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Grumpy Old Fan | The man who made the Darknight Detective

We may never know what happened to that hapless thug's hat

All the recent talk of creator credits has reminded me of Bill Finger and Bob Kane. Throughout the character’s history, Kane has been listed officially as Batman’s sole creator, even though many comics fans, historians, and professionals recognize Finger’s indelible contributions. Kane’s singular credit comes from his own negotiations for the sale of Batman to what is now DC Comics, and it continues to this day. In fact, the most recent trailer for The Dark Knight Rises — which as usual flashes “Batman created by Bob Kane,” or something like it, in the brief glimpse of credits — reminded me that Kane had help.

Indeed, the circumstances of Batman’s creation, sale, and subsequent treatment may even comprise one of superhero comics’ great ironies. Batman is a tremendously elastic character, able to accommodate an incredible range of interpretations. Perhaps none of that would have been possible if Kane hadn’t sold the character … but he wouldn’t be the Batman we know today if Kane hadn’t listened to Bill Finger.

* * *

From what I have read, Bob Kane came up with the basic idea. His “Bat-Man” wore a red union suit, boots, bat-wings, no gloves, and a simple domino mask. According to (among other sources, I’m sure) Les Daniels’ 1999 book Batman: The Complete History, Kane was inspired collectively by Zorro, Leonardo da Vinci’s bat-winged drawings, and the eponymous villain from The Bat Whispers.

Daniels continues:

At this point Kane had designed a hero with a black mask like Zorro’s, stiff black wings like Leonardo’s ornithopter, and red tights reminiscent of Superman’s. …Finger reached for a dictionary, found a picture of a bat, and called attention to its ears. Kane’s simple mask was transformed into a black cowl with the distinctive points that were echoed in the wings and (eventually) in the design of the gloves that Finger suggested.

[* * *]

“I didn’t like [Kane’s] wings,” Finger said, “so I suggested he make a cape and scallop out the edges so it would flow out behind him when he ran and would look like bat wings.” Finger also objected to the way the eyes behind the mask appeared and urged Kane to turn them into simple white spots. “It looked more like a bat at night when the eyes glow,” conceded Kane. […] Finger [perhaps inspired by The Phantom’s purple-gray tights] suggested that Batman’s costume be changed from red to gray. The cowl and cloak remained black, but since comics conventions demand that black objects be highlighted in blue, Batman’s uniform in effect became blue and gray.

This was the figure of Batman that was presented for editor Vin Sullivan’s approval, which it promptly received.

Batman: The Complete History, pp. 21, 23. Citing Kane’s autobiography, Finger’s Wikipedia entry asserts that Finger came up with the name “Bruce Wayne,” and further quotes Kane: “I made Batman a superhero-vigilante [but] Bill turned him into a scientific detective.”

* * *

What gets me about this whole situation is that, at first glance, it looks like a creator’s-rights success story. Bob Kane created Batman, negotiated his own permanent credit, and apparently did well enough for himself thereafter. As far as I know, Kane was happy, and clearly DC has been happy (to say the least) to have Batman in its corporate stable. Bob Kane lets DC say “see, here is how it is supposed to be done” — except that, once you see what Finger contributed, I believe it gets a lot harder to argue that Kane should get sole credit.

But again, I don’t think it’s as simple as an official amendment to Batman’s created-by credit. For one thing, it might go against the terms of Kane’s original contract. For another, if this 1965 letter is any indication, Kane’s estate might not be too thrilled about sharing credit.  Furthermore, while the core dispute might be between Kane’s estate and Finger’s heirs, DC certainly isn’t eager to reopen its records on seventy-plus years of Batman profits.

And before this descends into “how dare these bloodsuckers extort my beloved publisher,” it may not get to that point. I am far from an intellectual-property specialist, but to me a hypothetical Finger v. Kane battle hinges on the difference between Batman’s profitability with Finger’s suggestions and his profitability without them. We know that the Finger-ized Batman has, for the most part, become a license to print money (with oodles more surely on the way), but we don’t know how much difference Bill Finger made.

Let’s say Kane rejected Finger’s changes and “Batman” (or, more likely, “The Bat-Man,” as Detective #27 called him) faded away sometime in the 1940s. Let’s say further that he was brought back as part of the great Silver Age series of “revitalizations,” given a new Carmine Infantino-designed costume, and installed in the Justice League of America. Would we remember Bob Kane’s original as fondly?

