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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #484

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Welcome to the four hundred and eighty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and eighty-three. It’s an all-Batman legends edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed this week! First off, was the first Batman comic book story seriously taken from a Shadow story? Did Bob Kane actually draw Batman’s confrontation with Joe Chill? And did the producers of Batman Forever fire Robin Williams from the film?

Let’s begin!

NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).

COMIC LEGEND: The first Batman story was a re-working of a then-recent Shadow story.

STATUS: True

As I have pointed out in the past in Comic Book Legends Revealed, Bob Kane, co-creator of Batman, famously (infamously?) swiped from a couple of different artists for the art on the first appearance of Batman in Detective Comics #27 in 1939. However, interestingly enough, while the artist on that first story (“The Case of the Chemical Syndicate”) was swiping from his peers, so, too, was the WRITER of that story, Bill Finger!

Bill Finger was a big fan of the Shadow and in the past he made some references to the fact that his first Batman script was a “take-off on a Shadow story.” It was not until less than ten years ago, however, when historians Will Murray and Anthony Anthony Tollin actually discovered the story in question!

It was called “Partners of Peril” from the November 1936 edition of The Shadow magazine.

shadow

It was written by Theodore Tinsley, the second-most prolific Shadow writer of the 1930s (after The Shaow’s creator, Walter Gibson – both men used the Maxwell Grant pseudonym).

Kent C. Hare boiled down the comparisons really well in a piece on the story here:

Partners in an industrial chemical manufacturing plant seal a secret deal to allow one of them to buy the others out. One – then a second – is murdered! Safes are broken into in search of unknown documents. A mysterious black-cloaked figure contronts a perpetrator on a rooftop above one of the crime-scenes. In a climax, one of the business partners is trapped beneath a clear glass dome to be gassed to death – but the black-cloaked crimefighter saves him by jumping under the dome with him and stuffing cloth into the gas tube to block the poison’s entry. It turns out that the mastermind of the murders was the partner who was already buying his fellows’ interest out – but who would rather have the business scott free and not pay up!

That is an accurate description of both stories, which is hilarious.

Here are two snippets of the story, plus scenes from the Batman story…

MERRIWEATHER stepped back. Surprisingly, every word he uttered was distinct to the two trussed men inside the glass prison. A cleverly concealed amplifier of great volume carried his voice to the doomed men. “There are four gas vents scattered over the ceiling in this death room. To-night, only one will be used – the aperture in the hollow pipe that leads into your prison. When I release the second trigger, poison gas will flow steadily into your amusing little cheese jar – and you’ll know exactly how your friend Reed Harrington died!”

tec27-1

And from the conclusion…

“Yes. But, first, I want you to look at this agreement that was taken from the safe of Simon Todd. Not from the safe in his office which was vainly attacked by Blink Dorgan. This document came from Todd’s strong box in his mansion out in the hills. It was found by – by the man who solved this case.” He ignored the chief’s eager question. From the desk in front of him, piled high with papers strewn alongside an opened briefcase, he selected a typewritten sheet of legal cap and handed it to the police official. The latter read it with absorbed interest. It was a cleverly worded agreement drawn up by Simon Todd, and signed by himself and his former partners in the chemical corporation. It read as follows:

1. At the request of my three associates in the ownership of the Millcote Chemical Corporation, who wish to withdraw from said ownership because of executive differences in policy, the following agreement is signed, witnessed and executed.
2. I, Simon Todd, agree to buy sole ownership of the business; and Reed Harrington, Thomas Porter, and Arnold Kling agree to sell such ownership for the stipulated price of three million dollars.
3. I, Simon Todd, agree to pay annually to each of my former associates the sum of $100,000 for a term of ten years. At the end of ten years the ownership of the Millcote Chemical Corporation is to be mine and mine alone.
4. The heirs of Harrington, Porter and Kling are specifically barred from this agreement. In case of the death of one of the above mentioned associates, his share will be divided equally among the other two survivors. In no event shall less than three million dollars be paid by me.
5. This will constitute acceptance of this contract and a receipt for the first annual payment of $300,000 divided equally among the associates above mentioned.

