Friday, July 18, 2008

What "The Dark Knight" is missing

The Batman movie The Dark Knight opens today. Even though I have not yet seen it, I already know what it's missing.

Batman’s “Dark Knight” nickname first appeared in 1940 in Batman #1 (page 7, last panel) and shortly after in Detective Comics #40, in stories Bill Finger wrote. (For those just joining this blog, Bill Finger is the uncredited co-creator and original writer of Batman.)

By virtue of having written a book on a DC character but with no real clout otherwise, I asked a decision-maker at DC several months ago if that Batman #1 citation could be acknowledged in the screen credits for The Dark Knight—after all, “Batman” is not even in the film’s title. I emphasized that I was not asking if Finger could be credited as “co-creator” (because that's a legal minefield right now) or even if Finger could be credited with coining the term "dark knight" (because it's unlikely that can be proven one way or the other). I was asking only for a simple statement of fact.

The answer was expected. The answer was no. So Finger’s name is not there, but as with all Batman stories, his Fingerprints will be all over it.


the dark googler said...

It seems Bob Kanes' greatest gift was foresight. He was the first comic book creator to recognise the importance of creator ownership.He was smart enough to also recognise his artistic failings and was quick to employ Finger, Robinson, etc., as "work for hire", a position Kane himself would have held if not for him signing a contract of ownership with DC. I don't believe the Jokers' creator, Jerry Robinson, received any film credit either.I whole heartedly agree that without Bill Finger, and for that matter Jerry Robinson,The Bat-Man would have gotten perhaps as far as the Crimson Avenger.But, I never have seen a Mickey Mouse cartoon giving credit to Ub Iwerks, or even know the name of the African American inventor of the phonograph working as an employee of Thomas Edison. Also, and this is not a criticism of Bill Fingers' truly wonderfull stories...all of the earliest Batman tales including the first adventure,borrow HEAVILY from Walter B. Gibsons' Shadow pulp novels. Should Walter Gibson receive credit as well ?

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

I would argue that Kane's greatest gift was the ability to recognize talent - first Finger, then Robinson. I don't think the foresight came from Kane - he had good advisers. Finger did more than write the early stories (some of which, yes, were rip-offs). His legacy is that he created a believable (and heart-wrenching) motive for a comic book superhero to do what he does - Bruce Wayne's parents' murder before his eyes. Plus he created the entire mood of Batman's world, from his iconic costume to most of the classic villains. His contributions were predominant.

the dark googler said...

Marc...I don't dissagree that Finger was an indispensible factor to the success of Batman. My point was that Kane after seeing the enormous sales of Superman and wishing to avoid Seigel & Shusters' predicament had a contract in writing with DC stating that he (Kane) was the owner of Batman.The Batman property being legaly his, Kane could farm it out to whomever he wished. Most notably Gardner Fox very early on came up with the Batarang & BatGyro/Batplane.As mentioned earlier, it was Robinson who dreamed up the Joker. There is also some possibility that early inker Sheldon Moldoff was the one who proposed a boy companion, that of course became Robin.Sad to say that Kane could have acknowledged Finger & others, but Batman was legaly his & he chose not to.
It is interesting to note that Finger was given credit for writing the first Green Lantern story, even though the character was created by Martin Nodell. It's also interesting to note that "Wildcat" was a name Finger had proposed for Robin. Wildcat of course became the co-creation of Finger & Irwin Hasen...Hasen having come to comics via Madison Sq.Garden boxing publications.Finger & Hasen also received written credit for Wildcat.
Question is , why didn't Finger follow Bob Kanes lead & simply negotiate a contract for these other characters along with their respective creators? I know Irwin Hasen has told me that at the time everyone seemed pretty happy with what they were getting paid . Compared to other lines of work, comic books then were paying quite well according to Mr. Hasen.

Mike Haseloff said...

"It seems Bob Kanes' greatest gift was foresight. He was the first comic book creator to recognise the importance of creator ownership."

I believe this was more an influence of his father, than a young Kane himself.

As regularly omitted as his name might be in credits, I feel like I see Finger's name discussed twenty-times to each Kane.
I suppose that's a testament to some very Batman-style grass roots justice.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Mike, I agree that it does seem Finger is mentioned more than Kane, but that is in the insular world of comics fans. What I am hoping for is that his name will one day be known beyond that just as Batman is now beloved by people who don't consider themselves comics people. (Batman movies don't make hundreds of millions on geek money alone.)