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The Gotham City Police Department with the Bat-Signal. Cover of Gotham Central #1. Art by Michael Lark.
Publication information
Publisher DC Comics
First appearance Detective Comics #60 (February 1942)
In story information
Type Signal
Element of stories featuring Batman

The Bat-Signal is a distress signal device appearing in the various interpretations of the Batman mythos. It is a specially modified Klieg searchlight with a stylized symbol of a bat attached to the light so that it projects a large Bat emblem on the sky or buildings of Gotham City. In the stories, the signal is used by the Gotham City Police Department as a method of contacting and summoning Batman to their assistance in the event of a serious crisis and as a weapon of psychological intimidation to the numerous villains of Gotham City.


The Bat-Signal's debut, in Detective Comics #60 (February, 1942)

The signal first appears in Detective Comics #60, February 1942. In the 1989 Batman film, Batman gives the signal to the Gotham police force, enabling them to call him when the city was in danger. In 2005's Batman Begins, then-lieutenant James Gordon installs the Bat signal on the roof of the police department himself. The film suggests Lt. Gordon was inspired to create the signal after Batman left mobster Carmine Falcone chained across a spotlight, his silhouette vaguely resembling a bat.

In comics featuring post-Crisis continuity, the signal has several different origins. It is introduced as a new tool after the Batman's first encounter with the Joker in Batman: The Man Who Laughs, and also during the "Prey" storyline in Legends of the Dark Knight. In Batman and the Mad Monk, Gordon initially uses a pager to contact Batman, but during a meeting with the superhero Gordon throws it away, saying he prefers a more public means of contacting him.

On Batman: The Animated Series, the signal is introduced in the episode "The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy", though a makeshift signal was used earlier in "Joker's Favor". On The Batman, Gordon invents it to summon Batman in "Night in the City", although the signal is also alluded to in an earlier episode.

Additional appearances[edit]

In the "Lovers and Madmen" story arc from Batman Confidential, Batman sees the Bat-Signal and assumes Gordon is calling him to ask for his help. When he reaches the rooftop, however, he finds the Joker instead. In Detective Comics #466 (1976), the villainous Signalman traps Batman inside the Bat-Signal device. In Legends of the Dark Knight #6, a group of crime bosses projects the signal upside down in order to summon Batman to help them fight a killer they cannot defeat, and in the Halloween special comic series, Batman: Haunted Knight, Scarecrow alters the Bat-Signal to notify Batman that he has kidnapped Jim Gordon. By adding an orange bulb and painting "eyes" on the signal, he turns the beam into a stylized Jack-o'-lantern image, with the bat symbol forming the mouth beneath two eyes.

In Batman: Dark Victory, the Hangman sneaks onto the roof of Police Headquarters and turns the Bat-Signal on to lure then-recently appointed Commissioner James Gordon to the roof and try to kill him, but is thwarted when Two-Face cuts Gordon down. In the beginning of the No Man's Land story arc, a junior officer creates an improvised Bat-Signal out of spare parts. Gordon smashes it to pieces as he is angry that Batman has not responded to the new signal. Oracle also builds a small Bat-Signal to summon Batman.

In the comic book series Gotham Central, Batman's existence is not officially recognized by the Gotham City authorities, and the police explain to Gotham citizens that the Bat-Signal is merely a method of using the Batman "urban legend" to intimidate Gotham's criminal underworld. Owing to the events in the "War Crimes" storyline, relations between Batman and the Gotham City Police Department under Commissioner Michael Akins are officially severed, and as a result, the Bat-Signal is removed from the roof of Gotham Central. Needing Batman's help later, Akins retrieves a spare Bat-Signal for a single use. This signal is a more sophisticated laser which paints a green bat symbol in the clouds and is more visible. This version of the signal is donated by Kord Industries (see the Blue Beetle). The laser signal is said to have been unused because the city council deems it an "inappropriate gift." (The characters are notably unimpressed by the more high tech version.)

In the 52 series, The Question alters the traditional Bat-Signal to project a spray-painted question mark. In the One Year Later series, however, with the re-installation of James Gordon as commissioner, relations with Batman improve. Upon Batman's return from one year of self-imposed exile, the Bat-Signal is activated once again.