I tend to think not, and (in another bit of irony) it goes back to Finger’s other lasting co-creation, Green Lantern. Artist Martin Nodell designed Alan Scott, with Finger writing the first stories, and both were listed on the feature’s byline. However, when Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps came along in the Silver Age, the original GL took a back seat.

Of course, this is all wildly speculative. What if Kane’s “unadulterated” Bat-Man were brought back as part of a Justice League/Justice Society team-up? What if the Bat-Man had become so obscure it took a 1980s Roy Thomas story to revive him? (He could have fought Two-Face, since Daniels’ book [p. 45] states that the villain was entirely Kane’s creation.) What if he were Green Arrow, bland as mayonnaise in the ‘50s and ‘60s before being “modernized” with extreme prejudice? (I know, superficially this happened, but I’m talking about the red-suited version.)

What if — and this is the biggest one of all — Kane had rejected Finger entirely, thus jeopardizing the creations of the Joker, the Batmobile, Robin, and for all we know the entire concept of the superhero’s kid sidekick? Can we trace a core element of DC’s legacy-hero structure all the way back to Bill Finger?

Maybe. I don’t know. Honestly — and this is not an express plug, I swear — I’m really looking forward to the upcoming Finger biography, Bill The Boy Wonder, for some insight.

My point is, corporately-owned superhero comics rest on a delicate balance of exploitation, homage, and creativity, and perhaps none more so than Batman. Since the dawn of Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams in ’Tec #395’s immortal — pun intended — “Secret of the Waiting Graves,” writers, artists, and editors have leapt at the chance to enter that twilight world. In his introduction to Batman In The Seventies, O’Neil said, “I’d like to think that [he and Adams] were doing the stories Bill Finger and Bob Kane would have done if they had had forerunners to learn from as we learned from them.”

That last part may sound a little odd, but it goes once again to that delicate balance. The side of corporately-owned superhero comics we like to see — the one that helps mitigate the “exploitation” end — depends on the goodwill generated by that vision of a great chain of professionals, working in vast collaboration on characters who have transcended their origins and become undying pop-culture archetypes. That system has produced everything from Bane to Bat-Mite (in whose creation Finger was also apparently involved), and it doesn’t require any corporate patronage, but arguably it runs a lot easier with a deep-pocketed publisher.

* * *

How, then, do we reconcile our affection for Batman with the less-than-ideal circumstances of his creation? Is it as simple as shrugging that although Finger got the shaft, it’s far too late for meaningful reparations? Is it enough to put a mental asterisk next to every “Batman created by Bob Kane” we see? Is it enough to spread the word far and wide, so that fans from now ‘til doomsday know what Finger (and Jerry Robinson and Gardner Fox, while we’re at it) brought to Batman?

I’m not sure it is. I believe that Batman as we know him today exists only through Bill Finger’s involvement, and I think Finger deserves to be recognized officially as his co-creator. I don’t think it’s sufficient to assert that the creation of Batman ended with Bob Kane’s original sketches, especially since that wasn’t the version which National/DC ended up buying.

Along those lines, there’s a fascinating discussion waiting to happen about the meaning of “created by.” The origins of Batman give it particularly fertile ground. If nothing else, I’ll be pondering it this summer, both when I read Bill The Boy Wonder and when I sit down for The Dark Knight Rises. I’ll be remembering Bill Finger in that theater, and I hope you will be too.

 

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Comments

41 Comments

I can see an alegory for the “where life begins” debate: Sure Finger added a lot of iconic elements, but if Kane hadn’t drawn up the original concept there’d have been nothing to hang those elements on. So, where did the life of the character being, when did Bat-Man become “viable”.

RegularSyzedMike

May 10, 2012 at 3:34 pm

That’s the problem with an industry founded by gangsters and extortionists…you can’t buy into the whole thing without setting aside a little bit of your morality…assuming you have any to begin with :P

Good article!

sandwich eater

May 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I suppose they can’t credit Finger as co-creator due to their contract with Kane, but they could at least acknowledge him and other writers and artists who contributed to Batman in the credits. A lot of the iconic stories and visuals come from later comics. For example, the scattering of Martha Wayne’s pearls comes from the Dark Knight Returns and that made it into Batman Begins.