The document was signed by four names: Reed Harrington, Arnold Kling, Thomas Porter and Simon Todd. Below was the name of the witness, Claude Merriweather. The chief of police uttered a quick exclamation. “In other words, Todd had obligated himself to the extent of three million dollars and would not have complete control of the company for at least ten years.” “That is correct,” Cardona assented.

JOE explained further. Todd had no intention of discharging his debt. His aim was to seize control of the valuable corporation by killing his associates. That was why he had excluded their heirs from the contract of sale, and had worded it in such a way that, apparently, he had nothing to gain from a sudden death among the doomed men.

tec27-2

Jerry Robinson later theorized that the young Finger was “struggling to shift from humor to adventure strips,” hence his use of the prior story as a bit of a crutch.

Thanks to Will Murray and Anthony Tollin for this awesome discovery!

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Check out my latest Movie Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Did Robin Williams ad-lib so much in Aladdin that the film was no longer eligible for a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar?
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On the next page, did Bob Kane really draw “The Origin of Batman”?

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31 Comments

I’m shocked.

Bob Kane was involved with Batman?

Let’s also not forget that after Batman 89′ people would say for years that on top of Williams playing the Riddler, Cher would play Catwoman

And Danny DeVito was heavily the favorite for the Penguin, which is why it’s kind of amazing that he ended up being the guy to play the part.

Finger cribbed from the pulps fairly often. That’s not the only Batman story that came from the pulps. Commissioner Gordon is from The Whisperer pulp novels whose nickname is that of Wildcat, the name of another Finger creation. Batman’s inspiration is almost verbatim to a minor pulp hero called the Bat. The origin of Two-Face is identical to Dr. Mid-nite’s and both are identical to that of the Black Bat, who debuted almost the same time as Batman and almost lead to the two companies suing each other. Tollin and Murray have written a few articles for the Shadow reprint series, comparing stories and characters from the Shadow that ended up in DC stories, most notably Batman.

I’m still hoping for the day I get to see a more intellectual Riddler in a Batman movie. Until then I guess I’ll just have to settle for seeing him in every other detective movie.

Travis Stephens

August 15, 2014 at 10:39 am

Has the Club Pelican ever showed up again? I vaguely seem too recall it from another Batman series from the ’70′s.

Wasn’t Joe Piscopo rumored to be Two-Face in a Tim Burton Batman film when he still held the franchise? I seem to remember a Mad Magazine spoof where we see the (rumored) in-coming cast asking Jack Nicholson’s Joker “why are you killing yourself at the end of the film?” He basically says “So I don’t have to come back and do any crappy sequels!” And the other villains jump after him.

Oh god, seeing that Carrey / Riddler poster again reminded me just how bad that film was and horribly the Riddler and Two-Face were portrayed in that film.

interesting that bob kane still did a batman story for though after he saw batman become a hit he just had his ghost writters do the writing and he took credit. plus always wondered if warners did indeed offer Robin the role of the riddler but then when he decided to take his time wound up with shumaker getting his way of having carey. though never knew he was offered the joker as a ploy to land jack for the very first batman film.

I have a question that I don’t think has been asked in previous editions: was Batman’s origin story (the famous, often-reprinted two-page spread, detailing “Who he is and how he came to be!”) written by Bill Finger, or by Gardner Fox? I’ve always presumed it was Finger, but I’ve seen a couple of sources crediting Gardner Fox. I believe DC Comics credited Fox as the author when Batman # 1 was reprinted as a Millennium Edition. I hope it was Finger’s work–I prefer the idea that Batman’s uncredited co-creator also came up with the character’s back story–but I’m curious to find out if anyone knows for sure.

