Saturday, August 8, 2015

Discoveries I made while researching Bill Finger

Most of this has already been covered here, but I recently stumbled upon an encapsulation I wrote several years ago so I am posting it for one-stop shoppers.

Bill Finger was not well documented in his lifetime by either interviews or photographs. He received no obituary in any mainstream publication. Few instances of his actual words have been published.

Bill married Portia in the 1940s. They had one son Fred in 1948. They eventually divorced and Bill quietly remarried in the late 1960s, to Edith. They had no children together. Bill died in 1974. Portia died in 1990. Fred died in 1992.

Among the information I uncovered:

HEIR: for years, fans had publicly discussed rumors of an unnamed, uncertain Finger heir yet no one seemed to know the original source; though I doubted it, I inadvertently found that there is indeed an heir—Athena Finger, the lone known grandchild, born two years after Bill died

VOICE: Bill was recorded (audio only) on a comics convention panel in 1965 and for a 28-minute interview in 1972

PHOTOS: in seven decades, only the same two grainy Bill photos have been published over and over (one other was published in 1940 but not since); more than one comics historian told me with conviction that no other photos exist; by contacting literally scores of people who knew Bill privately (i.e. not comics colleagues), I found eleven more during my research and several others after my book was published; one is his high school yearbook photo (he attended the esteemed DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx), never-before-found because he had another name at the time that I was the first to uncover

SISTERS: in 2007, via cemetery records of Bill’s parents, I found Bill’s sister Emily (born 1920), whom he’d never mentioned and who I know of only via the 1930 census; I assumed she would either be dead by now or be unfindable (due to a married name); because Bill was estranged from the family since before her wedding (early 1940s), she did not want to speak much to me; after my book was published, the 1940 census was released and it revealed a second sister, Gilda (oddly, one source says she was 10 in 1940 while another says she was 20 in 1940, but in either case, she did not appear on the 1930 census)

SECOND WIFE: no one knew he had one; she was once Edith and had since changed her name to Lyn

WRITING PARTNER: his name is Charles Sinclair, so Google barely helps; it took a while but I finally found him once I learned his middle initial; he was a true gentleman, giving me details never previously revealed about Bill—and he also gave me the paperweight that sat on Bill’s desk


HANDWRITING: I got a copy of the only known example of Bill’s handwriting (aside from a signature)—a charming note he wrote in Batman artist Jerry Robinson’s guest book in the early 1940s; it is reproduced in my book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman

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