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Most Batman fans have enjoyed the Dark Knight in comics or on the big screen and are eagerly anticipating the release of the new Justice League movie. But only real fans know the other characters who have donned the cowl in place of Bruce Wayne, or know the full origin stories of those who make up the rogues gallery. 100 Things Batman Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die is the ultimate resource for true fans, whether you're a comic book collector, an aficionado of Christopher Nolan's films, or both! Joseph McCabe of Nerdist.com has collected every essential piece of Dark Knight knowledge and trivia, as well as must-do activities, and ranks them all from 1 to 100, providing an entertaining and easy-to-follow checklist as you progress on your way to fan superstardom. Contains exclusive interviews with Batman creators!
About the Author
Joseph McCabe is a reporter and critic for the Nerdist and Total Film. He is also the West Coast editor of SFX magazine. His book Hanging Out with the Dream King was nominated for the Bram Stoker and International Horror Guild Awards.
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Bill Finger and Bob Kane
The Caped Crusader has always stood as a pillar of virtue and justice. But the tale of his creation was long one of hypocrisy and cultural deceit.
Superman's debut in 1938 introduced the superhero genre to comic books, and the Man of Steel's publisher, National Comics Publications (as DC Comics was then known), was all too eager to capitalize on its success — which editor Vin Sullivan mentioned to a budding young cartoonist named Bob Kane. Born in New York City on October 24, 1915 (as Robert Kahn), Kane had worked for Will Eisner, creator of the Spirit, and his partner, Jerry Iger, before opening a studio of his own. A graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, Kane had recruited fellow alum Milton "Bill" Finger to join his shop.
Born February 8, 1914, in Denver, Colorado, Finger too had grown up in New York, and, like Kane, had fallen in love with comic strips. But where Kane's personality was outgoing and dominant, hell-bent on making the kind of money Superman's creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster were pulling in every week, Finger's was thoughtful and submissive. On paper, he was an employee of Kane's, and wrote Kane's Rusty and His Pals (a knockoff of cartoonist Milt Caniff's newspaper strip Terry and the Pirates) for no credit. But Rusty generated little fanfare, and Bill maintained his day job as a shoe salesman.
When Kane spoke with Sullivan one Friday afternoon to discuss the possibility of a "Bat-Man," he promised he'd be back on Monday with a design for the character. Fond of swiping panels from other artists in his work, Kane's own skills were limited. He drafted a costume, but was unhappy with it. He met Finger that weekend at his apartment and showed him what he'd come up with. His champion's colors were the inverse of Superman's — he was blond and wore a bright red union suit with blue boots and briefs, a yellow belt, a domino mask (taken from Lee Falk's newspaper strip hero the Phantom), and a pair of rigid wings. Kane would later claim the wings were inspired by Leonardo da Vinci's famed ornithopter drawing.
Finger disapproved, and said the Bat-Man's colors should be dark, like that of his namesake. Moreover, his face should be covered by a cowl, from which should extend bat-like ears. And instead of the stiff wings, he should wear a cape, scalloped, so it resembled wings when he soared through the air — which he would do on a rope, requiring gloves.
Kane revised his design per Finger's descriptions, took it to National the following Monday, and the Bat-Man was born. Taking his cue from Johnston McCulley's pulp superstar the Shadow (one story of whose Finger would swipe for Bat-Man's first adventure), Finger made his urban crimefighter's secret identity that of a wealthy playboy, Bruce Wayne — whom the writer named after Scottish king Robert the Bruce and American Revolutionary War general "Mad" Anthony Wayne.
March 1939 saw the Bat-Man swing to life on the cover of Detective Comics #27. Dated May 1939, the cover (which historian Arlen Schumer discovered was a swiped image from Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon strip) referred to him as "The Batman." His first story, "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" — written by an uncredited Finger with art by Kane — also introduced Wayne's close friend Commissioner Gordon, another creation of the writer. Six months later, in Detective Comics #31, Finger gave his hero an origin: he was once a small boy whose parents were shot to death by a mugger trying to snatch his mother's pearl necklace.
The following year, Finger gave a name to Batman's city — Gotham — and conceived of the Batmobile, Hugo Strange, Wayne Manor, Robin, Clayface, Catwoman, the Joker, and a nickname for his hero, "The Dark Knight." In 1941, he co-created the Penguin and the Scarecrow, followed by Two-Face, the Batcave, the Riddler, and the Mad Hatter. He received credit for none of it, since Kane secured a contract that stipulated his name alone be printed as the creator of Batman comics in perpetuity. The lie was underlined in June 1940's Batman #1, which included a brief biography of Kane, written by editor Whitney Ellsworth, that stated he did all of the work on the character himself.
