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In recent years, it’s become fashionable to refer to Bill Finger as the “secret” co-creator of Batman. And while that’s an attention-grabber for the uninformed, it’s more accurate to say the writer, who died in 1974, is the uncredited, unrecognized and unsung creative force in the creation of DC Comics’ Dark Knight Detective.
Saturday marks the 100th anniversary of Finger’s birth. It’s an occasion many in the comics community have been promoting as an opportunity to correct the record in some small way, such as with biographer Marc Tyler Nobleman’s quest to get a Google Doodle in his honor.
But for the average comic fan, there are also plenty of ways to celebrate the legacy of Bill Finger and his unquestionable contribution to one of comics’ most enduring character. Here is just a handful of suggestions:
It’s never too early to learn what a cesspool of shady business practices and money-driven infighting the industry responsible for creating and promoting your favorite noble champions of justice really was.
That’s the thought that kept running through my head as I made my way through Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, author Marc Tyler Nobleman’s follow-up to his 2008 Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.
Like his previous work, Boy Wonder is a non-fiction picture book aimed at children. At least in presentation; I can’t imagine very young children being as interested in it as grown-ups though, and for grown-ups, there’s an excellent all-prose, six-page article marked “Author’s Note” at the end, fleshing out the more simplified story that fills the bulk of the page count with plenty of detail and discussing Nobleman’s process of research for the book.
The story of the late Bill Finger — who is, of course, the Bill in the title — doesn’t quite fit into a picture book format as easily as that of young Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. There are a lot of similarities between the creators of Superman and the uncredited co-creator of Batman, including their backgrounds, the settings their stories occurred in, the impact of their creation and their unfortunate lack of participation in the rewards of that success, but Finger’s story is a lot more complicated than that of the boys from Cleveland, and lacks the natural melodrama of their hard-luck childhood and the epiphany nature of their hero’s inception (as presented in Boys of Steel, following Siegel’s own accounts, Superman’s transformation from a concept the young writer toyed with over the years into the world’s first superhero came in a sort of fever dream fit of inspiration one night).
Hello and welcome to another edition of What Are You Reading? Our special guest this week is Matthew Thurber of 1-800 Mice and Infomaniacs fame. To see what Matthew and the Robot 6 crew have been reading, click below.