Let’s start things off with a question. Who here likes Batman? Oh, yes, Commissioner Gordon?
Thank you for that very thorough answer, James. But you know what else is important, and begs asking when we all like something? Where that something comes from. Y’know, who made it, that sort of thing. So, who made Batman?
Go ahead and pick up that Batman graphic novel lying next to you, don’t pretend you can’t see it. Tell me what it says inside there, somewhere between the front cover and the beginning of the actual comic. You can read it aloud, that’s fine.
“Batman created by Bob Kane”
Technically this statement, in and of itself, is not wrong. Artist Bob Kane came up with the idea for a character named Batman [the vast majority of this cites Wikipedia]. And of course you all recognize the character I’m describing, seeing as he’s such an enormous cultural icon:
“a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of … reddish tights, I believe, with boots … no gloves, no gauntlets … with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings. And under it was a big sign … BATMAN.”
That’s what illustrator Bill Finger saw of Kane’s sketches. Now Bill Finger, this guy, he didn’t do much. All Finger did was give the character a cowl, a cap instead of wings, gloves, remove the red from the costume, come up with the secret identity of Bruce Wayne, wrote the first and second issues in which the character appeared, came up with Robin’s origin, co-created the Batmobile and Batcave, is credited with naming Gotham City, popularized the use of giant-sized prop [yes, like that penny], and co-created The Joker.
It’s a good thing he gets a creator credit like Bob Kane.
Wait, he doesn’t?
Wait, you’re telling me that Bob Kane’s contract with DC Comics ensures that he will be “credited as the sole creator of Batman until the end of time”? Well, it’s a good thing he made up for it later by mentioning in letters and interviews that Finger did more than he’s given credit for:
“The truth is that Bill Finger is taking credit for much more than he deserves, and I refute much of his statements here in print The fact is that I conceived the ”Batman`’ figure and costume entirely by myself’ even before I called Bill in to help me write the “Batman.” I created the title, masthead, the format and concept, as well as the Batman figure and costume. Robin, the boy wonder, was also my idea, . . . not Bill’s.”
Well, at least, as the internet’s foremost Batmanologist Chris Sims states, he finally did admit to Batman having a co-creator:
Finally, in 1998, when Kane died, he did finally credit a co-creator, and he even did it on his actual tombstone. According to Bob Kane he did have a collaborator on Batman: God Himself.
At least . . . I mean, he came up with the idea at 18, that’s something . . . Sorry, what was that you said, Chris?
“They keep on printing that, even though he was born in 1915 and only co-created Batman to capitalize on the rush for superheroes after Superman’s superheroes after Superman’s debut in 1939, largely because Kane stuck with that lie all the way to his death.”
Well, it’s a good thing, and I’m being sincere this time, that people like Marc Tyler Nobleman are writing books like Bill the Boy Wonder to help inform Batman fans at a very young age of all that Bill Finger contributed. Because seriously, Kane was essentially a member of the Caped Crusader’s rogues gallery.
I wish that he could make things right, but as you can see by the tombstone above he is dead. Ah well, at the very least people are getting better educated about all this business, and he can’t do any more harm from beyond the grave. We’ll just have to read our Batman comics and pretend Bill Finger’s name is on there.
Culture War Reporters created by Bob Kane
Dang it, Bob!