Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bill Finger's 95th birthday

Bill Finger died at 59. Had he lived, he would have turned 95 today.

Finger was meagerly documented in his own life. The extent of his actual words that have been published (meaning quotations, not stories he wrote) is as follows:
  • A transcription (published in Alter Ego #20) of a comics creators panel including Finger from the 1965 New York Comicon
  • A Finger statement or two in a brief New Yorker piece about that Comicon
  • Excerpts from Steranko's interview with Finger for his 1970 book History of Comics
At least two other never-published sources of actual Finger words were lost—an interview he gave to professional fan Tom Fagan in 1965 that was allegedly still among the massive heaps of paper at Fagan's house in Vermont and an interview he gave in the early 1970s that was allegedly misfiled somewhere in the archives of a California university.

I write "were lost" because as of today, both are found. And sitting right here.

The print version of the California interview is still lost, but in November 2008 the interviewer (while packing for a transcontinental move) stumbled upon the original audio recording! In early December, he digitized the 28-minute interview and e-mailed it to me—the first time I had heard Bill Finger's voice. (It's on my iPod
—but only because it is hard to make out and I thought I could hear it more clearly that way.)

And today—Finger's birthday—I got a copy in the mail of the Vermont piece. (It actually came yesterday, but I didn't check the mail until this morning.) Fagan died in October 2008. Last week, one of his friends told me that in cleaning out Fagan's house, they had found an article that Fagan wrote on Finger, stemming from his interview.

I had begun to chase down these interviews in 2006 (Vermont) and 2007 (California). Now, thanks to busy, kind people with good memories, I got both of them within two months of each other more than two years after the initial quest began.

Eerily, the Fagan piece that I got on Finger's birthday mentions Finger's birthday: "Those with a sense of romanticism will immediately note Finger was born under the sign of Aquarius
—the keynote Zodiac sign of those influenced by dreams of high adventure and devil-may-care leanings rather than acceptance of mundane routineness of everyday life."

Bill Finger shared his dream of high adventure with the world, and the world continues to enjoy it seventy years on. It is time to give back.


Anonymous said...

Found transcripts *and* audio recordings!?!

This might be the most exciting installment yet! Keep up the great work, Marc!

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Technically, it is an article written after an interview - hope they manage to turn up those interview notes. And the audio recording is hard to make being a sound wizard, maybe you know a place that might be able to clean it up?