That time Batman's creator ripped off a drawing by Spawn's creator

Contributed by
Jun 21, 2013

Well, this is awkward ...

There's a long-standing comic-book legend claiming that back in the late '80s, Batman co-creator and artist Bob Kane did a drawing of the Dark Knight that was a complete ripoff of a Batman piece by Todd McFarlane, then a rising superstar artist at both DC and Marvel who would go on to be one of the founders of Image Comics and the creator of Spawn. So, is it true?

Well, according to writer Brian Cronin, who's got a long history of expertise when it comes to deciphering pop culture legends and apocrypha, it looks to be true, and he's got the relevant images to prove it.

The story goes that back in 1989, as Tim Burton's Batman flick was about to hit theaters, Kane was making the rounds to promote the flick and the character. Naturally there was a lot of interest in having Batman's guru back on the scene, especially if he was willing to draw the Caped Crusader once again. Kane hadn't done much in the way of drawing comics in several decades at that point, but he agreed to dust off his pencil to produce this cover for Comics Scene.


So, the comics world wants Kane to draw and Kane draws. The problem is that what he drew is shockingly similar to a Todd McFarlane Batman panel published (at the time) very recently.



Kane's reputation in the comics world is far from spotless, as anyone familiar with the creation of Batman and his early villains well knows. According to Cronin, though, this particular incident is less a nefarious scheme on Kane's part and more a case of old-school comics practices. See, back in the '30s, when Kane was a full-time comic-book creator, it was common practice for artists to take poses they liked from other artists and appropriate them. If you liked, say, the way the Shadow looked in a particular panel, you would take that panel and basically re-draw it so that Batman looked the same way. Kane and many of his peers did this often back then, and though these drawings aren't absolutely identical, it definitely looks like Kane just liked McFarlane's pose and took a little license with it, taking a not-so-savory page from the Golden Age playbook.

But he didn't entirely get away with it, as this cover to Amazing Stories drawn by McFarlane soon after shows.



So, it looks like this particular piece of comics folklore is (pretty much) a true story.

(Via CBR)

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