Bob Kane, Bill Finger and the True Story of Batman

Did Bob Kane create the Dark Knight on his own? No.  A new documentary tells how things really went!

The Dark Knight, The Caped Crusader, The Bat, superhero par excellence, appeared for the first time on May 30, 1939 in Detective Comics # 27, the magazine that marked the beginning of the Golden Age of comics. The undisputed symbol of those yellowed pages was him, the Bat-Man, as he was originally called by the creator Bob Kane, who was inspired by some drafts of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci.  And yet, the story of the birth of the Batman doesn’t end there, on the contrary, it’s just the beginning. Bob Kane, universally acknowledged as the sole creator of Batman, was not the creator of the Batman that we know. Or at least he was not the only one!

Bob Kane posing in his studio in the sixties.

To find out more, we will have to step back in time – now we are in the early thirties – take a stroll in the Bronx in New York and ask for a certain Bill Finger. They will tell you that he is hidden away at home, devouring science fiction magazines and old pulp comics. And, guess who lives a few blocks further on? Yes, that’s right: Bob Kane. Only the two still do not know each other at this point, and unaware that the following spring  they would collaborate to write part of the twentieth century’s pop history.

The Bat-Man, By Bob Kane, Detective Comics issue #27

When the two met, a few years later, it was intellectual love at first sight and, together, in 1938, they published the comic strip Rusty and his Pals. Except that Bill Finger, for Kane, was a ghostwriter. The platitudes and fame were all for Bob. And it was to continue thus! Bill Finger essentially became Bob Kane’s silent partner,  hidden away in the background. If it is true that Kane was the first designer of the original idea, Finger was the one who made Batman “Batman”. The name? Invented by Finger. The costume? Kane’s was the copy of Zorro with two added wings, Finger improved on this – designed the batman we know today, the gloves, the cloak, the mask. Even the parallel identity of Bruce Wayne. And Gotham City? Finger again. Joker, Robin and Commissioner Gordon? Finger, who in 1940 will put his own stamp on another superhero, Green Lantern.

A passage of the cartoon Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-creator of Batman. Note the red costume designed by Kane.

But how is it that the name of Batman was associated exclusively with Bob Kane? To better understand how the story went, The Goblin & Sausage recommend a documentary: Batman & Bill, directed by Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce. The documentary traces the entire story of Bill, Bob and their Batman, reconstructing the key passages, turns & events and mysteries. After all, the office relations with the publisher were dealt with solely by Kane, therefore, as far as anyone knew, Batman was his monopoly, his brainchild. Fortunately, things have changed since 1968: the character changed with time, and slowly but surely Bill Finger’s influence became more apparent. It became clear that Bill Finger was not a simple ghostwriter.

The credits of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Only in 2015, after the 2012 publication of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-creator of Batman, a great graphic novel by Marc Tyler Nobleman ( on which the documentary is partly based ) – was there an official announcement by DC. So now – in the new Gotham TV series, the Batman v Superman movie and in all  printed or cinematographic publications (and yes, even on the Wikipedia page of Batman), the name of Bill was finally put next to Bob’s, and vice versa. To fight the bad guys for the rest of time, only this time together.

  • Here you can see the trailer for Batman and Bill:

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2018-12-11T17:17:02+00:00

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