The Remake

The special edition of Detective Comics #27 features the first Batman story, The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, plus three reimaginings.

The Original

Cover of the original Detective Comics #27. The May 1939 issue actually hit newsstands March 30 and featured the first adventure of The Bat-Man, as he was then known.

The Original

Cover of the original Detective Comics #27. The May 1939 issue actually hit newsstands March 30 and featured the first adventure of The Bat-Man, as he was then known.

The Original

Click to expand any of these slides

The Original

Click to expand any of these slides

Present day remake

A present-day retelling of Chemical Syndicate, by writer Brad Meltzer and artist Bryan Hitch.

Present day remake

A present-day retelling of Chemical Syndicate, by writer Brad Meltzer and artist Bryan Hitch.

Futuristic Retelling

A futuristic retelling of Chemical Syndicate, by writer Scott Snyder and artist Sean Murphy.

Futuristic Retelling

A futuristic retelling of Chemical Syndicate, by writer Scott Snyder and artist Sean Murphy.

Futuristic Retelling

A futuristic retelling of Chemical Syndicate, by writer Scott Snyder and artist Sean Murphy.

Upcoming version

Four pages tease yet another reimagining of Chemical Syndicate, by Meltzer and designer Chip Kidd. It will appear in the fall hardcover book Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years.

Batman Timeline

Click to expand

Batman Timeline

Click to expand

Co.Create

Who Really Created Batman? A DC Comics Historian Weighs In On The Controversy

As the Batman 75th anniversary ramp-up to San Diego Comic-Con further fuels the controversy over who created the Caped Crusader, DC Comics' historian offers more insight.

It seemed innocuous enough. DC Entertainment declared July 23 Batman Day, with retailers and libraries giving away a special edition reprint of the first Batman story, as it appeared in Detective Comics #27 in 1939, illustrated by creator Bob Kane, and written by Bill Finger.

That is, until the comic press noted the latter’s name on the cover, interpreting it as DCE’s final concession that Finger was co-creator of the famed character and franchise.

Click to expand

“What makes this issue really significant, is that, to my knowledge, it’s the first time Batman’s co-creator Bill Finger has received a cover credit for the original Batman story,” writes Comics Alliance’s Chris Sims. “Of course, Finger’s name is still underneath Kane’s, but, well, baby steps.”

As the celebration of Batman’s 75th anniversary builds toward San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), which runs July 24-27, so too does a long-simmering controversy over whether Finger--who wrote many early Batman comics, and contributed to the superhero’s costume, origin story, and characters before passing away in 1974--should be granted co-creator status alongside Kane, who died in 1998. Kane is slated for an upcoming star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for creating a character that has spawned the most successful box office superhero franchise, pulling in more than $3.7 billion worldwide.

“I give Bill Finger major credit for the success of Batman; almost all the good ideas were his,” says SDCC special guest Jim Steranko, a comics illustrator and historian who infamously slapped Kane at one Comic-Con. “According to Bill, it was he who created the Joker, inspired by the imagery he spotted on a Coney Island ride. He was the real talent behind Batman.”

L-R Bill Finger, Athena Finger, and Michael Keaton as Batman on the set of the 1992 film Batman Returns alongside Bob Kane

Meanwhile, Sims’s article capped months of online angst: an unsuccessful campaign for a Google doodle celebrating Finger’s birthday, a Kickstarter effort for a Finger documentary, Google's scrapping of a planned Batman 75th Anniversary doodle due to the controversy, fan questions about Finger’s credit at WonderCon, and subsequent legal rumblings by Finger’s granddaughter, Athena Finger, another SDCC special guest.

Finger would not comment for this story beyond her May 5 statement made through the Comic Arts Council: "My grandfather has never been properly credited as the co-creator of Batman although it 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. I am currently exploring our rights and considering how best to establish the recognition that my grandfather deserves."

