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Signalman using a swingline, over a white background

Signalman aka the Blue Bowman

(Profile #1 - 1957-1961)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game
“Once again, that bizarre bandit known as the Signalman challenges Batman and Robin to a duel of wits ! Once again, the caped crime-fighters battle the brazen criminal who uses signs for crime !”
Batman #124

Context

Signalman is one of those 1950s Batman villain with a silly gimmick. These could come across as forced and formulaic, but then the expectation wasn’t that people would read a given comic every month for years.

This profile covers the late 1950s. During that span the Signalman has two identities (he also was the Blue Bowman) but there isn’t enough material to have a separate profile for each of those.


Background

  • Real Name: Phil Cobb.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: None.
  • Group Affiliation: None.
  • Base Of Operations: Gotham City.
  • Height: 6’2” Weight: 200 lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Black


Powers & Abilities

Cobb is a multi-talented man. He’s competent as a criminal schemer, an acrobat, a driver and sailor, a gadgeteer, an archer, etc. However, he cannot hope to compete with Batman.

The Signalman cases his crime scenes carefully, assessing what can be used as weapons if needed. Furthermore, he will plant at least one mean to get away. Examples of the latter included :

  • A parachute hidden on the roof of a tall building.
  • Inverting the signs “Exit” and “Broom Closet” so pursuers would pick the wrong door.
  • Decoys of himself standing in the shadows.
  • A getaway racing car (with a checkered flag to throw at Batman as the symbol of a beginning race).
  • Reversing the floor display of an elevator so it looks like it’s going down rather than up. That sent the police racing to the floor level rather than to the roof where the Signalman was actually headed.

The Signalman in his surreal hideout

The Signalman can always finance his capers – presumably he doesn’t send clues for minor robberies meant to pay for his plans and gadgets, and can thus conduct those successfully.

The Signalman’s gadget-of-the-day (in DC Heroes RPG terms, his Omni-Gadget) will often be mundane equipment that he pre-placed *just right* to escape. Examples include the aforementioned parachute or getaway car, or a stick of dynamite. But he sometimes builds custom gadgets – such as a camera that shoots a small cloud of knockout gas.

Boldly battling the Blue Bowman

As the Blue Bowman, Cobb used the following trick arrows :

  • Boxing glove arrow, of course.
  • Boomerang line arrow. A strangely curved arrow drawing a line, used to entangle a person as it flies back to the shooter.
  • Buzz-saw arrow.
  • Hook arrow. An arrow that trails a hook, and can yank things that the hook catches with impossible force – for instance catching a handle to open a huge metallic door. Perhaps it includes some sort of rocket engine and a gyroscope, and the rocket fires when the hook catches something.
  • Net arrow.
  • Incendiary arrow.

History

Small-town crook Phil Cobb came to Gotham City hoping to form a gang. Then, he would become a big man in the underworld. But no one would give him the time of day until he made a reputation for himself.

Inspired by seeing the Bat-Signal, Cobb adopted the identity of Signalman. He would challenge Batman directly. Signalman sent clues to Police Headquarters in the form of symbols or signs, which gave subtle hints as to where he would strike next. Batman would inevitably figure out the clues and confront Signalman at the scene of the crime.

Although he eluded Batman and Robin on several occasions, the Dynamic Duo always managed to capture him in the end. The Signalman’s crimes were usually Golden Age -style robberies. Such as stealing jewels and other highly valuables objects. Or big packets of cash.

Batman, that’s a broom and an atomic sign !

While in prison, Cobb met Bull’s-Eye. He was a villainous bowman who had fought Green Arrow. Bull’s Eye taught the Signalman archery and the art of constructing trick arrows.

The Blue Bowman vs. Batman and Robin

Upon his escape, Cobb took on the new identity of The Blue Bowman. His reasoning was that Batman didn’t have experience in countering trick arrows. But Batman matched his trick arrows with trick batarangs – including the “fire prevention batarang”. And it was back to jail for Cobb.

These episodes stretched from 1957 to 1961. The Signalman then vanished for 15 years, which he reportedly spent in prison.


