Making the Grade: Batman’s Utility Belt Circa 1985

Infra-Red Flashlight
Looking at the name for this crimefighting tool, I can’t decide if that means he uses the flashlight to skulk around undetected in darkened offices and warehouses, or if he uses it to reveal the hidden laser beams in your standard high-end security system. Either way, I can see this one coming in handy during extra-legal escapades. B+

Smoke Capsules
Absolutely essential, without question. Without them, Batman would be reduced to yelling “Look! Behind you!” and ducking behind street furniture every time he needed to make a dramatic exit. And I think we can all agree that would not be a good thing. A+

Fingerprint Dusting Kit
This is how you know you’re dealing with the late ’70s-early ’80s CSI: Gotham version of Batman: it’s hard to picture today’s grimmer, less emotionally balanced version using an errant fingerprint to place the Riddler at the scene. Not when he can just beat the truth out of him, anyway. Still, let’s hope there’s room on his modern-day belt for at least one quintessential tool of the detecting trade. B-

Miniature Camera
Remember all those old spy movies where the spy would find the secret plans or blueprints, and then pull out a camera the size of a cigarette case and take photos, making that sliding “ka-chunk” sound each time he took a photo? Simpler times. It’s safe to assume this is one piece of equipment that’s gotten an upgrade since 1985; I think I read a recent comic where Batman used his contact lens to film an Oscar-nominated short, or something. Anyway. C

Lockpick Tools
Well, duh. What self-respecting costumed vigilante goes anywhere without his lockpick tools? That would be like you or me leaving the house without our keys. And remember how dumb you felt that one time you locked yourself out of your house? Now imagine that you were wearing a bat costume while standing on the front porch jiggling the doorknob. Feel any less dumb? A

Tear Gas Pellets
I suppose there’s a case to be made for having some method of crowd control at your disposal, but I’m wondering if it makes sense for these to take up so much real estate on Batman’s waistline. First, deploying them means he has to take certain measures to make sure he doesn’t breathe the gas himself. Then he has to make sure his targets are close enough to breathe it in — assuming his opponents need to breathe or don’t have protective gear of their own. Then he has to — oh look, Robin just tasered everyone. Nice work, chum! C-

Micro-Processor Power Source
Another victim of this modern hyper-digital age we live in. I’m not even sure what a “micro-processor power source” is supposed to do, but I’m fairly certain there are at least five of them in my kid’s toybox and another four on my immediate person right now, so I’m not getting the whole “where does he get those wonderful toys” vibe off this one. Hey, Bruce: I think we just found a place for that taser. D

Micro-Cassette Recorder
Another victim of changing times, and a right proper thing, too. A direct link to the Batcave is way cooler than pulling out one of these babies: “Thanks for the confession, Penguin. With this tape, I predict you’ll be ‘on ice’ for a long… aw man, when did this tape get to the end? I knew I should have sprung for the extended plays! Damn you, Radio Shack!” C-

Batline Reel 
Like the smoke pellets, an essential part of the Batman mystique. Don’t get me wrong, the car is cool and all, but the upwardly mobile cowardly and superstitious set aren’t going to be easily frightened by a guy whose only way of getting around is on wheels — that’s why God invented penthouses. But show them you’re crazy enough to swing across rooftops on a rope, or to hang them by their feet 30 floors above Gotham, and they’ll shriek to beat the boy band. A+

Laser Torch 
Okay, this is when the tech nerd in me starts to get skeptical. What kind of output are we getting from this teeny little thing, wattage-wise, where’s the power source, how does it not fry Batman’s thighbone after each use, all that jazz. Iron Man might be able to get away with sporting repulsors and jet boots that modern engineering standards say can’t exist, but I demand a little more verisimilitude from my bat-based adventurers. D

Plastic Explosive Grenades
First off, the “explosive” part seems redundant — “grenades” pretty much says it all right there (as in, are there some non-explosive options I haven’t heard about?). Second, I’m trying to understand why Batman is packing that kind of lethal ordnance, especially so close to his nether regions. Third: plastic? Does Batman have a regular need to evade airport security while chasing the Joker? Too bad Marvel wasn’t on the case; you can bet the “official Marvel handbook” entry on Batman’s belt would have had three pages devoted to these questions, right next to another four showing the blueprints to Ace’s doghouse. D

Rebreathing Apparatus
Seems like overkill at first, but given the number of times he ends up in Gotham Harbor or mucking through the sewers in pursuit of justice, I’m surprised he doesn’t go out in full scuba gear every night. Yeah, agreed, “Detective Comics Starring Frogman” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. B+

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