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Last Bat-Time, Last Bat-Channel

This is one of those odd, tragic stories that you see so often in the comics industry… a particular injustice that was the final contemptuous boot in the ass to a talent that the comics industry had already beat like a piñata for most of his career.

Probably you already know about Batman, Bob Kane, and Bill Finger. But it bears repeating that the lion’s share of the creative work on the character of Batman– his world, his methods and equipment, his background, his origin, his supporting cast, most of his villains, etc., etc.– Bill Finger made all that stuff up, created it out of nothing. Not Bob Kane. Despite the fact that legally, DC is required to note “Batman created by Bob Kane” on all its Batman books. And all the Batman TV shows and movies and everything else too.

Finger didn’t draw the Batman stories, and there’s an argument to be made that in comics the artist deserves a creator credit for characters as well. But if you look at Kane’s original sketch of “The Bat-Man” you can see how little he had. A blond guy in a red suit and a domino mask, wearing bat-wings hooked to his wrists. That’s it.

What Kane brought to the Bat-party. The initial sketch. Damn near everything else was from the mind of Bill Finger…. despite all the lies Kane told about who did what over the years. Illustration from BILL THE BOY WONDER by Marc Nobleman and Ty Templeton.

Kane got that far on his own and stalled, so he went to his writer buddy Bill Finger… and Finger suggested the wings become a cape, the mask become a bat-eared cowl, and the whole thing should be much darker. Gothic. Halloween-esque. Perhaps most importantly of all, he suggested that Batman NOT be super-powered, but rather a man who trained himself to be the world’s greatest crimefighter.

That’s the character that sold. The re-designed, Bill Finger version. Once the deal was made, Kane recruited Finger to write the stories, then jacked him on the contract… and the rest is history. A history that took a long time to get out to the public, but inside comics, everyone knew who the real creator of Batman was.

But between Bob Kane’s constant effort to deny anyone else any credit on Batman– beyond the legal restrictions, Kane also frequently lied about it in interviews for decades– and the comics industry’s standard work-made-for-hire policies that relegated all creative people to the status of bond slaves in the vineyard, any chance for Bill Finger to enjoy any fame or fortune from his creation was strangled in its crib. This despite the fact that to this day, the character of Batman enjoys planet-wide popularity… among comics and non-comics people alike.

The injustices done to Bill Finger are so emblematic of everything crappy that the comics industry did to creative people for most of its history that today there is actually the Bill Finger Award, designed specifically to try to remedy those injustices and celebrate the talented comics writers who never got the credit they deserved.

All this is stuff that most of you reading this probably knew. But there was one final injustice done to Finger that I always wondered about. I noticed it when I was a kid and in all the years since, no one ever seemed to know anything about it. I finally dug it out, over the last couple of weeks, and here it is for all of you.

It’s the story of the last thing Bill Finger ever wrote for Batman, and the character he created for it that is still in use today…. in comics and television both. The Clock King.

*

One afternoon in the early 1970s, watching an afternoon rerun of the Adam West Batman TV show, I just about levitated with shock when I saw the writing credits on the Clock King two-parter.

It was scripted by Bill Finger and Charles Sinclair.

Bill Finger! Even then, at age thirteen, I knew who Bill Finger was– I had been taking a crash course in DC’s Golden Age thanks to their 80-Page Giants and 100-page Super-Spectaculars, and Bill Finger’s name figured prominently in many of those books.

What’s more, there had been a lengthy article by Carmine Infantino about Bill Finger on the inside cover of the Famous First Edition reprint of Batman #1, listing his many contributions to the Batman legend (of course, leaving out all the stuff about how Finger subsequently got screwed out of any credit or royalties. Still, considering he wasn’t really legally allowed to spill the beans, Infantino did pretty well at getting the point across.)

Knowing Finger had written the episode I was watching gave it a special added interest. I paid more attention than I normally would have, trying to see past the schticky 1960s camp and catch a glimpse of the REAL Batman underneath.

Here’s a quick recap, for those of you that haven’t seen it in a while. A gimmicked clock knocks out everyone in Hummert’s jewelry store with a gas bomb so crooks can rob it. From this, Commissioner Gordon figures the Clock King is back and calls in Batman and Robin. Meanwhile, the Clock King is gloating about his success and tells his minions to prepare for phase two. “I plan every move like a timetable, as my archenemies Batman and Robin will soon find out to their detriment. Thinking. Every minute… every second… thinking.”

The second phase involves the Clock King masquerading as a Pop Art painter, “Progress Pigment,” in order to loot an art gallery of the masterpieces in its vault.

This whole sequence is very much a satire of Warhol and The Factory, right down to the “pop art paintings” used as set dressing, and it’s worth noting how little Clock King thinks of the new stuff– he’s there to get the REAL paintings. The older, legitimate ones. But the idea of a secret safecracking device disguised as a sculpture, and of a villain in disguise to fool civilians at some kind of exhibition, are classic Golden Age Batman riffs.

Batman and Robin analyze a watch Clock King dropped at the scene, and deduce from the particular properties of the dust that the crooks are hiding out in an old watch factory. They catch up to the gang but get captured, and the Clock King puts them in a giant hourglass to suffocate. (Bill Finger signature items like detective work with SCIENCE! and a giant prop? Check and check.) The Clock King can’t stay to watch, because he’s on a timetable. His parting shot is a classic, though, with a pun so bad it’s worthy of the 1940s Robin. “Some people kill time, but this time, time is going to kill you.”

The Dynamic Duo escape, but are stymied as to Clock King’s next move. While they’re trying to puzzle it out in the Batcave, Clock King and his Second Hands are robbing Bruce Wayne’s collection of antique pocketwatches.

Eventually Batman and Robin track Clock King to the Gotham Clock Tower, where they prevent him from using the life-sized metal sculptured figures that strike the hour as a staging weapon to rob a super-valuable cesium clock.

A big fight ensues and the Caped Crusaders put the gang away. The end.

As Batman episodes go, it’s one of the smarter ones. Sure, there’s silly bits in it– the “Batburgers” scene is a little over-the-top– but the Pop Art satire is sharp and dead-on, and there’s actual detective work involving real-life clockmaker’s trivia, as opposed to Batman just pulling random facts out of his butt. We just watched it again here last week, and my memory did not fail me. It does kind of have that Golden Age vibe.

The reason is simple– it’s based on a real Bill Finger-written Golden Age comic. Several, in fact.

Lots of people think that the Clock King originated as a Green Arrow villain, and there are several online Bat-encyclopedias that state outright that this is the case.

But that’s where depending solely on Google will fool you. It’s true that the Arrow did fight a guy named “Clock King,” but it was a totally different kind of character. The Batman version, the one created by Bill Finger, actually started as a Robin villain in the Boy Wonder’s solo series that ran in Star-Spangled Comics. Originally, he was just called the Clock.

In fact, he was a recurring villain. Robin went up against him several times.

Now, it was fairly common practice for writers to recycle stories, back in the Golden Age. (Someone in the back is snarking off about how DC clearly still does it, given all their reboots and origin retellings. Yeah, I went there. But moving on….)

Anyway, Finger went back to one of his Clock stories and re-did it as a Batman story, a few years later. Here’s the original with Robin solo…

And the retooled Dynamic Duo version.

This is the story that Finger went back to for the TV show. (Note that the plot point of the dropped-watch clue made it all the way through to the television version.) Of course there were a lot of additions and revisions, but the skeleton is there.

Now, here’s the crazy part. That pair of Batman episodes, “The Clock King’s Crazy Crimes” and “The Clock King Gets Crowned,” were the very last Batman stories Bill Finger ever wrote.

–and nobody noticed.

Nobody at ABC made the connection. Nobody at DC seemed to care if Finger was even still working, after they had quietly frozen him out of writing Batman comics a couple of years earlier. Nobody on either the television or comics side thought it was worthy of note that Batman’s actual creator was writing for the Batman TV show… not even to try and milk it for a little publicity and goose the ratings.

