Monday, January 20, 2014

Let's Give Batman's Creator a Google Doodle for His Birthday!

But not Bob Kane. Fuck that guy.

February 8th is Bill Finger's birthday, and it's about damn time he got some modicum of recognition.

I admit I don't go into a lot of detail on this in my reviews. In my coverage of Detective Comics #27, I tried to be as fair and unbiased as possible as to who created what in regards to Batman, but the fact of the matter is this: Bob Kane was hired by National Publications to create a hero to go with Superman. Bob came up with the name "Bat-Man", inspired by the silent film "The Bat", he decided to give him no powers to contrast with Superman, and he gave him this stiff Bat-wing cape inspired by the art of Leonardo da Vinci. And then he ripped off a lot of stuff from Zorro (foppish secret identity mostly) and a lot of stuff from The Shadow (the plot of "Case of the Criminal Syndicate" is basically plagiarized from "Partners of Peril" and Kane swiped a lot of the art too). Kane's original look for Batman was a domino mask, red tights and those stiff Bat wings.
Bill Finger, the writer of that and the lion's share of Batman stories thereafter, came up with the cape, the cowl, the colour scheme, whiting out his eyes to make him more mysterious, the name Bruce Wayne, Comissioner Gordon, Gotham City, Robin, the Joker, and most importantly the origin story.
Each time I review an issue I give proper credit to it's writer (usually Finger), and it's artists (usually Kane and Robinson) and when I give Kane credit for pencils I should say that's with a pretty big asterisk, because after he hired Robinson and Roussos as inkers most of what Kane did was rough layouts, although he always penciled Batman and Robin himself he often left out backgrounds and sometimes whole characters, to be finished by his assistants. 
Now, none of this is particularly out of the ordinary for the time period these comics were created, but what is bullshit is that on every single comic I've reviewed on this site, all the original issues said for credit was "by Bob Kane", and that's all they ever said until around 1964.
And to this day, every single Batman comic, movie, TV show, or video game has had a "Batman created by Bob Kane" credit on it.
Because Kane was essentially an evil genius. Kane, you see, was hired by DC directly, and then Kane hired out to Finger and Robinson and the others. So as far as DC knew for a very long time, Kane was doing it all. And even after the deceit came to light, Kane had an ironclad contract with DC that granted him credit in perpetuity on all the Batman comics. Even today, DC is legally unable to credit Bill Finger in his proper role as co-creator of the character, although at least on reprints of old comics they are able to credit him and the many other tireless creators who worked "with" and "for" Bob Kane on those issues where they were never originally credited.
And to almost the very end Kane denied Bill or any of his assistants and ghosts did anything, always claiming he was the sole creator of almost thirty years of Batman comics. Finally, after Bill had died and soon before Kane died, he said that he might consider letting Bill put his name on it. On Kane's tombstone, he does in fact share credit for Batman -- with God, for divine inspiration.
So join the petition to give Bill Finger a Google Doodle on his birthday and celebrate the man without whom we would NOT have the Batman we enjoy today. It's Batman's 75th anniversary after all.
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  1. Yeah Fuck Bob Kane as you said! I will write to Google on Finger's behalf!

  2. Great post! I'm writing a paper on why Bill Finger should be credited as well for the creation of Batman. I was wondering if I could put your blog post in my paper? And if so, do you have any more thoughts on the issue? Thank you!

  3. No problem! For other thoughts on my part, take a look at my Detective Comics #27 review, particularly the comments section. Also take a look at the Dial B for Blog series linked in those comments, and search "Chris Sims Bob Kane" on google for a great article on Kane by the internet's foremost Batmanologist.

    Frankly, with almost every major comics character there's a good deal of controvery over creator credit, but it's always important to remember that comics are both words and pictures, at least equal in importance to each other. So it's often the fairest course to credit both the writer and artist of a feature for a character's creation. This is not always accurate, but is the most common practice and often the fairest, especially for older characters where time, ego, legality, and money have blurred the truth.

    In such a case, it is therefore rational to credit Finger as a co-creator. But in the case of Batman, there's so much more as well. On one level, it is fair to credit only Kane in the sense that DC came to him, asked him to develop the new feature, and his idea was "Batman". He had the idea - non-superpowered vigilante, Zorro and Shadow esque, bat-themed. Sure. So on that level, he created Batman.

    But even ignoring that Finger wrote almost every story for the Golden Age Batman, and continued writing the character until the early sixties when Kane finally forced him out, Finger contributed so much -- the entire iconic look of the cowl, the eyes, the colour scheme, the secret identity of Bruce Wayne, the character of Commissioner Gordon, the setting of Gotham City, and many other key elements like Robin and the Joker (although on the later two there's an issue of creator credit with Jerry Robinson as well).

    The point being, as made by Ty Templeton's lovely comic, that the Batman SOLELY created by Bob Kane is VERY different from the Batman created by Bob Kane AND Bill Finger. And if we've matured enough to give Steve Ditko his rightful due as Spider-Man's co-creator on every bit of Spider-media since the 2002 feature film, then fuck we should be crediting Bill Finger on every bit of Bat-media too.

  4. Thank you for getting back to me so quickly! This blog post is what gave me the inspiration to write my paper on Bill Finger. If you like I could send you a copy of it when I'm done. It's not due until the end of the semester though so it might be a while. Again, thank you so much!

  5. You're welcome! I think it's really cool, and would love to see a copy!

  6. You should really get a hold of Marc Tyler and Ty Templeton's book "Bill the Boy Wonder" -- it's not really an academic text per se, but it is an incredible resource and a great place to start.