Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman

A book from author Marc Tyler Nobleman, with illustrations by comic illustrator and writer Ty Templeton, tells the story of Bill Finger in "Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman." Though most credit for the creation of Batman goes to Bob Kane, Finger played an important role in making the Caped Crusader the character we know and love today. In honor of Finger's 100th birthday today, here is an excerpt from the book:

The last line in the first panel of the first Batman story refers to Batman, but for at least a quarter century, it also applied to the man who wrote it: "His identity remains unknown."

Considering Bill Finger was the prime mind behind Batman—one of the most iconic characters in pop-culture history—it’s startling how little has been written about him. No obituary for Bill ran in the mainstream media. He has not been the focus of a book before.

Until I began to dig, a lot of the little we knew about Bill was thanks to Jerry Bails, the enterprising comics fan and independent publisher who died in 2006. His pivotal 1965 interview, in which Bill explained just how much he’d done at the dawn of Batman, resulted in a fanzine article called “If the Truth Be Known or 'A Finger in Every Plot!'"

In response Bob Kane pointed the finger at Bill in a letter published in another fanzine, Batmania. Bob challenged Bill to repeat the claims to his face. He proclaimed, "I, Bob Kane, am the sole creator of 'Batman.'"

After reading Bob’s Batmania letter, Bill promptly called Bob. "I quite angrily spoke my mind and jogged Bob’s fading memory," Bill wrote in a personal letter. It may be the only indication in print that Bill—at least once—did stand up to Bob.

Though Bill apparently didn’t lobby for official credit or more money, he did continue to correct the record. In 1970 Bill stated that it was he who named Bruce Wayne and Gotham City. (The origin of the Joker is a subject of ongoing debate. Bob said that he and Bill created him. Jerry Robinson said that he and Bill created him. The constant was Bill—no one disputes that he wrote the first Joker story.)

In an interview conducted in 1972, Bill was perhaps more incriminating than in any other known documented instance. Reflecting on his quarter-century of work on Batman, he said, "Bob Kane was using me as a kind of tool all this time, to bolster his own paycheck."

Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of more than 70 books including "Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman" and "Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman." Ty Templeton is an award-winning comic book artist and writer who has worked on titles for Marvel and DC Comics, including "Batman Adventures" and "Ultimate Spider-Man."