Sign o’ the times

The Signalman is one of those old Batman villains that sends hokey, dated clues about his crimes. His are usually kind of, sort of based on signs and symbols. Here is an helpful summary of the ones he used if you need to come up with more :

  • A broom and an atom symbol to refer to a nuclear submarine. Back then a broom was hoisted on submarines after the shakedown cruise to signify a clean sweep.
  • A fir tree and the Zodiacal symbols for Earth and Mars. The tree is a symbol for a newly-built skyscraper (construction workers used to hoist one on completed high rises), and the Zodiacal symbols for the two planets drawn close to each other meant a planetarium. That was the only place where the two could be seen as close, since the time of closest proximity between these planets had passed.
  • A Jolly Roger flag and a bat symbol to indicate he would use Batman’s resources to commit piracy.
  • A laughing mask and a crying mask plus a nautical symbol indicating a vessel scheduled to make short trips. That alluded to a showboat with a theatre travelling from port to port.
  • A Sagittarius symbol and a chess symbol for a castle playing piece. That alluded to a movie set with a medieval castle where a Robin Hood movie was being shot

Description

Phil Cobb is a man of average height with black hair.

As Signalman, he wears a red leotard with a sun symbol on the chest, black and yellow striped trunks, yellow gloves and boots, a green belt, a yellow cowl (very similar to Batman’s, minus the pointy ears), and a yellow high-collared cape covered with astrological and other symbols.

As the Blue Bowman, he wore a blue “Robin Hood”-style outfit with orange trim.


Personality

The Signalman is originally clever, ambitious, and determined. He enjoys matching wits with Batman. Indeed, outsmarting Batman and thus making his reputation in the underworld are more important to him than the loot he steals.

However, he’s perennially surprised as Batman easily decrypts his clues and intervenes in time to stop him. Ultimately, the early Signalman is but an imitation Cluemaster, himself a fire sale Riddler.


Quotes

“The icy air has frozen the wax around you ! You’ve become two human candles — unable to move while I steal the payroll from the company safe !”

“Well — I might as well get started ! Ha ! Ha ! Batman will never understand the clues I sent him !”

“Maybe I didn’t get that necklace — but I did get more headlines ! One more job, and I’ll be able to recruit the biggest mob in town !”


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Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG Print Friendly

Tell me more about the game stats

Signalman

Dex: 05 Str: 03 Bod: 03 Motivation: Mercenary
Int: 06 Wil: 06 Min: 05 Occupation: Criminal
Inf: 03 Aur: 02 Spi: 04 Resources {or Wealth}: 006
Init: 016 HP: 035

Skills:
Acrobatics: 06, Gadgetry*: 06, Martial Artist*: 05, Thief*: 05, Vehicles (Land, Sea): 05, Weaponry (Exotic, Missile, Melee): 06

Advantages
Expertise (Signs and symbols), Headquarters (Confined), Schtick (Lightning Release).

Connections:
Underworld (Low).

Drawbacks:
SIA toward Sending clues to the police and Batman.

Equipment:

  • Swingline [BODY 02].
  • AC Omni-Gadget (6 APs).

Design notes

This entry assumes that 1950s Batman was closer to the traditional 7/4/5 physical stats than later reinventions of the character.

His odd Expertise should be interpreted broadly. From enhancing Gadgetry rolls that involve signs, to DEX rolls to quickly switch two nameplates for misdirection purposes.


Arrow signs

During his short career as the Blue Bowman, the Signalman used equipment openly patterned after Green Arrow’s, namely:

  • Longbow [BODY 04, Projectile weapon: 03, Ammo: 01, Rec. STR: 03, R#02, Bow Advantage (effective EV is 04 and effective Range is 06) , Limitation : Low Penetration].
  • Boxing glove arrow [BODY 01, EV 05, Drawback: Range is halved, Limitation: Ammunition for a longbow, Grenade Drawback].
  • Boomerang line arrow [BODY 01, Snare: 06, Bonus: will usually Blindside as it unexpectedly flies around the target, Drawback: Range is halved, Limitation: Ammunition for a longbow, Grenade Drawback].
  • Buzz-saw arrow [BODY 01, Claws: 06, Drawback: Range is halved, Limitation: Ammunition for a longbow, Grenade Drawback].
  • Hook arrow [BODY 01, Telekinesis: 05, Drawback: Range is halved, Limitation: Ammunition for a longbow, Telekinesis only to yank away something that can be hooked, Grenade Drawback].
  • Net arrow [BODY 01, Snare: 06, Limitation: Ammunition for a longbow, Grenade Drawback].
  • Incendiary arrow [BODY 01, Flame project (No Range): 05, Limitation: Ammunition for a longbow, Grenade Drawback].

By J. Kevin Carrier and Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: DC Universe (chiefly Batman books).

Writeup completed on the 21st of April, 2015.

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