What’s the deal with Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and credit?
Bob Kane was basically a con man, but also kind of a genius. He ended up getting the best deal out of anyone in the Golden Age by a LONG SHOT, mostly by selling out Siegel and Shuster when they tried to get a better deal and then lying about his age in order to invalidate the contract he signed with DC. This is why a lot of news stories about Batman will claim that Kane created him when he was 18, because he lied to Jack Liebowitz and told him he was underage when he signed the contract. If you go look up his actual age, like, say, on his hilariously self-aggrandizing tombstone, you can see how the numbers don’t quite add up. Seriously, go look up Bob Kane’s tombstone. I’ll wait.
I know, right? Anyway.
Bill Finger was Batman’s co-creator and the guy who wrote a lot of those early stories, but Kane got it into his contract that all the stories would have his name on them, and he would be listed as the sole creator of Batman. That’s why “BY BOB KANE” appears on stories that are very clearly drawn by Dick Sprang or Jerry Robinson (who created, you know, the Joker, etc). This wasn’t an uncommon practice back then by any means (Floyd Gottfredson and Carl Barks’s Disney strips were listed as being by Walt Disney until the mid ’70s, which is why Barks was known as “the Good Duck Artist” by fans, because they could tell his work but didn’t know who it actually was who drew it), but Kane, man, what a piece of work that guy was.That’s why DC is legally obliged to have the “Batman Created by Bob Kane” (and only Bob Kane) credit in all their books, but why your better encyclopedias and whatnot will all list Batman’s creators as Bob Kane and Bill Finger. Also why Denny O’Neil (I believe) named the entrance to the Gotham City Batcave “Finger Alley,” so that it would be seen every time Batman left for action.
Finger was, from my understanding, horribly bad at managing his money, but it certainly didn’t help that the guy who co-created Batman could never actually claim that. He wrote a few episodes of the Batman TV show as well, but he died in obscurity while Kane was a beloved millionaire who got trotted out to movie premieres. That’s why the Eisners have the Bill Finger Award for underappreciated writers. There’s a recent book about it called BILL THE BOY WONDER by Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ty Templeton that I have around here somewhere that talks about it, well worth checking out.
One more tangentially related story: When Joe Simon and Jack Kirby went to DC to moonlight and get more money after creating Captain America, Liebowitz originally wanted to put them on Detective Comics and have them do Batman. He asked if Kirby could draw like Bob Kane because they had to have an artist that would pass for Kane’s work, and Kirby, being Kirby, said of course he could, and grabbed a sheet of paper and drew Batman real quick.Liebowitz took one look at Kirby’s “Bob Kane style” Batman drawing, threw it in the trash, and put them on Sandman instead.