Thursday, December 31, 2015

Making the case that Bill Finger deserved co-creator status

What a year.

As anyone with a Gotham stamp in his passport knows, September brought big Batman news.

Eight years have passed since I discovered that Bill Finger had a grandchild born two years after he died, Athena. When she decided to challenge the “Batman created by Bob Kane” credit line, I pulled information from my research that I thought could be relevant to the mission:

  • “Now that my longtime friend and collaborator is gone, I must admit that Bill never received the fame and recognition he deserved. He was an unsung hero. Because he came into the strip after I had created Batman, he did not get a by-line... I never thought of giving him a by-line and he never asked for one. I often tell my wife ‘If I could go back 15 years, before he died, I would like to say “I’ll put your name on it now, you deserve it.”’—Bob Kane, Batman & Me, 1989
  • “Legally, nothing has to be done. Morally, I think something should be done, and we will do it out of compassion.”—Jay Emmett, Executive VP of Warner Communications, parent company of National Periodical Publications, on giving Superman creators Siegel and Shuster compensation and credit, October 1975
  • Bill named as Batman co-creator in DC-authorized publications by present and past DC professionals in good standing
  • instances where DC has credited Bill for writing Batman’s origin (of course, one of the most significant aspects of the character)
  • Jerry Robinson in 2006: “[Bill] created most everything for [Bob]. He definitely was a full co-creator. I think he had more to do with the molding of Batman than Bob. He just did so many things at the beginning. As an artist, I can appreciate what goes into that. Aside from creating almost all the other characters, creating the whole persona, the whole temper, the history, origin of Batman. Everything. It made it a success from the beginning.”
  • in Alter Ego #39 (1/03), Jerry Robinson said he is “positive” Robin was Bill’s idea
  • in Batman #169 (2/65), longtime DC editor Julius Schwartz gave Bill creator sole credit for the Riddler
  • in Comics Interview Super Special: Batman—Real Origins of the Dark Knight (1989), Bob is quoted as saying this: “Bill Finger created some of the villains: I believe he created Penguin. Catwoman, I think he came up with”; NOTE: he also then claims he (Bob) came up with Joker and Riddler, both of whom are almost always credited partially or fully to Bill
  • in Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told (1988), published by DC, Bill credited as “creator or co-creator” of Catwoman, Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, and a “host of other elements”
  • in Batman & Me, page 44, Bob says Bill named Gotham City
  • Bill’s second wife Lyn Simmons almost getting Bill’s name in credits of first Batman movie, 1989 (particularly significant: the textual evidence that Warner Bros. almost agreed)
  • one of DC’s most acclaimed writers, Grant Morrison, made a bold statement in Playboy (2012)—and still works for DC: “Created by: Bill Finger, art by Bob Kane (disputed)”
  • If Bob had a contract with DC at the start of Batman, but Bob was not producing the ideas he was getting credited for, can the person who was secretly producing them make a legal claim to them?
  • personal letter Bill wrote in 1965: “I phoned Bob Kane moment I got your copy of the fantastic letter [in which Bob claimed Bill was lying about his role in Batman]; after a few minutes of conversation in which I quite angrily spoke my mind and jogged Bob’s fading memory, he agreed to ‘revise’ the letter, in fact asked me to have dinner with him”
  • on DC’s “75th anniversary of Batman” chronological milestone poster, the first nine elements (and 12 of the first 14) listed came solely or mostly from Bill
  • simply comparing what Bill is credited for vs. what Bob is credited for makes it indisputably clear that Bill is the dominant creative force
  • Tom Fagan’s 1965 article based on interview with Bill, “The Man Behind the Legend” (last line calls Bill “the” creator of Batman)
  • signs indicate that DC does believe Bill deserves more; legally, they can’t say so themselves, but they didn’t stop me from saying so, which almost seems like a way to endorse the truth of the matter

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