Enamored of trivia and research, clippings from which he would frequently send along with his scripts to the artists who illustrated them, Finger also co-created the Golden Age hero the Green Lantern and Superboy's girlfriend Lana Lang, and wrote tales of National's other characters (eventually commissioned directly by the company instead of via Kane). His Batman stories, however — weird, whimsical, and chock full of oversized props across which his heroes and villains would battle — are his masterpieces. He wrote approximately 1,500 over the course of 25 years, during which time Kane moved to Los Angeles, and schmoozed his way through Hollywood with the arrival of the 1966 Batman TV show. Every episode featured his name as the character's sole creator. Finger wrote one two-part episode" — The Clock King's Crazy Crimes" / "The Clock King Gets Crowned" — introducing yet another long-running supervillain. But by then DC Comics had stopped calling him, turning its attention toward a new generation of comic creators.
Finger found some extra work outside of comics, scripting, for example, the 1968 cult film The Green Slime. He also found time to marry twice, and had a son, Fred, with his first wife, Portia. By 1974, Finger had suffered three heart attacks, and his second marriage, to Lyn Simmons, had dissolved. On January 18, 1974, he was found alone in his Manhattan apartment, dead of arteriosclerosis at the age of 59.
Bob Kane died at the age of 83 in Los Angeles on November 3, 1998, after attending the Hollywood premieres of four Batman films. He liked to wear a scalloped cape when he walked the red carpet — a white one, to match his tuxedo. The plaque on his gravestone in the Hollywood Hills is adorned with the Bat-Signal and bears a lengthy memorial that begins, GOD bestowed a dream upon Bob Kane. Blessed with divine inspiration and a rich imagination, Bob created a legacy known as BATMAN.
As revealed in writer Marc Tyler Nobleman's 2012 book Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman (as essential for fans as the 2017 documentary it Spawned — directors Don Argott and Sheena M. Joyce's Batman & Bill), Finger was cremated, and his ashes collected by Fred, who spread them on a beach in the shape of a bat and let the tide wash them away.
Though Fred died in 1992 of complications from AIDS, he left behind a daughter, Athena, who, with the help of Nobleman, worked tirelessly to get Warner Brothers to give her grandfather the credit he so deserved. Their efforts were rewarded on September 18, 2015. Today, Finger is named as Batman's co-creator in most every form of media in which his Dark Knight appears. The Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing is awarded every year at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
Despite the many changes Batman has undergone throughout his history, his suit remains close to its original depiction, found in May 1939's Detective Comics #27 (in which it was first drawn by Bob Kane, after substantial input from Batman co-creator Bill Finger). Here was established the gray outfit's chest emblem, scalloped cape, black-blue briefs and boots, and bat-eared cowl. In this first incarnation, the ears extended from the sides of the cowl at 30-degree angles and Batman's gloves were short and purple, while his yellow utility belt featured a large round buckle.
Within a few months, the gloves' color was changed to match the boots and briefs, and the ears were extended and straightened; both the gloves and the boots were made longer. By the end of the 1940s, the ears were again shortened, eyebrows were added to make the cowl more expressive, and the gloves received their now-familiar fins (after those of the pulp hero the Black Bat). A brighter shade of blue was also employed, though whether the suit was intended to be blue is debatable.
"Because of the way comic book coloring traditionally was," says comic artist Alex Ross, "if you didn't have a version of black to light or color, you wound up using blue as the best indicator of black, and you got people thinking after a while, 'Is Superman's hair blue?' Spider-Man, for example, was a character who was clearly designed to be wearing red and black. But blue won out over time."
When the low-budget 1943 Batman film serial debuted, the screen's first Dark Knight (played by Lewis Wilson) had an ill-fitting cowl with an oversized snout and conical ears that resembled a devil's horns.
When Batman comic sales slumped in the early 1960s, editor Julius Schwartz had artist Carmine Infantino add a yellow oval behind the chest emblem, making it the most recognizable logo in comics next to Superman's S-shield. This "New Look" Batman premiered in May 1964's Detective Comics #327 ("The Mystery of the Menacing Mask!"). It was this suit that Adam West wore in the 1966 Batman TV show, albeit to comedic effect. If it looked like West's chest decal could get accidentally peeled off his shirt in the midst of a fight, well, that only made him look more like a life-size action figure to the series' legion of young fans.
Infantino's suit would be synonymous with the World's Greatest Detective throughout the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s — when he appeared on TV's The Adventures of Batman and Super Friends — though it was modified by artist Neal Adams during his run on the character in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Adams made the cape longer and the scallops more pronounced, suiting his vision of Batman as an imposing nocturnal avenger.
