Written by by Marc Tyler Nobleman with illustrations by Ty Templeton, this book was published in 2012 and has received a lot of attention and praise. I'm a *huge* Batman fan, but the reason why I never rushed to read this until now was I was afraid I'd never finish reading a thick tome of a biography. But after joining a reading group a friend started to read 50 books this year, I finally ordered myself a copy, inspired to invest the time to read it through once I received it.
It arrived today, and I finished it in 20 minutes!
In all the time I'd read notices about this book, I'd never ever gotten the impression that it was written as a children's book. But now, I look at the Product Details section of the Amazon description of it for the first time, and there it is right at the start:
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Before I started reading it, I wondered if this book should even qualify as a book for my reading group, or if it would be more fair to call it half a book. But having now finished it, it does tell, however briefly, a remarkable story full of interesting facts followed by an Author's Note several pages long detailing the research, revelations and end notes to Bill Finger's legacy.
By all accounts, Bill Finger is the uncredited co-creator of Batman who died in 1974 with barely any fanfare. And surely none was expected from fans who knew nothing about him and his connection to the Caped Crusader.
But he was the young man who helped finesse Bob Kane's initial sketches of this new character Kane designed called Bat-Man into his signature look; wrote the first Joker, Catwoman and Robin stories; later created the origin story for Batman; and continued to write Batman stories for some twenty-odd years after his debut in Detective Comics #27 in 1939 (one year after Superman's debut), all the while never getting creator credit and the financial compensation that goes with that. That solely went to Bob Kane because that's how the contract with the publisher was drawn up at Kane's direction. That made Kane a millionaire. But Finger simply wasn't a fighter, so he never fought for his fair share.
Every page of the story is fully illustrated, like children books are, with oversized panels to echo the comic book motif. The artwork is clean and drawn in a realistic but simplistic style, presenting both specific key scenes in Finger's life as well as a few spreads spotlighting his most important work on Batman.
The Author's Note at the end is what really helps elevate this children's book to one readers of all ages will find worthwhile. Beyond his interviews with family and comic book industry colleagues, Nobleman's search for biographical information on and photos of Finger was quite challenging. At the time of publishing, he was only able to locate a total 17 photos of Finger. He later found out from his second wife that "We weren't photo people." And in hoping to find an heir of Finger's that could receive his modest royalty checks from DC Comics, he reveals both a sad and a happy ending.
I was shocked when I opened my package to find an oversized children's book. But was relieved that this turned out to be a satisfying biography shining a spotlight on a man that I never knew about but am now so grateful to. He wrote the earliest adventures of my childhood hero which Kane didn't always draw (Kane hired ghost artists, among them Jerry Robinson, to help draw those early Batman stories). It makes me a little sad knowing what Kane never shared with his collaborator. But through this modest book, Bill Finger finally gets some long overdue recognition.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!