Friday, July 20, 2012

The Dark Knight Creator Rises

Bill Finger main-created Batman and nicknamed him the Dark Knight. Today (perhaps you heard) The Dark Knight Rises opens, but Bill’s name will not be in the credits.

On 12/10/07, a bit more than six months before The Dark Knight opened, I e-mailed DC Comics; after introducing myself as the author of books including Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman (which also wasn’t out yet), I asked the following:

Could Bill’s name be included in the credits for The Dark Knight? Please don’t automatically delete! I know contractually DC can’t call him “co-creator” so I rather mean something along the lines of “Batman was first called ‘the Dark Knight’ in Batman #1, in 1940, in a story written by Bill Finger.” DC publications already regularly credit Bill for that story, so I see this as completely compatible, legally safe, and of course morally fair. After all, the movie’s title doesn’t even include the word “Batman”—it is wholly a phrase coined by Bill Finger. I look forward to your response.

DC, to their credit, wrote me back:

Thanks for your passion for our creators and characters, but there are no plans to credit Bill on The Dark Knight.


To be clear, I am asking if Bill can be credited only for the coining of a phrase, in unambiguous language. … Isn’t that just as permissible (it seems even more so) as your regular practice of crediting him in reprints for entire stories he wrote?


With all due respect, I’m not having this discussion.

However, I was not the first to attempt this. That distinction goes to Lyn Simmons, Bill’s second wife; they married in the late 1960s.

Her determination to get credit for Bill were bold, selfless—and, it seems, nearly successful. I will let her words—and press about her efforts—speak for themselves (some are undated so I have put them in chronological order as best I can):

This is the jaw-dropper:
“Warner Bros….appear willing to give Bill credit on the film.”
How I wish I knew more about the conversations that led to this.

Her proposed language: “In memoriam to William Finger, who helped create Batman.”

Alas, as you likely know if you’ve read this far, Bill was not credited in that (or any other Batman) film. What torpedoed this possibility?

Lyn said that Warner backed out when they learned that she was not his widow but rather his ex-wife.

In any case, this is an astonishing glimpse at what could have been.

Had it been, perhaps there would be no need for Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman today…


Anonymous said...

Did DC really say, "With all due respect, I’m not having this discussion." or were you paraphasing?

Daniel Best said...

I'm very curious to know who rebuffed you at DC.

Very interesting material indeed.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Anon - exact words. I saved the email.

hobbyfan said...

It should be noted for the record, Marc, that NY Daily News reporter Ethan Sacks, throughout a week's worth of pre-release articles on the movie, made a point of referencing Bill Finger as having co-created Batman with Bob Kane. Not sure if Sacks read your book, but at the very least, the man gets it.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks for pointing that out, hobbyfan. As it happens, I pitched Ethan my book but don't think he's seen it.

rachel molly said...

I am really appreciating all of your investigative journalism. Wow!