Batman 112 - "The Signalman of Crime"

"The Signalman of Crime"

Dec. 1957
Written by Bill Finger
Edited by Jack Schiff
Drawn by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

Along the outskirts of Gotham City, a well-dressed man approaches a
signpost that points him in the direction of Gotham. This man is
Phill Cobb, a small-time crook with big dreams, and little does he
know that the sign he's at will not only tell him WHERE to go to
strike it big, but HOW to do so as well. When he arrives in Gotham,
he tries to form a gang with various underworld thugs, but is
rejected at every turn. Nobody has heard of him, and without a
reputation, he has no credibility and is sent on his way. Frustrated,
Cobb wanders the dark streets of Gotham that night until he sees
another signal --- the Bat-Signal illuminating the night sky.
Inspiration strikes him instantly: he'll gain a reputation by
developing a unique criminal MO, like the Joker or the Penguin. But
he claims that he'll be smarter than them, "because I won't get
caught!" he vows.

Two nights later, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson see the Bat-Signal and
change into their alter-egos of Batman and Robin to see Commissioner
Gordon. At police headquarters, Gordon presents Batman with a note
that came for him minutes ago. It reads, "Batman - I'm challenging
you to a battle of wits! See if you can follow the signs to my
robbery tonight -- and stop me -- if you can!" It's signed, "The
Signalman." Gordon is furious that "another cheap hoodlum" is trying
to make a name for himself by outsmarting the law, and urges Batman
to stop him quickly. The Dynamic Duo quickly set to work on
deciphering the clues sent by the Signalman, a broom with a symbol of
an atom tied to the post. Robin wonders if the broom indicates that
this new foe will be attempting a "clean sweep of crime," and
his "clean sweep" comment triggers a theory in Batman's brain...

Later that night, at the Gotham Hobby Show, Phil "The Signalman" Cobb
hides in a balcony, looking down on the guests and garbed in an odd
costume: a yellow hood that covers his upper face, a red suit with
the symbol of a sun on his chest, and a yellow cape mottled with
various symbols and signs. He decides to start his crime spree,
confident that Batman has failed to decipher the clues he sent, and
pulls a fire alarm. The crowd is sent into a panic, and in the chaos,
the Signalman swings down on a rope tied to a chandilier, swooping
down to steal the Hobby Show's main exhibit - a pure jade model of
the atomic "Nautilus" submarine. But just before it's in his grasp,
Robin appears from nowhere and snatches it away!

Startled by the Boy Wonder's action, Signalman swings along towards a
giant cuckoo clock where Batman is currently emerging from the door.
He is impressed that the Caped Crusader knew that a broom is raised
on a new submarine after a successful first run, or a "clean sweep."
But he still proclaims that he is smarter than his crimefighting
quarry. As Batman strugges to reach him from the clock, Signlaman
swings over to the opposite balcony to make his escape. But Batman is
hot on his trail, leaping from the clock onto a giant tribal drum and
using the membrane as a trampoline to reach the balcony. He rushes
for the exit, but is startled to find that he's opened the door the
the broom closet! Cobb switched signs earlier to make his escape more
easily. Later that night, Cobb gloats in his hideout, which is
decorated with a variety of signs, symbols and signals (various
flags, musical notes, professional insignias, and letters of foreign
alphabets, to name a bit of his home decor). Though he failed to
claim his prize, he made the front page, and is on his way to
garnering a great reputation as a criminal mastermind. Soon, he feels
every crook in town will want to join his mob.

The next day, another cryptic clue is sent to Batman and Robin; a fir
tree and a sign with two astronomical symbols. Commissioner Gordon is
stymied, but Batman has already started working on their
significance. He explains that construction workers customarily hoist
a fir tree on top of a newly-built skyscraper as a sign that it's
grown. Robin elaborates on the astronomical symbols: the circle with
a cross dividing it into four equal sections represents the Earth,
while the circle with an arrow pointing from it represents Mars.
Robin believes that this means Signalman plans to pull a crime at a
newly built observatory, but his mentor points out to him that since
the symbols on the sign are close together, it indicates that the
planets are close together as well. He further explains that Earth
and Mars were the closest last year, so such a crime couldn't happen
now. But there is one place that can reproduce such an event...

