If you have ever read a Batman comic book, or seen a Batman movie or television show, then chances are you have seen somewhere the words, “Batman created by Bob Kane.” But that statement is only half-true. Although Bob Kane came up with a hero named “Bat-Man” back in 1939, who fought crime with no powers, he originally envisioned him with stiff bat wings, and dressed in red with a small domino mask. But it was his friend Bill Finger who came up with the idea of giving Batman a cowl with ears instead of a tiny mask, a cape instead of stiff wings, taking the red out of the costume and replacing it with gray and black.
Aside from the helping define the look of Batman, he also gave him his famous origin story, and the name Bruce Wayne. Finger is also often credited with being the man behind Robin’s origin story, as well as creating the Batcave, Batmobile, Batplane, Batarang, utility belt, and even the name Gotham City. He at the very least co-created the characters of James Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, Two-Face, and the Penguin. But, allegedly, due to Bob Kane having a lawyer for a father who made sure that his then 18-year-old son got sole credit and future compensation, Finger never got the recognition he deserved, and died almost penniless and unknown in 1974.
But in the decades since, thanks to the tireless efforts of fans like Marc Tyler Nobleman, who has been going on a one-man crusade to make sure Finger gets credit from the fans (and wrote the biography Bill the Boy Wonder) many more people now know who Bill Finger is, and what a huge contribution he made to the character of Batman. At WonderCon recently, at a panel celebrating the 75th anniversary of Batman, DC’s Larry Ganem said, “We cherish what Bill Finger did and his contribution to creating Batman, and we’re all good with Finger and his family.” But according to a story at Bleeding Cool, it doesn’t seem Finger’s family is “all good” with the situation at all, and released this statement from Athena Finger, Bill Finger’s granddaughter:
“75 years of Batman! No one could have predicted the longevity and the continued relevance of this comic book hero that has become a cultural icon when my grandfather, Bill Finger, collaborated with Bob Kane back in 1939. My grandfather has never been properly credited as the co-creator of Batman although it was an open secret in the comic book industry and is widely known now. It is now my time to come out of the shadows and speak up and end 75 years of exploitation of my grandfather, whose biggest flaw was his inability to defend his extraordinary talent. Due to what I feel is continued mistreatment of a true artist, I am currently exploring our rights and considering how best to establish the recognition that my grandfather deserves.”
Athena Finger has said in the past that she isn’t looking for money, but simply wants her grandfather to get the credit he deserves for creating this cultural icon, arguably one of the biggest characters in the last century of popular culture. Can she take on an entity as huge and powerful as Time Warner, owners of DC Comics? Maybe we’ll see “Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger” in the credits someday….