By Kevin Knox
Who created Batman? If you were to look at the credits in the old comics or in the movies, you’d tell me it was Bob Kane. But you would be wrong.
Until recently Kane, Batman’s original artist, was the only person DC Comics named as Batman’s creator. Yet despite owning the “Batman” name, Kane contributed remarkably little to the Batman mythos compared to his partner Bill Finger, the writer of most early Batman stories. It was Finger who came up with the idea for Batman’s iconic costume and many of Batman’s supporting cast and classic villains were of his design.
However by the time Finger died in 1974, he had never been credited as co-creator of Batman in any comics books or other media. It was not until Autumn of 2015 that DC began giving Finger the credit he is due and released a statement saying, “DC Entertainment and the family of Bill Finger are pleased to announce that they have reached an agreement that recognizes Mr. Finger’s significant contributions to the Batman family of characters.”
How much work did Finger and Kane put into the character, respectively? Well in his 1989 autobiography, Kane recalled that when he brought his initial idea for “The Bat-Man” to Finger, the character had only a small domino mask. Finger suggested they “make him look more like a bat and put a hood on him, and take the eyeballs out and just put slits for eyes to make him look more mysterious.” Kane’s original version also was clad in a red union suit, with black wings and trunks, but Finger thought it would be better if the suit were dark grey.
He also changed Kane’s design for Batman’s “wings” into a cape and gave him a pair of gloves. Indeed, Kane’s horrible design for “The Bat-Man” was almost completely scrapped as Finger constructed the iconic design we all know today.
But Finger’s contributions go beyond Batman’s costume. He wrote the script for the first Batman story in “Detective Comics #27,” as well as the majority of early Batman stories and made major contributions to the creation many of Batman’s most iconic supporting characters. “The Penguin, the Two-Face, he did them all,” legendary comics artist Carmine Infantino told Bill Finger’s biographer Marc Tyler Nobleman.
Additionally, Jim Steranko’s “Steranko History of Comics” notes that it was Finger who named Batman’s hometown“Gotham City” and came up with Batman’s alter ego, “Bruce Wayne.” Indeed, it would take much more space than I have available to list all the contributions Finger made to the world of Batman. Yet never in his life did the man DC now refers to as “instrumental in developing many of the key creative elements that enrich the Batman universe” receive an ounce of official recognition.
In his biography of Finger, Marc Tyler Nobleman explained “(Kane) showed Bat-Man to (editor) Vin (Sullivan) – without Bill. Vin promptly wanted to run Bat-Man, and Bob negotiated a deal – without including Bill.”
In his autobiography, Kane attempted to explain why Finger never received proper credit. “In those days it was like, one artist and he had his name over (the comic strip) – the policy of DC … was, if you can’t write it, obtain other writers, but their names would never appear on the comic book in the finished version,” Kane recalled in his autobiography. “So Bill never asked me for (the byline) and I never volunteered – I guess my ego at that time.”
Fortunately, DC is now crediting Finger as well as Kane for creating Batman, stating “we look forward to building on our acknowledgement of his significant role in DC Comics’ history.” However, it is still a travesty that the man who contributed so much to the world of Batman received no recognition for it in his lifetime and for decades after his death, while the man who contributed significantly less to the foundations of the character received all the glory.