Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Pointing the Finger at "Batman: The Definitive History"

Batman: The Definitive History of the Dark Knight in Comics, Film, and Beyond is a beautiful beast of a book written by Andrew Farago and Gina McIntyre and released this year to align with Batman’s 80th anniversary.

Clearly a staggering amount of work went into it, a publishing equivalent of the regimen Bruce Wayne imposed on himself to become the character the book celebrates. 

Andrew is a longtime respected colleague. When researching the book, he interviewed me on my little corner of Batman-related knowledge, namely Bill Finger. When the book came out, he kindly had a copy sent to me.

I shared one disappointment with Andrew, friend to friend, writer to writer, comics advocate to comics advocate: the book is the first DC-authorized Batman history since Bill Finger received official credit...yet the book does not indicate that Bill got credit. 

It’s hard to say for sure (because I haven’t yet had chance to read it in full and because it doesn’t have an index), and I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t believe Bill is mentioned after the first few pages. On page 16, it’s explained that Bill began as an uncredited writer, but the book doesn’t take it full circle and later indicate that he finally got official credit in 2015. 

I consider it a significant oversight for a book with “definitive” in the subtitle to omit this correction, which is not only a victory for creators rights but also an unprecedented turn of events in comics history. The hard-earned credit change has made timelines like this and other upcoming books I’ve been consulted on.

It’s unfortunate that a book that some will consider the authoritative work on Batman’s cultural impact does not include a fact so fundamental to the character in the real world...and to what he represents in fiction: the pursuit of justice and the preservation of legacy.

If the book had not addressed the talent at all, I might not have volunteered my unsolicited opinion. But the beginning of the book does introduce Bill and Bob Kane and covers Batman’s genesis (and other creators are mentioned throughout), which is why I feel including the credit change would be consistent and fair, not to mention of special interest to the righteous multitude that are Batfans. (On that subject, listen to Kevin Smith’s eloquent comments in Batman & Bill and skim this sizable number of tweets from the public.)

Andrew thanked me for the input and said that he has the utmost respect for Bill Finger, which I did not and do not doubt. I am thrilled and not surprised that Andrew is looking into the possibility of an update for future editions. He allowed me to quote him: “bit by bit, Bill by Bill, we’ll get this perfect.”

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