Monday, June 14, 2010

Finger Tip #6: Bill Finger rarely said cheese, part 1 of 2

One of my biggest sub-goals in writing a picture book about Bill Finger, the uncredited co-creator and original writer of Batman, was to find previously unpublished photos of him. In his lifetime (1914-1974), hard as this will be to believe, only four saw print:

from Green Lantern #1 (1941)

from a sheet produced for the 1965 New York Comicon

original publication uncertain, but possibly Fifty Who Made DC Great (1985), where it is printed in reverse of the version shown here (from Batman: The Complete History); date of photograph unknown but appears to be from the 1940s or 1950s

original publication unknown but appears to be from the 1930s

As you can see, none are particularly clear. And as a writer who cares (often obsessively) about authenticity, I needed to find better likenesses of Finger to pass on to the illustrator.

On the surface, this should’ve been easy. Here was a man who

(a) created a character that became world-famous
(b) worked in a visual medium
(c) lived in the 20th century

Any one of these factors is enough to mount an argument for the existence of more Finger photos. In fact, it would seem implausible if such a man had not appeared in dozens if not hundreds of photos.

Yet apparently, he didn’t. Or, to be more historically accurate, if he did, we have more looking to do.

The first people I approached in search of Finger photos were comics historians and longtime comics professionals. More than one of them told me with definitiveness that no other Finger photos exist.

But all that means is that no one yet had been foolish enough to keep looking.

Until me.

I found at least nine others (actually a few more, depending on how you count).

I’ve already posted one of them, so here it is again:

Bill’s second wife would later tell me that they were not photo people. I’d wager Bill wasn’t one before her as well.

Yet I continue to look.

None of the photos, I later realized, are in color, even though almost all of them were from the Kodachrome era.

Though I would love to find a color picture of Finger, there’s something apropos in having only black and white snapshots of him.

It befits a creature of the night, and his co-creator.

Part 2.

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