Thursday, June 26, 2008

Another Batman mystery

Every post for the past two months has been about Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.

However, I have not forgotten about my
pledge earlier in the year to reveal never-published info about and photos of uncredited Batman co-creator Bill Finger as the July release of Boys of Steel nears.

Earlier this month, on the writers' panel at the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois, I mentioned Finger. The audience applauded him with the same fervor they did Siegel and Shuster.

Before I peel back additional layers of Bill Finger I did uncover, I need help solving yet another Bill Finger mystery.

Les Daniels's Batman: The Complete History (1999) is an essential book on the subject. It includes quite a few Finger quotations—but no bibliography. Finger died in 1974 so Daniels obviously did not interview him personally. I have researched Finger extensively and know of only two previous published works quoting more than two lines of his actual words: the transcription of the 1965 New York comics convention creators' panel (published in the comics history magazine Alter Ego) and Jim Steranko's 1970 book History of Comics, Volume 1. Yet many Finger quotations in Batman: The Complete History can't be traced to either source.

So where are they from?

Daniels does not remember nor does he still have his research. The man at DC Comics who apparently edited the book was "unable to help," without further explanation. I don't know if he also doesn't have record or if he does know but for some reason won't share.

Below are the Finger quotations that I haven't been able to account for. While in some cases, similar comments have appeared elsewhere, the fact that these are all in quotation marks means the author is affirming that Finger said each line verbatim:

page 25 - "Batman was written originally in the style of the pulps."

29 - "He can’t stop bullets, you know."

38 - "The thing that bothered me was that Batman didn’t have anyone to talk to." - 7/2/08 SOLVED: from Steranko's History of Comics, Volume 1

38 - "The pulps were grim, lacking in humor."

38 - on adding Robin: "The puns were there; the dialogue easy, fluid, and flowing. It brightened up the strip and added characterization to the main figure of Batman."

39 - on editors: "You lack a certain amount of freedom in dealing with the character. I could usually do better on my own." (Daniels notes Finger said this decades later)

65 - "Writing for comics is difficult. You have to describe scene so completely that the artist knows exactly or as nearly as possible what to draw"

69 - "Sometimes I’d be working all night on a script, depending on how an idea hit." (Daniels indicates this is from an interview—though wouldn't they all be?)

Does anyone know where any of these first appeared? If not, does anyone know someone who might? If so, please e-mail me.

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