Bill Finger was born in Denver, Colorado on February 8, 1914 and died on January 18, 1974. This year marks Bill’s 100th birthday, Batman’s 75th year and the 40th anniversary of Bill’s passing. Finger is the co-creator of Batman and many of his supporting cast. Sadly Bill never received credit during his lifetime, inducted posthumously into “The Jack Kirby Hall Of Fame” in 1994, “The Will Eisner Comic Book Hall Of Fame” in 1999 and his name provided the basis for “The Bill Finger Award”, founded by the late Jerry Robinson and is presented annually at the San Diego Comic-Con International to honor excellence in comic book writing. In 1985, DC Comics named Finger as one of the honorees in the company’s 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.
Bill joined Bob Kane’s nascent studio in 1938 after having met Kane at a party. Bob and Bill were both alumni of the DeWitt Clinton high school in the Bronx. Kane later offered him a job ghost writing the strips Rusty and Clip Carson. Early the following year, National Comics’ success with the seminal superhero Superman in Action Comics prompted editors to scramble for similar heroes.In response, Kane conceived “the Bat-Man”. Finger recalled that Kane
“had an idea for a character called ‘Batman’, and he’d like me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane’s, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of … reddish tights, I believe, with boots … no gloves, no gauntlets … with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings. And under it was a big sign … BATMAN”
Finger offered such suggestions as giving the character a cowl instead of the domino mask, a cape instead of wings, adding gloves, and removing the red sections from the original costume. He later said his suggestions were influenced by Lee Falk’s popular The Phantom, a syndicated newspaper comic strip character with which Kane was familiar as well, and that he devised the name Bruce Wayne for the character’s secret identity. As Finger described, “Bruce Wayne’s first name came from Robert Bruce, the Scottish patriot. Wayne, being a playboy, was a man of gentry. I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock … then I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne.” Kane decades later in his autobiography described Finger as “a contributing force on Batman right from the beginning… I made Batman a superhero-vigilante when I first created him. Bill turned him into a scientific detective.” Finger biographer Marc Tyler Nobleman described, “Bob [Kane] showed Bat-Man to [editor] Vin [Sullivan] — without Bill. Vin promptly wanted to run Bat-Man, and Bob negotiated a deal — without including Bill.”
Finger wrote both the initial script for Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) and the character’s second appearance, while Kane provided art. Batman proved a breakout hit, and Finger went on to write many of the early Batman stories, including making major contributions to the character of the Joker as well as other major Batman villains.
In 1989, Kane acknowledged Finger as “a contributing force” in the character’s creation, and wrote, “Now that my long-time friend and collaborator is gone, I must admit that Bill never received the fame and recognition he deserved. He was an unsung hero … I often tell my wife, if I could go back fifteen years, before he died, I would like to say. ‘I’ll put your name on it now. You deserve it.'”
DC ran this Memoriam to Finger in “The Amazing World of DC Comics” in 1974.
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