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Comic Book Legends Revealed #424

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COMIC LEGEND: Bob Kane swiped Todd McFarlane for a Batman drawing.

STATUS: I’m Going With True

Bob Kane, as likely all of you know by now, was not exactly the world’s most prolific artist from the 1950s onward. The Batman comic books attributed to him were actually drawn by his ghosts, most notably Sheldon Moldoff.

So things got kind of weird in the late 1980s when the Batman film was coming out and suddenly there was a lot of demand for Bob Kane to produce some artwork to tie in with the film.

When Kane co-created Batman back in the late 1930s, comic artists often swiped poses and designs from the most popular comic artists of the time. In the late 1930s, that mostly meant a TON of Hal Foster swipes, as Foster was THE guy for action comics (Alex Raymond became a popular guy to swipe, as well).

As I have detailed in an old Comic Book Legends Revealed, Kane was no different and swiped heavily (you can check out the swipes here).

Kane took that same approach when doing some “drawing” in the late 1980s. You almost have to give him some credit for being aware of who the “hot” comic book artist was at the time, which would be Todd McFarlane, as Kane proceeded to pretty blatantly swipe Todd McFarlane’s work. Here is a piece that Kane drew that also appeared on some promotional items for the Batman film…

bobkane1

And here is a then-recent panel by Todd McFarlane…

mcfarlane1

Is that 100% proof? Of course not, but it is pretty darn close. Close enough for me to give it a true. It also did not help that Kane, at the time, referred to McFarlane in interviews as one of his “ghosts” for some reason.

McFarlane handled the situation with some sardonic humor, as seen on this cover of Amazing Heroes soon after the controversy…

mcfarlane2

Hilarious.

Thanks to reader Jacob for the suggestion and thanks to Bob Hughes for the Kane/McFarlane comparison (do note that there’s a decent chance that it was not Kane who did the swiping, but a third party artist hired by Kane to do the drawing).
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Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Was Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory produced as basically a giant ad for candy?
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On the next page, was a famous one-liner from a U.S. Vice President really from a comic strip?

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34 Comments

About the Batman thing, you can change the status to “True”. Still, not bad for a swipe

I have it as true, no?

I own a Batman drawn by Marshall Rogers at the 78 San Diego Comic-Con. While Rogers was drawing, Kane was also up on stage drawing. Kane kept stepping back and looking at what Rogers was drawing.

Kane’s lack of attention led to him forgetting to put the “R” on Robin’s costume, to snickering among those present. But, Rogers, in a great gesture, put a “Created by Bob Kane” notation using Kane’s signature signature.

I have that issue of the great Comics Scene. There were also some Kane pieces in Detective 598-600 that were very McFarlane (I think they might have been in that Comics Scene, also). At the time I was around 14 and and thought Kane was great for creating Batman, and I thought it was really cool that he could still draw and that his new stuff looked great. I noticed a resemblance to McFarlane’s work, but that is as far as I took it at the time.

On a related note, look closely at the McFarlane drawing. A very good piece, but Batman’s boots appear to be behind the back edge of his cape.

Bob Kane—or a third-party artist hired by Kane like you suggested—actually swiped McFarlane’s art for a special lithograph sold in connection with the big promotional push for Tim Burton’s “Batman.”

The litho: http://www.comicdom.gr/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/batmanmovier1.jpg

An argument could be made that the artist is just incorporating McFarlane’s style of rendering Batman’s cape. But the middle image of the litho is taken directly from Detective Comics #576, page 21. I always thought that shot—a less-than-dynamic pose of Batman from behind—to be the oddest drawing to swipe. Maybe he thought: “No one will suspect thievery if I include a butt shot!”

(Interestingly, McFarlane actually lifts a Michael Golden pose from an old Batman Family issue for a small panel in Detective Comics #577.)

The Bob Kane drawing looks more like McFarlane than the McFarlane.

kdu, the boots on the Kane drawing look worse. They look like they’re next to Batman’s body instead of underneath it.

Joe V. the Batman pose on top looks like a Superman #1 swipe.

I had that issue of AH. I always wondered about the Kane reference. Now I know! (And knowing is half the battle.)

I’ve always hated McFarlane’s Batman. Wearing roughly an acre of cape just wouldn’t be practical.

Yay, my “Five-Cent Cigar” legend was picked up this week!

