Monday, September 30, 2013

Bill Finger’s family tree

Here is a family tree for Bill Finger, uncredited co-creator of Batman and star of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. Now in convenient list format! (Translation: I don't know how to make a family tree graphic.)

Names in blue were deceased before I started my research.

Names in red are people I spoke with.

Names in black are people I have not found...yet.

  • Louis Finger (Bill’s father; born c. 1891 in Poland; died 2/7/61 in the Bronx)
  • Tessie Finger (Bill’s mother; born c. 1892 in New York; died 3/28/61 in the Bronx)
  • Milton Finger (changed to “Bill” after high school; born 2/8/14 in Denver, CO; died 1/18/74 in Manhattan)
  • Emily (Bill’s sister; born 10/18 in New York)
  • Gilda (Bill’s sister; born circa 1930 in New York)
  • Portia Finger (Bill’s first wife; born Ethel Epstein 4/21/20 in Jersey City, NJ; died 1/2/90 in Manhattan)
  • Irene Flam (Portia’s twin sister; Bill’s sister-in-law; died 1993)
  • Judy Flam (Bill’s niece)
  • Eric Flam (Bill’s nephew)
  • Frederic Finger (commonly called Freddie or Fred; Bill’s only child; born 12/26/48 in Manhattan; died 2/15/92 in Brooklyn)
  • Edith (now Lyn) Simmons (Bill’s second wife, 1960s; born 1922)
  • Bonnie Burrell (Fred’s wife, 1970s)
  • Charles Shaheen (Fred’s roommate and inheritor of Batman royalties after Fred’s death; died 2002 in Manteo, NC)
  • Jesse Maloney (acquaintance of Charles Shaheen’s; after Charles’s death, he claimed to be Fred’s brother to receive Batman royalties, and did from 2002-2007)
  • Athena Finger (Fred’s only child; born 1976)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Books (besides mine) my name is in

Books that discuss my work on Bill Finger and Batman:

Books whose recommended reading list includes Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman:

Books whose recommended reading list includes Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman:

 The Read-Aloud Handbook

 Books that discuss Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman editorially:

Remarkable Books About Young People 
with Special Needs

Novels that allude to Boys of Steel:

Nowhere Boy
(On page 106, a character refers to a book about Siegel and Shuster
and the author of Nowhere Boy, a friend, told me that it's mine.)

Books whose bibliography includes Boys of Steel and whose acknowledgments mention me:

Brads comment about me is extremely flattering; 
Books whose bibliography includes Bill the Boy Wonder and whose acknowledgments mention me:

 The Caped Crusade: 
Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture
Books whose bibliography includes Boys of Steel: 

 Superman: The High-Flying History of
Americas Most Enduring Hero

Superman: The Unauthorized Biography

Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan

First in another language!

Books whose acknowledgments mention me:

The Bronze Age of DC Comics;
info or photos I provided on pages 225, 270
(note: 270 says some 23 skiers when the 
source states it was more than 23; also,
photo on 271 reversed...know how I know?)

Secret Identity;

Creators of the Superheroes

Billion Dollar Batman

 Can I See Your I.D.?;
I am not one of the imposters.

The Essential Business Buyers Guide;
one of my oldest friends
(since second grade)
co-authored this.

Julie was one of my Nickelodeon magazine editors.

The Castle on the Parkway;
this was Bill Fingers high school.

Are You Psychic?;
I connected author with publisher 
but am not sure I am in the book.
Its a companion to my Ghost Hunting.

Full of Beans

Books that quote me:

Picturing the World;

Books to which I contributed an essay:

Hey Kids, Comics!

Plus books that feature my cartoons, including these.


  • I have not seen all of these books in the pulp.
  • My name may be in other books I dont know about.
  • You dont care.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Childhood doesn't end with growing up (Dr. Seuss)

When I was in college, back in the analog era, campus groups would make big posters to promote their causes or announce upcoming events and plaster them on the exterior brick walls of the student union.

Sometimes we made posters for reasons beyond that:

(Gravity wasand still isthe humor magazine of Brandeis University.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

The three coincidences of Steve

Before I began researching Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, it was not known among comics people that Bill Finger had married a second time (after divorcing Portia).