Certainly, the Batman TV production staff themselves were completely oblivious to it; the writing job had come through Charles Sinclair’s friendship with producer Howie Horowitz. Sinclair had partnered with Finger on a number of TV and movie scripts, and it was that experience that got the pair a Batman assignment.

About the experience, Charles Sinclair said, “Bill was not going around with ‘Hi, I’m the creator of Batman’ tattooed on his forehead, I’ll tell you that… there was not a lot of respect for it. Forget it. They were not particularly interested in it. We did the one and we were not welcomed back in, shall we say, to do another.”

Pardon me for editorializing, but if I was a TV producer making thousands of dollars a week off Batman, I think I’d be a bit less of a douchebag to the guy that, y’know, invented the concept. But that’s me.

About Bill Finger’s attitude toward seeing his creation on the screen, Sinclair had this to say: “Bill was very excited, as I am, as any writer is, where something you create hits big. But Bill was the type of person who gets stepped on a bit. He was not pushy like Kane was. He didn’t have that Mike Todd spark of flag-waving and glory for himself. Bill was not about to rush into court and say, ‘What the hell kind of billing is this? I want my name up there too. And besides, I want to get paid for it.’ ….Oh, that was one other thing. Because I usually turned up the deals, like the Warner Brothers thing, I initiated it, I found it, that sort of stuff– when it comes to the credits, it says ‘by Charles Sinclair and Bill Finger.’ And when we got to Batman, Bill, I could see, was slightly uncomfortable about something, and then I figured out what the hell it was. He’s the guy that had the Batman connection, so I said to him, ‘Bill, I have an idea about this thing. Let’s put your name in the credits first and mine second.’ And he beamed all over the place. He didn’t want to put it to me, but he was absolutely enchanted, and that’s the way the thing is credited.”

So there you go. That’s the story of Bill Finger’s completely unnoticed last Batman story ever. Almost didn’t even get top billing on it, except his partner felt bad for him.

Stepped on, indeed.

And for years afterward it still went unnoticed. The Clock King got revived, both for TV and for comics. But Finger went uncredited.

If anyone thought about the character’s origins at all, they probably assumed he was original to the Batman TV show, like King Tut or the Bookworm.

To me that’s one of the saddest stories in comics. Think about it. Bill Finger creates a comics sensation, never gets any credit or royalties or even personal acknowledgement, and after years of writing stories that would lay the foundation for dozens of other guys to get rich, he’s unceremoniously kicked off the thing because someone decides he’s not cool any more. So then by sheer coincidence he lands a gig writing a TV version of the same character, that’s hitting just as big on TV as the comics version had hit on newsstands twenty-five years previously… and he gets kicked off that version because the cool kids don’t like him there, either.

What a weird way to go out on your signature comics character. Getting a work-for-hire gig to do one episode of the show that’s become a phenomenon, not because you created it, but because the producer’s a friend of a friend. And you wouldn’t even have got top billing if your pal hadn’t taken pity on you.

I love comic books, but when I think about the way the industry has treated its greatest talents for most of our history, it makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

*

I’m very much indebted to Marc Tyler Nobleman for his assistance with this column. I would never have managed the research without his help. The best thank-you I can think of is to tell you all to go get his books…. but I’d tell you to anyway because they’re great. Both his biography of Bill Finger, Bill the Boy Wonder, and also its companion volume, Boys of Steel, chronicling the lives of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, are terrific additions to any comics fan’s library.

Thanks also to my old friend Kurt Mitchell for letting me raid his Alter Ego back issues for the Sinclair interview, and to Jim MacQuarrie for putting me in touch with Mr. Nobleman in the first place.

Because, unlike some TV producers and comics publishers I could name, I like to give credit where it’s due.

See you next week.

98 Comments

Without Bob Kane there WOULD BE NO BATMAN. Full stop.

I get a bit tired of articles like this that continually write Bob Kane out of Batman’s creation. Forgive me if I’m wrong. but wasn’t Kane’s initial sketch in black and white? So that’s editorialising making him blond like that.

Yes Bill Finger should be credited as co-creator of Batman, even Kane admitted that at the end (too late). But as I said above, they’re simply would be no Batman without Bob Kane.

Yes it’s wrong that Finger was not given the credit he deserved in his lifetime. But stop re-writing history to try and compensate for that travesty.

Axel M. Gruner

May 18, 2013 at 3:01 am

Yeah? And what kind of Batman would it be? “The Bat-Man Blonde”?

Did Bob Kane draw him blond?

And even if he did, is Bruce Wayne’s hair colour really that vital to the character?

I get a bit tired of articles like this that continually write Bob Kane out of Batman’s creation.

Oh, for God’s sake. First of all, you should read some of the interviews he gave before carrying on about poor misunderstood Bob Kane. If there was anyone ‘writing people out’ of Batman’s creation, it was Kane, not the people he screwed.

The point isn’t that Kane deserves NO credit– it’s that Finger deserves MOST of the credit.

Read this and then come back and tell us all about how we’re being so unfair to poor Mr. Kane.

I think the point being made is that while the visual motif and artistic break downs are attributable to Bob Kane, it’s Bill Finger who wrote the stories, created the characters, and even the most popular of the rogues gallery. I like the writer in question who wrote this article am particularly sensitive to this. We live in a world where writers are not respected. They just aren’t. Because everyone with a half assed idea and an opinion to match thinks they can write. But they can’t. All they can do is criticize. I get the fact that comics, like film, are a visual medium. And it’s the medium that becomes the tool for telling the story. But without the writer, there is no story to tell. How often do you say to your friends, “Have you seen the new Steven Spielburg movie?” or “That new Tom Cruise movie is good.” How often do you give credit to the writer who came up with the idea in the first place? Without whom, there would be no story? I’m just gonna guess zero to one, roll that dice and put the house up for mortgage to hedge my bet. No one’s saying Bob Kane wasn’t instrumental in the creation of Batman. But we wouldn’t even know who he is if Bill Finger hadn’t created a story and character around those first few sketches.

who cares? all of dc’s books are rubbish now.

Hey Greg, I read that blog years ago. It’a great blog, but again, like the article above, seeks to over-compensate by being overly critical of Bob Kane.

Yes an injustice was done, but do NOT re-write history to correct that. Bob Kane was a co-creator of Batman, and snide articles like this one imply heavily that he deserves little credit.

Bob Kane was not a great artist. But he was a shrewd business man and great at marketing both himself and Batman. Batman’s success is down to this and Bill Finger’s writing.

Saying Bill Finger deserves MOST of the credit is like saying either Shuster or Siegel deserve MOST of the credit, or McCartney or Lennon deserve MOST of the credit. It’s a collaborative effort. Stop trying to demonise Bob Kane and make Bill Finger a saint.

Tangent, but it’s neat that Steranko borrowed from Star Spangled Comics#79 for the cover of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #7. Never having seen the Robin cover, I always assumed the latter was a Persistence of Memory pastiche (Albeit an amazing one!)

Non-tangent: Good article; well put.

Thanks for the article, Greg!

LMC – The blond hair is speculative but Kane’s original sketch was in color, according to Kane; that’s how we know the union suit was red. I suspect that the black and white sketches you are thinking of are the ones that appear in Kane’s autobiography, falsely dated 1934 to make it look like Kane came up with the visuals even though elsewhere in the same book he says Finger came up with those visuals in 1939. And Kane was so stingy with credit that anytime he did give it to someone else, it was that much more likely to be true.

merlin1963 – That means that Finger, not Kane, is attributable for the visual motif (not to mention the bat-motif, i.e. Batcave, Batmobile, etc.).

LMC – By the account of every Golden Ager who knew Kane personally whom I spoke with, Kane was NOT a shrewd businessman (and that’s putting it nicely) but rather had good business advice via his father.

Batman WAS a collaboration – Finger designed the costume, wrote the first story, wrote the first Robin/Joker/Penguin/Catwoman stories, wrote the origin story, named Bruce Wayne/Dick Grayson/Gotham City, nicknamed Batman “the Dark Knight,” created the aforementioned bat-motif…

…and Kane sold the idea to National, drew the first few stories, hired ghost artists, and made a career of taking credit for it all. He did not write a single Batman story in his life.

