Send up the Bat-Signal: “Batman & Bill” has the inside scoop on comics king Bob Kane and his secret collaborator.
The late Kane is known the world over as the creator of Batman, one of the most successful franchises in entertainment history. The superhero first appeared in DC Comics in 1939 and has since spawned TV series, movies and an endless stream of merchandise.
But according to “Batman & Bill,” the documentary premiering on Hulu in May, Kane hardly deserved the sole credit he routinely receives in taglines. The silent partner in the creation was Bill Finger, a writer in Kane’s studio who devised many of the most familiar elements of the Batman story, from his sidekick Robin to his trademark cowl mask.
Marc Tyler Nobleman, a comics expert whose book “Bill the Boy Wonder” inspired the documentary from filmmakers Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce, explains why Kane overshadowed Finger for decades.
“A lot of it has to do with the times,” Nobleman told reporters at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena on Saturday. “This was a different era where often comic strips and sometimes comic books were created by a team and one person got the credit, the person who started what we call the shop, the studio.
“Bob Kane, at the beginning, was more dominant in a business sense,” he added. “Bill was desperate to create; he was getting a chance to write for a living. Half the country was out of work, period …. So I think he was a little bit more willing to compromise in ways that we, now, look at as unacceptable.”
“We still don’t know exactly what he did,” Nobleman added. “Whatever he did, it didn’t pay off for him, because he died with nothing.” Finger died in 1974; Kane, who conceded that Finger never received the proper recognition for his work, died in 1998.
Recent years have brought some vindication. DC Comics in 2015 cut a deal with the Finger family that gave Bill Finger credits on future “Batman” films and the TV series “Gotham.”
Nobleman says that the Hulu doc is not the end of his quest to restore a rightful place in history to Finger. “There’s still Batman fans out there who do not know, so whenever I can talk about it, I will,” he said.