SO MUCH IS so right in “The Dark Knight Rises,” from the special performances to the special effects, that I was riding a Zimmer-scored, IMAX-ed cinematic high at a Tuesday screening till about Minute 163 1/2. That’s when the credits were rolling.
And that’s when Batman snubbed his great co-creator. Yet again.
In “Dark Knight Rises” (opening tonight), the end credit acknowledges only one person as the creator of the Bat-man. That, of course, is Bob Kane, who signed a sole creator contract in the ‘30s with DC Comics’ precursor. In doing so, Kane did not share credit with the creative partner who helped define Batman’s entire look — from cowl to scallopped cape — as well as the Dark Knight name.
Once again, more than 70 years later, Batman is still giving the finger to Bill Finger.
Even as comics-industry awareness continues to grow in honoring the contributions of legends like Jack Kirby , Warner Bros. and DC Comics and even the Kane estate still can’t seem to find a way to fully, rightfully, legally credit Batman’s long-silent partner — the talent for too long unmasked.
“Dark Knight Rises” writer-director Christopher Nolan is so faithful to so many moments from famed Batman books (including — semi-spoiler — the “Knightfall” image of Bane breaking the Caped Crusader’s back). The pity, though, is that Nolan — like all the Batman film directors in all of Hollywood’s Batman screen projects — must also be legally faithful to how the credit appears in the comics, with Kane cited solely as creator.
So did Bill Finger really earn the credit we seek for him?
Well, last year, several months before he died, early Batman artist Jerry Robinson shared stories with Comic Riffs of how he, Finger and Kane all worked on various characters — painting the distinct impression that Kane was no one-man creator in that New York studio. Kane had hired the teenage Robinson in 1939 — the year the Batman debuted. (Robinson also claimed that he co-created the Joker with Finger, which itself proved a point of contention.)
Plus, in his 2011 autobiography “Joe Simon: My Life in Comics,” the late Captain America co-creator — in noting the talented but overlooked DC staffer Whit Ellsworth — wrote: “The loudmouths there like Bob Kane would say they had done everything, and then people [internally] would give most of the credit to Bill Finger.”
In his excellent new biography “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman” (invitingly illustrated by Ty Templeton), Marc Tyler Nobleman tries to help shine a Gotham-worthy klieglight on Finger’s contributions.
“Every Batman story is marked with the words, ‘Batman created by Bob Kane,’ “ Nobleman writes in his book. “For almost thirty years, fans did not suspect otherwise. But that is not the whole truth. Bob Kane himself said so. A Finger had a hand in it, too.”
The book also cites the support of former DC publisher/artist Carmine Infantino, who considers Finger “the Father of Batman.”
So does Nobleman believe Finger, who died in 1974 at age 59, deserves a screen credit?
“I do, strongly,” the author tells Comic Riffs. “I even asked [former DC president/writer] Paul Levitz to include Bill’s name in [Nolan’s film] ‘The Dark Knight’ and thought my strategy was sound. But I was politely turned down.
“There is little chance of Finger being credited as anything other than a writer as long as the Kane ‘sole creator’ contract stands.”
Comic industry pros acknowledge Finger’s accomplishments, even presenting the annual Bill Finger Excellence in Comic Book Writing Award — a honor spearheaded by Robinson — at last week’s Eisner Awards at San Diego Comic-Con.
If only Batman could be as creative in acknowledging a parent who, to too much of the world, is still a masked and unknown creator.