Can you name even one creative element that came from Kane?

It IS revisionist history…CORRECTIVE revisionist history.

This could never happen today *cough* Felicity Smoak *cough*.

Most of the early episodes (first season and some second season) of Batman is pretty good about at least including some bits of detective work and (sort of) realistic action. Walter Slezak was a fine villainous actor, but he wasn’t super flashy as the Clock King, although I’m not sure who would be my ideal choice for the role (I guess if budget was no concern, James Mason). I loved the way Alan Rachins voiced him for the animated series, but that would come off kind of silly live action.

Two Face?

oh bitch bitch bitch

Yes, Mark – Finger credits Kane for Two-Face.

You know I hate to speak ill of the dead but… Bob Kane you are one evil muthaf*cker! I knew a little about the behind the scenes shenanigans but not to this extent.

Rollo Tomassi

May 18, 2013 at 7:27 am

You throw up in your mouth a little? I throw up in my mouth A LOT.

I look forward to the movie version of this story. It will win Oscars. Make it happen.

I know it’s probably never gonna happen, but I’d love someone at DC with sufficient clout to say “screw it, let’s start adding ‘Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane’ to the credits of every Batman comic and wait and see if someone wants to test the strength of Kane’s original legal settlement in court.

Seriously, is there a major franchise in comics that doesn’t have a story like this? I love Golden and Silver Age properties, but the industry as it relates to those properties is so despicable.

I mean, it is despicable to this day.

The stories of comics companies doing the right thing by creators are so rare. DC has done right by James Robinson on STARMAN and Neil Gaiman on SANDMAN, but that hardly balances the scales. That is not to say Marvel is any better. They screwed fewer people, but they screwed them more because they did more heavy lifting. The scale of what they did to Kirby is almost beyond what I can wrap my head around.

Greg, thanks for the great post – never knew Finger (co)wrote an episode of the Batman series. And yes, sad how he got shunted to the side there as well.
Gavin, re: your suggestion for DC; that occurred to me as well some years ago after I read that great post on Dial B for Blog that Greg linked in his comment.

A sad tale added to a long string of them.

It is fun to read these sort of articles just get to the comment section featuring trolls and contrarians.

amazing not only did bill finger get screwed out of his due by co creating batman with bob kane since other wise batman would just be bob kanes original look but he also got screwed over too when his other contribution to the bat mythos the clock king got used for the tv show and cartoons and none of the execs ever bothered to see who they should give credit to really and didn’t even care. sad.

Do you think it’s possible that the pop art painting scene was not only a parody of esoteric fine art but also Finger’s clever jab at Bob Kane?

If I’m not mistaken, Kane (along with the help of ghost artists) started selling very basic Batman paintings in the 50s, and parlayed that into a larger business around the time of the Batman TV show.

In scene from the show, Progress Pigment looks at the simple Batman painting in the gallery and excitedly dubs it “Inferior!”

Maybe Finger was letting people know what he really thought about Kane’s art ;)

Kick starter – the TRUE story of Batman: Bill Finger

Someone make it so NOW

Hey Mark – you asked for one creative element that Bob Kane added: How about the name?

Pretty vital, I’d say.

Hey Greg – sorry didn’t realise you were the author of this piece when I replied to you in the comments section before.

But your reply demonstrates the same knee-jerk, emotive response. I think because Bob Kane has been proved to not, perhaps, have been the most honest man, you seek to readdress the balance by belittling his contribution to Batman.

OK so Bob was a glory-hunting, dishonest guy (allegedly) but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a major role in creating Batman. Some times bad people create good things, and sadly we must give them credit where credit is due.

Andrew Collins

May 18, 2013 at 7:58 pm

I just recently read Gerard Jones’ excellent “Men Of Tomorrow” and as fascinating as it was, it was also very sad and frustrating to read the details of Siegal, Shuster, Finger, and others who got screwed over by the early comic executives. And even though Jones does his best to explore all points of view and delves into great detail into the mens’ personal lives, Kane comes across, even more than Liebowitz or Donenfeld, as just a gigantic egotist and jerk…

Three cheers for LMC. I have no problem with Greg’s article, but that Dial H blog post vastly overstated its case. Comics fandom loves to shower love on creators who didn’t get enough credit, which is a good thing, but then they feel that they have to turn around and shower hate on those creators were were either savvy enough or lucky enough to beat their bosses at their own game and pry some credit out of their grasping claws. What good does that do?

Why not focus that energy on writers who aren’t getting enough credit and money *today*?? Where is Len Wein’s co-creator credit on all these Wolverine movies? Wein has said that he gets a much bigger payment from the Batman movies for having co-created Lucius Fox than he does for having co-created Wolverine, the main character in five movies and the title character in two.

Bob Kane was a glory-hog and a plagiarist. It is very easy to find evidence of this, most easily via a quick Google search. The reason people who know this take pains to point out how minimal his contribution to the creationn of Batman was is because Finger recieves no credit at all for the character. Kane did everything in his power to keep it that way until near the end of his life, when it was far too little and too late. Kane wouldn’t get raked over the coals so much in articles such as this one if he just hadn’t gone out of his way to be such a despicable douchebag about the whole thing. Comparing this to the Siegel & Shuster team is ridiculous, as neither of them ever tried (much less completely succeeded) in screwing the other over for all their hard work. Kane basically traced a Flash Gordon bird man drawing and handed it to Finger, and that’s ALL he deserves credit for.

Hey Greg – sorry didn’t realise you were the author of this piece when I replied to you in the comments section before.

But your reply demonstrates the same knee-jerk, emotive response. I think because Bob Kane has been proved to not, perhaps, have been the most honest man, you seek to readdress the balance by belittling his contribution to Batman.

OK so Bob was a glory-hunting, dishonest guy (allegedly) but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a major role in creating Batman. Some times bad people create good things, and sadly we must give them credit where credit is due.

I don’t know how to spell this out any plainer than I did in the article. I don’t know what alleged WRONG you are seeking to redress here. The facts, which have been plain and readily available for decades are these.

Kane created a sketch and the name “Batman.” He MAY have contributed some concepts but there’s no record of him ever writing anything. There IS a vast, exhaustively documented record of 1- him lying about working on things he had nothing to do with, 2- lying to the people that ghosted the Batman stories for him, and 3- routinely taking all credit for everything Bill Finger did until it became impossible to deny that Bill had made major contributions. Oh, and he kept all the money and royalties.

That’s not ‘emotive.’ That’s the record. You can find it if you take any time at all to check. You’ve had it explained to you by not just me but Bill Finger’s actual biographer, who did an immense amount of research on the subject. There’s also pounds of interviews in magazines like Alter Ego with Kane’s ‘collaborators’– who were in actuality his ghosts, employed by him to create pages he then signed his name to and delivered to DC– who will back all that up.

Meanwhile, Bill Finger sat down and made up from scratch– Bruce Wayne and his background, Dick Grayson and his background, Commissioner Gordon and Alfred the butler, most of the villains, the Batcave and Batmobile and Bat-Signal, and pretty much everything that turned Batman from a drawing to an actual story platform that has gone on to planetary recognition and generated enormous income for DC for the better part of a century. Finger got none of that wealth, and as I documented above, hardly even any recognition.

And yet somehow you think the injustice is being done to Bob Kane. We’ve put all this documentation under your nose– Matt’s right that the DIAL B stuff is over the top but a lot of those swipes are pretty blatant and the fact that Kane FORGED his ‘original idea sketches’ is documented plenty of other places. I’m saying that the VAST majority of creative work on Batman was done by Bill Finger, he should have been paid commensurately for creating that huge body of work that is beloved all over the world today, and because of Bob Kane’s greed and need to take credit, that never happened, and people should know that.

As far as I can tell you aren’t even really arguing the truth of any of this, which is a good thing, because the only person that has ever said anything different who was in a position to know is– surprise!– Bob Kane. Your whole argument boils down to, “well, okay, Kane probably did all that stuff, but he did create something, you guys don’t have to be so MEAN about it.” The person making it an ‘emotive’ issue is you.

