BOB KANE Poster I had in my office at Unicef... I post this because I absolutely love this thing. I love how bad it is. The "kids" all look like tiny adults and I love how they are the most stereotypical race depictions you could find anywhere. I love the little Chinese kid on Batman's shoulder. This is so bad I have no doubt Bob did this. This was done, by the way, in 1979.
Anyway, back to our story...
I don't know if Kane didn't draw because he just couldn't or if he was simply lazy and just wanted to reap the hard work of others. I don't think we'll ever know.
Let's talk a little bit about Bill Finger, Bob's "friend".
Kane used to meet Bill at Poe Park in the Bronx and they would hash out stories and ideas for Batman. People would tell Finger he was getting ripped off by Bob and he would humbly accept that this was his lot in life.
By all accounts, Bill was fiercely shy and seldom spoke up for himself. There have been, in the years since he died penniless, countless people who have fought to get him the credit he deserved, and none probably more so than Marc Nobleman who did a book called BILL THE BOY WONDER which was a book detailing Bill's contribution to BATMAN. Marc also did a lot of legwork to track down an heir to Bill's because copyright law states you cannot gain credit for a creator who is deceased if that creator has no living heirs. Through his hardwork he found out that Bill has a grandaughter and he brought her to DC Comics who welcomed her with open arms, up to but stopping at giving her grandfather credit for his work on Batman.
At a comic con in 2014 a fan asked a rep from DC Comics if they were going to do the right thing and give Bill Finger co-credit status on Batman. The rep's reply was that DC and the Finger family were "good".
Well, this didn't sit well with the family and they decided they were not good and they sought and eventually won a semi co-credit line for Bill as well as a stipend for the heirs.
I doubt this would have been successful if Kane was still alive.
There's a documentary on Hulu called BATMAN AND BILL which unfortunately is more a documentary on Marc and his hard work to get Bill the creator credit than it is a look at Bill Finger himself. I'm not slighting Marc's efforts, but it seems ironic that Bill Finger once again got the shaft.
In the comics industry, there is an award called THE FINGER AWARD which is geared towards creators who got short shrifted by the industry.
When Kane "wrote" his autobiography in 1989 to cash in on the BATMAN movie craze that year he took to promoting the book which is itself a trip into the mind of someone who actually believes the nonsense he's been spouting for 50 years at that point.
One of my favorite appearances is his with Stan Lee, who is accused by many people of being the "Bob Kane of Marvel Comics" in that he often takes credit for works while forgetting the artists who worked with him, but I'll leave that for another time.
In this particular interview you have Kane at his zaniest-- wearing a cravat under his shirt and laughing when Lee says he should introduce himself because of course everyone should already know who he is and then he goes through the book.
As I said, the book is worth a read to see the madness. One of the things that stood out to me were a series of drawings Bob produced from his archives dated 1934.
His Ghost Writer Tom Andrae doubted the legitimacy of these drawings and with good reason. They are completely fake.
How do I know for certain?W
First, of every Bob Kane attributed drawing I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of them, I've NEVER seen a date on one. Not one. This one is suspicious because the date is so prominent. Why? Because that would mean that he came up with this Bat-like man FOUR years before he sold it to DC Comics.
Second, he's not sure whether this is going to be Bat-Man, Bird-Man or Eagle-Man-- yeah right. That's why ALL of the drawings feature a bat like cape and bat mask not to mention the BAT SYMBOL on his chest!
Third-- about that Bat Mask-- we know from Part One of my look at this tale that Kane originally pictured a Robin like domino mask on his hero. It was Bill Finger who suggested the hood with bat-ears.
Equally laughable in the book is an encounter Kane alleged to have had with Marilyn Monroe which caused him to base Vicki Vale on her. He claims he meets her in 1943 when he's in Los Angeles to watch them film the first Batman Serial, in which he cameos as the newsboy in Chapter 1 and apparently forgot about. He then says he meets her again in 1948 when he's out for the second serial-- and at one of these two meetings they go to the beach and he draws her.
Google Bob Kane Marilyn sketches-- they are worth seeing. If you know even one iota about art or life drawing you will recognize right away these are NOT drawn from life. They are the typical poses he was already using in his very limited book of poses.
Now it's very possible Vicki Vale is based on Marilyn Monroe-- but Shelly Moldoff's ability to capture likenesses wasn't much better than Kane's so it's just a blonde woman who looks more like Ethel Mertz than Marilyn Monroe.
There's more in there too-- like the time he takes on a whole gang of hooligans in 1920s New York, blah blah blah.
But the best part of the book is that he actually acknowledges that Bill Finger had a lot to do with creating Batman, never mind that it's fifteen years after Finger's death, Kane is obviously feeling some morose about it-- but not enough to mention on 20/20 or any of his dozens of interviews, just enough to throw a line in the book.
DC Comics did almost the right thing in 2015 when they decided to change the credit line to BATMAN BY BOB KANE WITH BILL FINGER-- I personally feel it should be the other way around.
It's a shame Finger never stood up for himself, it's a shame nice people get screwed over. Still, let's end this with Jim Steranko.
Jim Steranko is a rarity in the world of comics, and I'm going to insult a lot of friends here with this statement-- he's a real artist. He's a visionary. His work in comics was actually pretty limited when you compare it to the other giants of the field but he was just too big to be limited by the constraints of the comic book world.
Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Jerry Robinson, Frank Miller and Jim Steranko. THOSE are the giants of the industry, the rest of us are just players.
In addition to being a comic book artist, a magician and an escape artist (the character of Mr Miracle is based on him) Steranko was a historian before there were hundreds of historians in the comics world. His HISTORY OF COMICS Tabloid series was landmark for its time and remains a potent look at the early days of the comics industry.
In the books published in (I think) 1974 Steranko is frank about the contributions of the ghosts from the period.
Here's his Bob Kane story. Take it away Jim;
I'd hadn't encountered Kane in my travels, but at one rockin' SDCC, an associate asked me if I wanted to meet him, walked me into a hallway. There he was, in a small group of people, wearing patent-leather shoes-- and an ASCOT, like he was Vitamin f******g Flintheart in a Dick Tracy cartoon.
For years, I'd heard how he'd taken credit for Bill Finger's contributions (in addition to half his pay) and other despicable tales from his associates. But nothing aces an in-person encounter. We were introduced and Kane began talking about my Batman chapter in the HISTORY OF COMICS, which treated him--and everyone else--very respectfully.
He felt I credited Robinson & Finger (both of whom I knew intimately) too much. Kane (aka Kahn) was beyond pretentious, an intolerable ass as pompous as they come. I bit my tongue while he regaled us with his many achievements.
The group was waiting for an elevator, which they stepped into when the door opened. Our conversation ended, but not before he said: "See you later, Jim, baby," and cuffed me across the face--like some rat-pack street gesture he'd seen in some cheap flick. The doors closed...
I was stunned by the sheer audacity of a stranger--like him--to lay a hand on me, and boiling with anger. That night, I couldn't sleep and the next morning began combing the halls for his Bat Majesty. Around noon, I found him in another group, which I walked into. "Good to see you, Bob, baby!" I said, then bitch-slapped him across the face.
But this time, there was no elevator door closing between us. I stood there for about 15 seconds, waiting.
He did nothing.
I turned and left. But I regret it now. I regret that he didn't do anything about it, even though he was at least a head taller than me. I wouldn't have minded bleeding at all for one more opportunity to give Kane the kind of Bat Lesson that Finger, Robinson, Sprang and others only dreamed of.