Did Lew Schwartz say that Kane did the story himself or that Schwartz did not do it for Kane? Since Kane used multiple ghosts, how could Schwartz be sure that Kane didn’t use another ghost on that particular story? I had heard that many of the ghosts were, at least initially, unaware there were others in the same role.

The artist who drew “The Origin of Batman” was Baldo Smudge :)

Good call on turning down Batman Forever, Robin. I recently saw the trailer for that movie and was overcome by suppressed rage about how bad that movie was.

Did Lew Schwartz say that Kane did the story himself or that Schwartz did not do it for Kane? Since Kane used multiple ghosts, how could Schwartz be sure that Kane didn’t use another ghost on that particular story? I had heard that many of the ghosts were, at least initially, unaware there were others in the same role.

Kane only had one personal ghost at a time. It was Schwartz and then it was Sheldon Moldoff. The other ghosts worked for DC and not Kane. So if it wasn’t Schwartz on this story, it would have to be Kane.

I edited that into the piece to make it clearer. By the way, as I did that, I discovered that this issue (a different story in the same issue) was actually Schwartz’s FIRST issue as Kane’s ghost artist!

I used to think that if the Nolan Batman series went on long enough, Williams would have been fantastic and a natural fit as the Ventriloquist. A character that’s partly a wacky voice and partly a depressed sad-sack would have been in William’s wheelhouse twice over (if this sounds like an insult, it’s definitely not meant to be).

Interesting. Thanks for the clarification Brian!

A funny thing about Moldoff is that he also worked for DC in various capacities as an artist, so occasionally he was assigned “Bob Kane”‘s work to ink. So he’d be his own inker!

“Good call on turning down Batman Forever, Robin. I recently saw the trailer for that movie and was overcome by suppressed rage about how bad that movie was.”

And yet it was practically “Citizen Kane” compared to the next one.

To start, Bob Kane was involved with early Batman. Even Jerry Robinson has said that the Joker was a collaborative effort between Kane, Finger, and himself. Kane denying Finger and the rest of his studio people credit for decades was wrong, but it’s intellectually dishonest to pretend he did literally nothing when the historical record says otherwise.

Secondly, comics from the Golden Age all the way to the 1970s ripped characters and plots off sci-fi prose stories and movies. Comics were disposable entertainment back then and seen as a stop along the way of writers to becoming novelists and artists to becoming newspaper cartoonists or advertising artists. It’s not completely fair to blame the older generation without understanding their mindset.

To start, Bob Kane was involved with early Batman. Even Jerry Robinson has said that the Joker was a collaborative effort between Kane, Finger, and himself. Kane denying Finger and the rest of his studio people credit for decades was wrong, but it’s intellectually dishonest to pretend he did literally nothing when the historical record says otherwise.

Who are you even arguing with? John’s joke?

Secondly, comics from the Golden Age all the way to the 1970s ripped characters and plots off sci-fi prose stories and movies. Comics were disposable entertainment back then and seen as a stop along the way of writers to becoming novelists and artists to becoming newspaper cartoonists or advertising artists. It’s not completely fair to blame the older generation without understanding their mindset.

Who’s blaming anyone here?

You’re arguing against things that aren’t being said.

Wow! The big time! Thanks for the link to my blog. – Kent

Wasn’t Joe Piscopo rumored to be Two-Face in a Tim Burton Batman film when he still held the franchise?

Unlikely, since Billy D Williams was Harvey Dent in the first one, and, as covered in an earlier CBLR he was still optioned to play the role until Shumacher took over.

(How very different would that flick have been if it had been Williams Squared instead of Jones and Carrey?)

