A batarang is a roughly bat-shaped throwing weapon used by the Gotham City vigilante Batman as a non-lethal ranged attack alternative to firearms, which he rejects outright due to the circumstances of his parents' murder. The name is a portmanteau of bat and boomerang, and are sometimes referred to as baterangs. The batarang also serves as instruments of distraction, confusion, or it is simply to frighten would-be adversaries that the Batman is present.
Though they are named after boomerangs, batarangs have become more and more like shuriken with time. The earliest depictions were of scalloped, metal boomerangs which were used to attack opponents and returned to the thrower. Variations of batarangs include those which are able to be opened and closed (presumably so they can fit into Batman's utility belt), those which can be explosively charged and those which are electrified. Other varieties include remote-controlled batarangs, sonic batarangs, and even batarangs that freeze people or objects they come in contact with. A grappling hook made out of a batarang and a rope was common until Batman began using an upgraded grappling hook device.
Nightwing uses his own modified version of a Batarang, which he often refers to as "Wing-Dings", shaped after a bird. Batgirl (both Barbara Gordon and Cassandra Cain) and the current Robin also use Batman's batarangs, but the latter also possesses his own 'R'-shaped shuriken. Robin has also referred to his weapons as "Birdarangs" on occasion.
The original concept of the Batarang was developed by Bill Finger.
Batarangs first appeared in Detective Comics #31 (Sept. 1939) in the same year the character was introduced. They have since become a staple of Batman's arsenal, appearing in every major Batman television and movie adaptation to date. Following the backlash against the camp Batman television series, the franchise has avoided the overuse of the "bat-" prefix, other than the Batcave and Batmobile. Though shown prominently, the batarangs are very rarely referred to by name.
In the movie adaptations of Batman, the batarangs shown match the adapted Bat-logo of the respective movie franchise. Batman Returns also featured a computerized version which could be programmed to fly after specific targets, while the video game Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequel Batman: Arkham City feature remote-controlled Batarangs which can be steered through the air with a great deal of control, as well as being able to slow down, speed up, and even to perform a 180-degree turn and reverse direction when necessary.
The 2005 Warner Bros. film, Batman Begins showed Batarangs as bat-shaped shuriken used for distraction rather than as weapons, fitting in with Batman's ninja training.