Thursday, May 11, 2017

"Batman & Bill" documentary: the press response, part 1

It may be time for me to retire my saying "Batman's biggest secret is not Bruce Wayne."

On 5/6/17, Hulu premiered Batman & Bill, its first original documentary and the first-ever documentary based on a nonfiction book for young readers—Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman (the first biography of Bill Finger).

For those who haven't heard of Bill Finger, the revelation is that there was a Bill Finger. For those who have heard of Bill Finger, the film has numerous other revelations...including a doozy.

I could not keep up with the reaction

Over the weekend (when I happened to by chaperoning my middle schooler's chorus trip to New York) and into the following week:

  • more than 400 new followers on Twitter
  • a humbling tweet (or more) almost every minute (search "Batman & Bill" and "Batman and Bill")
  • the Amazon rank for Bill the Boy Wonder shot from six digits to the low four digits and stayed for days; the highest I saw was 2,500 (some other authors wouldn't get out of bed for that, but it's notable for me!) 

Even before 5/6/17, I started to get emails from people with stories they feel are similar including someone whose father created but was not credited for the G.I. Joe doll and someone whose detailed cloak and dagger story involves everything from Edward Snowden to The Simpsons. (His subject line: "There are MORE Bill Fingers out there.")

The coverage by those who have seen film began to appear on 4/29/17. Among it:

Rolling Stone

"10 Best Movies and TV Shows to Stream in May"

"It's a battleground month, people, as streaming platforms bust out the big guns to keep viewers glued to their sofas while temperatures climb back into clemency." 

First on the list is us! (Note: list is alphabetical.)

"Marc Tyler Nobleman's adaptation [NOTE: this was, of course, a group effort] of his exhaustively-researched book sets the record straight while investigating how posterity could've forgotten this man. Part comics-history revisionism, part edifying biography, it's an essential new chapter of the superhero's origin story."


"makes you think about the meaning of Batman in a whole new way…highly compelling"


"the twists and turns of the story are often surprising … engrossing … directors Argott and Joyce have an accomplished storyteller, Nobleman"

San Francisco Chronicle

"Marc Tyler Nobleman is the capeless crusader at the heart of…Batman and Bill. … It's a compelling film with more twists and turns than, well, a well-written Batman comic book."


grade: Little Man seated and clapping (equivalent to 4 out of 5 stars)

"You don't have to be a complete comic-book geek to get hooked … the film has as many edge-of-your seat moments as a classic DC comic book … beautifully directed … It's only right that a modern-day crusader, Marc Tyler Nobleman, finds overdue justice for Bill Finger."


"Batman & Bill Is the Superhero Serial"

"thrilling … this battle for credit starts to feel as mythic as a summer superhero film … the comic book version of Serial, effectively marrying the best of two worlds while sidestepping the third act fumble that's prevalent in both. After 75 years, Bill Finger finally has a happy ending"

Comic Book Resources

"a rousing underdog story with dramatic twists and turns and a killer ending … unexpectedly epic quest to see justice done, as [Nobleman] sees, from one writer for another"


8.5/10 (Great)

"satisfying, in-depth … compelling"

Daily Dot

"While the entire film is fascinating, it's in this back half that it becomes truly emotional …as the closing minutes…unfold, many viewers will likely be ready to storm the offices of DC Comics themselves and demand justice. … Batman & Bill has the same qualities as many of the best Batman tales over the years. It's got secret identities, mysteries, injustices demanding to be brought into the light, and even a conniving villain determined to steamroll the meek for his own personal gain. … a must-watch for comics fans and a gripping real-life story even for those who couldn't tell Dick Grayson from Dick Clark."

AV Club

grade: B+

"It's not easy to make a thriller out of a story primarily based in research, but animated comic-book interjections keep Batman & Bill's plot moving. Also, Nobleman's passion for his subject matter gives the documentarians a lot to work with. (At one point, Nobleman's young daughter is asked what her father's job is, and she replies, 'Bill Finger.') … steeps in tension … says a lot about how important it is to feel so strongly about doing what you love: Bill Finger took the bus around New York for hours, sketching out possible ideas and stories for the Batman characters, just as Nobleman spent years trying to put a happy ending on Finger's story"


"While I am a lifelong Batman fan, this story is compelling for non-fans as well. The combination of history and mystery surrounding one of the biggest pop culture icons ever makes it positively addicting. And the tragedy of Bill Finger's place as a lost figure in the real life history of Batman is as compelling as any superhero storyline could ever be largely because like those stories, this is also a quest for justice and standing up for the powerless.

Nobleman himself is the entry point. His passion and optimistic enthusiasm in his quest to learn more about this hidden history, which later becomes a quest to see if DC Comics would credit Bill, radiates off the screen. Having him as a guide to this incredible journey goes a long way to make this an exciting watch. … fascinating…wildly entertaining"

100 Scope Notes

"From the first scene, I was all in. It contains some nice surprises. Nobleman's determination brought out a few different 'oh wow' moments. The final scene had me smiling big."

SyFy Wire

"as absorbing as any whodunit and as rewarding as any triumphant comic book ending"

Cinema Crazed

"probably the most important comic book movie ever made"

Embrace Your Geekness

"tremendous … unbelievable twists and turns and an ending that seems to come right out of a Hollywood blockbuster. Marc Tyler Nobleman took what seemed like an impossible dream and made it happen. Hulu's got a winner here."

Detroit Free Press

"a detective story about a detective story"

This is one of several articles that sweetly quotes my then-four-year-old daughter.

Huffington Post

"should engage even the casual comic book fan"

Nerd Reactor

"very touching and sad"

Fresno Bee 

"Thanks to a crusade by Marc Tyler Nobleman, the truth behind the creation of Batman has changed."

I like how this article includes this:

"Nobleman would like to see one more tribute to Finger and that would be a memorial for Bill Finger in New York City."

Los Angeles Daily News 


Phoenixville News

"Comic book fans won't want to miss the ultimate origin story."

Jewish Journal


Broadcast Beat


Other coverage:

USA Today

New York Post


Daily Mail

The film is not for everyone. Rather, one part of the film is not:

"Whenever Nobleman is not taking center stage…Batman & Bill is interesting in every way."

But ultimately "an absorbing chronicle."

Press, part 2.


Charles said...

I noticed that Bob Kane resembled the Joker. Do you think maybe Bill Finger secretly based the Joker on Bob Kane?

Jeff22003 said...

No, Finger and Jerry Robinson created the Joker from a playing card and Conrad Veidt's character the 1928 movie "The Man Who Laughs". They didn't have to look far for his characterization though.