(Speaking of ‘a very different movie’, I initially brainfarted and referred to BDW’s character as ARTHUR Dent… Now that would be something…)

Wow! The big time! Thanks for the link to my blog. – Kent

It’s funny, Kent, I was all prepared to do a bit by bit comparison of the two stories but you just summed it up SO perfectly that I thought, “There’s no way I’ll do it better than he did so I might as well just use his.” :)

Lots of early comics stole from pulps and comic strips, not to mention novels. It’s the way of things. Some were blatant ripoffs, some were just inspiration for a twist on the idea. Lost Horizon probably had more to do with every hero who gained his powers in Tibet than any other source. Superman might not exist, if it weren’t for Phillip Wylie, Lester Dent, and Edgar Rice Burroughs (not to mention mythology). Chris Claremont was obsessed with Alien, Alan Moore owes a lot to Phillip Jose Farmer and Michael Moorcock (and possibly Robert Meyer). Frank Miller wouldn’t have a writing career without Mickey Spillane and Jim Thompson, and possibly James M. Cain. Everyone has their influences. Some lean on them more than others.

Can’t blame Bill Finger of having inspiration in a bit “swiping” the Shadow story to The Bat-Man. There’s absolutely no originality in story-telling at all. What’s the bottom line here is BATMAN was born. Great article, bot!

Hi, Brian. There are no sources listed at the end of the Robin Williams legend attributing where you got the info that it was Williams’ choice to turn down the role. Was that an oversight? Otherwise it sounds like you are speculating on the reasoning.

tom fitzpatrick

August 16, 2014 at 4:46 am

I think that Robin Williams would have made a much better Riddler than Jim Carrey.

Just one of those things that we’ll never find out. :-(

R.I.P. R. Williams

The disdain for Batman Forever seems misplaced, as Leonard Maltin gave the film three stars. Leonard Maltin gave all other Batman films made prior to 1998 or so less than three stars, including Tim Burton’s films*. Also, Bob Kane cited Val Kilmer as his favorite portrayer of his hero, or the closest looking portrayer.

Those who deride the film for tackiness should recall that from 1940 to 1988 or so, Robin(s) usually went around in golden cape, bare legs and green medieval shoes.

http://newimprovedgorman.blogspot.com/2012/07/max-allan-collins-movie-reveiwer.html

Has notes on 1960′s, Adam West and the Green Hornet of the 1960′s, with input from Count Karnstein and Max Allan Collins.

*Burton’s films criticized

PB210

August 11, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I cannot side with the support for Keaton expressed here.

http://alankistler.squarespace.com/journal/2007/12/27/kistlers-thoughts-on-film-adaptations-part-1.html

But here, Burton is less faithful than Singer because his character actually behaves differently too. The comic book version of Batman is dedicated to the protection of innocent life rather than cold vengeance and he operates under a strong personal moral code that does not allow for killing. Tim Burton’s Batman was willing to kill, arming his car with machine guns and blowing up chemical plants that held a dozen or more criminals within. Whereas the comic book Batman sometimes wondered if his war against crime is futile and if he was going about things the wrong way, movie version Batman was without regret or remorse over any of his actions. Also, movie Batman was not able to turn his neck due to his costume, something that comic book Batman has no trouble doing at all.

The take on Bruce Wayne is also different. Comic book Bruce Wayne is a charmingly arrogant snob who often mouths off, looks somewhat bored most of the time and doesn’t seem to take an interest in anything that doesn’t involve leisure or enjoyment. This is the perfect disguise, as no one would really think to connect him to the obsessive, cunning control freak that Batman shows himself to be. However, movie-version Bruce Wayne is a recluse who seems socially awkward around others. If I were living in movie-version Gotham City, movie Bruce’s behavior and habit of keeping to himself would definitely make me suspicious of him.

Tim Burton also evidently cared more about the Joker than about Batman, since Batman’s training, his motivations, his personal code and the reason he chose a bat as his symbol are not explained at all (the character even has less screen-time than the villain).

