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Published:December 21st, 2005 09:48 EST
Giving Kane The Finger or Holy Shenanigans, Batman!

Giving Kane The Finger or Holy Shenanigans, Batman!

By Sean Stubblefield

In 1939, responding to the initial success of the Superman character in Action Comics, the publishing company now known as DC Comics requested more superheroes.

Artist Bob Kane submitted several ideas, among them being a concept for Batman, who made his first appearance soon after in Detective Comics #27.

Batman was so successful that the comic book division of National Publications was renamed Detective Comics, or DC. As we all know, Bob Kane created Batman. Except, according to Bill Finger, it didn`t exactly happen that way.

Kane had merely offered a vague, undefined notion of some kind of a Bat-Man, little more than a name. From all indications, it was Bill Finger, Bob Kane`s writing collaborator at the time, who was ultimately responsible for the style of the Batman that went to press, effectively establishing the template for every Batman incarnation to come. It seems that Bill Finger is the one who designed most of the appearance and attributes of the character and his world-- including Batman`s sidekick, Robin. Not only that, Bill Finger wrote the first Batman story of many, while Kane illustrated. But since Kane submitted the proposal for a Batman character to his editors, only Kane was given sole official credit for the creation of Batman.

Apparently being more cunning than Finger, Kane selfishly negotiated a contract surrendering all ownership rights, but mandating that the tagline "Batman created by Bob Kane" should appear on all Batman material, regardless of Kane`s actual involvement. If it is true that there are two sides to a story, the two sides in this sordid tale are Bob Kane and Bill Finger.

The official record is uncertain, so we largely have only the contradictions of Bill`s word against Bob`s to consider. The general consensus, at least among comics fans, seems to be in Bill Finger`s favor.
Kane often denied claims that he really stole credit for Finger`s ideas " but I think that legal tagline request is quite revealing about Kane`s true attitude and intentions, despite his protestations to the contrary that he did all the real work behind Batman, with Finger just providing a minor assist. Finger`s contract allowed for monetary compensation, but no credit.

Bob Kane`s public recognition as Batman`s creator earned him a minor celebrity status, even after his death in 1998. He regularly and notoriusly undermined Finger, denied and refused to acknowledge that Finger`s influence was substantial.

When Bill Finger died in 1974, he still had never been officially credited for his allegedly significant contributions to the Bat mythos. Finger struggled in vain for recognition; the definitive and prominent phrase "Batman created by Bob Kane" has instilled the common impression that the Batman archetype was primarily developed by Kane.

The evidence suggests that the essential foundation of the Batman we know today-- who has became an iconic image and persona on par with Superman-- derived from Finger`s imagination, not Kane`s. Supposing this were true, Kane would probably feel obliged to maintain the lie in an effort to save face ". And sometimes a lie told so often comes to seem true. Memories fade and blur. Or could be this is all just an innocent mistake, misunderstanding, or misinterpretation of events.
 
I love DC Comics-- Batman in particular, and have been a regular reader for over a decade, and intend to keep reading indefinitely. But it seems oddly ironic that DC, publisher of Batman " in which justice " is a principle theme-- should be so stained by perpetuating such a blatant injustice against Bill Finger.

It isn`t right or fair that Kane gets the official recognition Finger deserves. It was wrong 60-ish years ago, and it`s wrong now " possibly more so.

Besides that, at worst it`s a deliberate lie and at best it`s a negligent inaccuracy.

One can assume that because of legal restrictions, DC cannot publicly include Finger in the formation of Kane`s Batman, if they were so inclined, without permission from Kane`s estate.
Why should anyone care? Admitting that Bill Finger played a major role in the initial creation of Batman would change nothing, certainly not for Mr. Finger, being dead and all. Batman would still be Batman, and DC would continue to go about business as usual. So what does it really matter? In practical terms, not much, if anything.

But it`s the principle of the thing. Such a confession would clear the record, dispelling the Batman created by Bob Kane " myth, and maybe assign DC bonus points for honesty. Perhaps any family Finger left behind could bask in the fame. At the very least, give dual credit, where credit is due.

In a symbolic attempt to rectify this inequity, the Bill Finger Award For Excellence In Comic Book Writing was introduced in 2005, for comic book writers not publically honored for their work in the medium.