handheld.
- Bat Line: A device that shoots out a steel line in both directions making a zip line. In the 2009 video game Batman: Arkham Asylum it is called the Line Launcher.
- Bat-Darts: Tipped with tranquillizers
- Bat first aid kit:
- Cryo Capsules: Small capsules that release a cryonic acid upon the breaking of the shell.
- Bat Goo gun: A handheld foam projector that fires an adhesive-like substance to incapacitate opponents.
- Grapple gun: Used to fire a bat-shaped hook attached to a high-tensile wire line in order to scale sheer surfaces and/or swing across gaps.
- Night vision bat-goggles: Using Starlite infrared lenses to see thermal output in low light or non-lit situations. Currently built-in to Batman's cowl.
- Batlight: A simple but powerful flashlight. Batman uses it in numerous episodes of the animated series, usually when looking for clues, or through private files in the dark. Sometimes replaced by an infrared version that provides illumination viewable only through special eyepieces in Batman's cowl, which allows him to see in the dark without becoming visible himself.
- Flamethower: a miniature flamethower that was used on BatBane in the "Ghosts of Batman arc"
- Kryptonite Bat ring: Stored in a lead box, it is reserved for emergency use against a rogue Superman and/or other Kryptonians.
- Batcetylene torch: A strong miniaturized laser used as a cutting tool.
- Line gun: (Grapnel Gun) Similar to a grappling hook, the line gun uses a strong clamp attached to a high-tensile wire for scaling surfaces and/or traversing gaps. It can be recovered by releasing the clamp and rewinding the cable. It was based from one that is designed as compact climbing gear for commando units.
- Bat pick: Sometimes kept in the gloves instead.
- Bat Marbles: Rolled down stairs to imitate footsteps. Depicted as a magnetic metal ball in the "Hush" storyline arc.
- Micro bat-camera: A miniature camera
- Bat smoke grenadesGrenades can contain smoke or any other noxious gas such as anesthesia
- Miniaturized bat-toolkit
- Bat Breather: Allows Batman to breathe underwater or in vacuum. Depending on the writer and/or artist, it may also be incorporated with the gas mask.
- A Master Bat-Key (sometimes mistakenly called a skeleton key) is perhaps the simplest tool in Batman's utility belt.
- Bat pellets: Often used to quickly provide cover for Batman's stealthly exits and entries. Knock-out gas pellets are used as well for non-lethally incapacitating opponents. Lachrymatory and regurgitant agents are deployed by throwing or breaking open the small hardened-gelatin spheroid capsules.
- Bat tazer, used by Batman to stun his enemies with an electrical shock to temporarily paralyze them
- Bat (Flash-Bang) grenades: Emits bright light and loud sound to blind and stun enemies.
- Thermite Bat grenades: An incendiary used to burn through obstacles. In Batman: Year One, the thermite charge ignited accidentally and destroyed the utility belt. Although they are identified as Thermite, it is safe to assume that Thermate is used instead. (The former is a World War II technology which has largely been replaced by the latter.) In Judgement on Gotham (1991), Batman is equipped with a phosphor-based incendiary device.
- Bat bags: Bags in which to hold evidence.
- Collapsible bat-sword seen in Batman: The Brave and the Bold, sharp enough to cut through steel objects such as Clock King's robots. Resembles a Lightsaber.
- Bat-Saw used in Batman & Robin to cut through Poison Ivy's vines.
- Bat-Heater mini bat shaped tool used to melt ice.
- Bat Listening devices: Miniature listening devices or 'Bat bugs', sometimes fired from a modified pistol and used to listen in on criminals' conversations. Used in Batman: The Animated Series.
- The Batrope helps Batman slow his descent during rooftop leaps. The Batropes are lightweight and combine the strength of rappelling ropes with the flexibility of a bungee cord. These monofilament de-cel cables tested to 400 lb of support weight. Batarangs are generally thrown to loop around and secure the target. Meanwhile, there's a lanyard attach point
The grapple (or line) gun (or Batcable), normally allows Batman to scale up or rappel down tall buildings, or swing between Gotham City skyscrapers on successive lines.
Similar to a grappling hook and speargun, the line gun uses a strong clamp attached to a high-tensile wire for scaling surfaces and/or traversing gaps. It can be recovered by releasing the clamp and rewinding the cable. It was based from one that is designed as compact climbing gear for commando units. In emergencies with small and powerful explosives he cannot defuse in time, Batman has used the gun on occasion to fasten the explosive to the gun's line clamp to launch it away to explode at a hopefully safe distance.
A magazine of explosively-propelled darts attach to de-cel jumpline reels secured with braking and clipping mechanisms inside the grapnel gun sleeve. "Smart" acceleration motors within the grapnel dart head enables attachment to light aluminum, steel, or concrete masonry. The dart is also engineered for snap-on mini-carabiner or high-test de-cel line, and the state-of-the-art industrial retracting motor attached to the reel is powerful enough to lift several hundred pounds.
In other media
Batman (1989 film)
This grapple gun was a spring action, speargun-like device that shot a grappling hook and, when needed, paralyzing gas.
The grapple gun from Batman Returns was based on the first model from the 1989 Batman film. It was revised around the handle. Now, it had more chrome parts. The launcher was now at the lower part, but on the upper surface and it was operated with the thumb.
The look of the grapple gun changed dramatically for Batman Forever, to fit with the new Batman (Joel Schumacher directed instead of Tim Burton, and Val Kilmer was the star instead of Michael Keaton). Now, it was more powerful and could cut through hard steel and rock, as seen in the opening bank sequence.
Batman & Robin
The grapple gun from Batman & Robin was very different from the one from Batman Forever. It can be attached on Batman's glove or the utility belt. The 90 m rope it launches can carry as much as 400 kg.
Batman Begins and The Dark Knight
The grapple gun from Batman Begins was propelled with compressed air works with a magnetic grappling hook. The 31st climbing cable was tested on a load-carrying capacity of 350 lb (160 kg). Keeping with the realistic depiction of Batman in this series, the reel of cable is built into Batman's suit instead of the gun - Batman must manually clip the line to his belt buckle to propel himself upwards after firing the hook.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold
In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the latest Batman cartoon, the Caped Crusader uses a very different version of the grapple gun. It is in the shape of a bat and fires the bats head which attaches to something then pulls Batman to it.
Bathound uses a belt similar to the Batman in Brave and the Bold in which there is a bat grappling hook along with sleeping powder.
Batman: Arkham Asylum and Batman: Arkham City
A new array of gadgets and a sophisticated utility belt are introduced in the award-winning video game Batman: Arkham Asylum. Among this belt's contents are explosive gel (a foamlike substance which can be detonated for an explosion to demolish weakened surfaces), a batclaw (similar to the Grappling gun; used to pull objects down from mounts or towards the player), and a cryptographic sequencer (hacking device used to short-circuit computerized security systems and tap into shortwave radio communications). During the game's sequel, Batman: Arkham City, another belt is introduced to players, this one featuring military-like webbing pouches. New belt contents include a reverse batarang, an upgradable grapnel gun, a firearm disrupter (which, at close range, automatically disables most small arms), and two offensive projectile weapons invented by Mr. Freeze.