One of the most influential comic book creators has died in obscurity
Bill Finger is the almost forgotten comic book genius who co-created Batman.
By Douglas Helm | Posted
Bill Finger is a name only dedicated comic book fans might know. However, Bill Finger is a name that should be held on par with comic book giants like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Frank Millar, and all the other big names. Without Bill Finger, Batman and many of his best villains wouldn’t be the characters we know today.
Sadly, like many great artists whose work endures far beyond their own lifetimes, Bill Finger died in obscurity and poverty in 1974. By this time, Batman was already an internationally acclaimed superhero with comics, merchandise and a TV series. Finally, Finger would get the recognition he more than deserved in 2015 when DC Comics’ parent company agreed to recognize Finger as a co-creator of Batman and add his name to the “created by” credit line. in the future.
Bill Finger started small. He was born in Denver, Colorado in 1914 and ended up in the Bronx, New York, where he began his career as an aspiring writer and part-time shoe salesman after high school. He would then meet comic book artist Bob Kane at a party, which would lead to him getting a job at Kane’s studio in 1938. Finger’s first job was writing ghost comics.
Shortly after Bill Finger began his career at Bob Kane’s studio, Superman comics exploded in popularity. It was then that Kane showed Finger his design for a character called Bat-Man, though he was a far cry from the brooding crusader we know today. According to Finger, the design was of a character with red tights, boots, a domino sign, and bat wings.
Bill Finger had some notes. He would change the domino mask into a cowl, remove the wings and replace them with a cape, add gloves, cut out the red sections of the costume, and suggest Bruce Wayne’s secret identity. In short, Finger changed Batman from a Superman knockoff to the shadowy detective character we know and love.
Bill Finger would go on to write the script for Batman’s debut and second appearance, as well as many of the early Batman stories that helped launch Batman into comic book royalty. Finger wasn’t done there – he also made a major contribution to the backstory and design of The Joker and The Robin. It was Finger’s idea to base Joker’s creepy perpetual smile on Conrad Veidt in The man who Laughs instead of making him look like a simple clown.
In addition to co-creating Batman, the Joker and Robin, Bill Finger was also the creator or co-creator of characters and ideas such as the Batmobile, the Batcave, the nickname “Dark Knight”, the name of Gotham City , Ace the Bat-Hound, Bat-Mite, Clayface, The Riddler, Calendar Man, Scarecrow, Catwoman and the original Batgirl. It’s safe enough to say that the Batman character and mythos simply wouldn’t be the same without Finger’s contribution. Bill Finger also made a huge contribution to another major DC hero when he collaborated with Martin Nodell on the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott.
Despite these contributions, Bill Finger didn’t gain public credit for a Batman story until 1966, when he co-wrote a two-part live-action episode. Batman Television series with Charles Sinclair. It would be Batman’s only credit to his name when he died eight years later. The silver lining is that Bill Finger’s story didn’t die with him.
In 2006, Marc Tyler Nobleman will begin research for a biography of Bill Finger. At the time, it was believed that Finger had only one known child, Fred Finger, who died in 1992. However, Nobleman’s research revealed that Fred Finger had a daughter named Athena, born two years after the death of Bill.
Nobleman quickly reached out to Bill Finger’s granddaughter and sole living heiress to encourage her to contact DC Comics to get her grandfather’s credit for her work on Batman. Athena agreed and the campaign to get Bill’s credit would begin. Nobleman would rally comic book fans through his blog, podcast appearances, social media, and live events.
In 2012, Nobleman will finally release his book Bill the Boy Wonder: Batman’s secret co-creator. The campaign eventually paid off, and DC Comics negotiated with Athena in 2015. The negotiations resulted in Bill Finger receiving credit alongside Bob Kane in movies like Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of JusticeTV show Gothamand all Batman-related comic books, graphic novels, and other print publications.
Although this story finally had a happy ending, it’s a shame that Bill Finger never saw any of it. If you want to know more about Finger’s story, you can check out Nobleman’s book. You can also watch Hulu documentary 2017 Batman & Bill which is based on the book.