The man who's been the contractual sole creator of Batman for 75 years is about to receive a new honor, and a big chunk of the comics internet is (understandably) unhappy about it.
In the last few months, we've seen a resurgence of attention being paid to the story of how Batman -- who's celebrating 75 years as a comic-book hero this year -- was really created. If you haven't been following along thus far, or you just want a refresher, it boils down to this: Back in the late 1930s, Bob Kane came up with a hero named "Bat-Man" and drew a sketch that looks almost nothing like the character we know and love today. To help him flesh out the idea, he turned to writer Bill Finger, who ended up developing a whole host of Batman ideas, including the final look of the costume, Gotham City, the phrase "Dark Knight," Commissioner Gordon, the Batmobile, the Joker and many, many more. Finger wrote hundreds of Batman stories over the next few decades, but thanks in part to his initial agreement to ghost-write on Kane's behalf, he was pushed to the background of the Batman saga, while Kane engineered a deal with what was then National Comics (now DC Comics) that granted him sole credit for the character in perpetuity. Finger died in obscurity, while Kane is still listed officially as the sole creator of one of the most popular superheroes of all time.
Finger's plight, and Kane's scheme (he eventually admitted in his autobiography that he'd wronged Finger, but as far as we know never took legal steps to fix it) have since gone down in history as one of comics' great injustices, and numerous fans, journalists and creators continue to campaign to get Finger official credit for Batman to this day. Earlier this year, author Marc Tyler Nobleman launched a campaign to get Finger a Google Doodle to celebrate his 100th birthday, and a fan campaign to get Finger credit on the upcoming TV series Gotham is ongoing.
Meanwhile, Batman "creator" Bob Kane is set to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Sometime in 2015, Kane's star will be placed among those of countless other celebrities, and according to Comic Book Resources it's thanks to efforts made (and fees paid) by Kane's widow, with help from DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. There is no comics category for Walk of Fame honorees, so Kane will be placed in the "Motion Pictures" category, in part for his role as a consultant on Tim Burton's 1989 film Batman, but also because of the billions of dollars in box-office revenue Batman's generated over the past 25 years. A blog post announcing the honor on the DC Comics website does at least mention Finger as Kane's "frequent collaborator," but other prominent comics-related people have gone further, taking this opportunity to further express outrage that Finger still hasn't been officially credited for his Batman work.
In a statement to CBR, Nobleman -- who authored the all-ages book Bill the Boy Wonder to highlight Finger's story and his contributions to Batman -- used the 2008 film The Dark Knight as an example of Finger's many contributions to Batman, and noted that while many people are recognized for their work on that film, Finger isn't one of them, despite his creation of the title phrase and his work on the main villain of the film, the Joker.
"'The Dark Knight' -- the title of which is a nickname coined by Bill Finger, the main villain of which debuted in a story written by Bill Finger, the legacy of which is that it is one of the highest-grossing and most critically praised films of all time -- has many hundreds of names in its credits, but none are Bill Finger," Nobleman said. "None of those people would have had that job if not for Bill Finger. This Walk of Fame star is yet another instance of Kane receiving recognition I don't feel he deserves... unless Finger gets the same."
Comics writer and historian Mark Evanier reacted to the news on his blog, and wondered if the outrage would reach all the way to the presentation of Kane's star next year.
"We're talking about Bob Kane, the man who in his autobiography, regretted that he never put the name of his collaborator Bill Finger on the comics…but who never somehow got around to rectifying that and allowing it," Evanier said.
"And will there be protesters at the dedication ceremony with big signs that say WHAT ABOUT BILL FINGER? It wouldn't surprise me."
The date for Kane's star dedication has not yet been announced, but this is likely only the beginning of the backlash to the announcement, and with any luck it'll lead to more recognition for Finger as Batman's rightful co-creator.