[…] according to writer Brian Cronin, who’s got a long history of expertise when it comes to deciphering pop culture legends and […]

I would be willing to bet my underwear that Bob Kane had NOTHING to do with that drawing, other than giving the OK for his name to be put on it. Even when he was “drawing ” the comics, he wasn’t drawing them.

In general, Tone, I would agree. But Kane DID draw Batman for a number of years until he gave it all up. So it is not like the guy couldn’t draw at all, especially when all he had to do was copy McFarlane’s drawing. Would I be surprised if that was a ghost artist? Of course not, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if that was an actual Kane drawing.

Highly recommend Weldons book. Great read

It wonder if that would feel like a weird kind of honor, to be shamelessly copied by the (co)creator of Batman. Seems like it would be a pretty surreal experience, in any case.

My thought too, b. Bizarre swipe, to say the least. Kane chose well, though, the original is a compelling image.

Adding to the truth of this one is the content of Todd’s interview in that issue of Amazing Heroes. He tells of how after those Bob Kane pieces came out, he and his wife ran into GIL Kane at a party or somesuch and she threw a fit at Todd for being nice to Gil Kane, not realizing she had the wrong guy!

Are you sure that Batman picture was by Todd? It has feet!

You’ve confused Todd MacFarlane with Rob Liefeld, there, Eric. Liefeld’s the one who doesn’t draw feet or hands. MacFarlane’s major flaw is occasionally rather baroque posing.

Also, Brian, there appears to be an unclosed center tag on page one that’s making the comments look weird.

Thanks, Kamino! It’s funny, since there was so little text after the last image, I didn’t even notice the error!

Travis Pelkie

June 21, 2013 at 9:41 pm

“MacFarlane’s major flaw is occasionally rather baroque posing.”

Kamino, is that why Spidey’s spine looks ba-roque in Todd’s Spider-Man stuff?

hyuck hyuck hyuck!

Funny piece of information. Great work!

*tosses a drum kit off a cliff for Travis*

Hey, don’t take my bad punning out on an innocent drum kit. :)

And in actually reading the pieces all the way through (I skimmed! I skimmed!!), I wonder if that McFarlane swipe is actually BY McFarlane. If Kane referred to him as one of his ghosts, and the stuff Joe V said, it got me thinking.

If you’re ghosting something for someone else, also, why not swipe a panel of yourself? It’s a way of “signing” it without signing it. And doing a neat drawing without having to be bothered with redoing composition and all that.

The main reason I wouldn’t swear to this being the case is that Todd is so outspoken, I don’t see where he would have stayed quiet about ghosting Bob Kane.

And in actually reading the pieces all the way through (I skimmed! I skimmed!!), I wonder if that McFarlane swipe is actually BY McFarlane. If Kane referred to him as one of his ghosts, and the stuff Joe V said, it got me thinking.

If you’re ghosting something for someone else, also, why not swipe a panel of yourself? It’s a way of “signing” it without signing it. And doing a neat drawing without having to be bothered with redoing composition and all that.

The main reason I wouldn’t swear to this being the case is that Todd is so outspoken, I don’t see where he would have stayed quiet about ghosting Bob Kane.

McFarlane was so irritated with Kane at the time for the swipe that it really wouldn’t make sense for him to have actually done the drawing FOR Kane.

In regards to Mcfarlands Batman looking like his legs are behind the back of his cape. Batman has his cape pulled in front of him, from both sides. Meaning the right side of his cape and left side are both pulled in front of him, so there are 2 layers of front cape.

I like how when you write “Hilarious” at the end you do it with a deadpan period. It makes me think you don’t really mean it, which makes it funnier.

Another one here that had that issue of Comics Scene… if you could see the issue, you’d know how obvious it was that Kane had ripped off McFarlane. It looked like he’d just taken one of Todd’s Batman Year Two comics and traced over it, adding in a few stylistic touches so that it looked like a Bob Kane Batman. Pretty pathetic, really.

I love how every single comment until now has been about the Batman legend. Not a single one is about the other ones.

I always got the impression that Bob Kane was a man that used people and took the credit ( and money) for himself. Swiping Mcfarlane is low.

Kane was tracing Batman off of other comics from the very beginning of the strip.

Bill Williamson

March 17, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Doesn’t surprise me about Kane. He was such a hack.

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