Phil Cobb was a small time criminal in Gotham who is convinced that he needs a gimmick to hit it big. Inspired by the Bat-Signal, he becomes the Signalman, using signals, signs, and symbols in his crimes, but is inevitably defeated by Batman and Robin, time and again. He is also a member of the Secret Society of Super-Villains. For a brief time, Cobb changes his modus operandi and, inspired by Green Arrow and his foes, commits crimes as the Blue Bowman. Signalman is kidnapped and tortured by Dr. Moon and Phobia, and is presumed deceased, but later appears as an informant to Black Lightning.
Phillip "Phil" Cobb was a small time crook with a big opinion of himself, and big ideas. He came to Gotham City intent on hiring a gang of his own and making it big, only to be laughed at when he tried to recruit the gang because he had no reputation. Steaming with anger, he vowed to prove himself to Gotham's mobsters. Walking the streets, he saw the Bat-signal in the night sky, and when he noticed how modern society was regulated by signs, signals and symbols, he found the inspiration for his criminal career. He would use signals to give Batman clues to his crimes, and then he would use other signals to commit those crimes. Becoming the Signalman, he went on a spectacular crime spree using those signs and symbols as his motif.
Ultimately captured by Batman and Robin, he returned for a rematch a year later in Batman #124. Although Batman foiled him once more, Signalman escaped and began making headlines for himself. His next caper involved stealing the Bat-boat; but against his own M.O., Cobb ignored a signal - a bell buoy - and he steered into a shoal, where he was captured.
Cobb managed to escape prison and sought to put a gang together. However, he discovered he was now known as "the guy Batman put in jail". He tried his signal crimes once more, but again he was captured by Batman.
This time, he shared a prison cell with the criminal Bulls-Eye, an enemy of Green Arrow, and Bulls-Eye boasted of his knowledge of the Emerald Archer. "I know how he makes those trick arrows. Once I even tried to use his own weapons against him, but he knew how to counter every arrow."
However, Cobb thought that Batman wouldn't know - especially as he and Green Arrow were yet to meet at this point. Since he had failed as the Signalman, Cobb got Bull's-Eye to explain all about Green Arrow's arsenal, and escaping prison again, he took on a new identity - that of the Blue Bowman.
After taking on the identity of the Green Arrow-copycat Blue Bowman in Batman #137, his arrows actually stopped Batman and Robin (Dick Grayson), but the Dynamic Duo soon responded with a set of special Batarang's which could counter every arrow. Cobb went back to jail for several years.
After that, he remained unseen until 1976, when he resumed his Signalman guise in Detective Comics #466. Eventually he got out and returned to being the Signalman again. He now decided that sending clues to Batman was not a good idea, but he still used signs and signals in his crimes. He even succeeded in capturing Batman and imprisoning him in the Bat signal so that when the police tried to call him, Batman would burn to death. However, one of the world's greatest escape artists, Batman soon freed himself, and figured out the Signalman's pattern of crimes.
A few months later, word spread that Batman was dead, and many criminals claimed the credit. So a jury of villains was formed to determine who should have the credit - and the Signalman was one of the Jurors. Batman was also there, in disguise, and he captured a number of criminals, including Cobb, who went back to prison.
In the years since then, Signalman has also been a member of the Secret Society of Super Villains and did battle with the Justice League and Justice Society. In more recent times, he has become sort of a joke amongst other supervillains, laughed at for his ridiculously flamboyant costume, a running gag in villain crowd scenes being someone making a disparaging comment on his symbol-covered costume.
In the pages of Identity Crisis it is mentioned Signalman was kidnapped by Dr. Moon and Phobia, a fact confirmed in the pages of the Manhunter, which depicts his torture and seeming death via a video recording. "One Year Later" however, he appears in Justice League of America #1 as an informant for Black Lightning. He also appears in full costume in Final Crisis #1, being arrested. Later, during the Final Crisis he reappears once again in full costume as a member of Libra's Secret Society of Super-Villains.
Powers and Abilities
Signalman has no super human powers; he is a reasonably skilled hand-to-hand combatant. He also carries items such as a knockout-gas gun, miniature flares that cause fires, and a remote-control device in his belt that alters signals of an electronic nature.
Signalman relies mainly on gimmicks. He has used a gas-gun, miniature flares and remote controlled devices that change signals of an electronic nature.
In Other Media
The Blue Bowman identity of Signalman is used in the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Deep Cover for Batman!", voiced by James Arnold Taylor. This show's version is not actually Signalman, but rather the evil, parallel dimension version of Green Arrow. He is friends with Owlman and is part of the Injustice Syndicate. Signalman himself makes an appearance in "A Bat Divided!" (in his normal Signalman guise) watching a billiards game at a bar frequented by minor Batman rogues. The bar is crashed by three atomic counterparts of Batman and the hero Firestorm, who beat all the criminals senseless on the floor and thrash the building. Signalman is seized by one of the doppelganger Batmen, then hurled into The Eraser. He later attacks all three Batmen in a spirited charge with the Eraser, only to miss them completely and crash into a stack of billiard cue sticks. These go flying across the floor, tripping up the other villains.