Bill Finger’s omission as the co-creator of Batman is the greatest crime in the history of comics. Bigger than Siegel and Shuster, bigger than Kirby or Ditko and Marvel. At least they got credit if not money. I always add his name silently whenever I see “Batman created by Bob Kane” flash across a movie screen or a pair of pajamas. There is no doubt in my mind that Batman would have been largely forgotten without Bill Finger since Finger provided almost everything that is memorable about the character (except the name). A world without Bill Finger is a world without Batman.

It’s interesting to think where comics would be without Batman though. He’s probably the most popular super hero out there. Everyone who loves super heroes at least likes him, and even most people who don’t like superheroes will often admit to liking Batman. When most of us picked up our first comic it probably featured Batman. How many people started reading comics after watching Adam West on TV or went into a comic store after watching Jack Nicholson on screen? The rising value of Batman comics contributed to the growth of the direct market in the early years, and spurred on the bubble of the ’90s. Would mainstream comics have matured without Batman to star in Dark Knight Returns and Year One or to inform several of the most iconic characters in Watchmen? I certainly don’t think that super heroes would have the stranglehold they have on modern comics, for better or worse.

Hear hear!

If Ditko deservedly gets co-creator credit for Spider-Man so should Finger for Batman.

Great to see Bill’s invaluable contributions to the comics medium being discussed again. Not only did he help create the Bat-Verse and the original Green Lantern, but also fellow Justice Society member, Wildcat. We hope that continued interest the Batman franchise and releases like Marc Tyler Nobleman’s book, Bill The Boy Wonder, will give credit where it is due. If not with a legal byline beside Bob Kane then at least in the public forum.

http://www.facebook.com/billfingergroup

See, when I eventually do my fanfic photocomic series (see billscomics.com or generalsjoes.com for what I mean), I’m always going to have a ‘created by’ byline that includes ALL parties involved in the creation of the comic characters used (via DC Universe Infinite Heroes and Marvel Universe figures)–for example, if I use, say, War Machine, I’ll always have “War Machine created by David Michelinie, John Byrne, and Bob Layton”, or if I use the Jay Garrick Flash, “Jay Garrick created by Gardner Fox and Harry Lampert”. I’m a firm believer in giving credit where credit is/was due.

If it had been me who had taken over DC Comics a year or so back, I would’ve made sure issues like these never arose again by doing something radical and unprecedented, something that would’ve revolutionized the comics industry, while at the same time, forcibly removing its foundations as fronts for gangsters and extortionists. I would have, effective immediately, overturned all past work-for-hire contracts and other types of agreements (such as Kane’s), and retroactively replaced each with a co-ownership deal: the company and the creator (or creator’s estate/family), plus any creator who contributed to the mythos of an ongoing character be it a new (supporting) character or concept, would co-own, and profit equally from, the character, whom all parties involved in the creation of said character would be given full credit for. If that sounds crazy, fine–but idealism trumps all, losers.

There’s ample evidence out there that Bob Kane was an arrogant plagiarist and a liar, as well as a shameless glory hog. (His original conception of what became Batman was also based on a bird, and his later tales of basing Batman on Da Vinci’s ornithopter and the film “The Bat” have been disproven about as much as something so fr in the past can be.) It is one of the industry’s greatest shames that Bill Finger was, and continues to be, marginalized when it comes to Batman’s creation. The letter linked to above just turns my stomach.
I try to do my part by informing anyone who is interested in Batman about Finger’s contributions to the character. Honestly, I don’t think Kane’s bird man would have amounted to anything special; without Finger, Kane would almost certainly be little more than a footnote.

Good post.

Here’s another interesting example along these lines: Adam Warlock. In the 1990s, many issues of the “Warlock & The Infinity Watch” series credited Jim Starlin as “creator” even after he left the series as writer. This is a fascinating decision for a number of reasons.

First, the “Infinity Watch” book itself was an ensemble series, for which Starlin created most of the principal characters, though not all. I believe Moondragon was around before him.

As was Warlock, himself, who may be one of the best examples ever of the difficulty of assigning “creator” credit. The cocoon-spinning orange superbeing first debuted in the pages of Fantastic Four, by Lee and Kirby (and so, right there, you have a major controversy from the very outset). But by the time he had his first series he was a considerably different character, with a new name, appearance, etc. (I believe Roy Thomas wrote most of these stories; don’t recall who first drew the lightning-bolt costume.) The subsequent revisions by Starlin into the Elric-ish version of the character were relatively minor tweaks, though still important and also lasting.