Every word I wrote in that column was based on documented facts and interviews with primary sources. I don’t know how much more fair you can get than looking up the facts before expressing an opinion. My considered opinion after spending years reading up on it and talking to Golden Age Batman artists and writers at conventions and reading books like Mr. Nobleman’s is that Bill Finger got screwed on Batman and Bob Kane was the primary architect of that. It wasn’t a partnership. Kane ran a studio that employed a bunch of people and he then signed his name to everything and took all the credit. Finger was an employee who should have been compensated as a creator as well as a writer and he wasn’t. That’s not a ‘collaboration.’ That’s a consequence of trusting a shitty boss. Those are the facts, documented multiple ways, from multiple eyewitness sources. If you don’t like them, there’s really not much I can do about it. But saying that I’ve been somehow ‘unfair’ to the memory of one of the most unfair, dishonest, lying weasels in the history of comics really sticks in my craw. Not one word I’ve said about Kane here has been untrue. That’s who he was.

I work damn hard at getting my facts right before I write about them. That, I get emotive about.

@Matt Bird: I’m not going to shed any tears for poor old Bob Kane who’s being unfairly picked on just because he signed his name to other people’s work for a couple of decades.

You’re absolutely right that we should pay attention to still-living comics creators who have been taken advantage of. Doesn’t change the fact that Bob Kane took credit and money for things he didn’t actually do.

Ethan Shuster

May 18, 2013 at 11:29 pm

So it kinda sounds like Kane acted the way some people accuse Stan Lee of, but to a much larger extreme. It’s like if Lee, instead of just accepting perhaps a bit too much credit himself, in interviews said, “Jack who?”

I also wanted to point out that these kinds of things — screwing over creative people — are nothing new. The music industry, especially the 50s and 60s, was run the same way.

Ethan Shuster

May 18, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I agree here. The point is not to say Kane deserves no credit for anything. It’s that for many years he was willing to essentially not give Finger credit for anything. To me, having your signature constantly appear below other people’s work is unacceptable.

I knew I’d written it up somewhere. Here is a column from a few years ago recapping some panels from San Diego, including “Sixty Years of Batman” with a couple of Bob Kane anecdotes from people who knew him. Arnold Drake’s story, especially, really sums the whole thing up for me.

@Ethan: That might be an apt comparison. There were certainly times when Stan claimed sole “writer” credit on stories where all he did was write in dialogue after the story had already been finished — but at least he actually WAS the guy writing the dialogue.

Kane’s fraudulent credits were sort of like if Lee not only claimed to have drawn everything that Ditko, Romita, et al drew, but also continued to claim he was still writing Spider-Man himself well into the 1980′s.

And you’re absolutely right — I don’t think anybody here is saying Bob Kane doesn’t deserve co-creator credit for Batman. Just that he doesn’t deserve SOLE creator credit.

(I also note that Jerry Robinson hasn’t been mentioned in this discussion. He didn’t co-create Batman but he DID create the Joker and co-create Robin, so he was an early and very important developer of the mythos.)

Hey Greg – didn’t other people draw Garfield for years under Jim Davis’ signature? Where’s your article slamming Jim Davis?

In fact, your evidence doesn’t quite add up. Bob Kane’s involvement in the creation of Batman, the Joker, Robin and Two-Face was acknowledged by Finger and Robinson.

Your article strongly implies that Finger is the solely responsible for the global success of Batman, and that’s simply not true.

FInger on his own didn’t have the studio, contacts, business-accumen etc… to make Batman “happen”. If there were hundreds of other super-successful Bill Finger created characters knocking about, you may have a stronger argument for his creative genius. But there aren’t – it took the combined talents of both men (plus Sprang, Robinson et al) to create Batman.

That is a fact. And one you ignore in your piece.

You’re right, I don’t disagree with the fact that Kane may have been dishonest in interviews and sought to down-play Finger’s contributions. This is bad. This shouldn’t have happened. But it’s also the way the comics business worked in the Forties. Bob Kane was looking out for himself and his family. He made his money and he had to live with the way he went about doing that.

But there are thousands of other examples of ghost-artists working under other people’s signatures. In Britain, most comic artists weren’t even allowed to sign their work at all. How about all the Disney animators – would you like them to be co-created on every Disney character they worked on?

Kane wasn’t a great artist. He wasn’t a creative genius. But he did manage to invent probably the most successful fictional character in the world today. He deserves some credit for that.

Greg, I just want to formally thank you for a well written and researched article. In my opinion, it’s one that deserves to be bookmarked. So, thanks.

Yeah, the first thing that always crosses my mind in reading about the creation of Batman is, “What about Garfield?”

Classic deflection attempt there, LMC, but totally pointless. To borrow the old legal advice, when you don’t have the facts, argue the emotion; when you don’t have the emotion, argue the facts. When you have neither….

You can argue implication all you want — Greg makes it clear that he DOESN’T consider Finger to be “solely responsible”, but that Finger deserves a lot more credit than he has been given, and possibly the lion’s share of it. How you get the implication you state is a mystery, but I suspect it might come from living under a bridge that Bob Kane owned?

But there are thousands of other examples of ghost-artists working under other people’s signatures. In Britain, most comic artists weren’t even allowed to sign their work at all. How about all the Disney animators – would you like them to be co-created on every Disney character they worked on?

Already addressed all the other stuff and repeating it doesn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. But I will say this– yes, actually, creators should get creator credit. Period. In fact, in the recent superhero movies that is actually happening… in tiny print at the end credits, but it’s there. It’s not like they haven’t cracked the technology or the accounting is too hard.

“It’s always been done that way” isn’t a defense. It’s not even an excuse. I don’t care if it’s Garfield or the British guys working on BATTLE or anyone else. If I wrote a column about the early Disney artists or whoever and my research led me to conclude– because I actually look things up– that it was yet another of the dozens upon dozens of cases in comics where creative folks got screwed, then yes, I’d be expressing similar sentiments to the ones up above.

Greg just went scorched earth. Wow. Bob Kane’s biggest mistake was not having a monthly column in every DC comic to indoctrinate generations of children. Otherwise he’d have people swearing up and down that he created Superman by this point.

Greg just went scorched earth.

No, I didn’t. Really. I used to be a message-board admin here and I’ve seen it when a discussion genuinely spirals out of control. I just disagree vehemently with LMC about what constitutes ‘creative input’ and ‘fair credit.’ I have no idea how he’s arriving at his opinion given the history, but he’s perfectly welcome to express it. He’s not being a jerk about it or calling people names, and people should stop calling HIM names. He’s not trolling.

Here’s the thing, though. Every single time I’ve written about this phenomenon in comics– of the inequities of bad contracts, the cases where a publisher or a studio or someone deliberately cut a creator out of a huge pop-culture windfall just because they were big and the artist was small– someone always shows up to defend the big guy. Always. Even in the cases where everyone is dead and there can’t possibly be any threat to the status quo. And I don’t get it. Especially in the cases like this one where the bad behavior is stipulated by both sides.

Stan Lee was no hero of creators’ rights, CT, but he at least hyped up his artists, grudgingly gave plotting credit to Steve Ditko, and hyped Jack *as a writer* when Jack did some solo scripting jobs towards the ned of his first stint at Marvel. The “creator” claims tended to come later on, and even then, Stan also discussed the “Marvel method” in many of those same books and talks. (There’s also the question of how much can be laid at Stan’s feet and how much was Martin Goodman.)

In any case, there’s really little comparison to DC’s tendency to genuinely miscredit the creators of Batman stories for several decades. No one in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s was much on creators’ rights; of the stuff that existed, though, Silver Age Marvel was actually slightly less horrible than most major publishers.

I say this not to defend Marvel’s absolutely horrible record on creators’ rights, by the way. Stan pretty clearly chose to play the good corporate soldier over doing the right thing. But no amount of congenial Bullpen columns would have made Bob Kane-style shenanigans look good, and, unlike Kane, there’s a strong case that Stan was making ongoing and distinctive collaborative contributions of his own even with the unfair division of labor imposed by the “Marvel method.”

