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What Happens to the Bat-Signal On a Clear Night? [Comic Questions]

This week begins a new series, Comic Questions. It examines some of the questions that comic book fans are reluctant to ask. This week, we take a look at the Bat-Signal.

Gotham City's police summon Batman with a spotlight that has Batman's symbol in the middle, known as the Bat-Signal.The Bat-Signal is one of the most iconic images from the comic books. Who can forget the dark, cloudy sky with Batman's symbol rippling across it, like a gigantic winged avenger soaring over the city? Of course, there's a glaring flaw with the Bat-Signal: it only works if there are clouds to reflect it off of. What happens to the Bat-Signal when there are no clouds?

In the comics, this is solved by always drawing Gotham City under a perpetual blanket of clouds. This is good for drama, but makes about as much sense as Gotham City's criminals only committing crimes at night. Unless Gotham City is some sort of meteorological freak of nature, it has to have a clear night sometime. If I were a criminal, I would plan my jobs on a cloudless night. You could hold half the city hostage and kill the other half and never worry about Batman, because he would never find out. Bruce Wayne's always tucked away in that mysterious castle miles from the city, brooding by a window.

Frank Miller must have realized this problem. Among the many revisions to the Batman mythos in his epic graphic novel, The Dark Knight Returns, he had the Bat-Signal reflected off of a skyscraper adjacent to the police headquarters. Good idea, although that means that Bruce Wayne always has to be at that exact angle to see it. If he's on the wrong side of town, he won't see it. At least, it works in clear skies, though.


  1. The "Bat-signal" has always been one of those good ideas in principle rather than fact. I thought Batman Returns had an interesting take by saying the signal is relayed into his house. But, then if he's out clubbing he misses the signal.

  2. ....The bat-phone anyone?


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