Bill Finger co-created Batman with Bob Kane, but he was working for Kane's studio at the time, and Kane negotiated a deal with DC Comics predecessor National Comics that listed him as the sole creator. DC is still bound by that deal to this day.
But Finger created most of Batman's current look, changed him from "a superhero vigilante" to "a scientific detective" according to Kane himself, came up with the name Bruce Wayne and Gotham City, and created several of Batman's supporting characters and villains (though there is some dispute over the creation of the Joker). Artist Ty Templeton illustrated Finger's contributions nicely earlier this year:
Anyway, DC is celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Batman's creation this year, but Finger's granddaughter, Athena Finger has a different view of things, according to a press release sent out last night by the Comic Arts Council:
DC Comics “All Good with Finger and His Family”?
HIS FAMILY RESPONDS
During a recent WonderCon Anaheim panel for Batman’s 75th anniversary, an audience member asked panelists for opinions about the fact that writer Bill Finger does not get a creator credit alongside Bob Kane, who is credited as the legendary character’s sole creator even though Finger came up with defining qualities for this character before Kane ever signed his first contract to produce the Dark Knight’s adventures. Finger wrote the first Batman story, his tragic origin, and hundreds upon hundreds of comic book stories for more than a quarter of a century. He named both Bruce Wayne and Gotham City, he created Commissioner Gordon, he developed many other supporting characters, he created or co-created one fantastic villain after another, and yet he died broke and relatively unknown more than 40 years ago.
After a moment of silence following the audience member’s question, panelist Brian Buccellato joked, “Crickets.” The panel’s moderator, DC Comics' Larry Ganem, then said, “We cherish what Bill Finger did and his contribution to creating Batman, and we’re all good with Finger and his family.”
The aforementioned Finger family, which consists only of Bill Finger’s granddaughter and her son, later learned about this exchange and did not agree with Mr. Ganem’s “all good” assessment.
ATHENA FINGER RESPONDS: “75 years of Batman! No one could have predicted the longevity and the continued relevance of this comic book hero that has become a cultural icon when my grandfather, Bill Finger, collaborated with Bob Kane back in 1939. My grandfather has never been properly credited as the co-creator of Batman although 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, whose biggest flaw was his inability to defend his extraordinary talent. Due to what I feel is continued mistreatment of a true artist, I am currently exploring our rights and considering how best to establish the recognition that my grandfather deserves.”
In his autobiography, Bob Kane acknowledged, “Now that my long-time friend and collaborator is gone, I must admit that Bill never received the fame and recognition he deserved. He was an unsung hero.” Regarding the issue of giving Finger official credit, Kane specifically said, “I often tell my wife, if I could go back fifteen years, before he died, I’d like to say, ‘I’ll put your name on it now. You deserve it.’”
This fall, the Warner Bros. television series GOTHAM will feature many Bill Finger creations, including the city itself. Will the series that carries the name he gave to Batman's city credit him in any way?
THE CAPE CREATOR Bill Finger Tribute: https://www.facebook.com/BillFingerTribute
Bill Finger Appreciation Group: https://www.facebook.com/billfingergroup
The Comic Arts Council: https://www.facebook.com/TheComicArtsCouncil
We wish Athena luck in her quest, which is a noble one, but faces some strong opposition. The claims of the estate of Superman co-creator Joe Shuster that his heirs should own part of the rights to Superman were denied by an appeals court, while the claims of fellow Superman co-creator Jerry Seigel's estate are ongoing. Jack Kirby's heirs are taking their fight with Marvel Comics for Kirby's characters all the way to the Supreme Court. Gary Friedrich, who co-created the motorcycle-riding Ghost Rider, settled a case with Marvel in 2013.
Screwing over creators is a proud comics industry tradition that is carried on by Marvel and DC to this day, and changing it won't be easy. However, Athena Finger doesn't mention seeking ownership, only recognition, so maybe that won't as uphill a battle. Finger's contributions are an open secret in the comic book industry. Will DC work with Finger's family to do something right?