So who created Adam Warlock? It’s basically impossible to establish a definitive answer.

I have long despaired over the omission of Bill Finger as the official co-creator of Batman. That said, your article does address certain grey areas, as well as hypothesizing preciscely why DC is so reluctant to re-open the issue of giving Finger the credit he probably deserves. A well-written piece.

Jake Earlewine

May 11, 2012 at 7:37 am

I appreciate the point of your article — Bill Finger was robbed, like Jack Kirby and so many others.

But it was Neal Adams who recognized the true essence of the character and first drew him as the dark night detective in the Brave and the Bold. And then shortly thereafter, Julius Schwartz teamed Adams with Denny O’Neil, and they defined the character in ways that Bob Kane and Bill Finger never dreamed of. Adams and O’Neil should get just as much credit for the character as Kane and Finger. (And yes, I know “Bat-Man” was a wee bit dark in his first eleven appearances, even using a gun, before Robin was shoe-horned in to make the strip less dark.)

After Adams, Batman continued to evolve — mostly thanks to Frank Miller — into the psychopathic “Dark Knight” as presented in the last couple decades of comics and movies. So if you like the twisted, troubled, violent “Dark Knight” type of Batman (I don’t) then Miller should be credited for that. My personal conviction is that Adams and O’Neil created the truest version of what Batman can be, and that the Bat-apple turned rotten in the eighties and nineties.

I have no love for the way Batman is portrayed in the movies and I’m sickened at the way DC has handled this character these last couple decades. Batman is best when he is a lone, heroic vigilante. LONE. HEROIC. His gargantuan supporting cast of Robins, Batgirls, Batwomen, etc. dilutes his power.

So I believe the credits for Batman should read:

“1939 Bat-Man created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
1968 Batman, the dark night detective, was realized to his full potential by Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil. 1986 Batman was distorted into the psychopathic Dark Knight (with a K) by Frank Miller.”

Of course all that is too unwieldy, isn’t it? Well, nobody cares to hear the truth anyway.

Another fine article, Tom!

Tom, I’m glad you wrote this article, because this specific case deserves a place just as large as the Kirby / Moore creators rights debate.

Just to add to what Drunken Fist said, Bob Kane reportedly had very little artistic talent and often signed his name to work that others did, or swiped when he did draw something. Gerard Jones’ book Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book soured me on Kane completely.

I think some of us may be confusing elements that have become accepted cannon (falling pearls, psychopath, etc.) with what contributions are truly iconic and without which the character is no longer the character. Batman has gone through phases where he’s been bright and cheerful, darker, and then darker still. But the elements created by Finger and Kane have remained pretty consistent throughout.

Batman is still Batman if we don’t have his mother’s pearls falling about as she dies; Batman is still Batman if he’s sane and well adjusted; Batman is still Batman whether he’s a loner or a team player. But Batman is no longer Batman without the scalloped cape and cowl with pointy ears. Batman is no longer Batman if he’s not a millionaire detective and vigilante who lost his parents in a violent crime. Not to discount the significant contributions made throughout the years by Adams/O’Neil, Miller and others, but in reality many of those contributions are disposable in the bigger picture.

“Batman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.” No need for unruly credits listing the creators of every era.
-r-

Great article, by the way. Am also looking forward to the Finger biography.
-r-

I think the main reason why DC has not acknowledged Finger has to do with two things: first Bob Kane’s contract, which was unusual in the extreme for it’s time, and the fact that to my knowledge Bill Finger never cared to press for his rights when he was alive and there is no Finger estate to carry on in his absence.

Its a shame as well, since Bob Kane was the Rob Liefeld of his day in how bad his art was, yet he goes down in the history books and not Finger. But he was a smart business man, I’ll give him that.

If anyone asks me who created Batman, I’ll tell them Bill Finger.