DC Entertainment Responds

DCE maintains Kane is the sole creator of Batman. It also asserts that Finger made massive contributions to the DC Comics mythology--not just with Batman, but a host of other characters. “We love what Bill Finger has contributed to the mythology, and we've always acknowledged and compensated him and his estate for that work,” DC Entertainment co-publisher and artist Jim Lee told Comic Book Resources last month.

But there’s a distinction between contribution and creation. “There’s been a very cumulative building of the Batman lore,” says Steve Korté, DCE’s librarian and historian. “It’s based on what Bob Kane did at the beginning and a lot of talent has come along and helped shape the character.”

DC historian Steve Korté

Meanwhile, Finger’s listing on the cover of the Detective #27 reprint--alongside the other issue contributors--is in keeping with today’s crediting practice. “Typically, cover credits for writers and artists didn’t show up in comics until the late '70s,” says Korté. “The reason Bob Kane’s name has been on the cover of Detective Comics #27 since the beginning is because he drew it in.” (This month, DC instituted royalties and cover credits to colorists as well.)

Korté, a 20-year DC Comics veteran, explains the sequence of events that lead to the creation and development of Batman. “After Superman debuted in 1938 and became an instant hit, DC editor Vince Sullivan asked Bob Kane to come up with a superhero, which he did with Batman,” he adds. “During that process, he went to a friend, Bill Finger, who gave him some tips on costume adjustments. For example, Bob initially drew bat wings on Batman. Bill suggested a scalloped cape. After Batman became a hit in May, 1939, Bob brought in more people throughout the year.”

Over time, delineating specific contributions has become increasingly difficult. “Bill was an amazing writer, who wrote for Batman for more than 30 years and came up with a lot of great stories,” says Korté. “But so did others. Gardner Fox wrote a lot of the stories that inspired the TV series in 1966. Christopher Nolan credits Batman editor [and SDCC special guest] Denny O’Neil and writer Alan Moore with influencing him in Batman Begins. Kane, Finger, and Kane’s art assistant, Jerry Robinson, all claimed to have collectively come up with the Joker and Robin.

Click to expand

“And both Finger and Fox laid claim to origin story, which appeared in Detective Comics #33 in November, 1939,” he adds. “We credit Gardner Fox, but I do know that some folks have given credit to Bill Finger over the years, so I guess it’s one of those stories where no one knows for sure.”

See the gallery above for a sneak peak at the Batman Day special edition and Batman timeline.

Those attending SDCC can check out the following Batman 75th Anniversary sessions: Batman 75: Legends of the Dark Night, Batman '66, and Batman 75th Anniversary. Athena Finger appears on the Spotlight on Bill Finger and Who Created Batman? panels.

Correction: An earlier version of this article featured a photo of Gardner Fox, instead of Bill Finger. A correction has been made.

Add New Comment

12 Comments

  • batmanismanbat

    Can anyone tell me what comic the first image is from? Forgive the ignorance, but it looks fascinating.

  • Just saw this. Did you mean the first slide? That's a close-up of slide#3, Detective Comics #27, which featured the Case of the Chemical Syndicate (the first story featuring Batman). If you meant the first image within the story, that's from the present-day retelling of Chemical Syndicate, by writer Brad Meltzer and artist Bryan Hitch, that appeared in a special publication given out during Batman Day.

  • (see previous post for start)

    #4 Grand Comics Database, http://www.comics.org/issue/560/ (heavily researched by longtime comics scholars): “Contains a 2 page origin sequence, the 'original' origin. Written by Bill Finger (credit from Craig Delich and Martin O'Hearn, October, 2005).”

    #5 MEN OF TOMORROW, page 350: attributes origin to Bill

    #6 http://www.supermanartists.comics.org/dchistory/DCHISTORY-1.htm: “November 1939, Bill Finger writes a two page origin of Batman which is pasted on to the beginning of Gardner Fox's story in Detective 33.”