More (this time from Count Karnstein and some quotes from Max Allan Collins in links)

http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?391136-Max-Allan-Collins-references-in-Fridays-with-Greg-Hatcher&p=14309902#post14309902

http://forums.comicbookresources.com/showthread.php?391279-Max-Allan-Collins-on-lean-scripts-and-other-matters-while-working-for-DC

“Keaton wasn’t Bruce Wayne. He was a bumbling parody”. “The Burton version was a clumsy, bumbling oaf. Which of course did not fit in with the overall tone of the movie, unlike the West version, which was consistent. He was a cardboard cut-out and a bumbling oaf. His mental “issues” were not developed properly.” He couldn’t even string together a coherent sentence…..! Or how about the “I’m Batman!” part? Or how about him not knowing which room in Wayne Manor he was in, or whether he’d ever eaten there before? It was absurd! . [Michael Keaton, then and now, mostly makes comedies.]

http://www.undermountain.org/monsterfans/viewtopic.php?p=228&sid=68f9d52600588f16981169e0475385a2

And I did not like him as Bruce Wayne because the Bruce Wayne that Keaton portrayed in the movie never existed in the comics. So it was unfaithful and helped to ruin the movie for me.

Some dicey writing:

The 1988 WGA strike began just after screenwriter Sam Hamm turned in his final draft, and that’s more or less what sealed this movie’s fate. Script doctor Warren Skaaren was brought in to do polishes without Hamm’s involvement, and at the behest of the producers and the studio, the screenplay was constantly being rewritten even after filming began. The end result is a directionless, patchwork quilt of a story that often feels like director Tim Burton and his cast just kind of winging it.

http://nitcentral.philfarrand.com/discus/messages/8/5216.html

Since everyone is astounded by the thought of a “6 foot bat” haunting Gotham City by night, it’s safe to assume that the idea of “Batman” is a new one to Gotham’s citizens. That means no comic books, no Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and particularly, no Adam West series.

When the Joker is staging his parade, he notes, “I’M giving away free money. Where’s Batman? At home, washing his tights.” Having never seen Adam West’s portrayal of Batman, where did the joker come up with the idea of Batman in tights, given that Batman’s worn nothing but body armor throughout the movie?

===================================================================================
http://curiosityofasocialmisfit.blogspot.com/2013/09/batman-1989-blu-ray-review.html

Joker says to Bruce Wayne “do you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight” and claims he asks this of all his prey. Ummm sorry but no you don’t. In fact he only says it twice, both times to Bruce Wayne so add to this loads of continuity errors and the editing looks a little sloppy.

http://www.agonybooth.com/movies/Batman_1989.aspx

Yes, in the lamest moment of the movie, it turns out a young Jack Napier killed Bruce’s parents. I really don’t get why they felt this plot twist (which isn’t based on anything in the comics) was necessary. Was the random poisoning of innocent people not enough motivation for Batman? Sadly, this crappy “twist” got imitated in other superhero movies (the Sandman killed Uncle Ben??) and it’s lame every time. Making this stupider is how they cast an actor who looks and sounds nothing like a young Jack Nicholson, and he even has blue eyes. Hmm, if only there were some way to know what Nicholson looked like when he was younger…

PB210

August 11, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Ultimately, the story is hopelessly banal; a large chunk of this movie is little more than Batman and Joker fighting over a woman. [a gender flipped Supergirl, perhaps]

I should have put in for my pending comment “a gender flipped Supergirl (1984)”.

@starman76- I wondered that too. It seems like there are claims of both, without any real evidence, and some links and actual info would do a lot to clear up the legend, and not just add to it. Because someone is hearing something wrong.

http://www.blastr.com/2014-7-21/little-known-sci-fi-fact-robin-williams-was-turned-down-3-separate-batman-directors

http://uproxx.com/webculture/2014/07/robin-williams-lost-four-different-batman-roles/2/

http://thecomicscode.weebly.com/robin-williams-in-a-batman-movie.html

Those who deride the film for tackiness should recall that from 1940 to 1988 or so, Robin(s) usually went around in golden cape, bare legs and green medieval shoes.

So? BF wasn’t made between 1940 and 1988.

Burton’s movies might be lackluster, but BF was terrible.

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