IMO – Batman created by Bob Kane & Bill Finger

BOB KANE created the batman. bill finger was brought in by DC to embellish where it WAS NOT NEEDED. Kane actually had the idea for a cape that flexed into the wings, not just wings. BOB KANE also created robin, catwoman, and two face. the others just embellished. The CREATOR, is the person who came up with the initial concept. nothing else, nothing after. another person adding anything, diminishes what was initially created. batman would have been even better had finger not touched it. the cowl, ears, e.c.t. would have been added later anyway. –and bill finger was just copy/paste boy and taking material from the 2cnd version of the black-bat, with the cowl, and almost everything. the second black bat came out months prior to DC’s batman, which is why DC never sued the publishers of the black-bat 2. they knew it was theirs first. Kane even admits the black bat 2 was the inspiration for two faces origins in his autobiography.

It’s a popular myth that Batman is inspired by Zorro. Zorro has far more in common with Robin Hood, a people’s champion that took back money that a corrupt government forced from the people as well as defending the people.

It is true that Douglas Fairbanks’ acrobatics in the 1920 silent movie The Mark of Zorro were an influence — they were equally influential on Zorro as Johnston McCulley, Zorro’s creator, incorporated those acrobatics into future Zorro stories. You’ll also note that The Mark of Zorro first ran nearly 20 years before Batman came along. Further, Hollywood had abandoned silent movies in the late 20s in favor of Talkies so chances are low that many people had watched the movie in the decade prior to Batman’s first appearance.

Batman himself is primarily based on The Shadow, much like many other pulp heroes and superheroes created through out the 30s & 40s. (And even some more recent characters)

In fact at the same time that Batman first appeared in Detective Comics another bat themed detective inspired by the Shadow was published, the Black Bat. The Black Bat stories ran in the pulp fiction magazine BLACK BOOK DETECTIVE. THE SHADOW MAGAZINE was published twice a month for most of a decade before Batman came along, not to mention the famous radio series that had been airing Sunday nights for nearly 3 years before Batman was first published.

Need more? Batman’s very first story, “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” was taken whole cloth from of one of the Shadow’s stories — “Partners of Peril” which was published in THE SHADOW MAGAZINE Nov. 1, 1936 issue.

Observant readers will note that Batman carried firearms in his early adventures, just about all the character’s inspired by the Shadow copied the Knight of Darkness’s dual .45s. You can read a good overview here:

Part 1: http://www.comicmix.com/news/2007/06/24/the-case-of-the-chemical-syndicate/

Part 2: http://www.comicmix.com/news/2007/06/25/the-shadow-knows/

Even though Street & Smith owned the Shadow, they weren’t averse to creating other pulp heroes in the same vein. Just for fun, you might want to check out Commisioner James “Wildcat” Gordon’s pre-Batman adventures as The Whisperer, many were published as back-up stories in THE SHADOW MAGAZINE…

Cool article. Trying to uncover the true story behind the Kane / Finger collaboration and the origins of one of the greatest pop-culture icons of the last 70 years has been a long standing passion of mine. I’m always delighted to see any article that raises awareness of the convoluted history behind Batman’s origins and the role that Bill Finger played.

Like you I am anxiously looking forward to reading Marc Taylor Nobelman’s new book on Finger, which I know has been meticulously researched.

I’ve written about the issue myself a few times in various publications, including a lengthy essay entitled “The Dubious Origin of Batman: Who Did What – And Does it Really Matter” in the Smart Pop Books BATMAN UNAUTHORIZED (edited by Denny O’Neil) – If anyone is interested the essay is available to download for just 99c – http://www.benbellabooks.com/bookstore/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=723

Thanks again for the great article.

Rollo Tomassi

May 11, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Bill Finger created the Batman everyone knows.

According to Bob Kane autobiography, he regretted not giving Finger more credit as Batman Co-creator. Although Kane did hire him, they were true collaborators.

Kane also acknowledged that his father, who worked in publishing before, had re-negotiated his deal with National/DC that Bob Kane would always have credit for the creation of Batman. Kane big fear was that he would lose his contract had he acknowledged Finger as co-creator.

The problem was two fold. Kane had an ego, and Bill Finger was totally grateful to Kane for allowing him to work on Batman. Sadly, Finger also had a horrendous reputation as an alcoholic and being late with deadlines.

Interesting piece. Creator credit on comics is often not nearly as simple as many partisans for one party or another like to make it seem, and the Kane-Finger issue is a great example of that. At what point does someone other than the originator of the idea/character deserve creator credit when their ideas have been incorporated into the character(s)/title so integrally that they become associated with the core of the character?