“Here’s the thing, though. Every single time I’ve written about this phenomenon in comics– of the inequities of bad contracts, the cases where a publisher or a studio or someone deliberately cut a creator out of a huge pop-culture windfall just because they were big and the artist was small– someone always shows up to defend the big guy. Always. Even in the cases where everyone is dead and there can’t possibly be any threat to the status quo. And I don’t get it. Especially in the cases like this one where the bad behavior is stipulated by both sides.”

While I don’t condone it, I can understand the need to cling to the initial positive impression you had of a creator or actor when you were a child. For example, for years I have read interviews in comics, magazines, and books about Bob Kane and him creating Batman. I remember seeing him everywhere when the 1989 movie came around. The special features disc of the Tim Burton Batman DVD has an extensive interview and feature on Bob Kane going into great depth about how he created the character, and it’s quite touching to see him and his wife talk about the impact of the character on their lives. In addition there are all these comic writers and artists discussing how great he is. Stan Lee even provides an anecdote about how Kane teased him that Batman had shown up in a big budget movie before Spider-Man!

So imagine how it feels like when that guy you’d looked up to for all those years is revealed as not only “all too human,” but had been engaging in such shoddy behaviour for such a long time. It’s very confronting and you have a choice: make a reasonable judgment based on the evidence and reevaluate your long-held beliefs about someone (and be deeply disappointed) OR, in the face of OVERWHELMING evidence, refuse to believe it. Not only refuse to believe it, but attack anyone who challenges those beliefs.

All I can say is that it’s really hard to watch those Batman special features discs now without feeling like I’ve vomited a little in my mouth. Don’t even get me started on how I felt about Stan Lee after reading a reveal-all book on Marvel too. I grew up reading the Bullpen and loving it every time he showed up on the Spider-Man cartoons! And geez, I used to look up to Mel Gibson too!

Hey Greg, I appreciate you sticking up for me here in the comments section.

I guess my point boils down to this: while giving Bill Finger his due-credit, let’s not forget Bob Kane’s large role in creating Batman.

I think it’s important to make that point to give a bit of balance to the argument. No argument that Kane might have been a b*&tard, but he still co-created Batman. I have done a bit of research on this (nothing as xxx as Robbie et al) and I think there is anecdotal evidence that Bob plotted stories, suggested ideas and, of course, had the initial idea of a ‘Bat-Man’.

Let’s look at what I think are the key factors in the success of Batman. I think you can split it like this:

CONCEPT OF BAT-MAN AS MASKED VIGILANTE BY NIGHT, HANDSOME RICH MAN BY DAY: Kane
BATMAN AS THE FIRST ‘DARK’ SUPERHERO: Finger
CLASSIC ROGUES GALLERY (Joker, Two-Face, Clayface, Catwoman, Scarecrow, Penguin etc): Kane and Finger (Robinson)
TRAGIC ORIGIN STORY: Kane and Finger
ALTER-EGO AND SUPPORTING CAST: Finger

Anyway, I’m repeating myself. As for the argument about creator-credit, well that’s a biggie. In those days, the system worked differently. It’s the old ‘work-for-hire’ argument. Finger signed away his credit by agreeing to work for the studio as a ‘ghost’. It’s not particularly fair, but it was (at the time) legal.

LMC – Re: me challenging you to cite any key Batman element that came from Kane and you responding his name, a name alone is nothing. The name “Batman” is not what contributed to the popularity of the character. The ’20s and ’30s were lousy with bat-themed characters, i.e. The Bat and the Black Bat, neither of whom endured. So even if Kane did indeed come up with the name, it was unoriginal even then. Plus there are some, including Gerry Jones, who claim Kane came up with “Bird-Man” and it was Finger who suggested “Bat-Man.”

It was what Finger built up behind the name that gave Batman wings (while taking them away at the same time – Kane’s original sketch showed a man with stiff, unwieldy wings attached to his arms). What stood out about Batman was the original idea of a non-powered costumed hero who looked like a villain and had a scientific bent and became a vigilante because of an emotional scarring (unprecedented in comics at the time).

This is not a question of semantics and hardly even subjective. You simply cannot say that Kane “invented” Batman. He (maybe) suggested the name, pitched Finger’s design to National, drew stories for a short while, and was part of conversations about certain characters that Finger ended up writing. I’ve already outlined just some of Finger’s far more creatively significant contributions, and my book goes even further.

You say Kane was “allegedly” dishonest. He was most definitely dishonest, and if you don’t take the word of literally every Golden and Silver Ager I interviewed in my five years of research (including but not limited to Moldoff, Robinson, Alvin Schwartz, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Infantino, and more, all of whom knew Kane personally) and others (including Julie Schwartz) whom I didn’t get to interview but who stated as much for the record, then simply revisit the infamous 1965 Batmania article in which Kane humiliates Finger, outright saying he had nothing to do with Batman…contradicting his own 1989 autobiography in which he wrote that Finger deserves co-creator status. (Page 44.)

We are not talking about how the corporate/legal world gives credit here. We are talking simply about the bare human fact that Finger, not Kane, conceived of nearly every significant visual and textual aspect of the character – those aspects so iconic that even non-superhero fans are familiar with. The fact that Kane’s contract suggests otherwise is no reason to bestow Kane credit that he simply did not earn. He took it and lived a lie to do so.

I think Finger’s most important contributions were the cowl, the cape (instead of wings) and the colors of the costume.

I do not think Kane’s red Bat-Man would have done any better than the Crimson Avenger, who was already appearing in Detective Comics and is now relatively obscure.

I noticed Finger’s credit on Batman when those episodes came up on MeTV recently and remember wondering if that had just used one of his stories. Good to get the whole story on that.

As an aside, Greg, when I was checking Amazon today to see if I’d made any sales, I thought the name Greg Hatcher looked familiar but I didn’t make the connection until I saw this article. So I’ll take this opportunity to say your copy of High Adventure 102 is on the way.
Just ignore this if it’s going to another Greg Hatcher in Washington.

kdu2814 has it exactly right.

The Golden Age spawned hundreds if not thousands of characters that never made a dime and that no one remembers today. Based on the sketch Kane did there’s every reason to believe that the red longjohns Bat-Man would have joined them. It was Finger that put every distinguishing feature on that character, everything that made Batman unique and interesting came from him.

Does Kane deserve NO credit? That would be overstating things a bit. But the surprisingly strident Kane partisans here need to recognize that sans Bill Finger they would likely never have heard of Bob Kane.

As an aside, Greg, when I was checking Amazon today to see if I’d made any sales, I thought the name Greg Hatcher looked familiar but I didn’t make the connection until I saw this article. So I’ll take this opportunity to say your copy of High Adventure 102 is on the way.
Just ignore this if it’s going to another Greg Hatcher in Washington.

Nope, that’s me! Research! (And also leisure reading.) Thank you!

This launches me into another tangent. Is the Batman Kane and Finger created anything like the Batman of today? Not really. Batman evolved over years and the evolution was by various writers/creators.

Give full credit to Kane and Finger. Their initial creation lead to an amazing pop icon. It is sad to see these situations when one creator is ‘erased’, so to speak. Give credit where credit is due. I think you could do a similar article on Stan Lee and Steve Ditko; Stan still skirts around the topic of who created Spiderman and it’s a shame because Stan is damaging his own legacy.

@LMC
This article doesn’t argue that Bob Kane isn’t a co-creator. It just states the involvement of Bill Finger in creating a great deal of the character’s popular mythos. There are over 70 years of Bob Kane getting the credit for solely creating Batman. It still happens today, if you watched the Dark Knight Rises or the upcoming Beware the Batman. Kane and his studio engineered the contract that took away credit from Bill Finger.

Until Bill Finger gets a byline in the next Batman film or animated series, we need individuals to continue to write and research about Bill Finger’s contribution. And after that, we need to keep doing it in order to make sure sure that Bill Finger gets proper credit.

