Building Swing

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"He flies through the air with the greatest of ease..."

A common means of travel for a non-flying Superhero. It's almost as cool as flying, and there's no need to have any supernatural powers at all, just action-oriented plot powers and a strong stomach. Just leap, grapple, release, repeat. Watch out for that tree! *BOOM*

Doesn't even need to be in the city, applies equally well to the traditional Tarzan approach to jungle navigation. All you really need is something to swing on, and something it can hang from. (And sometimes, it doesn't even need that!)

Most times, the swinging is accomplished by use of some type of Plot Technology Grappling Hook Pistol, that is somehow able to pull the weight of the hero (and often a passenger), and store an implausibly long cord (usually a very thin one for how much weight it holds).

Often, the swinging violates laws of physics that are better left alone. It's hard to do realistically in live action and is not often used there. (The '70s Japanese live-action version of Spider-Man made very limited use of web-swinging, relying more on a flying car and a giant robot/spaceship.) For a similar conveyance technique used more often in Anime, see Roof Hopping. Compare Fast Roping

The technology, if not the skill, behind grapple-and-swing maneuvers was partially busted (and partially confirmed) by the MythBusters in 2007.

Examples of Building Swing include:

Anime and Manga


  • The various incarnations of Spider-Man. Along with wall-crawling, web-slinging is his defining characteristic. His web-shooters manufacture the lines from chemicals, and in most incarnations are technological devices rather than an innate power (though the 21st-century movies used organic webs, and the comics followed suit... for a while). In the '60s Spider-Man cartoons, Spidey was often shown swinging above the skyline, prompting a few people to wonder just what the heck he was attaching his webs to. Famously subverted in the story "When Cometh the Commuter" by Peter David (in Amazing Spider-Man #267), in which Spidey chases a criminal back to Suburbia, where most of his signature powers are completely useless.
    • Spidey's arms not coming out of his sockets, as would generally happen with normal people, is Handwaved (justifiably) with his super-strength. On one occasion in the 90s cartoon, he loses his powers temporarily, and mentions how much it hurts when he tries to use the webshooters to get around. He also uses his wall crawling ability to stick his hands to the web strings, otherwise it'd easily slip out of his hand when he swung from it.
    • Pretty much all of the issues there are with web-slinging are justifiable in Spidey's case. The aiming of the lines? Spider-sense. The construction of the lines? An adhesive that the chemistry-savvy Peter Parker made on instinct.
      • How he manages to carry enough web-mix to swing his way all over New York, without the shooters' fluid-cartridges ruining the smooth lines of his costume's sleeves, is still a mystery.
        • Certain comics and other adaptations (such as the Marvels mini-series and the upcoming Spider-Man reboot film show the bulge of the web-shooters under his costume.
    • In the Spider-man Films, this becomes more organic, as he is given organs to produce said web. Becomes a problem when he carries too much emotional baggage in the second, though.
    • In an issue of X-Factor, Spidey lands on a building without any taller buildings nearby. When asked what he used to websling there, he comments "Passing cloud."
  • When not in the Batmobile, the animated Batman often uses a high-tech grappling gun to swing dramatically across Gotham City. Maybe just when the traffic's bad. In the live action Batman, clumsily-produced Batarang and rope sequences were used from time to time, along with the lame sideways-wall bit. Batman first used his grappling gun in the 1989 Tim Burton movie, though in this case he tended to use them just to go straight up, or horizontally on a zipline rather than swinging like Spider-Man.
  • Batman's cohorts Nightwing, Robin, Batgirl, Huntress, etc., travel in the same way.
    • Batgirl Year One showed Barbara trying to swing from buildings for the first time. Batman and Robin had to intervene, however, because she used the wrong kind of cord. She would've died otherwise. (Eventually Robin gave her a sturdier cable to use.)
      • It wasn't that Barbara's cable wasn't sturdy enough, it was that it wouldn't stretch. Her cord would have put all the force of her fall onto her shoulders in an instant, ripping her arms out of her sockets.
  • Ted "the Blue Beetle" Kord often used a grappling hook, as well as a trapeze suspended from his private hover-plane.
  • The grappling-hook armbands worn by The Dirty Pair.
  • Lampshade hung by an issue of the Bartman comic: "Almost there! And good - I'm out of tall things to swing from!"
    • In the same series, a "letter to the editor" asks how Bartman can swing when there's nothing in the background to hang a rope from. The answer? Springfield's notorious air pollution has apparently given clouds the consistency of ballistics gel.
  • Lampshaded in an issue of Catwoman where she has an adventure in Miami and notes that she will soon run out of rooftops if she doesn't change up her strategy that works so well in Gotham and NYC.
  • In Bookhunter, Cowboy Cop Agent Bay shoots down a power line and uses it to swing between two rooftops.

