You already know all of Batman’s secrets, right? Even if you aren’t a fan, you know he’s really Bruce Wayne, that he lives in Gotham City, that he became Batman because his parents were killed by a mugger, that he works out of the Batcave, and probably more. If you’re a comic book fan, you also probably know that he was created by Bob Kane. But if that’s what you think, there’s a big Batman secret you have yet to hear about.
It’s not that Bob Kane didn’t create Batman; it’s just that he had a lot of help from a man named Bill Finger, and the fact that most people have never heard of Finger is simply a travesty. Author Marc Tyler Nobleman, who four years ago put out an excellent book on the creators of Superman, attempts to rectify that situation with his newest book, Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. Like the earlier book, Bill the Boy Wonder tells its story via a not-quite-a-graphic-novel style mixture of text and illustration, very ably provided by Ty Templeton.
The story goes that, following the huge success of Superman, DC Comics commissioned Kane to create a new superhero for them. Kane ran into Finger, who was then struggling to make a living as a writer and artist, at a party, and asked him to help out. While it’s hard to be completely certain whose idea Batman was to begin with, Nobleman contends that it was Finger who was responsible for nearly every significant detail regarding the character, including his costume’s appearance and the names “Bruce Wayne” and “Gotham City.” It was Finger whose idea it was that Batman have no super powers, and who created the story of his parents’ murder as a reason for an otherwise normal human being to put on a bat suit to fight criminals. And the collaboration between Kane and Finger didn’t end with Batman’s creation: In fact, Finger would later be responsible for the creation of Robin and at least part of the creation of the Joker, among other iconic characters from the Batman comics.
So, why is it that Finger did all that work, but Kane got and continues to get all the credit? Because while Finger may have been the more creative of the pair, it was Kane who sold the character to DC and who negotiated the contract, and he arranged it so that Finger’s contributions would go uncredited. Finger was evidently not too concerned with this situation, and didn’t say anything publicly about his role in Batman’s creation until decades after the character first appeared.
So, how does Nobleman know all this about Bill Finger? He provides an in-depth author’s note at the end of the book, mentioning contemporaries of Kane and Finger who related their knowledge of the partnership and Finger’s contributions in particular. These are people who in no way benefit from saying that Finger’s role in Batman’s creation and development was far greater than Kane ever admitted (Kane died in 1998, 24 years after Finger), so why would they lie? In fact, while DC is legally prevented from giving official credit to Finger for co-creating Batman, they have been paying a certain amount of royalties to his heirs.
Readers of the book will be fascinated to read the author’s note for its story of how Nobleman tracked down the various surviving members of Finger’s family, including finding that his proper heir was not the person DC thought it was. So the book has already corrected that injustice; we can only hope it leads to more public awareness of Finger’s involvement and thus corrects another.
Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, written by Marc Tyler Nobleman and illustrated by Ty Templeton, retails for $17.95, but is currently available on Amazon for $12.21. Buy this book; it’s a great read, and you’ll come away knowing more about where Batman came from — and, more importantly, about an unjustly disregarded figure in comic book history. If you’re still not convinced, please take a few minutes to watch the official video trailer for the book, below:
GeekDad was provided with a review copy of the book.