Catwoman and The Riddler each use the Bat-Signal in The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, respectively.

In Blackest Night: Batman, Batman and Robin deal with resurrected zombies of their dead foes, some of which have attacked the GCPD Headquarters. When Black Lanterns attack the headquarters, the Bat-Signal shines in the sky, cracked and covered with two corpses surrounding the bat symbol. This prompts the Dynamic Duo to head over and help.

In other media[edit]

1949 Columbia serial[edit]

The Bat-Signal made its first on-screen appearance in the Batman and Robin serial by Columbia. In its first incarnation, it was simply a high powered projector that was actually kept in Commissioner Gordon's office. When needed, he would simply wheel the Bat-Signal over to his office window and shine it directly to the sky. Though small, it was powerful enough to cast an image of the Bat symbol against the clouds.

1960s TV series[edit]

The Bat-Signal seldom appeared in the 1960s TV series, Commissioner Gordon generally contacting Batman using a dedicated phone line (the Batphone). However, the Bat-Signal was occasionally used (for instance, in the episode "The Sandman Cometh" when Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are away on a camping trip), whenever Batman needed to be summoned from the field. Its first appearance was in the pilot episode, "Hi Diddle Riddle".


In a Promotion website for Gotham on called "Gotham Chronicle", which is an online newspaper following recent events from Gotham, one of them stated that a Floodlight was built on top of the G.C.P.D building, referencing that the Bat-Signal was used by police before it was a calling card for Batman, also stating that the series introduced the early uses of the Bat-Signal.

Live-action film[edit]

Burton/Schumacher film series[edit]

In Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman, Batman gives the signal to the police as a gift so that they can summon him when he is needed, after he defeats The Joker.

The Bat-Signal as seen at the end of Batman (1989)

In Burton's 1992 sequel Batman Returns, Batman has mirrors stationed atop Wayne Manor that reflect the Bat-Signal through his window, alerting him to its presence in the night sky. The signal is used when Commissioner Gordon needs Batman's help when the Red Triangle Circus Gang attack Max Shreck during Christmas and appears again at the end of the film as a surviving Catwoman looks on.

In Joel Schumacher's 1995 sequel Batman Forever, the criminal psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian uses the Bat-Signal to call Batman, in order to seduce him. Batman is slightly peeved at her usage of the Bat-Signal as a mere "beeper". A music video for "Kiss from a Rose", also from the film, features singer Seal performing the song while standing near the Bat-Signal. Also in Batman Forever, the Riddler alters the Bat-Signal by projecting a question mark into the sky with the first symbol forming the dot at the base. Similarly, in Batman: Dark Victory, after brokering a tentative alliance with Batman, the Riddler changes the signal, projecting a question mark into the sky in order to let Batman know that he has an answer for him.

In the Schumacher's 1997 film Batman & Robin, Poison Ivy alters the Bat-Signal by changing it to a "Robin-Signal" to lure Robin into a trap.

Nolan film series[edit]

The Bat-Signal as seen at the end of Batman Begins (2005), with Gary Oldman (left) and Christian Bale (right) as Lieutenant James Gordon and Batman respectively.

In Christopher Nolan's 2005 film Batman Begins,then-lieutenant James Gordon finds the mobster Carmine Falcone strapped on to a searchlight in the docks of Gotham City, for the Gotham Police force to arrest him, left by Batman. Lieutenant Gordon then notices that Falcone's shadow is projected into the clouds of the night sky, similar to the silhouette of a bat. At the end of the film, the Bat-signal appears, as a searchlight that projects the shape of a bat, installed atop police headquarters as a means to contact Batman.

In the 2008 sequel The Dark Knight, as in Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Gordon uses the Bat-Signal to remind Gotham of Batman's presence. The signal proves to be very effective, with drug dealers and criminals becoming apprehensive at its very appearance. At the end of the film, after reluctantly agreeing to let Batman take the blame for the murders committed by Harvey Dent in order to preserve Dent's image as Gotham's hero, Gordon hesitantly destroys the signal using an axe in front of various members of the police force and the press.