Eastern Animation

  • Geko from Aachi and Ssipak uses a grappling hook to swing around buildings while blowing the crap out of an army of Mooks.


  • An oft-talked about gaffe in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is that Luke and Leia's Building Swing off of Jabba's skiff involved a rope that could not physically be attached to either Jabba's skiff or the rescue speeder.
  • Both Indiana Jones and Zorro are known to swing from their bullwhips, though, of course, over much shorter distances than most of the examples here.
  • Used to transport Ethan Hunt to an adjacent roof in Mission: Impossible III. Surprisingly realistic, in that the rope was (apparently) properly anchored, and the swing was the equivalent of a human pendulum.
  • The 2008 Get Smart film subverts this at one point with an attempted swing into a window in the next building. Missed it by THAT much!
  • Done realistically at the end of Darkman, in which Westlake stands on top of a hook at the end of a construction-site cable, rather than simply clinging to the line with his hands.
  • A fair bit of this takes place in the climax of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, with combatants from both ships swinging back and forth on lines of rigging.

Newspaper Comics

  • Spoofed, of all places, in Garfield. One early comic has Garfield pull a vine out of nowhere so he can swing from the fridge to steal Jon's lunch. Afterwards Jon is wondering where the vine came from.

Live-Action Television

  • Subverted in the Doctor Who episode "The Runaway Bride" in which Donna swings to safety—and straight into a concrete wall.
  • The Batmobile "turn radius" grapple and standard "get up the building" grapple guns have been examined on MythBusters, to the detriment of both.

Video Games

  • The defining characteristic of Bionic Commando. Unique for its time in that the protagonist cannot jump and must use this to clear any obstacles in the way.
  • Ryu Hyabasa does this briefly, for one building, in his ending on Dead or Alive 4.
  • The Grappling Beam in later Metroid games allows you to swing from special ceiling blocks and some enemies.
  • Link's Grappling Hook in some The Legend of Zelda titles. More games use a form of hook shot, but those don't require swinging.
  • Lara Croft has a magnetic Grappling Hook Pistol in Legend, Tomb Raider Anniversary and Underworld.
  • Ratchet sometimes uses a grappling gun to get around. In fact, he's kept it in each game since aloing with his Grind Boots.
  • In Champions Online, one of the travel powers available to players is "Swinging," which is basically a grappling gun. It always fires straight upwards and connects to something, even if you're in the middle of the desert with nothing to latch onto.
  • The Thunder Claw in Mega Man 8, which acts like Samus' Grapple Beam on certain blocks. He also had the Wire Adaptor in 4, but it just raised him to the ceiling.
    • In Mega Man X 2 there's Wire Sponge's weapon, which has a limited use to pull X towards the walls or power ups to him.
  • The various Spider-Man games, of course, use this as well. Depending on the game, you either swing off nothing (and ignore the physics of swinging) or you're required to anchor the swingline (and must obey physics while swinging). Which one works better depends on whether or not you're trying to swing over Central Park.
  • Amaterasu in Okami can summon vines from conveniently-located hovering flowers and either pull herself along or use them to snare other objects.
  • One of the novel features of Super Castlevania IV on the SNES was Simon's ability to catch rings embedded in the castle walls and swing from them, often across enormous gaps in the scenery.

Web Original

  • The Rocket in Legion of Nothing says he has a pair of grappling-hooks 'just in case I have to do the Spiderman thing'.
  • Subverted by Ace of Brave and the Bold, an indestructible teen hero who, lacking any kind of Grappling Hook Pistol, simply leaps from the tops of tall buildings and plummets until she makes impact with either another building or the pavement below. As one might expect, it makes for an awkward means of getting around.
  • Widow and Arachne, two spider-themed superheroes from the Global Guardians PBEM Universe, prefer this method of travel.

Western Animation