If you’re into anniversaries and Batman…Bataversaries, then 2014 is the year of the bat!
25 years since Tim Burton’s Batman!
75 years since the Dark Knight debuted in Detective Comics #27!
100 years since the birth of Bill Finger!
Who? Batman has many secrets: his identity, location of the Batcave, why exactly does he carry bat-shark repellent? Batman’s biggest secret is who actually created the Dark Knight as we know him today, his signature look, some of his most famous rogues gallery villains, the term Dark Knight itself! The casual observer may notice the name Bob Kane next to “created by” in comics and films but the truth is that it is contractually obligated to be there. Hardcore historians have known of the real creative force behind Batman and they are striving to make it common knowledge.
Author Marc Tyler Nobleman with artist Ty Templeton released Bill the Boy Wonder The Secret Co-Creator of Batman in 2012. Like Nobleman’s previous work, Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman, this book explains Bill’s contributions to the mythology of arguably the most successful and popular character in comics of all time. When Bob Kane showed young Milton “Bill” Finger a sketch of a blond man wearing a domino mask, red tights and seemingly non-functional wings, Bill redrew the character with the cowl, grey tights and scalloped cape that we know today. It doesn’t end there, over the years Bill created The Penguin, Catwoman, Two-Face, the Batcave and the Batmobile.
MTN (all the cool people go by their initials, RDJ, JGL, JCP) writes the book in a large picture book format seemingly gearing it towards younger children yet it’s mood, story and historical content will appeal to much older readers.
In keeping with the children’s book format, each illustration is a full page of Ty Templeton art, taking you back to the golden age of comics. Deftly imitating the Golden Age style when needed, Templeton (or TT) recreates each scene as if he were a witness to the unfortunate injustices perpetrated and we are privy to history.
However, don’t think that MTN and TT are painting a tragic picture. They are simply trying to right a wrong done to a humble, creative genius of a storyteller. There is hope in this tale. Perhaps by aiming to a young audience and appealing to the adult fans, the story of unsung heroes like Finger will inspire others to stand up for the silent ones.
Now a documentary is also in the works by The Comic Arts Council, LLC called The Cape Creator: A Tribute to Bat-Maker Bill Finger. The Kickstarter (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/comicartscouncil/the-cape-creator-a-tribute-to-bat-maker-bill-finge) has aims to educate not just the general public but Bill’s very own grandchild, Athena who wasn’t even born yet when Bill died in 1974. So far the Kickstarter has had a successful fund raising campaign proving people are interested and wanting to learn more about Bill. Scheduled to end March 5th, I urge you to click on the link to learn more and back the project if you can.
The comic book business is very different now than it was during its nascent period. The system allowed for young and eager artists and writers to be exploited. I don’t know if they could have imagined comic book creators reaching rock star status let alone collect royalties or just outright own their creations. Fortunately, there are people like Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ty Templeton and The Comics Art Council who make sure these artists are not forgotten.
When I bought the book, I was merely curious. I had known about Bill Finger and over the years as a fan and collector, I heard all the stories, simply dismissing what I thought to be conjecture and rumors, I didn’t pay much attention. Nobleman’s book appealed to me as simply something to add to my collection. However when I read it, I was surprisingly moved despite the children’s book style and format. You may have passed on it or dismissed it because of that but you should really stop and check it out. Nobleman is very passionate about this and it comes through in his story. Templeton is an inspired choice as illustrator. You don’t often see him do art in this format, so it’s a rare treat to read. I’m recommending this as a buy. Not just a buy but also a give. Yes, give this book to a casual fan. It will give them insight into a beloved character and a man’s thought provoking story.
I guess I’m telling you to give someone the Finger.
Pick up Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman at your local bookstore, Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Bill-Boy-Wonder-Secret-Co-Creator/dp/1580892892/), or directly from the publisher, Charlesbridge (http://www.charlesbridge.com/productdetails.cfm?PC=5655).