The Batsignal (or 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 fictional origin of the signal varies between timeline and media. It made its first appearance in Detective Comics #60, February 1942.
In the comic's post-Crisis continuity, the signal was introduced after the Batman's first encounter against the Joker (not unlike the first movie) in Batman: The Man Who Laughs; in Batman and the Mad Monk, Gordon initially used a pager, but during a meeting with Batman he threw it away, saying that he couldn't sneak around in the shadows like Batman and wanted a more above-board means of contacting him.
Used by Others
Others have used the Bat-Signal for their own purposes.
In the "Lovers and Madmen" story arc from Batman Confidential, which retells the origin of the Joker and his first encounter with Batman, Batman sees the Bat-Signal for the first time and assumes that Gordon created it to ask for his help in battling the Joker. When he reaches the rooftop, however, he finds that the Joker actually created it, and used it to force a confrontation with Batman.
In Legends of the Dark Knight #6, a cadre of crime bosses projects the signal upside down in order to summon Batman to help them fight a killer they can't defeat. In the Halloween special comic series, Haunted Knight, Scarecrow alters the Bat-Signal to notify Batman that he has kidnapped then-Captain 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, 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.
Near the beginning of the Batman: 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 hasn't shown up. Oracle also builds a small Bat-Signal to summon Batman to talk to her after having seen Huntress wearing a Batgirl costume.
In the comic book series Gotham Central, the purpose of the Bat-Signal is further expanded upon; as Batman's existence is not officially recognized by the Gotham City authorities, the Bat-Signal is explained as a method of using the "urban legend" around Batman to terrify Gotham's criminal underworld.
As official proven police interaction with the Bat-Signal and Batman himself can lead to cases against criminals arrested by Batman being dismissed, it is up to the civilian employees of the Gotham police department (including the Major Case Squad's civilian attache, Stacy) to operate the signal officially. 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; the Bat-Signal is removed from the roof of Gotham Central. Needing Batman's help on an extraordinary case, Akins brings out 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 apparently 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 appear to have thawed; upon Batman's return from one year of self-imposed exile, the Bat-Signal (restored to the roof of police headquarters) is activated once again. The familiar sight of the Bat symbol in the sky prompts cheers from most of the citizens of Gotham.
In Other Media
In the 1949 serial, Commissioner Gordon uses a modest sized Batsignal projector through the window of his office.
The Bat symbol in the sky was also used in the end credits of every episode and was seen on the access menu of the special edition DVD release of the film.
DC Animated Universe
- "You've a call on your private line."
- ―Alfred Pennyworth to Batman[src]
In Batman: The Animated Series, the Batsignal first appears in "Joker's Favor", where Charlie Collins improvises it to get Batman's attention. The Signal itself first appears in "The Cape and Cowl Conspiracy", with it being used by Gordon and the GCPD throughout the series. Barbara Gordon also used the Bat-Signal to contact Batman in "Heart of Steel Part II", with it later being destroyed during a fight between them and a HARDAC duplicate of Harvey Bullock. Likewise, the real Harvey Bullock used the Batsignal for the first time when he reluctantly asked for Batman's help in discovering who tried to kill him in "A Bullet for Bullock".
In the film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Arthur Reeves and the GCPD, believing Batman had murdered several gang lords, attempt to use the Batsignal to lure him into a trap. However, he knew of the ploy and did not respond.
- "Please inform the citizens of Gotham that Gotham City has earned a rest from crime. But if the forces of evil should rise again, to cast a shadow on the heart of the city, call me."
- ―Batman's letter to the GCPD.[src]
In Batman, Batman gave the Batsignal to the GCPD after the death of the Joker as a gift so that when he was needed, they could summon him. Originally the Batsignal was going to be projected onto the side of a building like the more realistic version seen in the 1986 Dark Knight series. When the ending was reshot, a more traditional use of the signal into the sky was used.
In Batman Returns, Bruce had automated mirrors stationed up around the top of Wayne Manor that would reflect the signal directly through the window of his study. It was seen when Commissioner Gordon needed his help when the Red Triangle Gang attacked Gotham Plaza during the the initial Lighting of the Tree Ceremony.
Much like the first film, the ending with the Batsignal was changed at the last minute. Originally the film was to end with the city's lights flickering off and on, with Gordon and the Mayor desperately lighting the faulty signal. Instead, Catwoman is shown looking up at the signal, similar to the ending of the first film.
- "You called me here for this? The Bat-Signal is not a beeper."
- ―Batman to Chase Meridian[src]
In Batman Forever, the criminal psychologist Dr. Chase Meridian used the Batsignal to call Batman in order to seduce him. Batman was slightly peeved at her usage of the Batsignal as a mere "beeper". Later in the film, the Riddler altered the Batsignal by projecting a question mark into the sky with the original bat symbol forming the dot at the base. The signal was later restored when Batman flew the Batwing right through the signal much to Commissioner Gordon's delight. At the end of the film, Batman and Robin were shown in silhouette running in front of the Bat-Signal.
The music video for Kiss from a Rose, also from the film and was directed by Schumacher, featured singer Seal performing the song while he stood beside the Batsignal.
In Batman & Robin, Poison Ivy acquired the location and keys to the Batsignal after she seduced Commissioner Gordon who revealed information about it. Ivy and Bane removed the Batsignal from the top of GCPD Headquarters and took it back to her lair.
Ivy then altered the Batsignal by changing the Bat-symbol to a Robin-symbol in order to lure Robin into a trap. However, Robin was able to trick Ivy into revealing Mr. Freeze's plan to freeze Gotham City. At the end of the film, the Batsignal was later restored when Batman, Robin and Batgirl were running in front of it before the credits.
The Dark Knight Trilogy
In Batman Begins, Batman initially 'improvised' a Batsignal by draping crime boss Carmine Falcone over a spotlight at the docks after he defeated him, and his spread-out trench coat made the light look like a bat. At the conclusion of the film, Lieutenant James Gordon created the actual Batsignal to call Batman to the roof for a talk, although he jokingly commented that he only used it because they couldn't find any mob bosses to strap to it.
In The Dark Knight, Gordon used the Batsignal to remind Gotham of Batman's presence. The Batsignal proved to be very effective, with drug dealers and criminals who became apprehensive at its appearance. However, since the GCPD were supposed to be tracking Batman, they chalked it up to "light problems" when it was used. At the end of the film, after he agreed to blame Batman for the murders that were committed by Harvey Dent in order to preserve the latter's image as Gotham's hero, Gordon destroyed the Batsignal in front of various members of the GCPD and the Gotham press.
In The Dark Knight Rises, at the beginning, Gordon was seen contemplating Harvey Dent over the heavily rusted remains of the searchlight. At the end, a new rebuilt Batsignal was installed in its place, which surprised Gordon, though it honored Batman, but had no use, as Batman was presumed dead.
The LEGO Movies
In The LEGO Movie, a Batsignal is created when Batman crashes the Batwing into the sun. The signal itself appears in The LEGO Batman Movie, where it is "egged" by Egghead to stop the GCPD from calling him. During the climax, Batman commissions multiple signals for his allies and enemies, rallying them to fight Joker and the Phantom Zone escapees.
DC Extend Universe
Batman: Arkham Series
In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the Batsignal was first seen in the sky while Batman drove the Batmobile through Gotham to deliver Joker to Arkham Island. To escape Scarecrow 's-induced nightmares, Batman sneaked through the remains of Arkham and defeated a gigantic Scarecrow by aiming the Batsignal at him. During the second encounter with Scarecrow, Batman relived the death of his parents, where he knelt down to his parents as an 8 year old Bruce and a Batsignal shined on him.
In Batman: Arkham City, the Batsignal was used as a waypoint in the sky, and hovered as an objective marker while Batman roamed Arkham City. The original Batsignal light was found on the roof of the old GCPD Building at Amusement Mile (as the subject of a Riddle).
In Batman: Arkham Knight, Commissioner Gordon used the Batsignal to contact Batman about the evacuation of Gotham's citizens and Scarecrow's plans.
Batman: The Telltale Series
In Batman: The Telltale Series, the Batsignal first appears during the opening minutes of "New World Order", where it is used by Lt Gordon to call for Batman. If Penguin is defeated during "Guardian of Gotham", Gordon uses it again during opening for "City of Light", summoning Batmant to help defend them from Harvey Dent's enforcers.
In Batman: The Enemy Within, the Batsignal is used multiple times to summon Batman to Gotham City Police Headquarters. During "The Pact", Amanda Waller criticizes Gordon for using it, arguing it is not a logistical method of getting his attention. During the Vigilante Joker route of "Same Stitch", the signal is thrown by Bane during the fight between Batman, Joker and the "special taskforce". The signal can also be seen at the end of the episode, where Bruce must chose whether to respond to it or not to convince Alfred to stay.