I found his second wife, Lyn Simmons, in June 2006. She had three children. One is named Steve.

Oddly, Lyn had only one photo of Bill—and not a good one.

Steve, however, had a great one. Only he didn’t know where it was. That was July 2006. He found it…in March 2007.

But it was worth the wait.

The photo is included in the author’s note of Bill the Boy Wonder. It was probably the clearest (and certainly the quirkiest) of the eleven “new” photos I found.

Adding to this excitement, three coincidences surrounded Steve:

  • Lyn (who was living in California at the time) had been visiting on the East Coast (where I live) and had flown home the day I found her.
  • I lived in Connecticut at the time…specifically, as it turned out, in the same town as Steve. In other words, the best photo of Bill Finger I uncovered during a many-month search was five minutes from me the entire time.
  • Steve was a businessman, but he had published several children’s books…with Charlesbridge, the publisher who would go on to acquire Bill the Boy Wonder in 2010.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Cheshire Dog

In 2011, I tracked down and interviewed Larry Marks, the singer of the original Scooby-Doo theme song. But it wasn't until recently that I learned that Larry (who grew up in New York City) went to Cheshire Academy, a prep school in my hometown, Cheshire, CT. He was graduated from there in 1962. I wasn't around yet, but still found this overlap fun.

Larry Marks, age 16, at Cheshire Academy; photo courtesy of Leah Marks

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Bill Finger catch phrases

Here are phrases I find myself saying again and again when describing Bill Finger and Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman (some of which appear in the book itself):

  • Batman’s biggest secret is not Bruce Wayne.
  • Bill brought out the detective in Batman, and then in me.
  • The lone, previously unknown heir is in the unique position to go to bat for Bill.
  • Bill died in 1974. He had no obituary. No funeral. No gravestone. No kidding.
  • Bill created one of our greatest champions for justice. It’s time for justice for Bill himself.
  • If youre a Batman fan, youre a Bill Finger fan.
  • Bill wrote hundreds of Batman stories over 25 yearsincluding his heartbreaking (and groundbreaking) originand even designed the costume, but his name did not appear in the credit line a single time. Bob drew only the first few stories and did not write a single Batman story in his life, but his name has appeared as the sole credit since 1939. 
  • We don’t relate to Batman only because he has no powers. We relate to him because he has no parents. 
  • Siegel and Shuster is a David and Goliath story. Kane and Finger is a Cain and Abel story—down to both having a Cain/Kane.
  • Batman supports the underdog so lets support the underdog behind Batman. 
  • A Finger had a hand in it, too. 
  • Justice has no expiration date. 

after the credit announcement:

  • A story 76 years in the unmaking.
  • Bill Finger made history. We corrected history. 
  • The story of a writer doing a solid for another writer whom he will never meet.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Plaintive comic book covers of the 1990s

The storytelling of DC Comics comics of the 1990s sometimes get a bad rap. I can't speak to that, but can say that in at least one sense, they had something special going on.

The covers.

These days, I often leave the comic shop realizing I couldn't describe what most or all of the covers of the titles I just bought look like. Part of the reason is because covers these days, generally speaking, are both too busy and too dark for my taste, so they don't make an impression on me as I take them from the shelf. (I buy by series regardless of what the cover looks like.)

Yet for much of the '90s (and late '80s), covers often took a more pensive, even plaintive, approach. It seemed more prominent earlier in the decade. Below (in order of release date) are some that stand out to me—and I don't have even one of these issues.




Lot of lightning.

Note that (aside from the title and talent) these covers have no text (with one exception I could not resist because the image is so striking)—no dumb taglines like "Trapped by the Terrible Toyman!" So even the compositions featuring action (such as the first of the two Firestorm covers, Starman, Hawkman, and Shazam) come on quiet. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

“Bill the Boy Wonder” games

Several fun games based on Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman are at the official site (including curriculum guide) for the book (watch out for those many unofficial sites).

Below are two more. For the first one, you need your friends. The second one you can do solo.

Bill Finger game #1: Speed Search

Race your friends! Which of you will be the first to find every item below in Bill the Boy Wonder?

