- Megan Bingham
When Batman was first written, one name was attached to his creation: Bob Kane. Bob's name appeared in every Batman comic, without any other creator noted. However, this is not true. Bill Finger, a Depression-era, New York resident, had a lot to do with it, too. In fact, according to Marc Tyler Nobleman's breakthrough biography Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, Bill was responsible for the majority of the Batman persona we see today.
In early 1939, Bill Finger was a simple shoe salesman who loved to write. He shared some of his ideas with a young illustrator, Bob Kane. Bob was so blown away by Bill's writing that he asked Bill to collaborate on comic strips with him. The year before, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had released the successful Superman hero, and DC Comics was now looking for another great character. Bob came up with the original concept, including the winged costume and the original spelling of the name "Bat-Man." But, Bob's design reminded Bill too much of Superman. He knew that the Bat-Man should not only look different from the Man of Steel, but he needed to act differently, too. Bill thought the Bat-Man should be a human, instead of an alien, who could be hurt. A superhero without superpowers.
Bob showed Bat-Man to DC Comics without Bill. Bob told Bill that Bat-Man would be published, but without Bill's name. It was typical for comic book writers to have secret identities, and soon, Bill was being paid anonymously for his Bat-Man stories. Bill came up with the vivid world surrounding Batman (now spelled without a hyphen) including Gotham City, the Batcave, and Robin the Boy Wonder. During the first 25 years of the Batman comics, Bill Finger's name appeared only once. In 1964, when comics editor Julius Schwartz invited him to a comic convention panel, it was demanded by editors and fans alike that his name was put into the credits. Bob Kane didn't amend any part of his contract requiring that he be listed as the sole creator of Batman.
Through extensive research and other comic book fans' stories, Marc Tyler Nobleman uncovered the "secret identity" of the Batman's creator and the injustice Bill received. Due to Mr. Nobleman's discoveries and the announcement that Bill Finger is "Batman's Biggest Secret," DC Comics has attached Mr. Finger's name to recent productions involving Batman, such as Fox's TV show Gotham and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016). Besides proper credit, The Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing is given out each year at San Diego Comic-Con to two writers, one living and one deceased, who have not been properly recognized for their work. The online streaming service Hulu has also picked up on Mr. Nobleman's findings and created a documentary, Batman & Bill (2017), which chronicles Bill Finger's career.