Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bill Finger's paperweight...and first wife

You've seen the first known photograph of the desk of uncredited Batman co-creator Bill Finger.

Let's zoom in a bit.

In the summer of 2006, I visited Charles Sinclair, Bill's longtime writing partner. After we chatted a bit, Charles got up, took a plastic baggie off a shelf, and handed it to me. It contained something bronze-colored and heavy for its size.

Charles said it was a paperweight, it used to belong to Bill Finger, and it was for me.

He believed the Egyptian glyphs underneath had inspired at least one Bill Finger story. I believed—without a certificate of authenticity—that this metal scarab had, in fact, been Bill Finger's once.

I profusely thanked Charles for it but politely declined it at the same time. Charles insisted I keep it, saying he knew I would appreciate it much more than he would. Besides, he was keeping something else of Bill's
—a sculpture Bill made in an adult art class of his then-wife Portia:

Do you see the resemblance? At the time, I couldn't, because I hadn't seen what Portia looked like.

But I have since:

This is the first-ever published or posted photo of Portia Finger. It's just one of a half-dozen or so photos of her I now have, most of which came from Portia's niece. I've got Portia as a child, I've got her from what was probably the last year of her life, and I've got her from various years in between. This was taken in Provincetown, Massachusetts, probably in the 1940s.

That man with Portia? I'm 99.98% sure it is not Bill Finger. The hair is too poofy and dark, the build is too scrawny, and the face just doesn't match the other photos I have from that period which I know show Bill. My guess is that Bill was taking the picture.

Later, when I told Bill's second wife about the paperweight, she remembered it instantly and wrote this:

"I gave it to Bill as a birthday or Christmas present. Or did he give it to me? I was studying ancient Egyptian history for a couple of years and I do think I gave it to Bill."

4/28/08 addendum: Portia's niece wrote this: "My somewhat educated guess is it might have come from the Museum of Natural History, one of Bill's very regular haunts."

So the paperweight that once sat on Bill Finger's desk inspiring Bill Finger stories now sits on my desk inspiring an ongoing Bill Finger story of a different kind.

5/8/22 addendum: I didn't realize there was a mystery behind the paperweight, but that mystery has been solved.


Anonymous said...

i love this, gives me goosebumps! very well told!

Don Tate II said...

Very cool!

james johnson said...

I. Have one 3179980336