Batman Co-Creator Bill Finger's Family Is Really Angry With DC Comics

Batman Co-Creator Bill Finger's Family Is Really Angry With DC Comics

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It looks like the Kirby estate might soon have some company.

Bill Finger remains one of the most unjustly obscure figures in the history of American comics. Lacking co-creator Bob Kane's business acumen and savvy, he was essentially taken advantage of when the contract Kane secured from DC gave him sole credit. For 75 years, "Created by Bob Kane" has graced every single Batman-related product, and almost all discussion of the character has taken that statement as the word of law.

But Finger did, in fact, more than any other person to develop and codify the things that make Batman, well, Batman. So much of so that without him, everything but the name "Batman" goes away. (This comic handily illustrates the matter.) It's almost a crime against art that while Bob Kane lived off Batman for the rest of his life, Finger died broke and unknown in 1974.

But in recent months, a push to give him the recognition he deserved has succeeded in making him more well known, and so it was that at a WonderCon panel called "The Men Who Made Batman", a television show about the Batverse whose title is taken from the city that Finger both conceived of and named, DC was put in an awkward position when a fan asked them point blank why DC allowed Finger to go (and continue to go) uncredited. DC Comics' Larry Ganem, after a very awkward silence, said "we cherish what Bill Finger did and his contribution to creating Batman, and we're all good with Finger and his family."

As it turns out, that's not exactly true. Finger's surviving family, his Granddaughter and her son, were not pleased by Ganem's comments, and last night issued a press statement on the issue, quoted here in full:

"75 years of Batman! No one could have predicted the longevity and the continued relevance of this comic book hero that has become a cultural icon when my grandfather, Bill Finger, collaborated with Bob Kane back in 1939. My grandfather has never been properly credited as the co-creator of Batman although was an open secret in the comic book industry and is widely known now. It is now my time to come out of the shadows and speak up and end 75 years of exploitation of my grandfather, whose biggest flaw was his inability to defend his extraordinary talent. Due to what I feel is continued mistreatment of a true artist, I am currently exploring our rights and considering how best to establish the recognition that my grandfather deserves."

That's a rather feisty statement. But does it mean the family intends to sue? Perhaps, but the success of such a lawsuit will depend on how far they wish to take it. Attempts by a creator's heirs to assert any kind of control over creations long-owned by a major comic publishers face serious obstacles. Jack Kirby's family almost certainly hobbled their case against Marvel when they attempted to sue for full control of Kirby's characters instead of accepting a settlement. On the other hand, a solid case could be made legally that, at minimum, Batman needs to be credited to Bob Kane and Bill Finger. It will be interesting to see what action the Fingers take.

Many commenters will probably bristle at the implication that they may be considering a lawsuit. And I get that. The argument that Finger's descendents shouldn't be able to get rich off of his work makes a kind of sense. Indeed, it's also been employed against the family of Jack Kirby. However, I would consider that the principle of the matter is more important than whether or not Finger's descendents "deserve" any money. As we discussed in our feature The Life Of A Comics Artist: Divided and Conquered, the history of the comics industry is replete with exploitation that has allowed savvy, often dishonest and highly manipulative people and entities to make billions off the work of artists and writers who earned, at best, just enough to scrape by. Finger deserves to be credited for the work he did that made DC billions, and frankly, some of the money that he should have been able to benefit from should be paid, even if only to his descendents.

What do you think, readers? Sound off in comments.

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I think Bill Finger should get credit.. he deserves it for helping to create Batman

It's no secret that, these days, DC is run by a collection of people who are completely out of touch with their demographic, with the times they live in and with reality itself. So, it doesn't surprise me to hear that they've always been like that. Nowadays it's unbelievable that they're like this, because of easy access to the Internet and all that. But in the olden days, that wasn't quite the case. So, editorial issues are relatively excusable for those times. But this? Man, the least that they can do is immediately start crediting Finger for his contributions to Batman. And I sincerely hope that they apologize to the Finger estate, even if it is off the record.

I just can't understand how you can stab someone you worked so closely with in the back, and then watch them slowly withered away while you live like a king. People make me sick. Was it really that hard to share credit and the all the cash you made Bob?
DC should do the right thing without being prompted or forced to. They should change the credit line, perhaps even put Bill's name first, and pay out some long-overdue royalties. Not gobs of money, mind you, but still a decent sum would be nice.

Of course that's not going to happen, and DC will no doubt fight tooth and nail if anything comes about.