In the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises, the rusted remains of the destroyed Bat-Signal are still atop police headquarters. However, at the end of the film, with Batman declared dead, Gordon sees a restored Bat-Signal, providing hope that Batman has survived. (The signal itself is never used once in the film, however, making it the only live-action film about Batman where this occurs.)

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice[edit]

During 2014's SDCC, a teaser for Zack Snyder's Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was shown to the audience in Hall H. The teaser showed Batman in his armored Batsuit a top a building one rainy night in Gotham. Batman removes a sheet to reveal the Batsignal and proceeds to turn it on. From there audience are shown the projected image of the Batman logo in the sky until a figure appears out of nowhere in its place. A close up on the figure reveals it is Superman glaring down at Batman readying his heat vision. Batman stares back at the Man of Steel.


DC animated universe[edit]

The Bat-Signal as seen at the end of Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993).

In Batman: The Animated Series, the signal was built by Commissioner Gordon in "The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy". Barbara Gordon uses it in one episode to contact Batman in "Heart of Steel" when she believes that an impostor has replaced her father. At this meeting, the signal is partially destroyed when Batman is attacked by a Harvey Bullock duplicate, and Barbara uses Batman's grapple gun to pull the robot into the signal, electrocuting it. Likewise, the real Harvey Bullock uses the signal for the first time when reluctantly asking for Batman's help in discovering who is trying to kill him in "A Bullet for Bullock". The first use of a "Bat-signal" of any kind in the series was in "Joker's Favor", where a man, forced to do a favor for the Joker at a dinner honoring Commissioner Gordon, uses a large bat model hanging from a crane, swinging it back and forth in front of a window to try to contact Batman.

In Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Batman is being hunted by the police as a suspect in the recent murder of several gang lords (a crime actually committed by the Phantasm), and Bullock, under orders from Councilman Arthur Reeves, tries to use the Bat-Signal to lure him in. Batman, knowing that it is a trap, does not respond. It is also used at the end of the film to call Batman to action once again (after Batman was cleared of the murder charges).

The Bat-Signal is not used in Batman Beyond, save for one appearance, as Police Commissioner Barbara Gordon both has a direct line to the Batcave and is not as cooperative with the original Batman and his successor as her father was. The one appearance of the signal is in "Ascension", where Paxton Powers, the son of Derek Powers (Blight), has a small replica of it built to summon the new Batman, Terry McGinnis. Terry destroys it upon arrival, advising Paxton to "try e-mail."

In the web-series Gotham Girls, Batgirl appears to push her father Commissioner Gordon onto the Bat-Signal, crushing it. It is revealed that he is merely a robotic replacement.

The Batman[edit]

In the episode "The Cat, the Bat, and the Ugly" of the animated TV series The Batman, Batman has just foiled a plot that The Penguin tried to pull on top of a lighthouse. After talking to Detective Yin, Batman is standing in front of the lighthouse light when the Bat-Signal appears in the sky. In the second season finale, "Night in the City" after newly inducted Commissioner Gordon finally agrees to form an alliance with Batman; he begins using the Bat-Signal. After that his "Batwave" alarm was rarely used.

Video games[edit]

The Bat-Signal is seen in Batman: Arkham Asylum (2009) in the sky of Gotham City. During Batman's Scarecrow-induced nightmares, Batman must sneak through the remains of Arkham and defeat a gigantic Scarecrow by aiming the Bat-Signal at him. The Bat-Signal is also used in Batman: Arkham City (2011) as a waypoint in the sky that hovers high above the location of the player's objective, and the original signal is located at the now-abandoned GCPD building (as the subject of a Riddler Challenge). The Bat-Signal is also seen in DC Universe Online (2010), on top of the GCPD 9th station in the East End of Gotham. It is the focus of the feat to see places related to major DC Universe figures. In the Batman: Arkham Knight (2015), the Bat-Signal is seen in the sky of Gotham City at the start of the game.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Brodkin, Jon (2012-07-19). "Internet Defense League creates "cat signal" to save Web from next SOPA". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2012-08-26.