Bruce Wayne was unaware that there were caves underneath his family mansion until one evening when he proposed to Andrea Beaumont. The moment between them was spoiled when a swarm of bats erupted out of a crevice in the ground. The next day, after Andrea had gone, Bruce explored the cavern and got an idea of how vast it was. At that same moment, Alfred sadly informed his master that Andrea had broken their engagement. Bruce retracted his decision to give up fighting crime as a vigilante, and adopted the caverns as a secret operations center. It was inside the cave that Bruce first assumed the mantle of the Bat.
The Batcave served as a garage and mechanic's workshop for Batman's vehicles, a crime laboratory for all his equipment (including the Batcomputer) and a museum of sorts for various trophies. The cave also featured a gymnasium and a high-tech obstacle course, to keep Batman and his associates in fighting condition.
Design and layout
Batman constructed at least three access points to the cave:
- A grandfather clock in the manor library concealed a flight of stone stairs leading down to the cave;
- A bookshelf in the library covered the entrance to a private elevator;
- A ramp concealed in the cliff face below the manor allowed the Batmobile to exit the cave.
Batman used the cave as his center of operations. It was here that he would be informed of the activities of Gotham's notorious criminals and develop his plan of attack. The Batmobile, Batboat, Batcycles, and Batwing were all housed within the cave, along with several other vehicles used by Bruce Wayne. The most important tool of Batman's arsenal was the massive computer he utilized for everything from chemical analysis to researching old newspapers for clues. This computer was temporarily controlled by H.A.R.D.A.C., the rogue supercomputer, who attempted to use much of the advanced technology to kill Batman.
The Batcave served as a refuge for the Justice League during the Thanagarian invasion. A strike force led by Kragger breached the entrance (due to a bug he placed on Shayera Hol) in an attempt to catch the League off their guard. A fight ensued, with both sides making use of the various items displayed there. Most notable among these was Kragger's attempt to subdue Superman using Mr. Freeze's cold gun, only for Superman to simply blow the beam back at Kragger with his breath.
While most people are aware of the existence of the cave, only a few have actually been inside, aside from Batman's closest companions, such as Alfred Pennyworth who regularly maintains the site. The arch villain Ra's al Ghul, having determined Batman's true identity, somehow found a way to enter the Batcave when he enlisted Bruce's aid to find Talia and Dick Grayson. Static has visited the Batcave a few times, and his partner Gear was called in at least once to assist Batman.
Bruce's former fiance Andrea also knows the location of the Batcave.
Many years later, after Terry McGinnis took up the mantle of Batman, the mercenary Inque was able to infiltrate the Batcave by attaching herself to the underside of the Batmobile. Through their combined effort, Bruce and Terry defeated Inque. Later, the Joker was able to break into the cave, having learned of its location during his torture of Tim Drake. He caused a great deal of destruction, taking particular care to ravage the Robin suit. Talia (or so it seemed) visited the cave on Bruce's birthday with the offer of using the Lazarus Pits to restore his youth.
The Batcave included not only replicas of Batman's most famous enemies (both wax dummies and robot combat trainers), but also original or replicate costumes of infamous members of his rogues gallery, including Catwoman, Firefly, Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, Mad Hatter, Mr. Freeze, Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face. Other items which have been shown to be in the Cave include Mr. Freeze's freeze gun and headpiece, the puppet Scarface, a giant penny Batman received after an encounter with Two-Face, a large robotic Tyrannosaurus rex, an enlarged copy of the Joker's trademark joker cards, one of Roxy Rocket's rockets, Baby-Doll's doll-gun, Mr. Happy-Head, as well as a set of samurai armor and weapons. A display case, which included the costumes of Robin, Batgirl, Nightwing, and Batman, himself was placed near the stairway up to Wayne Manor. This doubled as a security vault where Batman kept a small sliver of kryptonite in case Superman ever went rogue again.
Appropriately enough, the fan in Batman also included a "shrine" to his childhood hero, the Gray Ghost. Bruce made use of this when he wore the hat and goggles of the TV hero to keep his identity secret from Inque.
In alternate universe of the Justice Lords, the Batcave was still used by Batman as his headquarters. J'onn J'onzz noted that he spent a great deal of time there. The inter dimensional portal used by the Justice Lords was built by Batman within the Cave, and later the two Dark Knights would duel each other there.