It was late in 1938 when the powers that be realized they had a hit with Superman. Action Comics number one had hit the newsstands in April that year. Superman was the flagship hero and was on the cover. The sales of the original book went through the roof but no one knew why. It took a few months before they learned it was all about Superman.
What was next was the need for another costumed hero. The management went to artist/writer Bob Kane and asked him to develop a costumed hero for their Detective Comics magazine which had already been around for a while. They didn’t want another Superman. They wanted a costumed detective. Bob was approached on Friday afternoon and he promised a new hero by Monday morning and he did it, but not alone.
To me, Bob Kane was one the shrewdest and one of the most evil men in comics. He was shrewd in the fact that before he signed anything away that he created he got lawyers involved so he owned a piece of the property. Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster did not do that and signed Superman away for one hundred and thirty dollars. For many years they lived at almost a poverty level while their creation was making millions. Kane was evil in that he didn’t give the same advantage to those who helped him create his work and so for years all the credit and all the accolades and all the money went to Kane.
Kane left the office of National Periodical Publications and went home to brainstorm. He came up with a character in red tights, a mask, like the one Robin would eventually wear, blond hair, and stiff wings. He brought his sketch to his buddy Bill Finger and told Bill the name of the character was The Bat-Man. Bill did not like the look of the character at all. He changed the costume color to black and gray. He got rid of the mask and suggested a cowl with bat ears. The stiff wings were replaced by a billowing cape and the symbol of a bat was drawn on the chest. The Bat-Man was born.
Kane took the new sketches to the editor, Vin Sullivan, and they were approved. Now Kane had to write a story. He went back to Bill Finger and made a deal with him to ghostwrite Bat-Man and receive none of the credit. Kane agreed to pay Finger out of the money he was making. Finger agreed to this, much to his regret in later years.
Bill Finger was the mind behind most of the things we love about Batman today. Beyond the stories, he originated to the utility belt, The Batcave, Robin, The Joker, The Penguin, and The Riddler. All without receiving any credit.
It wasn’t until the first comic book convention in 1965 that the truth slowly began to leak out. Bill was invited to speak and the session was recorded. He told his story and a fanzine article was written. When Kane got wind of the story he publicly denounced Bill Finger and continued to take all the credit for himself.
Bill gave some other interviews and tried to get his rights to the character. This became more and more painful as 1966 rolled around and Batman became a TV sensation. Bill would only see his name associated with the character once. He co-wrote one episode of the television series. He asked his co-writer if his name could go on top in the credits. In his lifetime it would be the only time he ever saw it.
Bill Finger died a pauper with eviction notices taped to the door of His apartment in January of 1974. He was 59 years old, A son, who none knew he had, cremated his father and brought his ashes to the northern Pacific Coast. His son drew a bat symbol on the sand and scattered the ashes over the symbol. He watched while the ocean carried his father away.
The years would go by in the 1940s and other artists and writers would leave their mark on The Bat-Man. Jerry Robinson would make the first new contributions by eliminating both the hyphen and the “the’. The Bat-Man became Batman.
Not many years ago a young writer named Marc Tyler Nobleman came across the story of Bill Finger. Marc had previously written a book on Superman’s creators and wanted to do the same for Batman. He assumed the story was about Bob Kane but Marc unearthed the material about Bill Finger and with that he began a crusade to win Bill the credit he deserved.
After months of research and detective work, Marc was able to locate the granddaughter of Bill Finger. They worked together by bringing the problem to the fans thru Comic-Con panels and interviews. The wheels of justice turn slowly but they do turn and Athena, Bill’s Granddaughter met with her lawyer and the powers that be at Warner Brothers the parent company of DC comics an agreement was reached and starting with the film Superman Batman The Dawn of Justice Bill Finger was listed as co-creator of Batman. His name would be on all future Batman projects including the comics and films.
For more information on this amazing journey to justice please see the film Batman and Bill which is a Hulu original.
Not much more needs to be said about Batman. Everyone knows that one night while coming home from the movies Thomas, Martha, and young Bruce Wayne are stopped by a thief. The thief takes Thomas’s wallet and Martha’s pearls and then kills them in front of Bruce. Not long after Bruce makes a vow to avenge his parents by warring on all criminals. He trains for years to become both physically and mentally perfect as a human being can. Late one night he feels he is ready and as he thinks of what symbol would strike terror in the hearts of criminals a bat crashes through the window and Bruce decides. With the money left to him by his parents Bruce is more than wealthy enough to collect all the things, he would need to set out on his mission, and thus Batman was born.
At the moment, in theaters, there is a new movie titled The Batman. This would be number ten in the big-screen adaptations that began in the mid-sixties with the release of the Batman movie that was based on the popular TV show. Before that, there were two serial films of Batman in the 1940s. This latest film stars Robert Pattinson as Bruce Wayne/Batman and I honestly cannot recommend it.
First, the film is dark. Not in the story but in lighting. Even the daytime scenes are filmed on cloudy days so light just doesn’t penetrate. I found some of the scenes hard to see and at two hours and fifty-five minutes the darkness became tedious. I found myself looking at my phone for the time more than I should have. In fact, in a Batman movie, I shouldn’t have felt the need to look at all.
Second, they messed with Bruce’s family. Making his mother Martha a mental case and to cover that up Thomas goes to the mob for help. Thomas Wayne in comic books would never do that. This leads to Thomas feeling he needs to turn himself in which leads to the mob killing Thomas and Martha Wayne instead of a random shooting. It’s the randomness of his parents’ death that is at the heart of Batman.
Third, they messed with the Riddler’s real name. Since the beginning when Bill Finger created The Riddler his real name was Edward Nigma or E Nigma and enigma is a puzzle and Edward was obsessed with riddles and puzzles leading him to be so compulsive that he had to leave a riddle before he committed a crime. The new movie changes his name to Nash or Norton. Sort of destroying a major part of the character.
I was very disappointed in this film. We are going to see four more DC character movies during the rest of this year. The Flash, Batgirl, a direct to HBOMAX a live-action film, Black Adam and Aquaman. I hope Warner Brothers does a better job on these though I have my doubts.