Fans are often surprised that many of the key aspects of Legacy Characters weren’t in the mythos from the start. There are few things that are more iconic in comics culture than The Bat Signal. Perched atop police Headquarters it’s the method that Commissioner Gordon uses to send out an alert for Batman and to send a message to the Gotham Underworld that the Dark Knight is out there somewhere. From the 1960s TV Series up through the modern DC Universe of films and TV series The Bat Signal is often a prominent piece of Batman Lore— but it did not come into use until three years after the character’s debut in 1939. For the first two years of Batman’s existence he was an outlaw as far as the police were concerned. The earliest adventures featured a solo Batman (then called The Bat Man) who often dispatched his enemies with no mercy, sometimes with a 45 Caliber bullet fired from his 1911 pistol. The Bat Man owed much
of his early persona to The Shadow, who Legendary Comics Creator Jim Steranko once referred to as someone who didn’t just believe in the Death Penalty— he WAS the death penalty. Batman was softened after his first year of publication when Robin the Boy Wonder was changing the character from grim pulp avenger to big brother. Shortly afterwards, Batman and Police Commissioner Gordon (who is the only other character to in the Batman series since the very beginning) made amends and Gordon appointed Batman as a fully deputized member of the Gotham Police paving the way to great cooperation. Which lead to a need to be able to contact Batman. In Detective Comics #60 (Feb 1942) we get our first glimpse of The Bat Signal calling out to Batman. It’s been a mainstay ever since, making it’s first cover appearance on Detective Comics #108 (Feb 1946).
In popular media we get our first glimpse of a Bat Signal in the 1943 Columbia Serial, although in that interpretation of the character Batman was a wanted man so it wasn’t the police that shined it, it was Robin himself who used it to scare a bunch of crooks. It’s next appearance was in the 1949 Columbia Serial sequel and it prominently sat in Commissioner Gordon’s office— so strong, he even used it during the day to call Batman. In June 1964 the Batphone was introduced into the comics in Detective Comics #328 (which also featured the death of Alfred the Butler) and this was the primary method used to reach Batman on the popular 60s TV program, although when it was necessary they would project the Bat Signal up into the Gotham Sky.
The Signal has been prominent in the comics series even to this day and through the modern incarnations of Batman in the movies. KEY ISSUES TO LOOK OUT FOR DETECTIVE COMICS #60 - First appearance of The Bat Signal DETECTIVE COMICS #108 - First Cover Appearance of The Bat Signal BATMAN #37 - Joker uses his own Signal on the cover. DETECTIVE COMICS #165 - Award goes to this one for MOST Bat Signals on a single cover. The blogpost is written by comics artist and collector Andy Fish— if I made some kind of glaring mistake or if you’d like to suggest a subject for a future blog email me at email@example.com Check out our selection of back issues for these and other great comics featuring some of the world’s best characters. If you have any questions or comments regarding collectible comic books email us at firstname.lastname@example.org