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Saturday, 8 February 2014

Shadow of the Bat: The True Tragic Origin of The Batman

Shadow of the Bat

The True Tragic Origin of The Batman

Batman by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, DC Comics

If your reading this then I'm assuming in one way or another no matter how small, your life is filled with the essence of Pop Culture. With the world of Pop and beyond falling into palms of the nerds (mostly the comic book type). 

Then you know Batman, and most importantly you know Batman's tragic origins and some of you also know Batman's credited creator. No not DC (that's the company) but rather Bob Kane.

His name appears on anything related to Batman. It's the marquee at the top. 

So let me take you down memory lane, to the history of Batman and as a whole the comics industry. But above all else let me make you understand the tragedy that not only haunts Batman as a character but as a creation as well. 

The year is 2014, it's an important time in Pop Culture and Comic book history. The 75th Anniversary of arguably the current most popular superhero in the history of comics;

The Batman

The date is 8th February, it's the 100th year anniversary for the creator behind the concept of the Dark Knight. Mind you, the…


The travesty is that not even Wikipedia knows what Bill Finger looks like, even I'm not sure if this is his picture. 

If your perceptive or if you are a comic book fan, then you know that anytime whether it be a Batman comic book or movie or anything. The product is promoted and defined with a DC logo, but enhanced with a very vital creators credit for Bob Kane.

There's no denying that Kane is an important aspect to Batman's legacy. Kane is after all the man who came up with the initial idea of Batman. Nothing can be taken away from him.

Yet his ideas for Batman wouldn't have formed the iconic symbolism the volume and the dimensions that define the legend that the character is today if it weren't for Bill Finger.

Like any new generation Marvel fan boy, I'm not that privy to the rich history of DC comics (yet) as much. Being a child of the 90's and teen of 00's born in a country with a vague comics culture (in comparison to the US), it makes it even that much harder to follow comics on a deeper level. The irony being that I'm hell bent on becoming a sequential artist and comic book writer.

So I wont be pretentious about what I'm writing. I've done my research into this issue though.

What pushed toward writing this post, was my eye opening look into Author Marc Tyler Nobleman's account of Finger's vast contribution to the Bat.

Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman

His book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman is a vivid account of the travesty that Bill faced when it comes to consider how important he was to the legacy of the Bat. It's far more reliable and powerful, I assure you then anything I'm writing.

I just wish to do my part, I'm going to be navigating this world and I know that if I were in Bill's position back then or even now; I wouldn't want this happening to me.

In this case you have to look into the history of comics as an industry. First of all, back then creators never had the modicum of pull they have now (Even now creator/company tragedies are a big issue from time to time).

There was nothing like creator owned projects, unless maybe you were the creator who owned the company; something the would be a rarity or even impossible considering the wages one earned in this line of work.

Back then National Comics (now DC) had a successful year with the release of the first ever superhero in Superman. Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, another duo who had to work through hardship to find themselves credited and whose families struggles with the massively rich company persist till this day.

Superman was the epitome of humanities fantasies of flight and being the best of yourself you can be. Then bobbed along a Bat.

National needed another hero, after witnessing the success of its first. In came in Bob Kane with the idea of the Bat-Man. Kane noted that his idea was influenced by swashbuckler Zorro above all else.

As Bill Finger remembers;

'…had an idea for a character called 'Batman' and he'd like me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane's, and he'd drawn a character very much like Superman with reddish tights…with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings…like a Bat's wings. And under it was a big sign…Batman'-Bill Finger, The Steranko History of Comics by Jim Steranko 1970.

Bill made the suggestions and adjustments (an understatement) to the look and feel of the character. He suggested the cowl, scalloped free flowing cape, white eyes as to denote mystery and above else the black and grey color scheme.

From a visual standpoint everything that truly defined the character in it's initial concept was a result of Fingers ideas. But beyond the costume, Finger had a larger hand in building the myth of this tragic figure. The bitter irony being that in the process, he himself became one for the rest of his life on Earth.
A comic strip on Bob Kane's Batman by Ty Templeton

See Bob Kane brought in Bill Finger as a ghost writer, to help him out. Bob Kane was a very intelligent man if you read or listen from the people who knew him in the industry. Even in an era where creator acknowledgement from a promotional stand point was a difficult thing, his contract gave all the right for Batman to National but he also squeezed in an important byline that would credit him for Batman in comics or any other adaptation. Basically this cementing his legacy.

I'm not going to hate on Bob Kane, I can't, I didn't know him or his side of the story. I've read this that he did regret not giving Finger the credit he deserved, genuine or fake; I don't know.

What I will gyp about for a short period is DC's own conduct towards the issue, yes as a company there's a defined history that would be reduced to a lie. A pressure to maintain the policies or contracts of even a bygone time. Above else the prevention of anyone getting money from their large stash of gold with the credit that Finger would and should accumulate. So that one isn't happening.

As a ghost writer Finger would also be the man to bring onto page the ideas whether Kane or his own, he would be one to define and refine them in his own words.

I have tons of ideas personally, I think heck I'm sure they're great but if I cannot organize them in a manner that can do justice to the ideas then I've basically lost the battle.

The same can be said for Kane, his ideas may or may not (since we're not fully sure which ones are his) be superb but even then he himself was unable to construct them into the perfect package. In comes in Finger, who takes these thoughts and like any creative genius molds them into working form. From titles like 'Dark Knight' to 'Bruce Wayne' or from characters like Joker to Robin.

From history we will know that Finger couldn't get his name on the masthead as a ghost writer, but he could fight for it.

Why didn't he? We don't know.

From pop culture we know that Batman is an iconic symbol. The casual fan or person, may know or not know Bob Kane but we definitely know they don't know Bill Finger.

Should they? They should.

Recently Nobleman said 'Justice has no expiration date'

It's has been four decades since Finger's death. A century since his birth. Above all else 75 years, since he walked into Bob Kane's studio and changed his life as well as DC comics, as well as the countless fans of comics and beyond.

So why doesn't he have justice? Why isn't his name on the marquee? Why after countless number of issues on the Bat, was Bill Finger only remembered after his death?

Why is Bill Finger the symbolism of just one of the many dark blotches on the History of this industry? We might never know or comprehend.

But is it then so hard to ask for a small ray of hope. I feel guilty, I should have written this earlier, written this so that those who read could reach out and do us a favor and push more to get Bill the credit he deserves. 


See this year Nobleman planned an occasion, a drive to push Google through requests to create a Google doodle on their homepage to acknowledge for even one day the man underneath the cowl. One day, so Finger's name could be in the spotlight. A little bit that he deserved if not more. 

Unfortunately if you're too look at Google today or maybe tomorrow depending on where you are. You may not find the Bill Finger doodle we hoped for.

Of course that's barring the fact that my blog doesn't reach many people, let alone people bothered to have done anything as small as this.

So that's why this blog post?

To remember a man and his story, to remember a legacy he left behind 75 years ago. To begin the tragic origins of Batman (another thing Finger created) with the equally tragic fate of his creator.

To salute a man who I have come to admire (from the stories I have read and heard), to celebrate his effort to a work of art I have always revered.

Let's enjoy 75 years and more to come off Batman and lets not forget the man in the Shadow of the Bat…

…Bill Finger.

Thank You.  

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