Bat Signal

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
    The Bat-Signal is not a beeper.

    A method of summoning a Superhero by shining their insignia into the sky. Usually, this involves using a searchlight to project the image against the clouds (it's normally not explained what they do on cloudless nights).

    The best-known example is the Trope Namer, Batman, though it has been referenced, parodied, subverted, and otherwise used many times since.

    The Bat Signal is a specific form of Regular Caller, and a very specific form of Epic Hail.

    Examples of Bat Signal include:


    • The card "Hero Signal" from Yu-Gi-Oh! is based on this idea.
      • As is the card "Destiny Signal". The "Neo Signal" has the same effect as the other two signals, but since it summons a team of animal heroes, the card depicts a smoke signal rather than a spotlight.
    • Cyborg Guy from GaoGaiGar had one of these built into his GaoBrace for summoning Galeon. More often, though, the two would simply be dispatched at the same time, foregoing the need for its use.

    Comic Books

    • Batman has used many different forms of this over the years. In addition to its signaling function, it is sometimes used by Batman himself as part of the whole "strike terror in the hearts of criminals" program. Gordon gives a similar explanation in the comic The Dark Knight Returns in response to the question of why use the Bat Signal instead of something else. The series Gotham Central delves into the legality and operation of the signal, and what it implies for the relationship between Batman and the police. Legally, no employee of City Hall or the police can operate the signal, since that would qualify as an official endorsement of Batman and make the city government responsible for whatever actions Batman takes. As such, only Stacy, the secretary of the Major Crimes Unit who is technically a temp and not a city employee at all, is allowed to turn on the signal. The signal itself is eventually dismantled following the events of the "War Games" crossover (A Bat Family Crossover from the mid-2000's) when the GCPD feels that Batman has broken the bonds of good faith between them.
      • Unfortunately, this article this article (specifically in the extensive comments section) explains why that arrangement still doesn't work.
      • In The Dark Knight Returns the Bat Signal is projected onto the side of a skyscraper, solving the problem of cloudless nights.
    • Sadly, the trope was averted in the case of Bat-Family character Stephanie Brown: there is no "Spoiler Alert." However, after she became Batgirl she would respond to the titular signal on numerous occasions, reasoning that it is the Bat-signal, not Batman-signal. In one situation, however, the signal was actually the bait for a trap the Gotham Police were laying, as she was suspected of murder at the time.
    • The Fantastic Four have a signal to summon each other. The Fantasti-Flare lights up the sky, then forms the giant 4 in the sky to let them know they're needed.
      • Human Torch doesn't need a Fantasti-Flare, as he can "draw" the giant 4 in the sky with his flames (usually using his own body/flight movements/fire trail as a pen/brush).
      • Certain prominent individuals, such as the Mayor of New York and the Chief of Police, also had their own transmitters. Presumably, individuals such as the New York State Governor, the President of the United States, and Nick Fury did not need to use such flamboyant methods... or could just order the above-mentioned individuals to use theirs.
      • The Fantastic Four also don't have secret identities, so people can just call their house and cellphones.
    • Parodied in the comic Top Ten, where a minor super-hero was arrested for using a flare-gun-type device to contact his partner, which is illegal (a "signal-device violation"). Considering that the setting of this comic is a city populated only by super-heroes, this is a reasonable legal restriction considering how many people might be flying overhead. (Not to mention redundant in the early 21st century, what with cell-phones being so cheap.)
      • Which also got used in an issue of The Batman Adventures where a Robin-wannabe who believed a tabloid claim that the original Robin had been fired used a flare gun to signal Batman. The flare hit an illuminated street sign. Batman smacked the kid and told a passing police officer to book him for reckless endangerment.
    • In Hitman, the title character creates the "Cat-Signal" to summon Catwoman, by throwing a dead cat on a searchlight.
    • Inverted in the early days of Spider-Man, the Web-Slinger used to use a Spider Signal to introduce himself.
      • Spidey still uses it from time to time, especially that it serves also as a lantern. In J. Michael Straczynski's run he used it to bring attention of a police officer, with this dialogue following:

    Spider-Man: You like it? I can rent it to you if you want.
    Detective: Really? It would be great, thanks. We would put it on the roof every time we would want you to show up. And then kick your butt.
    Spider-Man: Yeah, right, you and some god of thunder.

