May 24, 2022

Gabbing Geek

Your online community for all things geeky.

Geek Review: Batman And Bill

A Hulu documentary explores the efforts to give a long ignored creator credit for his biggest pop culture contribution: Batman.

Batman fans know the name of Bob Kane.  For years, Bob Kane has been given credit as the creator of Batman in every comic book, movie, and TV show since the Dark Knight’s debut in 1939.

But Kane didn’t work alone.  He had help from a friend named Bill Finger.  The new Hulu documentary Batman and Bill explores efforts to give Finger credit for his contributions.

The documentary follows, at first, one Marc Tyler Nobleman.  Nobleman is an author and comic book fan who took it upon himself to get Bill Finger the credit he deserved.  How much credit for Finger deserve?  A heck of a lot of it.  Bob Kane’s initial idea for Batman was a guy in a red suit, a domino mask, and some stiff bat wings that fought crime.  Finger suggested the cape, the cowl, the darker color scheme, and would work as Kane’s collaborator for many years.  Finger is often given credit for at least co-creating not only Batman, but also Robin, Commissioner Gordon, the Joker, the Riddler, Catwoman, the Penguin, and the Scarecrow.  He named Gotham City, came up with the Batman origin story, and had a love for oversized props for Batman to play around on like giant typewriters.  Basically, most everything that fans associate with Batman has Bill Finger’s fingerprints all of them.  Heck, without Kane, Finger also co-created the original Green Lantern.

What happened?  Kane, unlike many of his contemporaries, got himself a literary agent to make sure he always got a piece of the pie.  Finger wasn’t even present during the meeting when Kane showed some editor/publisher type the Batman character.  In those days, anyone getting credit was rare, and many creators from that period ended up like Superman creators Siegel and Shuster, who tried suing for royalties and ended up unemployed and broke.  For what it is worth, I don’t particularly blame Kane for some of his actions, namely making sure he kept something for himself, but the thing is, Kane threw Finger under a bus and never let Finger get much credit either man’s life.  The creative high point in Finger’s life was getting top billing on a script he co-wrote for a single episode of the Adam West TV series.  Kane lived a fairly wealthy lifestyle as Batman’s notoriety took off, while Finger died alone in a room, penniless, and rumored for years to have been buried in a nameless grave in a potter’s field.

The documentary follows Nobleman and his efforts to battle a large media company and get Finger his due.  There are typical talking heads interviews with a lot of interested parties like Roy Thomas, Kevin Smith, and Todd McFarlane.  Does Nobleman succeed?  Well, that answer is already known, but the journey itself is worth the trip.  Eight and a half out of ten lost heirs to the Batman.

%d bloggers like this: