Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy re-imagined the Batman for the big screens, portraying DC Comics’ caped crusader as a brooding billionaire fighting crime in a credible, concrete world. The camp approach taken by Joel Schumacher was jettisoned in favor of a gritty, character-driven narrative arc that saw Bruce Wayne / Batman going about his business in ultra-real surroundings.
Nolan’s films replaced the neon lights, MTV sets, and sadomasochistic costumes from Batman & Robin with on-location shots in Chicago (doubling for Gotham) and a practical, military-inspired Batman wardrobe that looked as if it truly existed in-world and was capable of performing the functions intended by its makers. No bat-nipples or thongs here.
To coincide with the release of The Dark Knight Rises (now on DVD), Insight Editions has published The Dark Knight Manual, a first-of-its kind compendium exploring the tools, weapons, vehicles, and documents used by Nolan’s pointy-eared protagonist. Ostensibly written by Bruce Wayne himself, the manual was compiled with Nerd enthusiasm by actor-writer Brandon Snider (Huffington Post, Official Smallville Magazine), who—like Nolan—treats all the people and props in the Dark Knight universe as if they’re real instead of imagined.
How real? Well, the scrapbook features over 35 removable items—from “evidence” Joker playing cards and crime scene photos to a Wayne Enterprises employee badge and post-it notes from the desks of (Bruce Wayne butler) Alfred Pennyworth and (Batman outfitter) Lucius Fox. There are stickers, statistics, schematics, and diagrams aplenty. Weights, measurements, and dates of birth are divulged. A sequence of translucent pages illustrates the many layers of the batsuit. There’s even a fold-out map of Gotham tucked in the back cover that displays pertinent places like Wayne Manor, Arkham Asylum, City Hall, and Blackgate Prison.
We’re given access to Wayne’s dossiers on important Gotham officials like Jim Gordon and Harvey Dent—and profiles of villains like Dr. Stephen Crane, Carmine Falcone, and The Joker. His latest adversary, the 6’1’’muscle-bond Bane, weighs in at 240 lbs. and wears a mask that pumps an “opiate analgesic” into his lungs to mitigate pain from old injuries. Wayne theorizes that Joker (true identity unknown) could be “a former Haley Brothers employee with some kind of grudge against the mob.” Hospital files indicate that D.A. Dent suffered hideous facial burns after being “doused with accelerant.” A psychological evaluation on serial killer Victor Zsasz appears courtesy Dr. Stephen Crane (aka Scarecrow), and the police report accounting the murder of Bruce’s parents was filed by Sgt. James Gordon.
The “Base of Operations” chapter covers Wayne Manor and subterranean Bat Cave (blueprint included), whose construction was dictated by the natural environs and demanded that “functionality took precedence over style.” We learn that the “interim headquarters” used by Bruce in The Dark Knight began decades earlier as a way-station for Hiram Wayne’s aborted steam-driven subway system. We’re also given a tour of the Applied Sciences Division of Wayne Enterprises—the subdivision secretly supplying Batman with all his wonderful toys. A post-it from Alfred informs Bruce that CEO William Earle (Rutger Hauer from Batman Begins) hasn’t shown interest in the clandestine division responsible for equipping the Batman.
The manual unfastens Batman’s utility built (titanium alloy) and rifles through the contents. There’s a grappling gun, ninja spikes (for scaling vertical surfaces), “bat-a-rang” shurikens, fear toxin antidote, a surudoi saw, and nonlethal deterrents like smoke bombs and mini-mines. The periscope Batman gave the boy (“My friends won’t believe me!”) on the fire escape is collapsible and utilizes infrared technology.
Bruce explains the sticky-bomb gun and skyhook used for kidnapping and extraditing Mr. Lao from Hong Kong. He also talks about the “pneumatic mangler,” a metal-tearing prosthetic device seen briefly in The Dark Knight (when Bats leaps on Scarecrow’s getaway van). A couple paragraphs detail the 47B1 microwave emitter stolen by The League of Shadows in Batman Begins. Wayne Enterprises designed it to vaporize an enemy’s water supply—but Scarecrow uses it to disperse his fear gas in The Narrows. There’s little info on the safe energy fusion reactor seen in Dark Knight Rises; including it might have betrayed its significance in the film.
The chapter on “The Batsuit” explains Bruce’s decision to model himself and his gear on “something elemental” that might inspire fear and awe in criminals. Despite his acrimonious split with Ra’s al Ghul and The League of Shadows, Bruce follows through with Ducard’s advice to “become a legend” by donning a bat-like cowl and fighting evil by night. The guise isn’t cheap: each infantry-ready suit—fashioned from tear-resistant Kevlar b-weave (with unmatched tensile strength)—costs $300,000.
Bruce discusses the equipment upgrades seen throughout the movie trilogy, emphasizing his need to become lighter and faster for The Dark Knight. Batsuit 2.0 boasts a tri-mesh weave and titanium mesh with Kevlar plating (110 components in all) that allows better range of motion—but leaves Batman more vulnerable to knife attacks (as seen in Dark Knight Rises). His “gauntlet” contains a micro-relay palm with finger circuits that control other aspects of the suit. The detachable arm spikes can be used offensively (projectiles or stabbing weapons) and defensively (they fold down to help the arm ward off attacks at close-range). Batman’s boots—based on ninja “tabi” footwear—have steel toes and a hollow heel with a sonic homing device for summonsing colonies of bats as a distraction or diversion.
The cowl / mask itself has an impact-resistant graphite exterior that shields against small-caliber firearms and concussive blows. Starlight night-vision infrared lenses drop over the eyepieces as needed, and the bat ears house stereo microphones for short and long-range wiretapping.
The inventory wouldn’t be complete without addressing Batman’s impressive rides. The “Tumbler” is described as military bridging vehicle. It’s a 2.5 ton mini-tank powered by a 1500 horsepower jet turbine engine that goes from 0-60 mph in just under three seconds (with a top speed of 200 mph). It’s got internal air filters, polarized and non-polarized bulletproof glass, missile launchers, laminate armor, thermal imaging displays, and hologram generators. One imagines it has a kick-ass stereo system, too. The data mentions a “stealth mode” but doesn’t expound upon its applications or list any drawbacks for use. If your car had a cloaking device, wouldn’t you keep it engaged all the time?
Of course, the Tumbler deploys an escape “Pod” (aka Bat Cycle) on command (or when it sustains “catastrophic damage”). With engines housed in its two prodigious wheel hubs, The Pod packs front-mounted .50 caliber machine guns and 40 mm canons. Full-pivot tires allow for safe hairpin turns at high velocity. Outstretched on the bike, a rider has lower center of gravity and is less of a target.
The Dark Knight Rises has the hero test-driving his new flying machine—a sleek, intimidating, rotor-powered monstrosity bristling with rocket launchers and floodlights. Lucius says it’s got a “long and uninteresting Wayne Enterprises designation,” and took to calling it The Bat. Tailored for urban pacification, the vortex-propelled aircraft “handles tight, geometric maneuvers without circulation.”
All told, The Dark Knight Manual is smart enough to satisfy grown-up geeks yearning for details about Nolan’s fascinating Bat-world but accessible enough for (older) kids to appreciate. These characters, locales, and devices—all extensions of the Batman himself—spark that childlike sense of wonder in us all, encouraging big dreams and endless possibilities.
Without the manual, you’ll just have to imagine the fire.