Pop quiz: Who created Batman?
Even if you think you know the answer, it’s very possible your information is outdated.
In 1939, illustrator Bob Kane (1915–1998) was tasked by DC Comics editor Vin Sullivan to devise a character for Detective Comics that could complement—and ideally capitalize on the success of—the costumed hero who had the year earlier made his debut in the pages of Action Comics: Superman. Inspired in equal measure by Leonardo da Vinci’s 1485 design sketches of an “ornithopter,” a 1930 mystery movie entitled The Bat Whispers, and the 1920 silent film The Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks, the commercially savvy Kane managed in short order to assemble the Bat-Man “from an assortment of pop culture debris that together transcended the sum of its parts” (Grant Morrison, Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us about Being Human, [New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2011], 17). Part nocturnal predator, part avenging angel—with a secret identity as a millionaire playboy, to boot—Batman was the Gothic (k)night to Superman’s sunny savior of the day. An enduring icon had, against astronomical odds, been created, albeit removed from a narrative framework:
“‘When I created the Batman,’ admitted Bob Kane, ‘I wasn’t thinking of story. I was thinking, I have to come up with a character who’s different,’ and as an artist he was clearly more concerned with pictures than plot. [Writer Bill] Finger, however, was a born story man, blessed with enough pictorial sense to realize what would work in comics” (Les Daniels, Batman: The Complete History, [San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999], 23).
Finger, a friend and former high-school classmate of Kane’s, further fleshed out the character, whom he saw “as a combination of Alexandre Dumas’s swashbuckler D’Artagnan from The Three Musketeers (1844) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective Sherlock Holmes” (ibid.), and wrote countless Batman scripts in the years that followed. By even Kane’s own admission, Finger embellished and contributed to many aspects of the mythos (including rechristening what was initially New York as “Gotham City”), yet was never credited as co-creator of Batman: “Bob Kane had made his deal with DC Comics on his own, and Finger was merely Kane’s employee” (ibid., 31).