That’s so funny; Greg also bought something from me on Amazon not too long ago. Sometimes it seems like the comics community is awfully small.

That’s so funny; Greg also bought something from me on Amazon not too long ago. Sometimes it seems like the comics community is awfully small.

It’s about four feet across. Not even a little bit kidding. The whole reason this column exists is because I saw the same MeTV rerun someone mentioned above and was musing online about it, wondering how the hell it happened and yet was so totally overlooked by every single Batman history book I have here in the house, and my old friend Jim said, “You should ask my friend Marc Tyler Nobleman, he’s the guy that would know.” So I did, Marc very kindly passed along his interview notes and pointed me at the Alter Ego interview with Charles Sinclair, and here we are.

Probably my favorite instance of this was taking my former student Amanda to go see a talk by Travis Hanson a couple of years ago. I was very impressed and mentioned it to several friends of mine, one of whom turned out to have been Travis’ studio-mate for YEARS.

Second favorite was discovering that Chelsea Baker, who we know from the Olympia Comics Festival, was in college with ANOTHER former student of mine, Kamaria, who only figured it out after seeing me listed as a panelist at the festival a couple of years ago… not to mention that the festival director, Frank Hussey, is an old friend of Alter Ego contributor Kurt Mitchell, who we’ve been spending New Year’s with for over ten years; I think Frank and I even both have been at the same big post-con Saturday night dinner Kurt hosts every year at Emerald City, but neither ever figured out who the other was.

Then there was the time we went to go see TREK IN THE PARK down in Portland and it turned out that Greg Burgas knew, like, half the people in the cast.

…And so on. Seriously, it’s TINY.

These articles are so odd. Yes, it’s terrible that this happened but this stuff HAPPENS ALL THE TIME in EVERy industry.

But because this is happening to creative types in this industry it’s suddenly more important?

This crap happens everywhere. I’ve seen it in my own company. It’s life. It sucks and it sucks but it’s no more worse to Bill Finger then Joe Schmoe at PWC.

@LMC
No one is arguing that Bob Kane deserves some credit, but that Bill Finger did the lion share. The correct credit for Batman creation should be: Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.

You oversimplify things and to plead in favour of Kane you cite supposed facts without mentioning the bibliographic source. And you think you know more than other golden age creators that knew Finger and Kane in person. By the way, I watched a Jerry Robinson’s lecture and his testimony endorses Greg’s point of view.

There are many injustices, but if you are a Batman fan the Bill Finger case is close to your heart. Futhermore to write an article about other injustices demand time and a comprehensive research. It’s not so easy as to post in a blog and oversimplify things as you did.

Now I know where they got the term Bat Shet Crazy….Bob Kane worshipers. Glorified even when proven skuzzy.

Marc is a good researcher,writer,and blogger (and a decent cartoonist, too!) but there is NO WAY he will ever get DC to change or add Bill Finger to the “created by” By-line on BATMAN. There are too many legal issues – and DC finally got resolution over the SUPERMAN issues (Notice new by-lines on the comics) and DO NOT want to deal with something on that scale that will affect millions.

I think Marc should let this rest. DC is paying royalties for reprints of Bill’s stories to Bill’s granddaughter (after years of being misdirected to a former “friend” of her father), which is all they can do.

Of course DC won’t change the “created by” credit; that’s precisely why it’s so important that people who know the truth spread it as loudly as possible. The company who owns the character isn’t making the truth known, so we have to do it.

These articles are so odd. Yes, it’s terrible that this happened but this stuff HAPPENS ALL THE TIME in EVERY industry.

But because this is happening to creative types in this industry it’s suddenly more important?

No, but this is a column about comic books, so I tend to write about the things that are relevant to THAT industry.

This crap happens everywhere. I’ve seen it in my own company. It’s life. It sucks and it sucks but it’s no more worse to Bill Finger then Joe Schmoe at PWC.

So just… bend over and take it? Is that your conclusion? Because that’s certainly what it sounds like, and that’s just sad. Especially coming from someone who, I assume, enjoys comic book superheroes– characters who were designed to serve as inspiration to strive for a better world than that.

I think Marc should let this rest. DC is paying royalties for reprints of Bill’s stories to Bill’s Granddaughter (after years of being misdirected to a former “friend” of her father), which is all they can do.

No. Good people can always do more.

“Without Bob Kane there WOULD BE NO BATMAN. Full stop.”

Without Bill Finger, there would probably be a Batman, it just would be a very sucky one and probably would had been forgotten by history and not be the giant that it is now.

Henry Jones Jr.

May 20, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Does Bill Finger have any surviving heirs? They should take on Warner Brothers/DC. It would be a bigger story than Siegel and Shuster because at least they were always acknowledged as the creators of Superman.

Jake Earlewine

May 20, 2013 at 7:23 pm

LMC, you give Bob Kane way too much credit. And some of your facts are wrong.

Bob Kane was not a creator nor an artist. He was a businessman, who profited off the art, writing, design, and creative skills of many others.

LEADER DESSLOK

May 20, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Here we go again. “Kane Jakked Finger out ot the contract”. I want to stop right there. This is the kind of crap we’ve heard a jillion times before and it’s total nonsense. I won’t deny that Finger contributed a lot to Batman, and “if truth be told” I consider Finger Batman’s Co-Creator BUT, Finger wasn’t “jakked” out of anything. HE WAS HIRED TO BE KANE’S GHOST WRITER”, not to be a partner, not to have a byline but to be a “ghost” assistant! Finger knew EXACTLY what he was doing and what his agreement was with Kane. He was working in a shoe store and hadn’t published ANYTHING. It was Kane who got him to actually sit down and write something and since Kane had already had some success getting published, he ensured that Bill would be too! Kane not only created Batman, he also created BILL FINGER THE COMIC BOOK WRITER!

Sure, Finger made some SUGGESTIONS about the costume, but the EXECUTION was Kane’s. He didn’t HAVE to listen to anything Bill said but decided that the ideas had merit. And as Bill himself said: ‘He [Kane] experimented with various cowls…” Bill “made” Batman? Yeah, right.

But I am not going to point out any flaws in data this article no doubt contains, I want to focus on the thought behind this. I want to start with the obvious, via a rough approximation of a Kane quote:

“The problem with being a ghost is that you must work entirely without credit, but if someone WANTS the credit, then you have to stop being a ghost–or follower–and become a LEADER or innovator! There must be something there for aspiring artists and writers!”

And that is what HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of former assistants have done–including BILL FINGER. He only worked for Kane from 1938-1941. Afterward, it was all on him to make a career for himself. Some have argued that Ub Iwerks “created” Mickey Mouse. Did he whine about Walt Disney’s success? No, he went to Warner Bros. and opened up his own animation studio. It wasn’t a success–but was that Disney’s fault? Nope. Nor was Kane responsible for what happened to Finger.

Kane never did anything for Finger? I disagree. When Whit Ellsworth wanted to bounce Bill off BATMAN–he was allowed to return because as far as I know, Bill was still working for Kane at that point. Gardner Fox was a DC guy and Kane may not have fully trusted him, besides I think he was off doing Hawkman at that point. Also, despite Bill’s well-documented unreliability, DC cut him a lot of slack and it’s not as if his stories were light-years better than other writers; added to this, I noticed that a LOT of Finger’s DC Batman stories were done by Kane and\or his assistants. I don’t find that a coincidence.

In conclusion, the Bill Finger Story was indeed a familiar one whenever someone chooses to remain a freelance writer. Of all the writers who came before Finger and after him–how many do we remember by name? By being involved with Kane and his Bat-Man, Finger is seen as a “Tragic Genius”. But there were MANY Pulp writers, just as talented as Bill, who we have NEVER heard of. Maybe Kane’s original Bat-Man would have failed and Kane would have gone back to humor strips, but we wouldn’t have heard of Bill Finger at all if not for Kane! Bill had PLENTY of opportunities to write pulp stories–David Vern Reed did–why didn’t Bill? It’s easy for some people to take shots at Kane, it’s much easier than blaming Bill Finger for his own choices.

