Sunday, March 10, 2013

Is “Bill the Boy Wonder” a children’s book?

Yes, but also an all-ages picture book. Think about it this way: pancakes are established as a breakfast food but have you ever had them for dinner? Thought so.

At the Nerdy Book Club, I explained why I believe Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman is a picture book for everyone. In short, I want kids to grow up knowing that the “Batman created by Bob Kane” credit they’re seeing on every Batman story is not true. And I want adults who are interested in Batman or pop culture history to finally have a Batman creation story in which Bill is where he rightfully belongs—at the center.

Many reviewers have been kind to cover the book, and many have addressed the for-kids vs. for-all debate. Though every review—but one—I have seen has been complimentary, what I am about to quote are not necessarily the most humbling parts but rather the parts addressing how the book is, in their eyes as mine, for any age.

Don’t be fooled. This one isn’t just for kids—adults will get tons out of it, too. A must-have for any Batman fan.

Great adult biography masked as a children’s book. … Some of the subject matter touched on here and in the [author’s note], where Mr. Nobleman tells of how he researched the book, should be read by adults. It’s a fast read and if you want to know more about your comic book history it is a must read. Bill the Boy Wonder is a wonderful book.

For grown-ups, there’s an excellent, all-prose, six-page article marked “Author’s Note” at the end, fleshing out the…story…with plenty of detail and discussing Nobleman’s process of research for the book. … For us grown-ups interested in comics, … this is another fine book.

The author’s note is straight prose and contains a lot of information about the legal issues surrounding Finger and his legacy. Not really kids’ stuff, but very interesting and useful for guys like me. Nobleman also includes a bibliography with a number of relatively obscure sources that might be worth tracking down.

The book is a quick read and contains more information about Finger that was new to me than Larry Tye’s latest 400+ page book has new (to me) information about Superman. Until/unless Nobleman announces he’s going to do a full-on, aimed-at-the-adult-comics-crowd biography, Bill the Boy Wonder is definitely worth picking up.
It’s a children’s book…only it isn’t. Marc did years of research into Finger’s life, finding more and more previously unknown bits of information about his life and career, and shares it all here.
The body of the book, illustrated by the wonderful comics writer/artist Ty Templeton, tells the basic tale of Bill’s involvement in the creation of Batman as we now know it. A more detailed and adult-oriented set of “notes” at the end reveals even more about the mysterious writer as well as about Marc’s research itself.
Marc’s choice of format is interesting as it gets the word out to even the youngest Batman fans who are likely to find this book in libraries for years to come that “Bob Kane” is not the be-all and end-all he wanted everyone to think he was. In later years, even Kane acknowledged that Bill had a much bigger role in the iconic character’s creation than he had previously admitted.
For kids, it’s a big colorful picture book with a story both interesting and a little sad. For adult fans, it’s a rare chance to get to know more about someone whose work you’ve admired for years…whether or not you ever heard his name.

This book will appeal to a wide audience. The children and adults who are fascinated with Batman will be one group who is attracted to this picture book for older children. Those who like biographies with a bit of mystery will enjoy it as well. 

Nobleman conveys a lot of information in very little space. It’s a fascinating story in its own right and shows how much work went into creating Bill the Boy Wonder.

Some have asked why I have not done a longer biography of Bill Finger, or if I will. Between the book and this blog, for children and adults, I have shared the biggest previously unknown details my research uncovered, just as I have done with Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. And I will continue to do so, free of charge, as new info comes my way. 

2/21/14 addendum: A nicely written 2/14/14 Amazon review is titled “A Young Adult title that’s worth an Adult’s time.”

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