Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Finger Tip #2: Fingers crossed yields Finger’s book

I just sold a book about Bill Finger, the officially uncredited co-creator and original writer of one of the most beloved—and almost certainly the most lucrative—comic book character in history: Batman.

Yet despite Finger’s massive literary (yes, literary) accomplishment, he has been the subject of a book precisely never. He’s barely been the subject of an article—and the handful of exceptions that I know of were in comics, not mainstream, media.

After Bill and artist Bob Kane created Batman in early 1939, they had to wait only a few months to see the character make his national debut.

The first known print appearance of Batman: 
a house ad in Action Comics #12 (cover-dated May 1939).

The first narrative appearance of Batman: Detective Comics #27, 
which was also cover-dated May 1939; by most accounts, that means 
it would’ve gone on sale the first week of April.

My odyssey to get a Batman story in print, however, has taken a bit longer.

I’ll start with the most recent event and then go back to the beginning to share some of the key moments in the journey. (Some I will be expanding on in future posts; others are not here but will be revealed in time.)

5/21/10 I signed the contract for my book on Bill Finger and his dominant role in the creation of Batman.

Activate time machine…

2/15/05 In my “story ideas” file, I noted that a Batman book focused on Finger rather than Kane would be provocative, plus a natural and presumably commercial follow-up to Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.

1/28/06 On what happened to be the 10th anniversary of the death of Jerry Siegel, I began compiling Finger research.

6/23/06 I made my second major find: Bill’s second wife. She was a most pleasant surprise because she was not mentioned in any of my printed source material. Something she would later tell me would indirectly steer me to two other major finds: Bill’s only sibling and a crucial photo, the startling details of which will have to wait.

8/2/06 Although multiple comics experts told me with conviction that there were no more photos of Finger beyond the four (only two of which are more widely known) that had already been published, I found the first “new” photo of him, from a 1964 wedding. It would not be the last.

8/12/06 After speaking multiple times on the phone with early Batman artist, Finger friend, and all-around gentleman Jerry Robinson, I had the honor of meeting with him in person at his New York apartment. We found a priceless and poetic piece of Finger history (part of a larger, even more priceless collection which would fetch thousands if not more at auction).

12/17/06 Just after 1 a.m., I began writing the first draft. I didn’t know it at the time, but I would not be able to get back to it until April.

12/18/06 Third major find: I got a copy of the startling photo mentioned at 6/23/06.

2/17/07 Fourth major find: Instantly negating more than a couple dead ends, I found the gateway to a rich well of Finger information—his first wife’s family. As for how, that (like many other entries of this timeline) will eventually become a blog post of its own.

2/27/07 Fourth major find, part two: the heretofore unknown—and lone—Finger heir. She’d had nothing to do with the Finger legacy for the previous 15 years…other than naming her dog Bruce Wayne.

3/2/07 Fifth major find: Finger’s long-estranged sister, born 1918 or 1919—and still alive.

4/6/07 I resumed working on the first draft.

5/5/07 I finished what could reasonably be called a first draft.

7/24/07 My Boys of Steel editor turned down the manuscript. She felt it would be more engaging for an audience older than who they publish for. Still, she remained open to reconsidering it later.

10/14/08 I met with a group of filmmakers who’d contacted me because they were interested in basing a documentary on my quest to rebuild Finger.

2/2/09 I learned that a never-published and long-sought-after article about Finger, based on an original interview, had finally surfaced in a cluttered house in Vermont.

2/8/09 On what would’ve been Finger’s 95th birthday, I got a copy of that article…but a year later, I would figure out that it had not been as lost as it had first seemed

5/1/09 A major publisher expressed interest. I kept my Fingers crossed.

6/9/09 Another major publisher expressed interest. Fingers still crossed because of previous publisher. Now double-crossed.

2/17/10 After several promising exchanges, Charlesbridge made an offer…and my agent notified me just as I was pulling up to a comic shop.

3/26/10 I got the contract.

5/21/10 Negotiation was complete. I signed the contract. So after five years, the most thrilling discoveries of my career so far, some disappointments, but ultimately an intact and sprawling dream, there will finally be a book about man and Batman, with a little Nobleman sprinkled in.


Bill Finger Appreciation Group said...

All very exciting news and know that we're looking forward to the book's release...

Billy Hogan said...

I look forward to reading it!

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

I appreciate everyone's support very much.