I really do hope that DC has the guts & decency to at least credit Bill Finger for his massive contribution, though unfortunately the agreement he signed giving him exclusive writing rights for a certain period in exchange for any creator recognition will probably work against the family.

If the family go after the millions, then it'll get ugly, and Bill won't get the credit he deserves.
I hope they go the more reasonable option, as, really, I think that's what's important here.

Bill Finger is the man who made Batman the world's greatest detective, Bob Kane made him the Night (with help from Bill on design choices for mask, colour, gauntlets...etc, etc, etc)

Facts are facts.

Bill Finger shaped everything we know and love about Batman into being. He deserves credit. He's deserved it for 75 years.

DC should absolutely start giving him all the credit he was due.

Bob Kane died in 1998. This article is about an argument between two dead men. This piece clearly panders to the underdog mentality. If the Batman brand hadn't become so successful would the estate be so quick to make meaningless statements?

as someone who is wholly ignorant to this situation I am curious about the time frame. I believe the article when it says finger did most of the work I mean early comics is lousy with creators getting squeezed out hell the guys who did batman TAS get verbal credit but no legal or financial for creating Harley Quinn because they made her for a tv show not in an actual comic. but it does beg the question why only at the 75yr mark is this coming up? if this becomes a legal matter fighting for anything more than just credit for co-creation is going to be shut down based simply on the length of time that passed without them bringing a claim against dc. but if their goal is to educate comic book readers on an injustice. well there's at least one more person who didn't know about this before.

Superman is always credited as "created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster." I don't see why DC would have such a problem with putting "created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger," aside from the aforementioned detachment from reality.

The World Famous:
Superman is always credited as "created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster." I don't see why DC would have such a problem with putting "created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger," aside from the aforementioned detachment from reality.

Especially since, if you ask me, "Bob Kane and Bill Finger" sounds really catchy.

mattawbrown:
If the Batman brand hadn't become so successful would the estate be so quick to make meaningless statements?

No really? Who would have thought?

Ofcourse this is the point... It got famous and the guy who contributed the most to that famous creation goes unmentioned for over 70 years and dies broke and unknown while the guy who came up with the name lived a life of luxury in comparison. And then DC claims that they are on good terms with fingers family when it couldnt be farther from the truth.

Sorry but again.. that batman became so famous is the whole frigging point

If you created a comic book character and it got wildly popular and someone else got credited for it and you end up on the street out on your ass and you have nothing you can give your children while someone else makes millions off of your work.. wouldnt you want justice too?

As far as i can tell they only want finger properly credited, money was solely brought in by this article.. nothing in their press statement said anything about trying to get money out of DC even thought in my eyes they would have a right to do so too... and you critizes them for that?

Finger should absolutely be billed as one of the creators of Batman (if what I'm reading is right, he should get top billing over Kane). I'd be all for a lawsuit by the estate to force such an accreditation on everything involving Bats and a very public apology, with or without money changing hands, over the whole issue in the first place.

That said, I'm also against the estate suing for money or control over the IP, and I'd be very disappointed if they tried to go that route. I get the feeling that's not what the lady wants, which is nice to see, but I've been wrong before.

I personally think that Bill Finger should get sole creator credit, the truth is he did create and shape more of the character and mythos for Batman than Kane ever did, but I'll admit that's unlikely to happen because DC has pushed the Bob Kane created Batman line for 75 years so a co-creator credit is more likely though not guaranteed.
In this instance I think that it wouldn't go amiss for DC to offer some monetary compensation as a way of apologizing for 75 years of refusing to acknowledge Fingers work, though in this case unlike the one involving the Kirby estate I feel I could support the family if they chose to legally pursue unpaid royalties, just not control of the character.

mattawbrown:
Bob Kane died in 1998. This article is about an argument between two dead men. This piece clearly panders to the underdog mentality. If the Batman brand hadn't become so successful would the estate be so quick to make meaningless statements?

.... quick? 75 years and two generations is what you consider... quick?

Idealistically, we'd like to see that the Finger family gets compensated for all of the money and royalties they lost out on that they rightfully deserve, if Bill Finger did put so much work into the brand.

Realistically speaking, though, DC might just try settling this out of court, probably put Finger's name as a co-creator or something, and pay out a small settlement, because it's DC, and they have the money and lawyers to make sure that all idealism gets stamped underfoot.