Speeding off in the Batmobile, the Dynamic Duo arrive at a new
science center, complete with a planetarium on the top floor. This is
where the Signalman intends to strike. At that very moment in the
planetarium, a show is being put on for wealthy patrons who
contributed to the center's construction and were invited for the
dedication. Gazing at the marvelous astronomical images created by
the projector, Signalman sneaks in and muses that while they are
enamored with the planets, his sights are set on stars, specifically
a valuable star sapphire necklace he plans to lift from from an
elderly female patron. His plans are again foiled, however, when
Batman tackles him and drives him into the control board. But the
impact affects the projector as well; it swings around and smacks
into Batman, giving Cobb another chance to escape.

Signalman rushes into the exhibit hall displaying gigantic
representations of the Zodiac signs. He hops on one of the balances
of a giant model of Libra, the scales, but spots the Dynamic Duo hot
on his trail. To further delay them, he grabs the giant arrow from
the model of Sagittarius, the archer, and hurls it at them! Batman
and Robin dodge the deadly weapon, but Signalman has made the most of
his time and reached the top of the planetarium's dome. But he's
inadvertendly trapped himself; there's nowhere to go. Batman and
Robin corner him and prepare to take him in, but Cobb was again
prepared for this contingency. Donning a parachute he stashed on the
dome earlier, he leaps off and makes a quick descent, again evading
the Masked Manhunters. Once again, he failed to claim a prize, but
the Signalman is still making headlines. He feels that after he
commits one more crime, he'll have the reputation necessary to
recruit the biggest mob in Gotham.

The next morning, another pair of clues is sent to Batman and Robin:
A black flag with a skull and crossbones, and a flashlight with a Bat-
Signal. Robin is puzzled by these clues; does Signalman intend to use
Batman to commit an act of piracy? Boarding the Bat-Launch, they
patrol Gotham Bay to find an answer, and spot Signalman climbing
aboard an anchored cabin cruiser. Batman cuts the motor so they can
sneak up on him, and they climb onto the boat to catch their quarry.
As they search the cabins, however, a door locks behind them!
Signalman gloats at them through the window, claiming he had this set
up as a trap for them. He then tells them that he's set a bomb in the
engine room that will explode in ten minutes! While the Dynamic Duo
are left to die, he'll take the Bat-Launch and use it to rob the
guests on the Van Dorf yacht. They'll think it's Batman approaching
and won't suspect anything until it's too late. Cobb leaves the
doomed boat and boards the Bat-Launch, leaving Batman and Robin to
their fate.

Robin tries desperately to force the door open, but it won't budge.
He moans that he wishes they could signal for help, and Batman
believes they can with one of the pennants on the cabin wall. A few
minutes later, the captain on a passing motorboat spies the flag and
tells his crewman that they're being invited to come aboard and share
a lonely skipper's hospitality. But they get quite a surprise when
they free Batman and Robin from their trap. Batman instructs the
captain to leave the area quickly before the bomb goes off, and they
escape with mere seconds to spare. At the same time, Signalman looks
on from the Bat-Launch at the explosion in the distance and chortles
that he was able to do what no other criminal could - finally kill
Batman. When the underworld learns of this, they'll be begging to
join his gang. But his delight is premature when he spies Batman and
Robin pursuing him on the motorboat. Still, he stays confident,
believing that they'll never be able to catch up to him in the Bat-
Launch, and increases the speed to get away. But suddenly, the boat
scrapes against something and comes to a dead halt. In a desperate
attempts to free his craft, Batman boards the vessel and subdues
Cobb. He remarks on the irony that due to Signalman's overconfidence
he failed to notice a key sign - a bell buoy, warning of dangerous
shoals. Beaten, Cobb is sent to prison, and the Signalman's criminal
career has come to an end.

This was not the Signalman's only outing. There are two other stories
in which he was a key criminal; Batman 124, "The Return of the
Signalman", and Detective Comics #466, "Signalman Steals the
Spotlight." If anyone has any information on these two stories, it
would be greatly appreciated.

In Batman #139, Cobb abandoned his Signalman persona and adopted the
identity of the "Blue Bowman", using trick-arrows to commit crimes.
Basically, he wanted to be the criminal equivalent of the Green
Arrow. Despite the change of costume and MO, however, the results
were still the same - batman kicked his butt and put him in jail.