Finger didn’t come up with the idea for Batman, but his contributions to the character are considered so important to not only who the character is but who he’s become that a great many people feel he should have co-creator credit. How far should that extend?

A great example for this is Chris Claremont, I think. Len Wein & Dave Cockrum co-created the new X-Men, but isn’t it fair to say that Claremont defined them in far more significant ways than Wein? Claremont began scripting off Wein’s plots right after Giant Size X-Men #1 before taking over as full writer within a span of a few issues, defining characters like Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Wolverine for generations. Should Claremont get co-creator credit considering how incredibly significant his contributions were to the X-Men? If Finger deserves credit considering what he turned Batman into, does Claremont deserve similar credit? Not an easy question.

David Lawrence

May 11, 2012 at 11:13 pm

I have long believed that Bill Finger deserves to be credited alongside Bob Kane. And Jerry Robinson deserves his share of credit for the Joker.

Kane was clearly a smart cookie. The one guy in the Golden Age who managed to negotiate a deal that ensured his credit in perpetuity…and ironically, quite possibly the very least talented of the men who created the most iconic characters of that era.

acer wrote “for example, if I use, say, War Machine, I’ll always have “War Machine created by David Michelinie, John Byrne, and Bob Layton”,….”

Except for one minor problem. None of those men CREATED War Machine. Those men were responsible for JAMES RHODES. War Machine–the actual armor-wearing character–was “created” by Len Kaminski, Kev Hopgood and Steve Mitchell. While Rhodes had been part of the Iron Man series from “Iron Man” #118, he only became War Machine in issue #291.

Additionally, the War Machine identity was essentially an expansion of Rhodes’ wearing the Iron Man armor, so the CONCEPT of a “War Machine” can be traced back to the creative team of Dennis O’Neill, Luke McDonnell and Steve Mitchell (who first put Rhodes into the Iron Man armor in issue #170).

So, your intended credit actually fails to recognize the people who were more directly responsible for “creating” War Machine. (It’s sort of like crediting the creation of Phoenix to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, simply because they created Jean Grey. Or crediting Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, instead of Gerry Conway and Ross Andru, with the creation of Ben Reilly simply because he was Peter Parker’s clone.)

The fact is DC WILL NEVER GIVE FINGER CREDIT!

It’s not about Kane’s contract. This about MONEY – If Finger gets co-creator credit, then whomever might possibility has a claim to his estate (Just as Joe Schuster has a Nephew) , will want 74 years of residuals….

…and DC has Enough headaches with the Superman situation!

The fact is, KANE is the bad guy – not DC!

This article reminds me why I’m so glad that I’ve created my own library of comic book characters without someone else helping me out.You can’t get stabbed in the back, like Bob Kane did to Bill Finger.The guy is scum to do that to someone who helped him flesh out Batman into the hero we know today.

The way that I read the story, it was Finger and not Kane who even came up with using a bat theme for the character, who Kane had originally called ‘Birdman’. Kane’s principle inspiration was FLASH GORDON, while Finger introduced elements from THE SHADOW.

@JosephW
Whoops! Sorry. Great, now I have to separate the guy from his own alter-ego…

Before passing judgement on either Bob Kane or Bill Finger, Google “Dial B for Blog #389″, and read Robby Reed’s EXCELLENT article on the creation of Batman.

Wraith sez…
“But by the time he (Him/Adam Warlock) had his first series he was a considerably different character, with a new name, appearance, etc. (I believe Roy Thomas wrote most of these stories; don’t recall who first drew the lightning-bolt costume.)”

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby did all of “Him’s” appearances in FF 66-67 & Thor 165-166.
He didn’t reappear until Roy Thomas revived him as “Adam Warlock” in Marvel Premiere 1-2 in 1972.
Gil Kane was the artist on the Marvel Premiere appearances as well as most issues of his first, short-lived, title, but it’s acknowleged that both he and Thomas designed the costume, which was meant to be a tribute to the Golden Age Captain Marvel.