    • Every leader of the Section Omega in The Mighty have a special signal device infused directly into their hands that enables them to signal Alpha One or for Alpha One to signal them. Also, Alpha One could track them down whenever he wants to.


    • In the "Liquid Courage" storyline of the Xanadu Mega Crossover, a small group of people who have mostly been turned into various superheroes after a Mass Empowering Event at a Florida science fiction convention move to a compound outside Denver. When the Denver Police Department suddenly have need of their help in one story, someone manages to kitbash a "Bat Signal" that projects a rotating cycle of several of the heroes' chest Insignia or other unique symbols to get their attention.
    • In the early works of Jared Ornstead, anyone in any universe can request the help of interdimensional superspy/adventurer Skysaber by simply picking up a telephone and telling the dial tone, "An emergency situation has arisen. As of now, xxxx hours, we need the Skysaber." A voice will reply "Acknowledged", and Skysaber will arrive shortly afterward.


    • In Batman: The Movie, the signal is used to lure criminals into thinking Batman and Robin would be off to police headquarters and would not be able to thwart their plans. In The Dark Knight, Commissioner Gordon mentions that turning it on strikes terror into the hearts of criminals, even if Batman himself does not show up to answer it.

    Cop: He hasn't shown up?
    Gordon: He often doesn't. But I like reminding everybody that he's out there.

    • In Batman, the film ends with the gift of the signal to the city in order to symbolize Batman's help and serve as a public notice. This is just one additional thing to not like Batman and Robin with one of Robin's complaints being that he doesn't have a "Robin Signal"; in Batman Forever it was treated with a sense of trust and importance, here it was part of their "cred" and merchandise.
    • Batman Begins has Batman telling Gordon to "watch for [his] sign" in their first meeting; this sign turns out to be Falcone strung up to a spotlight, his cut coat resembling a bat. Gordon then turns this into the Bat-Signal, which by the time of The Dark Knight has petty criminals basically passing on activity whenever it's shining.
    • Bumblebee in Transformers sneaks away to a junkyard and shines what looks like a spotlight into the sky. The following evening, Autobot reinforcements arrive. As it is expected to be seen from space, it is either made of very strong light or uses other components as well.
    • In Kick Ass, Hit Girl jokes about having one of these.

    Kick Ass: How do I get a hold of you.
    Hit Girl: You just contact the mayor's office, he has a special signal he shines in the sky. It's in the shape of a giant cock.

    • Parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when an image of the grail appears over the Castle Anthrax. Turns out it wasn't a sign from God, just the result of a "grail-shaped beacon" left lit to accidentally-on-purpose lure questing knights to the castle.


    • The humorous guidebook How to Be a Superhero has a section on this, including a joke about making sure you have symbol suited to this and commenting on how the Women's League for Decency got the Purple Helmet's signal banned (although he still sometimes mistakenly answers summons for Doc Hemisphere).
    • The "Dark Mark" in the Harry Potter books is an evil equivalent of this, although it serves to indicate an atrocity as well as to summon people.


    • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, Batman uses these to defeat the Scarecrow.
    • It also shows up in DC Universe Online, in the Gotham portion of the world of course. You even get an feat/achievement for finding the spotlight on one of the rooftops.
    • When there is a new quest avalible to you in The Kingdom Of Loathing, the Council of Loathing lights the Adventurer Signal. Said signal is projected onto a sheet held up by some birds.


    Web Original

    • The Nostalgia Critic apparently has a Nostalgia Signal, which alerted Linkara when the Critic was mocking the Alone in the Dark film. The Critic isn't even sure why he installed the thing.
    • Loading Ready Run did a video featuring four different superheroes showing up to the same ("M"-shaped) signal. One who was actually called, and three thinking the caller just got the orientation wrong (for E, W, and 3) and it was for them.
    • In the College Humor animation "The Dark Knight Meets Superman", Superman gets one of his own, but because of his much more super powers, there is a slight difference in the way it functions in practice.