Simply print this page for every competitor to use as a checklist; as you find each item, cross it off:

  • a bronze scarab paperweight
  • grapes
  • a fish
  • a wooden human mannequin
  • an umbrella
  • a Spider-Man mask
  • a palette
  • the Scarecrow (villain)
  • a cane
  • the Empire State Building
  • a “help wanted” sign
  • a quill (feather pen)
  • a baseball hat
  • the moon 
  • BONUS: Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (the creators of Superman)

Bill Finger game #2: Find Finger

For most of Bill Finger’s career, his fans did not know he existed. How could this be? His name was not in Batman comic books.

In this game, however, it is—sometimes.

In the jumbles below, can you find the words “Bill Finger” within the words “Batman comic book” with no missing letters?



BEAITGMBANCNOMFICBROLLOK = No. There is a missing “I.”

Your turn! Is “Bill Finger” in any of these “Batman comic books”?






Scroll down for answers.


BBAITMLANLCFIOMGICBEOORK = No. There is a missing “N.”


BRATEMGANNCOIMFICLBOIOBK = No. There is a missing “L.”



Saturday, September 14, 2013

"Hey Kids, Comics!": comics people remember comics

Rob Kelly, the man who put the "aqua" in "Aquanet" (AKA The Aquaman Shrine), has birthed a stellar new project: Hey Kids, Comics!, a book of nostalgia essays contributed by a broad (hence my good fortune to be among them) range of people associated with comics.

Each of us was asked to write about a formative moment in our personal comics history. I suspect some went the more analytical, character-building route, while I took a somewhat breezy approach, simply revisiting issues whose stories (or, in come cases, just covers) are anchored firmly in my head. 

Please support Rob by checking out the book, which is available in both print and digital editions. It is a unique compilation, well done. 

Congrats, Rob, and thanks again for including me. Okay, I'll say it: "Outrageous!"

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Bill Finger’s sole official credit in his lifetime...on Superman?

Only once in his lifetime, Bill Finger received a “written by” credit on a first-run Batman story, and it wasn’t a comic book.

And though he wrote Superman stories, too (he created Lana Lang!), same deal—one credit, in TV:

“Lava Men” is an episode of The New Adventures of Superman, a Filmation series of animated shorts that debuted in 1966.

Though there is currently almost no trace online that Bill wrote for this series, in 2006, I did follow a path to determine that this was the case. But I didn’t look for the visual proof until now.

Thank you to Bill Davis of Toronto for prompting me to revisit this.

Adios, SeƱor Superhombre.


Excerpts from emails with Bill’s second wife Lyn Simmons, and one other, in figuring this out:

From: Marc Tyler Nobleman
To: Lyn Simmons
Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2006 9:02 AM
Subject: Hi Lyn - Superman movie

You said they called Bill to ask him to come to California to write a script for the Superman movie. I've talked with a few people who were involved with the film and they don't remember that. Are you sure?

There was another writer named Alfred Bester who was friends with Bill who was definitely asked—there are written accounts online. Did you know Alfred? Is it possible you're confusing the two? Can you remember any more details?

From: Lyn Simmons
Sent: Saturday, October 14, 2006 4:25 PM

good to hear from you marc. bester's name rings a bell but don't think i ever met him. i'm pretty sure that bill received invitation to ca to write superman films. it's so long ago and i could be mistaken but I don't think so. in any event he never went. he had anxiety about flying and about leaving nyc.

bill may never have told his fellow writers about ca because he didn't want to explain why he wasn't going.

From: Pierre Spengler
Sent: Wednesday, December 13, 2006 1:05 PM

We purchased the rights in november 1974 and therefore started hunting for writer in the beginning of 1975. Very soon thereafter we engaged Mario Puzo. Therefore we never approached Bill Finger.

From: Lyn Simmons
Date: Tuesday, December 19, 2006 10:18 AM

i believe he was asked to come out to ca in the late 60s. i'm pretty sure it was superman. maybe they wanted him out there for ideas or stories a year or so before he died which i think was in '74. but perhaps it was for cartoons.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Ryan Adams, singer of "New York, New York," likes Batman

And I like that song a lot and so I like that he favorited a tweet I sent him about Batman.

In honor of those whose lives were lost or affected twelve years ago today:

This makes it even more haunting:

Engine 26, New York City. 
Note what symbol appears three times here.
Heroes appreciating heroes.
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