By the way, who said that Kane’s original Bat-Man was a blonde? Bill said that he looked “very much like Superman”. Superman’s not a blonde. This more than anything proves that a lot of these Kane-bashers don’t know what they’re talking about!

joshschr – I agree and I’m happy you wrote in.

Henry Jones Jr. – Yes, Bill has a granddaughter. My book reveals how I found her.

LEADER DESSLOK – A few clarifications:

No one is disputing that Finger agreed to Kane’s terms at the beginning. But Kane went on to lie – for decades – about himself and Finger, and there is no justifying that. Just as Finger brought a tough life on himself for not sticking up for himself, Kane brought a tarnished legacy on himself for being greedy, dishonest, arrogant, and, at times, unforgivable.

- It’s one thing to contract a person to be a ghost writer. It’s quite another to call that ghost writer a liar publicly when he comes forward (25 years later, and only after he was sought out) and tells the truth, without vindictiveness. Kane gave Finger an opportunity and Finger gave Kane a career. Kane listened to Finger’s suggestions because he felt they were better than Kane’s own ideas. That, to me, was one of Kane’s most notable positive qualities – the ability to recognize other ability.

- Finger completely overhauled the costume. Kane himself lists what Finger contributed, and nearly every key element is attributable to Finger. (Neither man explained the genesis of the bat emblem.) Bill specified a cowl resembling a bat. Where did you get the quote about experimenting with various cowls?

- Bill’s unreliability – yes, but editors continued to work with him anyway, because his talent overshadowed his flaw.

- Pulp stories – I imagine one reason Finger didn’t write any is that he was busy writing for many comics, radio, TV, movies, carpentry magazines, and the army.

- No one has said with certainty that Kane’s B-M was blonde, but Arlen Schumer speculated (based on Flash Gordon, where Kane cribbed other things), and of course it’s not a major detail anyway.

Lazarus Pit Foreman

May 20, 2013 at 8:53 pm

Every time I open Batman comic and see “Batman created by Bob Kane” it irks me to no end. The bottom line is that Finger’s name should be right there along with Kane’s…. preferably before.

Next to supes as a kid, i loved the goofy batman stories of the 50s and 60s.Like so many others, I never knew until the giant reprint editions of the mid 70s, there was another tallent involved in his creation.This is a good example to hold up, to those out there, and I know one personaly, who created a minor character,and because he allowed his dreams to be recorded on tape,suplied the stories.He gets no credit listed.Its still being done.

Few words: Bill Finger died in poverty and completely forgotten, while Bob Kane died rich and famous.
If we don’t recognize Bill Finger’s legacy, then what kind of humans are we ?

And maybe it’s a good idea to start a column about the classic creators, who got ripped-off?
Well, at least some of the notable examples?

The comments section on this story is embarrassing.

wow, i like that BLONDE batman design a lot.

its like the counterpart of the Superman costume.
the cowl and ears are kind of cheesy when you think of it….

The more homely of the Clock King’s two henchmen is noted Australian actor Michael Pate … he was a serious actor but didn’t crack the big time in the USA.

The problem with articles like this is it does denigrate Kane and raise up Finger while pointedly ignoring that Finger was almost as big a plagiarist as Kane. Hardly created “from nothing”. Many of his stories, characters, and ideas were lifted directly from the pulps. Will Murray and others have detailed the various Shadow stories that were recycled as Batman stories including Batman’s first story. The story of Wayne being inspired by a bat? The Bat Signal? Joker’s lethal laughing gas? Hugo Strange and his giants? Two-Face and Dr. Mid-Nite’s origin? Commissioner James Gordon and Wildcat? These all come from various pulp writers.

The golden-age Batman stories are a great alchemy of swipes, rip-offs, plagiarism and copyright infringement in art, plots, and characters (all the while DC suing right and left everyone they could think of over copyright and trademark infringement themselves, including threatening some of the same people they’d rip off)

Ed Love – Finger never claimed divine inspiration. Unlike Kane, Finger openly admitted to where ideas came from. And to make a broader point, between the Bible and Greek myth, every modern hero has a precedent somewhere. But Finger took disparate elements and fused them into something that hadn’t been seen before in comics: a hero who looked like (and was sometimes as ruthless as) a villain, a vigilante who became a detective, and a man driven not simply by an abstract sense of good but rather by a psychologically devastating childhood incident. All of this was new to the genre.

If both Kane and Finger swiped, but it was Finger’s elements that endured, while Finger did not lie or publicly disparage Kane even after Kane humiliated him, it seems more than appropriate to take the approach this article has.

That Injustice should be rectified NOW!

Read my post again. Did I say Finger claimed divine inspiration? No. But, the article does claim that Finger created this stuff from nothing. It disparages Kane without looking honestly at Finger’s own culpability. And, I’m not simply talking about borrowing an element here and there (which he also did), but also complete lifting of plots and character twists: the equivalent of re-writing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and simply re-naming the submarine the Anemone and its captain Noman and claiming them as original creations and story.

And what you claim was new, was not new to the genre but simply the media and format. The superhero did not begin with comics, they just changed their primary location. There was a line of Bats and dark cloaked avengers and colorful villains before Batman and the comicbooks, even a couple motivated by deep physical and emotional trauma. While not exactly common, it definitely wasn’t new.

I’m all for giving credit where credit is due. But, it does a disservice to claim that Kane created next to nothing and Finger as the creative genius when he was doing outright plagiarizing right and left himself. By showing clear bias and agenda, the article loses quite a bit of credibility.

Yes, Finger lifted ideas at the beginning (and owned up to it). Yes, Finger (by all known accounts) did not do more to defend himself and protect his contributions. But these things a) do not diminish Finger’s role in creating an icon and b) do not diminish Kane’s outright shameful treatment of Finger in every regard except for his autobiography.

Harry Potter, quite likely the most successful non-superhero character of the 20th century, is hardly original in his parts; it’s only when they are combined and refracted through his personality that he becomes “new.”

Bottom line: Batman has far outlasted most of the minor characters/stories that influenced Finger, so there is something unique about him, and whatever it is (debates will rage) comes from Finger, not Kane.

Kane as the central figure of the story has wrongly dominated for nearly 75 years. It’s time for some bias in the other direction.

I’m not going to get into the whole argument going on here. I think we can all agree (to some extent) that Finger should get more credit than he does, especially from the company that benefitted so much from his work.

What I am going to say is, while I was aware of most of this already, there were several times in this article that choked me up a little bit. As a creative person (amateur creative person, but still), creators’ rights are extremely important to me. I even remember getting upset when people in high school would trace over my art, and not put my name at the bottom before showing people the cool thing “they” had drawn.

That Infantino tribute up there was at once beautiful and incredibly hard to get through. I hope someday DC has the opportunity (or guts, depending on where you fall on the issue) to legally give Bill Finger proper credit for what he did.

Bravo, Greg and Marc. I hope that someday this old injustice is put right and Bill Finger’s name can appear as the co-creator of Batman.

It’s so twisted that the same medium where I learned so much of my basic morality from hardly ever lived up to the ideals it espoused in its stories.

akkadiannumen

May 21, 2013 at 11:44 pm

I’m depressed now. :( The article would be more than enough to do the trick but the fact that people still try to defend Kane… Sigh…

@GREG

Thank you for this article, first of all. Most of the people crying, whining and protecting BOB KANE (who is a liar, by any standard) obviously have never taken part in the creative process. To put your ideas, energy, blood and sweat into the creation of something that does not even exist, just to have your co-creator totally vanquish you from receiving ANY and all royalties and credit is a real knife to the chest. To see some of these comments such as “is Bruce Wayne’s hair colour really that vital to the character?” YES, yes it is. Something so seemingly small added to the entire ‘DARK’ atheistic. It disturbed me to see a blond-ish Bruce Wayne in Val Kilmer. So-called “little things” like the CAPE or the BAT EARS, they matter! They are part of the sum total. What these doubters are not realizing is that the complete product would have been something else entirely, if they would stop singling out “little things” Bob took credit for.

