So here’s a new feature: 70 Aspects Of Batman.
As you may not know, this year marks the 70th Anniversary of creation of Batman, The Dark Knight, The Caped etc. Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27, cover-dated May 1939. To celebrate one of my favorite fictional character’s anniversaries, I’ve decided to share with you, the loyal Noising Machine reader, 70 different artistic interpretations of this guy throughout the rest of this year. These will include both entries on accepted Batman greats (Neal Adams, Frank Miller), relatively unsung heroes (Norm Breyfogle, Graham Nolan) and great artists who may have only drawn Batman once, but I like ‘em so here they are (Katsuhiro Otomo). There definitely will not be any of the likes of Jim Lee, Michael Turner or Ed Benes though, so you can rest easy. Anyway, for this inaugural edition of 70 AOB, what better place to start then at the very beginning, with Batman’s “creator”…
(Bob Kane pictured right)
Now here’s the thing about Bob Kane: HE WAS AN ASSHOLE. For decades, he had a contract with DC Comics that allowed him to have his name on any and every Batman story they published, regardless of who actually wrote and drew them. He also downplayed and/or outright ignored crediting contributions made by such creators as Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson to the Batman mythos. Basically, he created Batman to cash in on the success of Superman, who DC had premiered a year earlier.
As writer Bill Finger recalled: “[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 took this initial design and suggested modifications, substituting a cowl for the mask, adding a cape and gloves and instigating the color scheme change to gray and blue. He also came up with the name of Batman’s alter-ego, Bruce Wayne, by taking the last names of Scottish patriot Robert Bruce and Revolutionary War general “Mad” Anthony Wayne and combining them. He also wrote the script for Batman’s initial appearance in Detective #27.
If this seems more like a Bill Finger post than a Bob Kane post, that’s because Bill Finger seems like a better human being to me. If there was any justice, the byline that’s still found in Batman comics today would read “Batman created by Bob Kane & Bill Finger” instead of “Batman Created by That Butthole Bob Kane”. Kane was all too happy to take the attention and accolades during Batman’s initial success in the 40s, his 60s resurgence thanks to the Adam West TV show and the hoopla surronding the Batman feature films of the late 20th Century. He died in 1998.
Still, I think one can and must judge work on its own merit and not by whether its creator was an asshole, as hard as that may be. Thus, while Bob Kane was a gloryhound who trampelled over others to get undeserved credit, he still did commit the first rendition of Batman to paper. And in his own stiff way, he lent the early Batman stories a sense of atmosphere that could be described as gothic or proto-noir. Like this:
That’s a good, evocative picture. But yeah, for the most part most of the stuff you like about Batman probably came about in spite of Bob Kane, not because of him. And in real-life, I bet Batman wouldn’t even like him that much.