I'll let exteemed artist and writer, Ty Templeton (one of guys who made B:TAS into the aweseomess it is), express his opinion:

image

Anyway, really, it's like DC is sabotaging themselves these days. This is why Marvel is getting the upper hand. DC's got so much potential they could very easily give Marvel and all of their heroes a run for their money, but.... apparently DC are too busy self-sabotaging their properties to care.

Zira:
I'll let exteemed artist and writer, Ty Templeton (one of guys who made B:TAS into the aweseomess it is), express his opinion:

image

Anyway, really, it's like DC is sabotaging themselves these days. This is why Marvel is getting the upper hand. DC's got so much potential they could very easily give Marvel and all of their heroes a run for their money, but.... apparently DC are too busy self-sabotaging their properties to care.

That comic was linked in the article...

OT: For once this actually seems like the protection an artist rather than a cash grab, which is a nice change. I hope they do sue, or at least find some other way to get Finger the credit he deserves.

Unlike the claim of that one family that said they designed the TARDIS, this would have some legit creative assistance if nothing else. May as well give the credit. It's not like the Kane Estate is suddenly going to become less rich from lack of Batman.

I'm surprised there's no mention of the massive legal battle that only ended in the last few years regarding the original creators of Superman and DC. Having been a spectator to that (my best friend was somewhat involved), I can say it gets really ugly and expensive. DC has a history not only of treating creators poorly, but of fighting tooth and nail to ensure they are never recognized or properly compensated.

I don't see it as the descendants aiming for an easy paycheck (it won't be easy), but rather taking DC to task especially after that careless statement by Ganem. I totally hope the Finger estate as it would probably be called sues and wins both recognition and a massive payday.

Karadalis:

mattawbrown:
If the Batman brand hadn't become so successful would the estate be so quick to make meaningless statements?

No really? Who would have thought?

Ofcourse this is the point... It got famous and the guy who contributed the most to that famous creation goes unmentioned for over 70 years and dies broke and unknown while the guy who came up with the name lived a life of luxury in comparison. And then DC claims that they are on good terms with fingers family when it couldnt be farther from the truth.

Sorry but again.. that batman became so famous is the whole frigging point

If you created a comic book character and it got wildly popular and someone else got credited for it and you end up on the street out on your ass and you have nothing you can give your children while someone else makes millions off of your work.. wouldnt you want justice too?

As far as i can tell they only want finger properly credited, money was solely brought in by this article.. nothing in their press statement said anything about trying to get money out of DC even thought in my eyes they would have a right to do so too... and you critizes them for that?

The point is both men are now dead, deceased, they no longer can hold grudges or opinions. There probably isn't anyone left working at DC who was involved with the "deal". This is what happens when you do not read your contracts. The point is this is a non-story.

crazygameguy4ever:
I think Bill Finger should get credit.. he deserves it for helping to create Batman

I like that. Kind of like how America helped France beat back the German invaders. Twice.

How about this: I say a one sentence idea. You write an entire novel from that one idea and the novel goes on to be a best-seller that thrills generations. Now, my name is the only one that goes on the cover of that novel and I take all the money and you get nothing. But you helped, even though I never mention it and neither does anyone else. Savvy?

But since no one recorded or probably even witnessed all the collaboration, it's hard to tell over the years what was Finger's and what was Kane's aside from those things known documented to Finger. Would Kane have eventually come up with such things on his own? I just saw some of a video interview Kane did with Stan Lee (couldn't bring myself to watch all of it) in which Kane says he designed costumes and vehicles for the Batman (Tim Burton) movie. Being the artist, he would be the final designer of anything that anyone described in words. So, is Kane's contribution completely null if the original idea came from someone else? Which shoe is on which foot? At the very least, both the fame and the wealth should have been 50/50. So, yes, Finger's descendants deserve some compensation from Kane's estate if that is what they are seeking. I'm not sure DC could be held responsible since they may have been as in the dark originally about Finger's contribution as anyone else. Does anyone have any documentation that the DC execs at the time of Kane's contract signing also knew about Finger's contribution and also chose to ignore it? Documentation of that would be harmful to any claim of innocence by DC. But, for now, it seems the whole fault lies with Bob Kane. And just because someone can be taken advantage of doesn't mean that they are to blame for being a patsy. That is the kind of argument that blames the woman for being raped. F*ck you and anyone else who thinks that way. The crook is always to blame and should always be brought to justice. How can anyone who created Batman, or read and admire him, not demand that we adhere to that sense of justice? Otherwise it all just collapses into hypocrisy and rust and we might as well just go home, stuff our faces, get fat and die. That would be a great legacy for Batman.

 

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