What is the earliest comic batsignal?

The Batsignal was first used in Detective Comics #60, February 1942.

But in Smash Comics #1, September 1939, the Police Commissioner fires a flare into the sky to summon Hugh Hazzard.

Is this the first sky signal in comics? Or in a comic strip? I can’t figure out what to search on and none of the stuff on the Batsignal mention anything earlier.


Hey, Fenris. You out there?

For what it’s worth, the Phantom Detective apparently beat them to it in the pulps, since newspaper publisher Frank Havens could summon that do-gooder by shining a bright red beacon from the roof of the Clarion Building. (For bonus points, note that Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff went on to work on Batman’s comic.)

Nice. I found a reference to the original:

Batman stole a huge amount from the Phantom.

Of course, that’s a pulp mag, not a comic. I’m still kinda curious about the first use in a visual medium.

If somebody digs up a comic strip where a Comanche is using smoke signals to bring the Lone Ranger, would that count? (At that: given a writer who was undoubtedly scummy but utterly sincere, would a pamphlet where a Klansman uses a burning cross on some hilltop to summon a masked vigilante count?)

I’m gonna say no and no.

A few months ago I was reading a PDF of the February 4th 1937 issue of Madera Daily Tribune and Madera Mercury from Madera California (which I had downloaded for a different article) and came across an ad for an appearance of a stunt pilot named “Flash” Miller who called himself the The Bat Man. The ad has an image that looks very similar to the batsignal. I wondered if he was any inspiration for the character Batman, but I couldn’t come up with anything (And man, is it annoying to google for “Flash” Miller with there being a guy named Ezra Miller cast for a The Flash movie and a Flash villan named Wentworth Miller.)

(The same issue has a murder blamed on “Nighthawk”.)

That’s not a Bat-Signal; that’s a bat flying in front of the full moon.

There’s a fascinating discussion of early bat-winged characters, mostly from Britain, on the Comicbookplus forum.

I’ve mentioned this before on the Boards, but in the silent film The Bat from 1926 there is a scene with a circle of light moving around a room with an image of a bat on it that seems to se precisely prefigure the Bat Signal (except that it’s not playing on the clouds, or the outside of a building) that’s it’s hard to believe that it didn’t influence Bob Kane and the folks at DC:


Other elements seem to have influenced Batman, as well.

Of course, the “signal” isn’t one, really, and isn’t used to summon any sort of hero. But it long predates anything else suggested in this thread thus far.

Well, so does Paul Revere’s “one if by land, two if by sea” signal, if we’re going to mention non-comic-book stuff that also didn’t summon a superhero. :wink:

And to err on the side of caution, let me mention this creation by Siegel and Shuster from before they could get Clark Kent’s adventures published: oh, where is the super-powered hero who can save the day? And how can he be summoned? Well, “amid the skyscrapers”, cue a “wraithlike giant” – because “I knew this would be the easiest way to locate you”, says Doc’s friend and ally once our hero showily shows up.

I’ve mentioned this before as well, but everybody at the time has to be aware of Harry Grindell-Matthews’ cloud projector that would throw pictures into the sky. Those are from 1933. It worked, as several newspaper stories from the time attest. Lots of young future comic writers and artists had to look at that and want to put it into a story.

Hah. I just saw this book listing.

Click over to see the cover, which is very bat-ty. Yours for a mere $1750.