Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The secret origin of a Bill Finger obituary

As I've missed no chance to mention over the past decade, Bill Finger did not receive a mainstream obituary. He did receive two obituaries in DC Comics publications but not in multiple series as is done today; both were one-offs. I've also mentioned these several times before.

The first appeared in the corporate fanzine Amazing World of DC Comics #1 (July-August 1974) and featured Batman art.

During my research, in 2007, I learned that this was Superman art retouched by a one Carl Gafford.

During the 1970s-'90s, Carl worked for publishers including DC, Marvel, and Topps, primarily as a colorist. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing from Sam Gafford, a fan of comics and Bill Finger. Turns out Sam is Carl's brother. I did not contact Carl during my research (I did not note why but presumably because I simply could not find him) but thanks to Sam, ten years later, I can share a bit of the backstory of this obituary.

Carl: "The Superman figure [from a] cover drawn by [Neal] Adams [for] the imaginary story of Supes and his super-daughter mourning Lois Lane at her gravestone is what I changed into Batman. Suspect Paul Levitz wrote the obit."

This was Superman #215 (1969):

Thank you, Andrew Maniotes, for identifying it!

Carl had no personal experiences with Bill and knew "nothing more [about Bill] than anyone else knew at the time"…to be specific, "the most writing Bob Kane ever did was his name on all the Batman stories."

Sam asked his brother if Finger's involvement with Batman was just a widely-known fact though never officially acknowledged by DC.

Carl: "I can't be sure. Once Bob Kane sold his last piece of Batman to Steven Ross and Kinney National Services in 1967, DC's obligation to credit only Kane was gone, with his byline last appearing in Detective Comics #377 (the last month new episodes of the Batman TV show aired)."

Then: "Finger worked mostly with Joe Orlando in the 1970s. He briefly worked for Julie Schwartz with the 'New Look' Batman, but he was too unreliable with his deadlines for Julie to keep."

Carl suspected that the infamous "Kane contract" never existed and was used by DC only as a means to avoid giving credit and money to Finger and his descendants…a speculation I tossed out in the documentary Batman & Bill.

Now retired, Carl remains active in CAPA-alpha, "the longest running comic book amateur press association (APA) in history."

Thank you to the Gafford brothers for mining memory and taking time to add a bit more to the Bill Finger tapestry.

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