    Batman: "What the hell is this?"
    Commissioner Gordon: "Oh, this thing is great. I just turn it on, and he shows up with the bad guys!"


    Western Animation

    • In Batman Beyond, Paxton Powers uses a makeshift one to summon Batman, who answers but breaks the signal light and tells him facetiously to use email.
    • Played with in the Batman the Animated Series episode "Legends of the Dark Knight". Three kids, who have been telling stories up to now about how they think Batman is, stumble on Firefly as he's about to torch a place. One of the kids has a homemade Bat Signal flashlight, and shines it through a hole in the ceiling...for a few seconds, before the batteries die. Batman arrives a few minutes later anyway, and the kid excitedly thinks Bats saw his signal. A moment later, Batman tells Firefly that he was tracking him and figured out his pattern.
      • In Joker's Favor, the man who had been blackmailed into being Joker's patsy created a bat-shaped object and moved it back and forth in front of a large window in the hopes of getting Batman to save him. Fortunately, Bruce Wayne was driving by the building at the time.
      • More from DCAU: In one episode of Static Shock, Batman and Robin team up with Static. Batman gives Static a bat-shaped communicator, but Static loses it. Then, when he needs to contact Batman, he uses his electromagnetic powers to project a (custom-designed) Bat Signal. It can be seen here.
    • Used several times in Batman the Brave And The Bold. Also Robin gets his own Robin-signal, after he's moved to a different city, and Green Arrow is shown having his own signal in "Aquaman's Outrageous Adventure".
    • The Powerpuff Girls had their own hotline, but one episode had the Mayor sending a flashing heart signal into the sky. There was even a catchy song about it, "Signal in the Sky" by Apples in Stereo.
      • It's The Artifact: They had it in the original short, before the hotline was invented.
    • The Huntsman, a character in Freakazoid!, is signaled by "The Horn of Urgency", a giant horn on the police station's roof. Unfortunately, it was a false alarm every time.
    • Inverted in The Spectacular Spider-Man, as Spider-Man uses the belt-mounted Spider-Signal to announce his arrival, as above.
    • Parodied in the cartoon version of The Tick (animation): The Mayor has several superhero signals, and doesn't think much of their effectiveness (especially when he has the Tick's phone number).

    Mayor Blank: "Every time we flash the Die Fledermaus signal, he disconnects his phone and leaves town for a week."

    • Played with in Family Guy, when Bill Gates shines a Windows logo into the sky to summon a helicopter to pick him up. Yeah.
      • At another point, they're watching clouds go by and a dog symbol appears. Brian leaps up and runs to go take care of it, presumably.
    • Parodied in The Simpsons, when Homer stands in front of a lighthouse.[1]

    Bart: Hey look! Is that Dad?
    Lisa: Either that or Batman's really let himself go.

    • SpongeBob SquarePants once won Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy's Conch Signal in a contest and used it to summon them whenever he needed, say, a mayonnaise jar opened, or just to hang out.
    • Larry Boy had one of these.
    • In Thundercats one of the Sword of Omens' powers was to beam the Thundercats logo into the sky, to tell the other Thundercats that Lion-O was in trouble and summon them all for today's big showdown.
    • One episode of Word Girl was about Becky "Word Girl" Botsford's younger adoptive brother TJ thinking that he is a baseball-themed superhero and starts to gain more popularity than his sister. At one point he wants people to use a "Bat Signal" to summon him (in his case, it's a baseball bat), and Becky/WordGirl responds by making a reference to Batman.

    Real Life

    • Before pagers became sufficiently cheap and reliable, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and some volunteer firefighting organizations would use a signal rocket to summon their personnel from their day jobs in the event of an emergency call.
    1. Although this is an entirely accidental example.