the whole case is rather sad as if there were no bill finger batman would not exist as we know him today,dc sided with kane as he was a company man,what was the problem with finger??? he along with siegel and shuster tried to wrest their characters away from dc in the late 40’s,kane whistle blew on them and was rewarded with sole creative credit on batman,siegel and shuister had their creative bylines taken away (they would win them back decades later though),also people like stan lee weigh in on the side of kane,does this mean that stan had nothing to do with the creation of the silver age marvel universe????,if that be the case,anyone fancy telling me why he pops up inm the movies,even the cap one (last i checked cap was a simon/kirby creation)

Every time I read about the Superman rights fight, I think of Bill Finger.
For me, the fundamental differnece between the two cases is that Siegel & Schuster were screwed by Harry Donenfeld, whilst Bill Finger was screwed by Bob Kane & his father.
If Siegel & Schuster had fathers like Bob Kane did, they might have negotiated a better deal with DC.
I don’t want to offer a comparison suggesting who was more marginalised, but the fact remains Bill Finger died alone & destitute. DC offered a nice memorial in Amazing World of DC Comics #1, but the “Through the Wringer” was a thinnly veiled comics about Bill Finger. Once you realise that story is about Bill Finger, you can’t help but find it disrespectful.
I guess the only that could make it worse, would be Marc Toberoff claiming to reresent his estate & sue for his rights (all in the name of decency of course).
The comics industry is no different than any other, someone is always thrying to get rich at any cost & they don’t care who gets in the way.

Thanks for posting about Bill Finger. I appreciate the mention of my book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman and hope those of you who check it out like what you see (aside from the narrative sadness, of course).

Jerry Robinson, who (professionally) went as far back with Finger and Kane as possible, said that Finger “had more to do with the molding of Batman than Bob.” But you don’t need to take even his word for it since Kane himself admitted as much in his 1989 autobiography. And this quotation from Finger friend and fellow Golden Age writer Alvin Schwartz is perhaps even more telling: “Without Bill Finger, there wouldn’t have been any Bob Kane.”

To those who would argue anything other than Finger’s name first is the only proper Batman credit, we must remind ourselves not only of what Finger did (design the costume, write the first story, dream up the groundbreaking origin, build the bat-motif, write the debuts of Robin, Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, and others) but also what Kane did not do (write a single Batman story).

As long greed exists, Finger will never, ever, get his due!

Schnitzy-Pretzelpants

May 14, 2012 at 9:42 am

Wow, Kane’s letter was interesting to say the least.
I think it very telling that he never cites a single and specific anecdote or recollection to support his claim, to dismiss the statements of Finger. His argument instead seemed to amount to: ‘No, I did all that. You want proof? My name is the one listed as the creator – not his.’
I know that some of the ‘illusions’ he had to maintain probably because both DC and he wanted the appearance that Kane was continuing to work, and always worked on Batman, rather than farm out the work – but when he takes credit for creating the Joker, something almost everyone who knows some measure of the history to be emphatically NOT true…
I think your article is bang-on, in its suggestion that had Kane’s Batman appeared without Finger’s contributions, the character wouldn’t have had much ‘panel-time’ until something like Roy Thomas’s All-Star Squadron. He very probably would have been a character as visually appealing to us as the original Firebrand or the original Vigilante – both characters I love and do have some visual appeal (Vigilante especially) but, both characters that required the love of modern writers to flesh out and make more interesting. Whereas the Batman, as we know him – visually – could have not uttered a single solitary word, and his design, the art itself would have created a definite mood and atmosphere.
I also love Kane’s comment in the letter: “Did you know that I created “Batman” about ten years before Ian FIeming created James Bond?”
With the implication that Fleming was somehow influenced by Batman. This tells me squarely that Kane very probably never read any of the Fleming novels, because while the Bond-films may seem to have more than their fair share of similarities to Batman, the Bond novels really don’t – at all.

LEADER DESSLOK

May 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm

These chesnuts again? First and foremost, Bob Kane deserves his singular credit because as is always forgotten in these discussions, is that the reason he negotiated his deals with DC, INCLUDING this singular credit is because it was his comic strip! The reason why Bill Finger had any hand in Batman’s creation is because he was working for Kane at the time; UNLIKE Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Kane and Finger were NEVER partners, whether in business or personal, Kane was the boss! So even though Finger contributed a good deal to the series, it was NEVER “his” comic strip. The same goes for Jerry Robinson or anybody else who worked on it.

