Friday, January 6, 2012

Bill Finger’s parents

Bill Finger, uncredited co-creator of Batman, gave few interviews. (It’s not that he wasn’t willing; it’s that he wasn’t asked.) And he mentioned his parents precisely zero times.

What little is publicly known about Bill’s parents comes from two sources: a sketchy biographical sketch from 1941 (sketchy in that it brazenly whitewashes Bill’s involvement on any level with Batman) and Alvin Schwartz, a celebrated DC Comics writer and old friend of Bill’s who passed away 10/28/11.

From talking to Finger family and to FOB (Friends of Bill) who’d not been interviewed before, I learned that Bill and his parents had been estranged for most of Bill’s adult life.

Bill had also become estranged from his only sibling * sometime before her wedding—and also, I think, before Batman (1939).

In Alter Ego #98 (12/10), Schwartz is quoted as saying, “[Bill] married Portia because he had to get away from home. He couldn’t stand his parents nagging, the fact that they would show up every payday and take his check.”

[This seems consistent with the comment from that bio in Green Lantern #1 about Bill’s parents wanting him to be a doctor.]

In Schwartz’s 11/8/99 “After the Golden Age” column at World Famous Comics, he speculated that Bill’s dislike of his parents influenced the origin of Batman—namely, that Bruce Wayne’s parents were murdered. That is heavy stuff and I hope it wasn’t the case.

Whatever the full story behind the rift, I suspect Bill’s sister sided with her parents; when I tried to find out what had happened between Bill and her, she wouldn’t say, even though this is going back seventy years and even though Bill has been gone for half of them.

* 7/9/12 addendum: Because of the way the earliest biographical sketch of Bill Finger was worded, I originally thought Bill was an only child. Then I learned he had a younger sister. Then via the 1940 census, which was made public in April 2012, I learned Bill had a second younger sister...Gilda, born about 1930.

7/12/15 addendum: Louis Finger (Bill’s father) was born c. 1891 in Poland. Tessie Finger (Bill’s mother) was born c. 1892 in New York. Louis died 2/7/61 and Tessie just over a month later, on 3/28/61, both in the Bronx.

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