|Bob Kane, circa 1967|
Kane denied using ghosts for a good thirty years, seeing himself as the star of the strip. In the years past most of those ghost artists and writers have been recognized and Kane's reputation has suffered because of it.
Bob Kane more than anything else was a businessman, thanks to some good fortune and well connected family in the Manhattan garment industry. Kane's story would make a heck of a movie.
In 1938 the comic book industry as we know it was born with the release of ACTION COMICS #1-- featuring a brand new character by two very young men from the midwest-- SUPERMAN. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had spent years hawking Superman to newspaper syndicates in the hopes of selling it as the new big comic strip property-- but the industry thought the idea of a super powered alien being was too outlandish for the adult audience of comic strips and the project was eventually brought to National Publications (soon to be known as DC Comics) where the character became a sensation and an industry was born.
Siegel and Shuster, trusting young men from Cleveland Ohio, signed contracts with the publisher that would net them a healthy $800 a week to produce the art and the story for Superman-- but as work for hire, virtually giving DC Comics the character of Superman as their property. $800 is a lot of money in 1938 and they had such a hard time selling the concept its not hard to imagine them eagerly signing such a contract.
Their story does not go well, seeking to get the rights to the character back in 1947 they are fired by DC Comics and lose in their attempted lawsuit-- scratching out livings near the poverty level all the way up to 1976 when DC is shamed into giving them a pension by superstar artist (and someone you don't mess with) Neal Adams-- who pointed out the tidal wave of bad publicity that would come just as the million dollar blockbuster SUPERMAN (1978) would hit movie screens with Christopher Reeve as The Man of Steel.
Kane played his hand better, bringing a similar character to DC Comics a year later, but with counsel wise enough to give him part ownership.
But would a character called Bird-Man be a hit?
FIND OUT TOMORROW