Secondly, even though Bill Finger made critical suggestions, it should again be remembered that they were merely SUGGESTIONS. If Kane had taken them literally, Batman would have looked even more like The Phantom except for the ears. And again, if Kane had taken the suggestions literally, Bats probably would have had floppy ears like an actual bat or another Finger Co-Creation, WILDCAT! Finger said that Kane “…experimented with various cowls” and Finger suggested (there’s that nasty word again) adding
a nose-piece to the final version.

Also, the notion that Batman wouldn’t have been a hit without Finger is definitely arguable. Finger was only there initially for the first two stories, but Batman’s sales increased during Finger’s absence! They jumped even more after the introduction of Robin The Boy Wonder. (More on him later). Finger worked on GREEN LANTERN (and managed to get a Co-Creator credit which Mort Nodell apparently didn’t object to) and also WILDCAT which may have been a Finger concept, as it was one of the names he had in mind for Robin but Kane and Jerry Robinson had already settled on a monicker for the boy wonder concept. Finger had two artists who were as talented and in Irwin Hasen’s case, perhaps MORE talented than Bob Kane–so why didn’t these concepts blow Batman right off the news-stands? I argue that it was Kane’s ego that partially drove the success of Batman plus his instincts for having the Batman concept tap into the horror genre, which was VERY popular throughout the 30s and into the mid-40s!

And NO, like Batman, Robin was NOT a Bill Finger creation. The idea was KANE’S which, like Batman, Finger acknowledged. I know Shelly Moldoff has claimed that he talked with Kane about creating a “kid super-hero” but even if that were true, Moldoff’s “Kid Eternity” didn’t see the light of day until several years
after Robin’s debut. Was Kane supposed to wait that long to introduce his? No, the scuttle-butt is that someone at DC suggested that a kid should be in the strip to lighten things up a bit, but the discussions apparently went no further than that. But what is an undisputed fact is that Kane was a huge DICK TRACY fan and he had to have seen the popularity of Junior Tracy, who had his own solo adventures within that
strip. Kane managed to sneak a knock-off of “The Blank” into Batman so why not a Junior-clone?

Bill Finger was a talented writer but unfortunately he chose to remain a journey-man writer who sold his talents to Kane and other clients like DC, Marvel and other publishers. He could have teamed up with a Jerry Robinson or someone else; devised a concept and sold it to a publisher and perhaps even negotiated partial ownership or whatever, like JOE SIMON did! Again, he chose not to, perhaps because he was hoping to get out of comics, like so many other writers who only worked in the comics industry to pay the bills while their ambitions lay elsewhere.

I am NOT one of those, who out of sentiment for Finger, want to penalize Bob Kane for having the good sense
and the “chutzpah” to not only manage his strip but assure that his name would always be attatched to it! In terms of studying comic book history, Bill Finger cannot be left out of it, but whether you like it or not, Bob Kane was Batman’s creator, regardless of who helped him, and he deserves to have that
acknowledgement!

I’m sick of hearing comic book sob-stories–the art world in general is FULL of them! I want todays artists and
writers to follow in the footsteps of Kane, Todd McFarlane, Wendy Pini and many others! Being a journey-man
is great for honing one’s skills, but creating something of one’s own is far more satisfying–if not always rewarding!

LEADER DESSLOK

May 30, 2012 at 4:54 am

On a sidenote: I am very much curious about Nobleman’s book. Is it going to deal with the FACTS about the Kane\Finger relationship or regurgitate more of these stupid distortions that have popped up over the years? I notice one sleazy trick that Finger Fanatics like to pull is to quote from Kane’s angry 1965 response to a slapdash article by Jerry Bails– which claimed Finger “really” created Batman! But there is never any mention of Kane’s admission 20 years later of Finger’s contributions.

The facts are that in those days, ASSISTANTS RARELY got bylines. The credit listing was devised by Stan Lee in the mid-60s. Let’s see if Mr.Nobleman will bother to mention that…

I think Bondurant makes it pretty clear that Finger’s contributions do not end with costume suggestions. And as Mr. Nobleman said earlier, “dream up the groundbreaking origin, build the bat-motif, write the debuts of Robin, Joker, Catwoman, Penguin, and others),” this is a co-creator if there ever was one. If without Finger, there is no Batman that revolutionizes the genre and sparks a worldwide following, then Finger is the co-creator. End of story.

And yes, I’m responding to desslok.

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