The Batarang was Batman's signature weapon. In essence, it was a throwing weapon used to stun or disarm enemies, but Batman developed several different varieties to meet a range of needs.
In a world of guns, it required intense practice for such a weapon to be effective against criminals. The batarang thus symbolized three aspects of Batman: first, the intense discipline and superb skill he applied to his training as a crime fighter; second, his recurring use of the bat as a symbol to frighten criminals; and third, his complete refusal to ever pick up a gun or take a life.
The term "batarang" could be applied to two categories of throwing weapons used by Batman: the first, similar to a classic boomerang, was meant to be thrown and return to its user; the second was a sharp-edged star or disc meant to cut or stick its target, similar to a Japanese shuriken. Batman carried several varieties in his utility belt.
The basic batarang was essentially a boomerang crafted to resemble a bat with spread wings, without losing its functionality. Batman used these regularly to:
- stun enemies;
- disarm them by knocking weapons out of their hands;
- when attached to a cable, to lasso enemies, or as an alternative to his Batline;
Batman incorporated technology into his batarangs, giving them a wide range of uses; these included:
- explosive batarangs for demolishing obstacles, or for stunning enemies with metahuman survivability;
- electric batarangs that could stun enemies, or disrupt electronic systems;
- ultrasonic batarangs that attracted bats in large numbers.
These were throwing stars useful for cutting through hoses or wires to disrupt an enemy’s equipment. On at least two occasions, Batman was able to throw one of these with enough accuracy to lodge itself in the barrel of a smuggler’s gun, disabling it.
Batman also incorporated explosives into some varieties of Bat Stars, developing a sharp-edged version designed to lodge itself in a hard surface before exploding.
The latter-generation Batsuit worn first by Bruce Wayne and later by Terry McGinnis incorporated both types of Batarang into its gauntlets. It included dispensers that delivered a boomerang-style batarang to the user’s hand, and wrist launchers that fired throwing-star batarangs at a target. The boomerang-style Batarang used in this suit consisted of a central bar flanked by two collapsible red "wings."
The throwing-star variety was a flat disc with sharpened edges, capable of cutting through metal at velocity.
Even though the Batarang was primarily used to disarm enemies, Bruce Wayne, when he was practicing throwing the Batarang in his advanced age, managed to decapitate a Two-Face mannequin, indicating that the future model might also have some lethality involved.
The batarang, which is a portmanteau of "Bat" and "Boomerang", first appeared in Detective Comics #31, in September 1939, and has been a ubiquitous feature of Batman’s arsenal ever since.
Contrary to most modern depictions of Batman, in his first comic appearances, the Caped Crusader did in fact use a pistol when fighting crime. At that time, pistols were often used by similar comic book heroes, including The Phantom, The Shadow, Spy Smasher and the Crimson Avenger.
Until the 1989 Batman film, the first to show Batman using a grapple gun, the batarang-and-cable was the standard means of swinging and grappling for Batman and his allies.
The many different varieties of Batarang that appear in the series can be said to have been inspired by a variety of hand-held throwing weapons: the boomerang, the Japanese shuriken, and the chakram (or quoit).
Interestingly, the animated Batman never seems to use the term, suggesting that, in the animated continuity, the name is an invention of other characters. In this respect, the animated show is markedly different from the 1960s television show, in which both Batman and Robin commonly used the word "Bat-" as a prefix for all their equipment.
Notes and references
- ↑ Fogel, Rich, McDuffie, Dwayne (writers) & Lukic, Butch (director) (May 29, 2004). "Starcrossed, Part III". Justice League. Season 2. Episode 26 (airdate). Episode 52 (production). Cartoon Network.
- ↑ Burnett, A., Dini, P., Timm, B., Murakami, G. (Producers), & Geda, C. (Director). (2000). Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker. United States: Warner Bros. Animation. (uncut version)