If you have ever read any Batman comic books published by DC Comics, you will probably have noticed this credit: “Batman created by Bob Kane”
For 75 years the official position held by DC Comics and its predecessor National Comics was that Bob Kane was the sole creator of Batman. This was a result of a contract signed between National and Kane after the Batman character made his debut. The notion that Kane devised Batman on his own was one that Kane himself spent many years propagating.
What many Batman fans did not realize until the character had been in existence for well over half a century was that the Dark Knight was actually the co-creation of Kane and writer Bill Finger. Finger suggested various key elements of Batman’s costume. He created Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne and devised the origin of a young boy who witnessed his parents’ murders and swore to avenge their deaths by waging war on crime. Finger co-created the Batmobile and the Bat-Cave, and is believed to have chosen the name “Gotham City” for Batman’s hometown.
Finger was also involved in creating many members of Batman’s supporting cast and rogue’s gallery, notably Commissioner Gordon, Robin, the Penguin, Catwoman, the Scarecrow, and the Riddler. Batman’s arch nemesis the Joker was created by the three-way collaboration of Finger, Kane and artist Jerry Robinson.
Unfortunately, for decades Finger’s contributions were ignored or downplayed by DC Comics. There were certain individuals, such as Paul Levitz and Denny O’Neil, who did wish to give Finger greater credit. But they were hampered by DC’s contracts with Kane and, following his death in 1998, his estate.
That is, until this week, when the following appeared in the credits of the Batman books for the very first time…
“Batman created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger”
For many years, every time I read an issue of Batman or Detective Comics or any other Bat-related book and I saw the old credit “Batman created by Bob Kane” I would mentally add “and Bill Finger” after it. As with many other fans that over time learned about Finger’s key role in the creation of Batman, I hoped that one day he would receive official recognition for his contributions. So I am definitely happy to see this come to pass.
It is true that I think that the new credit line really ought to read “Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.” But considering that for decades it seemed an absolute impossibility that Finger would ever receive any credit, we have to be satisfied with this.
The story of Bill Finger is just one of many that should serve as a warning to all people working in creative fields. It not only demonstrates the dangers of being shortchanged by Corporate America, but also the unfortunate possibility of being taken advantage of by a fellow creator who sees an opportunity to grab the lion’s share of credit and financial rewards at your expense.
Obviously there is a great deal more to what occurred between Bob Kane, Bill Finger and National / DC Comics. I strongly recommend that those who are interested in the full story pick up a copy of the book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, written by Marc Tyler Nobleman and illustrated by Ty Templeton, which was published in 2012. Nobleman is one of the people who in recent years has actively championed the cause of Finger finally receiving recognition for his contributions.
Templeton, who himself has worked on various Batman stories over the years, effectively (and humorously) demonstrated the importance of Bill Finger’s contributions to Batman via a comic strip he featured on his blog. Appropriately enough, this is entitled “What if Bob Kane had created Bat-Man without Bill Finger?”
Yes, if it had not been for Bob Kane, there wouldn’t have been a superhero called “the Bat-Man.” But without Bill Finger’s important contributions, that “Bat-Man” would have been very different, and it is doubtful that he would have become an incredibly popular, iconic figure who has endured for over three quarters of a century.
Finger was an incredibly inventive writer. He also co-created the original Green Lantern with artist Mart Nodell and Wildcat with artist Irwin Hasen. During his decades-long career Finger wrote many imaginative, memorable comic book stories.
Finger’s official recognition as Batman’s co-creator is long overdue. He unfortunately passed away in 1974, before his role in Batman’s creation became widely known. But I am happy that his granddaughter Athena Finger was able to see this achieved.