Today we are joined by Marc Nobleman, author of “Boys of Steel” and “the upcoming book “Bill the Boy Wonder,” focused on the story of Batman co-creator Bill Finger.
What prompted you to write your latest book, “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman?”
As a lifelong superhero fan, the chance to write professionally about Batman (like Superman before him) was in the “dream come true” neighborhood. As an author, the chance to write a story about a subject well known in one respect but completely mysterious in another was an exhilarating challenge. As a marketing person, the chance to write a nonfiction book on a subject that hasn’t been the focus of its own book before was strategically appealing.
Can you explain who Bill Finger is and why he is important?
Simply, without Bill Finger, we would not have Batman. He designed the costume. He wrote the first story and many of the best stories of the first 25 years of the character, including the pioneering and enduring origin. He dreamed up most of the most iconic villains. He named Gotham City and the Batmobile, and he even was the one who nicknamed Batman the Dark Knight—a phrase so mainstream that it’s been in the title of two Batman films…without the word “Batman.” Yet Bill’s so-called partner, cartoonist Bob Kane, took full credit for Batman. When Bill died in 1974, he’d not been officially credited as co-creator a single time and had never seen his name appear as writer in a first-run Batman comic.
What are your thoughts on Bob Kane?
I never met or spoke with him, so everything I feel is based on interviews he gave and stories people who knew him told. I don’t have much positive to say about him except that he had an eye for recognizing talent—i.e. Bill and the numerous ghost artists he hired. It seems late in life he developed something approaching a conscience about Bill, but it was far too late for Bill, and nothing came of it for Bill’s family, either.
You’ve written two books (“Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman” and “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman”) about the creators for two of the most iconic superhero characters. Are there any interesting stories you found during your research that stand out in your mind?
Many. I was the one who discovered the following:
– the true story of the tragic death of Jerry Siegel’s father
– the only two known photos of the building in which Joe Shuster lived when he first drew Superman
– the likely truth behind the persistent rumor that Hitler personally banned Superman
– Bill Finger’s lone and previously unknown heir
– Bill Finger’s given name (which led me to his yearbook photo)
– 10 more photos of him, the first uncovered in nearly 40 years (and in addition to only three or so that have already been published)
– previously unpublished details about his family, including his long-lost sister
Batman has been around for several decades. He has been through various forms, from camp to gritty, and has starred in TV shows, games, and films. What are your thoughts on Batman’s longevity and adaptability and do you have a favorite interpretation of the character?
My favorite interpretation is Michael Keaton’s portrayal in the first two movies. He was intense, almost hypnotic—a bit batty, you might say. In comics, my favorite portrayal is anything short of outright psychotic! I have favorite stories though not necessarily favorite eras. I think Batman has endured because he was the first superhero to have an emotional reason to fight crime—he was orphaned by violence. There is also the feeling that with training, cash, will, and courage, any of us could be Batman. In a warped way, that makes him seem relatable.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for the opportunity. If you have any appreciation for Batman or superheroes in general, please check out Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman in July. It’s a cautionary tale, a family drama, a detective story. It has no happy ending…yet.