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Like many fans, biographer Marc Tyler Nobleman was pleased to see Bill Finger’s name on the cover of DC Comics’ Detective Comics #27 Special Edition, marking the first time the writer has received cover credit for the first Batman story. However, while he’s hopeful it’s a sign that change is afoot, Nobleman is keeping “realistic expectations.”
“Though this is indeed the first time that Bill’s name has been on the cover of a comic, it is far from the first time DC Comics has credited him as writer for his stories, so it is a logical extension of what they have already done,” Nobleman, the author of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, wrote today on his blog. “Modern management is enlightened but also bound by old contracts. This is a way for them to demonstrate the former while honoring the latter.”
Characterized by Nobleman as “the dominant creative force” behind Batman, Finger is widely acknowledged with such contributions as the Batmobile, the Batcave, the name Gotham City, Alfred Pennyworth, Commissioner Gordon, the basic look of the Dark Knight’s costume, and numerous villains and supporting players. However, because of the contract Bob Kane negotiated with what would become DC, only he receives official credit for the creation of Batman and most of those foundational elements.
Kane long and fiercely defended his position as the sole creator of Batman and downplayed Finger’s contributions, even writing in a fiery 1965 letter to Batmania fanzine, “If Bill Finger created Batman, as you wrote, where is Bill Finger’s byline on my strip? It is conspicuous by its absence.” In that same letter, Kane insisted “the truth is that Bill Finger is taking credit for much more than he deserves,” while admitting his collaborator “was influential in aiding me in shaping up the strip.” However, in his 1989 autobiography, published 15 years after Finger’s death, Kane finally acknowledged, “Now that my long-time friend and collaborator is gone, I must admit that Bill never received the fame and recognition he deserved. He was an unsung hero.”
Finger’s role was so unsung in his lifetime that his one-time Batman collaborator Jerry Robinson later established the Bill Finger Award For Excellence in Comic Book Writing in his honor. So could that cover credit be an indication of greater recognition to come?
“Some fans speculate that this inclusion of Bill’s name on the cover is a Bat-signal of a different kind: a first step to bigger, imminent change,” Nobleman writes. “Of course I hope so. But such a move makes no guarantees. Change won’t come simply because the management, as aforementioned, is enlightened. In the comics, Batman has big bank … and in real life, too. He’s a batzillion-dollar property. No matter how decision-makers at DC feel personally, nothing about something so valuable will budge without diplomacy. Or failing that, a fight.”