Am I saying KANE did nothing? Certainly not. “Little things” like the name and those goofy wings triggered something within FINGER and the BOTH OF THEM put together the archetype we see today, but please…don’t tell me that Kane committed no injustice by purposely plagiarizing and ignoring Fingers contributions.

LEADER DESSLOK

May 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm

The quotes by Bill Finger that I cite, are from “the horse’s mouth” BILL FINGER from Jim Steranko’s HISTORY OF THE COMICS vol. one. It’S OUT OF PRINT which is why so many of the “Finger Fanatics” as I call them, don’t cite it. They either don’t know about it or DELIBERATELY ignore it because it would undermine their arguments, namely, that BILL FINGER DID IT ALL and Kane “never” contributed anything.

I haven’t heard any of Jerry Robinson’s lectures myself so I won’t attack him directly, May he dwell in Paradise, but he admitted to GARY GROTH in THE COMICS JOURNAL that he really didn’t know how Kane and Finger worked. Having worked for other people like myself and also reading comments about other creators who have worked in similar situations, I tend to believe Kane. He gave Finger credit for all the writing, BUT he said they would “talk it over”. A prime example of such is the creation of THE PENGUIN. Finger said it came from an article from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC and Kane said it came from
a KOOL’S cigarette ad. BUT Kane admitted he only had a name but gave Finger the credit for coming up with “the man of a thousand umbrellas” Finger himself admitted that it was HIS WIFE who suggested (there’s that nasty word again) that Bill could make Pengy a stody looking individual like the “suits” they saw walking in the streets everyday!

The Batman and most of the Kane Studio material was done through collaborative efforts–but there was
only ONE BOSS–NOT TWO. That’s why it RIGHTFULLY says “CREATED BY BOB KANE”. Heck, WALT DISNEY STILL has his name on the company and he’s been dead for close to 50 years!

Yes, Kane was quiet about the fact that he even had people helping him. Why? I don’t know but it was either
Lew Schwartz or Sheldon Moldoff who suggested that maybe Kane was afraid DC would try to pull a fast one
and try to ease him off his own comic strip. In the newspapers, cartoonists generally don’t have this fear
but with comic books, it was like THE WILD WEST for far too long; he saw what went down with Siegel and Shuster. AND he remembered his original studio, and how DC “stole” his writer AND both his inkers because Whit Ellsworth knew about them! Yes, he was given a postion with Jack Schiff where he supervised the DC ghosts, but Schiff probaly had more power than Kane.

Why else would Kane “lie”? Well, simply put he was an Egomaniac and he admitted this. He knew people would say exactly what some people have said: “That he was just a figurehead who stole all the credit.” But Moldoff has suggested, and I agree with him, that it was Kane’s tremendous ego which helped fuel Batman’s success! He wanted EVERYBODY to know about Batman and buy Batman comics, more than those of that “Super-Guy” schmoe! And when Robin was a hit, he made sure the Boy Wonder dominated the splash pages and covers! He THOUGHT like a business man and I have no problems with that.

“Greedy?” That’s going too far but I sure don’t fault him for wanting BATMAN to be successful, nor Steve Jobs,Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Al Capp and other “figueheads” who have hired talented people to help
them produce their properties efficiently and promptly! I grew up in AMERICA, not the SOVIET UNION!

As for this nonsense about “justice”. No, I don’t think Kane committed anything of the kind, it was a smart decision from a business perspective. Why make somebody a partner that you might have to “buy out” later– especially someone as unstable as Finger unquestionably was? If you feel “obligated” there are several things you can do like raises, vacations, or maybe give somebody their job back after they’ve been “let go” I defend Kane and will continue to defend him because I feel he’s rarely been given a fair shake in the comic book press and usually, these people only have half the info! When some professionals defend Kane, they are attacked and I find THAT unforgivable! David Anthony Kraft’s people got two great interviews out of Kane because they treated him with RESPECT but didn’t let him go off on one of his Stan Lee-ish tangents! How i miss DAK, I wish he had a blog!

If I felt like tossing terms around like “justice”, I’d point out that JIM THOMPSON, who in my opinion, had more talent in his pinky than Bill Finger had! Thompson wrote either the story or the dialogue for Stanley Kubrick’s THE KILLING; but when he died, NONE of his books were in print! But Bill’s Batman stories were being reprinted at the same time! I don’t whine about the “injustice” in this or that Kane was sucessful. I appreciate the good things Thompson, Kane and Finger have left behind for us to enjoy. Bill’s shortcomings prevented him from being more prolific, but what he did finish was just fine

Of course I referred to and cited Steranko.

Who says Finger was unstable? He worked steadily for 25 years, even continuing to get assignments despite his tardiness because he was that good of a scripter.

Who says Finger was not prolific? He wrote 1,500 Batman stories, plus many other characters.

Kane, as mentioned, did not write a single Batman story.

Whether or not Kane was a good businessman, and most say he was simply taking direction from others, that does not excuse the fact that when Finger said, in 1965, that he was there from the beginning of Batman, Kane responded by claiming sole responsibility and challenging Finger to repeat these claims to his face. Where I come from, this is not only lying but humiliation and abuse of power.

His actions in 1939 are defensible by the standards of the time. His actions in 1965 are inexcusable no matter when. Same with his actions in 1998, when his gravestone again gives him sole credit for Batman even though his 1989 autobiography came clean about just how significant Finger’s role was. Talk about Two-Face.

The argument that “many people wrote/drew Batman over the years and none of THEM are credited” is not sound. We are talking about the people involved from literally the first day, and then the people who are credited for stories that introduce key elements of the character.

It’s hard to believe anything Kane said because so much of it was later discredited by his peers. He missed no opportunity to grandstand and credit-grab. Therefore, when he DID credit Finger with something, it’s all the more likely to be true since he was not the type to be generous with selective memory.

Sounds like Bob Kane was a role model for Stan Lee.

“The comments section on this story is embarrassing.”
Yes. Yes, it is.
I honestly believe there are people who just enjoy arguing about any and everything.
The facts are here.
They are backed up.
It’s even been common knowledge for a long, long time that Kane was very stingy in sharing any credit (that is a generous statement). I’ve known this for years! Heck, Jerry Bails wrote about it in 1965, for goshsakes! (see my blog: Jerry Bails’ Finger in Every Plot from CAPA-Alpha #12 September 1965…http://chainlettersfordisturbedchildren.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2009-04-17T08:25:00-07:00&max-results=7&start=59&by-date=false)
To deny the facts and try to change the drive of the topic (Garfield? Really?) is a disservice to the author and shows a lack of knowledge of the commenters.
Thanks for this article and thanks for the great books by Marc.

Yes, without Bill Finger, nobody would have heard of Bob Kane or Batman.

Thank you so much Greg and Marc for taking up Bill’s case.

Sadly, Kane will never completely lose his (apparently ardent) defenders because his lies dominated for so very long.

[...] a relief. Also, following last week’s post, here’s a great article about Bill Finger: Sad story, beautiful art. Cheer yourself up with this positive post on how comics don’t need movies to save them, then [...]

I’m kind of shocked to learn that there are still people out there who don’t think Bob Kane was a steaming piece of human garbage. I thought it was a known and accepted fact. Seriously, how can people whose hobby is so much about truth and justice be so quick to side with the bad guy?

Marc Tyler Nobleman

May 21, 2013 at 9:20 am

Harry Potter, quite likely the most successful non-superhero character of the 20th century,
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How about Joe Friday for this nomination, since boys who ride flying broomsticks tend not to fill an ideal regular adventure hero?

There is no interesting things in this article but very informative and of course useful to someone.

Spiritual Comic Books

There is no interesting things in this article but very informative and of course useful to someone.

Spiritual Comic Books

[...] look at Batman co-creator Bill Finger’s last work, on the Batman TV show. •If you’re [...]

Great article. Only thing I’d add is sourcing your images. you used pictures of comic pages but didn’t mention what issue they were from. I often use articles such as this for ideas to read interesting old issues. Can’t do that if you don’t tell me where the page comes from.
Aside from that, fantastic article. It’s really sad that people who really detailed the characters so often go unrecognised.

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