Prior to that, I had had no contact with Bob Kane’s family.
“What?” you are probably wondering. “You didn’t consult anyone from the family of one of the main characters of your book?”
That’s just it—Kane is not one of the main characters in the book. In fact, he barely appears. It is Bill’s story. Batman, to a large degree, is Bill’s story. Creatively, Bob was almost completely irrelevant to what makes Batman endure. (He did not write a single Batman story.)
Plus, Bob’s version of the Batman creation story is hardly hard to come by. For Batman’s nearly-75-year existence, nearly every published telling of it stemmed from Bob.
Combine my fact-driven interpretation of Bob’s role in Batman with the massive reach of NPR and it’s no surprise that it was at this point when I first heard (indirectly—and unofficially) from the Kane family.
Bonnie Rosenzweig, who identified herself as Bob’s niece, posted a comment under the NPR segment:
I would like to know where Marc Tyler Nobleman is getting his facts from. Having grown up with Bob Kane, as his niece, I can attest to the fact that he indeed was the soul [sic] creator and the original artist behind Batman. Bill Finger was a personal friend, and they collaborated as friends, however Bill was not the inspiration for Batman or for the original artwork.
Truth be told, I was happy to hear from Bonnie. My response:
The book includes an extensive list of works cited (the even fuller version will be posting to the book’s site) this includes your uncle’s 1989 autobiography Batman and Me, in which he admits that Bill designed Batman’s costume. Several other DC Comics publications say the same.
Meanwhile, my response to an unrelated comment by someone else included this statement:
Kane was a perpetual liar according to most everyone I talked to who knew him; he contradicted himself even within his own autobiography.
Bonnie’s response to that:
Marc Tyler Nobleman, shame on you for calling Bob Kane a liar. Did you personally know the man. I grew up with him and know almost everything about him. My brother is even named after Bruce Wayne. I have reread my copy of his autobiography to check your references to the book. In my opinion, and with my personal knowledge of Bob Kane you have glorified Bill Fingers involvement, giving him credit for creating Batman is just not true. Some of what you say is correct as far as their collaborative efforts. What is not true is the sequence of events. Bob Kane was the originator and was working at DC when he created Batman. He met Bill Finger after he already created and illustrated the character. Bob was an amazing artist and had an incredible imagination. My guess is your putting out there a lot of sensational misinformation in order to sell your book. People just need to read Batman & Me to be better informed. At least it is coming from the source, and not a third parties interpretation. [all sic]
You are right: I did not know Bob personally. I am talking only about his professional dealings with Bill. And since neither you nor I was there, we both have to rely on the accounts of Bill and Bob, to a lesser extent, those who knew them then.
I also encourage anyone to read Batman and Me. It verifies many of my points. In fact, in the book, Bob contradicts himself. On p. 36, Bob shows drawings allegedly made in 1934 of the Batman we know today. But on p. 41, he gives Bill credit for suggesting Batman’s cowl, scalloped cape, dark color scheme—essentially his whole costume—in 1939.
Further, in 1965, Bob (in so many words) called Bill a liar in a condescending letter reprinted here. However, some of what he wrote in ‘65 goes against what he wrote in ‘89. Again a contradiction.
Yes, Bob worked at DC before Bill. Yes, Bob came to Bill with a character sketch. But by Bob’s own admission, Bill overhauled Bob’s design and Bob presented that to DC. Bill wrote the first Batman story and hundreds more; Bob never wrote a Batman story.
If I want to sell books I need to tell the truth. Misinformation is (usually) a quick route to the end of a career.
A few more points worth rebutting:
BR: Bill was not the inspiration for Batman or for the original artwork.
MTN: I did not say he was. But Bob’s original artwork was discarded in favor of Bill’s costume design.
BR: I grew up with him and know almost everything about him.
MTN: Insofar as what Bob told you. I wasn’t the first to point out the pattern of dishonesty in Bob; it stands to reason he would have maintained the charade for his family, too. The stakes were too high.
BR: Bob Kane was the originator and was working at DC when he created Batman. He met Bill Finger after he already created and illustrated the character.
MTN: Bob originated something, but by his own admission, it was not the version that was published. And he did not meet Bill after he had created the character. (Again, see Batman and Me, page 41.)
Bears repeating: If I want to sell books I need to tell the truth.
Batman is a fictional character.
So is Bob Kane.