Wednesday, September 15, 2010

To the Billmobile!

Sorry, no can do. Bill Finger could drive a plot but not a car.

Three sources confirmed this independently of one another. His second wife, longtime friend and writing partner Charles Sinclair, and fellow former comics writer Alvin Schwartz all told me that Bill never even had a driver’s license. He lived his whole life in New York (mostly the city but for a time on Long Island), so he (like many other New Yorkers) could get by without one.

This made a claim in the following Billography from Green Lantern #1 (1941) incongruous:

The claim: Finger drove a taxicab during the Great Depression.

Considering this bio stretched (or hid) the truth in other respects, it’s possible the taxicab bit was baloney. But why? If you’re going to make something up, shouldn’t it be tantalizing?

Maybe driving a cab was thrown in because maybe it was the definitive example of urban “hard luck” during the Depression. I can see a comics editor (because Finger surely didn’t write that bio of himself) embellishing Finger’s tough journey to make his “success” all the sweeter.

Or maybe Bill did used to drive, but gave it up before he met his second wife, Sinclair, or Schwartz. That doesn’t seem likely as none said Finger told them this.

Yet it’s another passage in this biography that earns the title of “most significant.”

Notice the sneaky wording of the last paragraph. It name-drops Batman and Robin, but doesn’t go that final step in linking Finger to Batman, even as a writer if not co-creator. Given that it’s the earliest known print mention of Finger’s contributions to comics, it may be considered the first public step in the heist of Finger's legacy. But in any case, it sure is great to see Finger “officially” acknowledged as co-creator of someone.

Most of comics fandom did not know a Bill Finger had anything to do with Batman until 1964, when, writing in the letter column of Detective Comics #327, editor Julie Schwartz credited Finger as a longtime Batman writer.

Blowing the lid on Bill as creator was still more than a year off.

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