    #7 BATMAN CHRONICLES, VOLUME 1 does indeed credit Gardner Fox for “Dirigible” but does NOT credit Fox or anyone else with writing the two-page origin preceding it; as you said, the second telling of the origin from Batman #1 is indeed credited to Finger; HOWEVER, since the second telling is virtually IDENTICAL to the first, DC surely would’ve credited Fox AND Finger if Fox wrote the first version; in any case, speculation is moot given #s 1-3.

  • At least six sources, including two DC publications and Bob’s autobiography, credit Bill with the origin in Detective #33:

    #1: BATMAN: THE COMPLETE HISTORY (authorized DC book), page 33: “…when Bill Finger returned in Detective #33 (November 1939) it was with the most famous Batman tale of all time, the origin story”

    #2 DC COMICS: A CELEBRATION OF THE WORLD’S FAVORITE COMIC BOOK HEROES (authorized DC book), page 34: credits origin jointly to Bob and Bill

    #3 BATMAN AND ME (Bob Kane’s autobiography), page 104: “Bill and I collaborated on the origin”; we know that Bob took credit for as much as he could, so when he DID credit anyone else for anything, it is especially worth paying attention to

    (see next post for rest)

  • Michelle Bass

    If DC, as caretaker of Batman and mythos, who now has world-wide legendary status, does not at this point due to such historical significance PROPERLY and fully honor the man who it is well-known did this creation work of Batman, the history books will harshly judge them, as will Batman fans and probably millions of others very soon, as I am sure this story will become known to the masses, its just a matter of time. Honestly from what I've heard, I don't think Batman fans are willing to tolerate less than full respect any longer, DC would proceed in that direction now at their own risk of generating protests and mass condemnation. From someone watching this unfold very closely.

  • Michelle Bass

    Wow!! I am SOOO disappointed to read these words from Steve Korté, I thought DC was in a more truthful and honorable place than this at this point, if he is speaking for them.

    For him to word it as : “It’s based on what Bob Kane did at the beginning and a lot of talent has come along and helped shape the character.” - lumping Bill in with all those who came after , that is simply wrong re: his status as creator, and misleading. Bill WAS there at the very, very beginning. All Bob Kane had was a sketch which was totally different from what Batman became, and a vision for him as a superhero and powers that he would have which was also totally discarded. Bill Finger came up with almost everything iconic about Batman - Batman's look, his superpowers or lack thereof, how he fought (detective, gadgets), the batcave, the batmobile, Robin, Commisioner Gordon, most of the villians, GOTHAM, etc etc. This shows how misleading and wrong the words you used are.

  • Actually, DC Comics has credited Bill Finger for Batman's origin (see BATMAN CHRONICLES VOL. 1).

    That photo is Gardner Fox, not Bill. I've posted numerous photos of Bill: http://noblemania.blogspot.com/2014/02/new-previously-unpublished-bill-finger.html.

    Batman is NOT "based on what Bob Kane did at the beginning." What he did was sketch a character that Bill completely overhauled; there was no backstory attached when Bob then showed the revamped character design to Vin.

    DC just produced a poster of Batman milestones for comic shops. Bill was the main creative force behind THE FIRST NINE. And Bill had a hand (or was the hand) in twelve of the first fourteen:

    http://noblemania.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-first-time-for-first-nine.html

    Thank you for doing an article to spread word of Bill Finger's substantial contribution to Batman.

    • Marc Tyler Nobleman, author of BILL THE BOY WONDER (first-ever biography of Bill Finger)
  • We've added the correct picture of Bill Finger. Thanks for the catch! Also, here's a response from Steve Korte:

    "The first time Batman’s origin story appeared was in DETECTIVE COMICS #33 in 1939 in a story called “The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom.” In THE BATMAN CHRONICLES VOL. 1, DC Comics credits Gardner Fox for writing that story. A later, revised version of that origin story appeared in BATMAN #1 in 1940, and that story was written by Bill Finger."