“It’s always Bob, Bob, Bob” – Kane, that is. Like most of the public, I thought Batman was completely Bob Kane’s creation. Then with a POW! THWACK! and a SPLAT!, the truth was revealed in the documentary Batman and Bill. I was hooked from the start. Fair compensation for – or at least recognition of – someone’s contributions to a character is something that is dear to me as a fellow creator.
It turns out that Bill Finger was behind most of the groundbreaking mythos of Batman, even going as far as to make the color scheme changes that we traditionally think of for the Dark Knight. But because of the deal Bob Kane struck with National Comics (precursor to DC) over 75 years ago, Bill never got the recognition nor respect for the creation.
The documentary looks into how that changed, which started with finding an heir to contest the rights. A neat part of the film was how the documentarian, Marc Tyler Nobleman, used Batman like detective skills to unearth the secret history and lost years of Bill Finger. Finally finding his granddaughter, they could move forward with the claim. And even then, nothing was certain.
It is a true David versus Goliath situation going up against DC/Warner Bros to right this grievance. And this is not something specific to just Batman’s creation. The corporate system tramples the rights of Superman’s and other heroes’ creators. Of course, a work-for-hire agreement and selling rights to a character is a standard contractual requirement, but the right thing to do is give credit where credit is due.
The two Batman creators are a study in contrasts. Bob Kane was outrageous and gregarious. He loved the attention and spectacle that his “creation” afforded him. Bill Finger avoided the spotlight and was a real nerd, preferring to observe the world around him while he created the tragedy and heroism of Bruce Wayne.
From now on, Bill Finger will be appropriately acknowledged for his efforts in constructing Gotham, and all of the defining features of Batman’s world. And in the end, the heroism and thirst for truth and justice win out with a POW! THWACK! And a SPLAT!