Today is #BatmanDay a nationwide promotional event being driven by DC Comics to mark the 75th Anniversary of the creation of the Batman. At one time I would have been all over this, making sure I had stuff ready to post, and doing everything I could to attend the anniversary events at San Diego ComicCon.
In case you don’t know at one time I was one of the leading Batman fans online. I was the guy who created and ran one of the first Batman websites (I think we were the third or fourth to get started) “GOTHAM GAZETTE – The Batman Magazine on the Web”, as well as the GOTHAM WEEKLY NEWS email newsletter which had a massive circulation. Both ran for around seven years. I wanted nothing more than to write Batman, and to write about Batman. And I did – my first published book, back in 1999, was “The BATMAN Collectors Guide*.
Then one day I was on a panel at a comics convention with the Batman group editor, and he gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have ever been lucky enough to receive: “If you seriously want to be a writer, stop the fanboy stuff and go write other things. You need to make a name for yourself, not piggyback on Batman’s.”
He was right of course. But there was one aspect of the Batman story I didn’t want to let go. The story of Bill Finger, the un-credited co-creator of Batman. I would tell Bill’s story to anyone who would listen. I started to do research. In 2005 I put together what I had in a proposal for a book to be called KANE & FINGER: The Men Behind The Bat, that would tell the parallel stories of the two men who gave birth to arguably the best known pop-culture icon of the last 75 years.
Here’s a little extract from that proposal:
Together they created one of the most enduring pop-culture icons of the last seventy years. Their creation spawned a multi-billion dollar merchandising industry and is instantly recognizable around the world. They created images and catch-phrases that entered everyday usage.
One became a millionaire playboy living his Hollywood dream, courting and marrying starlets while others did his work. His passing marked by eulogies and obituaries in all the leading newspapers and news channels.
The other, considered to be among the greatest ever by his peers, was ignored and shunned by his one time friend. Fired by the company who made billions from his creation for asking for basic workers rights, he died destitute and forgotten by all but a few.
This is their story.
The story of Bob Kane and Bill Finger – the men who created The Batman.
It’s a story of human drama, friendship and betrayal.
It’s a story of ego and self-importance.
It’s also a story of insecurity and personal demons.
It’s a story of opportunism, legal maneuvering, cover ups and lies.
It’s the shameful story of an industry that stayed quiet and the belated efforts to correct its heritage.
I shopped the proposal around, people loved the idea, people wanted to read the book, but no-one was willing to publish it.**
I ended up using some of the research as the basis for an essay entitled “The Dubious Origins of Batman” that was published in BenBella’s 2008 anthology “Batman Unauthorized: Vigilantes, Jokers and Heroes in Gotham City.” While I was working on that essay I got to know fellow Bill Finger researcher Marc Tylor Nobleman. – Marc went on to write and, more importantly, get published a young readers biography on Bill, the excellent “Bill The Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman.”
Which sort of brings me to the point of this blog post.
The other week an old friend asked me if I was ever bothered by the fact that Marc’s book got published first, and that he is now publicly seen as the guy who is spearheading the campaign to get Bill Finger the recognition he deserves.
My answer was a resounding “No.”
Marc’s research on Bill went a lot further and deeper than anything I’d done at that point. He did an amazing job, and he has rightly become the focal point of the growing publicity and awareness of the Bill Finger story. I applaud and support everything he does.
For me, I’ve gone on to do other projects, work on other properties. I’m still a Batman fan, but not to the degree I once was. I don’t read the regular Batman comics anymore, and I wasn’t that big a fan of the Nolan movies, .…
… but yes, I’d still love to get the opportunity to tell the full stories of both Bob Kane and Bill Finger.
I want to wish Marc, the Finger family, and all those involved in the events at San Diego this week a great time, and I wish I was there with you.
But most of all thanks to Bill, Bob, and all the creative people who came after them for 75 years of the greatest hero.
* GOTHAM GAZETTE, GOTHAM WEEKLY NEWS, and The BATMAN Collectors Guide all carried the credit line “Batman created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.” I believe that the Collectors Guide was the first place that was ever used in print.
** I may not have got the KANE & FINGER biography published (yet), but that proposal lead directly to my deal with HERMES PRess that resulted in books on James Bond and Star Trek.