Uncredited Batman Co-Creator Bill Finger’s Family Accepts Posthumous Inkpot Award At Panel Celebrating His Work
As one might suspect, the major thrust of Thursday’s “Spotlight on Bill Finger, Co-Cceator of Batman” panel was that Bill Finger never got the credit he deserved.
Comic-Con’s organizers made one big gesture to make up for that, presenting Finger’s granddaughter, Athena Finger, with a posthumous Inkpot Award just as the panel got started. The panelists tried their best to heap credit on Finger, too.
Denny O’Neil, whose contributions to Batman over the years as a writer and editor are considerable, too, put it in the most stark relief: “I wish I had tried harder to get him credit,” he said, adding, “He was creating the art form for five bucks a page.”
Tom Andrae, who co-wrote Batman & Me, Bob Kane’s autobiography, said Kane seemingly wanted to give Finger some degree of credit for Batman’s creation after Finger’s death in 1974, but simply never rectified the issue before his own death. When Andrae included material about Finger in the book, he said Kane told him, “There’s too much about Bill in here.”
Batman movie producer Michael Uslan offered up stories of the few times he met Finger, who the panelists characterized as a reclusive man who almost never met his collaborators. He said he had never seen Finger’s name before meeting the man and having him sign some Superman art.
“We did not know the names of who these artists and, writers were,” Uslan said. “We figured out there was a good Batman Bob Kane, and a not-so-good Batman Bob Kane.”
He noted that the stories written by Finger (the “good Bob Kane”) were characterized by giant props and supervillain appearances.
Andrae added that Finger’s scripts were often very visual in their descriptions of angles and props, often even including photos of actor Douglas Fairbanks, who famously portrayed Robin Hood, to show what kind of acrobat he wanted Batman to be.
O’Neil said Finger understood that “a comic book page is a page. It is not a screen. It is not a proscenium.” Many of his contemporaries didn’t.
Moderator Travis Langley brought up one of Finger’s few credits, for co-writng an episode of the 1966 Batman TV show featuring the Clock King. Finger asked co-writer Charles Sinclair for his name to come first on the episode because he had recently been kicked off the Batman comics after more than two decades of writing. Sinclair, wishing to honor Finger’s comics contributions, agreed.
Beyond that credit and one on a Superman cartoon, Finger’s name only appeared once in the mainstream press during his lifetime, in a New Yorker blurb about a meeting at a bar with writer Otto Binder, according to Bill the Boy Wonder author Marc Tyler Nobleman.
The panelists, to their credit, also acknowledged Finger’s numerous other contributions to comics. Not only did he name Gotham City, give Batman the nickname “The Dark Knight” and create many of the hero’s villains, he also co-created Lana Lang, original Green Lantern Alan Scott, and Wildcat.