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 10/20/1890 in Austria, though one source says Russia and another says Poland; died 2/7/1961 in the Bronx)
  • Rosa Rosenblatt (Bill’s biological mother; birth/death currently unknown)
  • Tessie Stromberg (Bill’s stepmother; born 12/28/1892 in New York; died 3/28/1961 in the Bronx)
  • Milton Finger (changed to “Bill” after high school; born 2/8/1914 in Denver, CO; died 1/18/1974 in Manhattan)
  • Emily (Bill’s half-sister or possibly cousin; born 10/3/1918 in New York, died 9/27/2018 in Florida)
  • Gilda (Bill’s half-sister or possibly cousin; born circa 1920 in New York)
  • Portia Finger (Bill’s first wife; born Ethel Epstein 4/21/1920 in Jersey City, NJ; died 1/2/1990 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 known child; born 12/26/1948 in Manhattan; died 2/15/1992 in Brooklyn)
  • Edith (later Lyn) Simmons (Bill’s second wife, 1960s; born 10/30/1922, died 5/2/2018 in New York)
  • Bonnie Burrell (Fred’s wife, 1970s; died 2/2/2019 in Massachusetts)
  • 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, Jesse claimed to be Fred’s brother and received Batman royalties from 2002-2007)
  • Athena Finger (Fred’s only child and Bill’s only known grandchild; born 1976)
  • Benjamin Cruz (Athena’s only child; born 2002)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Books (besides mine) my name is in

Books in which I am a character:

Books that quote me:

Picturing the World:
Informational Picture Books for Children;

(also in acknowledgments)

Is Superman Circumcised?:
The Complete Jewish History
of the Worlds Greatest Hero
page 328

Voices from Krypton
pages 43, 46, 84

Books that discuss my work on Bill Finger and Batman:

(Portuguese and English)

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 editorially:

Remarkable Books About Young People 
with Special Needs

 Books that discuss Boys of Steel and 
Bill the Boy Wonder editorially:

Reading and Teaching with Diverse Nonfiction 
Children’s Books (Rachel Kamin chapter)

Novels that allude to Boys of Steel:

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

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

The Amazing Adventures 
of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
The Creators of Superman;
Brads comment about me is extremely flattering; 

Books whose bibliography includes Bill the Boy Wonder 
and whose acknowledgments mention me:

Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture

I Am Batman

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

La creación de un superh
(first in another language!)

Books whose bibliography includes material from my blog:

The Joe Shuster Story:
The Artist Behind Superman
(pages 170, 173, 177)

Sunny Days: The Children’s Television Revolution 
That Changed America;
references my
Books whose acknowledgments mention me:

The Bronze Age of DC Comics, 1970-1984;
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:
The Fetish Art of Supermans Co-Creator Joe Shuster;

Secret Identity

Billion Dollar Batman:
A History of the Caped Crusader
on Film, Radio and Television
from 10¢ Comic Book to Global Icon

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

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:
The Story of New York Citys DeWitt Clinton
High School and Its Extraordinary Influence
on American Life;
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 to which I contributed an essay:

True-Life Tales from the Spinner Rack

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. 

Contributing to this atmosphere, most of these covers have no text (aside from the title and talent)—no dumb taglines like "Trapped by the Terrible Toyman!" So even the compositions featuring action come on quiet. 

Below (in order of release date) are some that stand out to me. Incidentally, I don't have even one of these issues.




Lot of lightning.