Monday, September 2, 2013

Three critical junctures for Bob Kane: 1939, 1965, and 1998

In the Batman creation story, there are two villains: Bob Kane (the cartoonist who, to this day, is the only person officially credited) and, to a lesser degree, Bill Finger (star of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman).

In evaluating Bob’s actions toward Bill, I see three critical junctures.

1939 - the year in which Bill and Bob created Batman and the year in which Batman debuted

As my book (and numerous other sources) recount, Bill designed the costume and Bob alone took the design to editor Vin Sullivan; there was no backstory yet. When Vin expressed interest in running Batman, Bob went back to Bill and suggested that Bill write it, Bob draw it, and only Bob’s name appear on it; Bob would pay Bill out of the money the publisher paid Bob. Arrangements such as this were not uncommon in the comic book and comic strip world in 1939. Bill said yes. So in that case, Bob’s actions, while not admirable, are defensible by the standards of the time.

1965 - the year the truth about Bill Finger came out to fans

Thanks to fandom legend Jerry Bails, the public began to learn of Bill’s role in the creation of Batman. When Bob learned that Bill had (civilly) revealed that Bob was not alone at the beginning of Batman, Bob must have been terrified that his longstanding ruse would crumble. He responded combatively, still maintaining that he was the sole creator. In other words, in calling Bill a liar, Bob was actually the one lying. This is inexcusable by any standard.

1998 - the year Bob died

In Bob’s 1989 autobiography, he credited Bill far more than he ever had before, going so far as to say he wished he could go back in time to when Bill was alive (pre-1974) and put Bill’s name on Batman. It seemed Bob, in his golden years, had at least partially embraced his conscience. Yet his gravestone undermines his autobiography. 

It was then when Bob could have set the record straight for good and atoned for his sins, but instead he reverted back to the myth he had perpetuated for most of his life, and in doing so, disrespected Bill for posterity. 

The gravestone likens Bob to the wrong Batman character. Talk about Two-Faced. 

I’m quite sure that Bob had that copy written before he died. This is appalling and unforgivable. 

I need a stronger word, actually, but am failing to find one.

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