Midway through 1986's The Dark Knight Returns, Frank Miller removed the yellow oval, reestablishing Batman's early look. Though it retained Miller's attitude, Tim Burton's 1989 Batman movie used the oval, heralding the biggest marketing campaign in film history. Played by the slight-of-build Michael Keaton, this Batman's suit was comprised of body armor, and its gloves were true gauntlets.
In 1992's Batman Returns, the Keaton suit was streamlined to look less muscular. There's no more representative image for director Joel Schumacher's two garish sequels — 1995's Batman Forever and 1997's Batman & Robin — than their suits' infamous nipples. But at least 1990s Batfans had Batman: The Animated Series, in which the Dark Knight returned to his iconic spandex look.
When Bruce Wayne's back was broken in 1993's "Knightfall" storyline, the bloodthirsty Azrael replaced him, wearing a suit of armor and razors. Bruce reclaimed the mantle of the Bat, and donned a black suit sans briefs in 1995's "Troika" storyline. When it premiered in 1999, Batman Beyond also featured a black suit, with a red emblem, outfitted with all the technology of the future.
The comics' Batman returned to his blue-and-gray suit for 1999's popular "No Man's Land" storyline and 2002's bestselling "Hush," as well as TV's The Batman in 2004 and 2009's Batman: The Brave and the Bold. But Christian Bale's Caped Crusader opted for all-black armor in Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. A happy medium was found in the color scheme of the Batman: Arkham video games' suit — black and gray, with a design utilizing briefs and Kevlar — and in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice's. A similar design was also used for 2010's Batman Incorporated, but once more adding the yellow oval, to distinguish its Dark Knight from the titular team's other Batmen. DC's 2011 "New 52" and 2016 "Rebirth" initiatives modified the ever controversial element by reducing it to a mere halo around the Bat emblem.
There was once a time when change came slowly to Batman's world. But with the Dark Knight's life now a never-ending series of emotional upheavals, he redefines himself regularly. Thankfully, he knows better than to mess too much with the most stylish suit in comics.
The engine at the heart of the Dark Knight's war on crime is his origin — the purest, most elemental ever given to a superhero.
So pure, in fact, that when the origin was first revealed, in November 1939's Detective Comics #33 ("The Legend of the Batman — Who He Is and How He Came to Be!" by creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane), it occupied a scant two pages of the magazine.
"One night some fifteen years ago," we're told, "Thomas Wayne, his wife and his son were walking home from a movie ..."
"W-what is this?" says a crudely drawn, square-jawed man in a suit and hat, standing alongside an elegantly dressed woman and a small boy. "A stickup, buddy!" says a gun-toting hoodlum in a brown cap. "I'll take that necklace you're wearin', lady!"
"Leave her alone, you!" cries the man — and takes a bullet to the stomach. (One of several of the story's panels swiped by Bob Kane from a 1937 Big Little Book illustrated by Henry Valley, Junior G-Men and the Counterfeiters.) "Thomas!" screams his wife. "You've killed him. Help! Police ... Help!" "This'll shut you up!" says the thug, and fires another shot.
"The boy's eyes are wide with terror and shock," reads the next caption, "as the horrible scene is spread before him." "Father ...Mother!" cries the boy. "... dead! They're d ... dead."
"Days later," we learn, "a curious and strange scene takes place." "And I swear," says the boy, kneeling by his bed, his hands folded, a single candle illuminating the scene — "by the spirits of my parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals."
In the next two panels, we see the boy, named Bruce Wayne, is now a man: "He becomes a master scientist. Trains his body to physical perfection until he is able to perform amazing athletic feats."
"Dad's estate left me wealthy," he muses in his study. "I am ready. But first I must have a disguise." Then, in the most oft-quoted panel in comics: "Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible ... a ... a ..."
"As if in answer," says the penultimate caption, "a huge bat flies in the open window!" The startled Bruce exclaims, "A bat! That's it! It's an omen ... I shall become a BAT!"
"And thus is born," writes Bill Finger, "this weird figure of the dark ... This avenger of evil. The BATMAN."
Though the image in the tale's final panel, a costumed Batman crouched beneath a bat-enshrouded moon, is a swipe from Hal Foster's Tarzan comic strip, it, like Finger's prose, is nonetheless supremely effective in establishing Batman's motivation and psyche.
The origin was expanded in June 1948's Batman #47 ("The Origin of the Batman!" again by Finger and Kane). Here, it's explained that Bruce's mother's name is Martha, and that she died of a heart attack upon seeing her husband murdered. It's also revealed that the murderer is named Joe Chill. Batman tracks him down, reveals he's the son of the murdered couple, and warns Chill he will always be watching him. The panic-stricken crook runs off and tells his gang he "created" Batman, which prompts them to shoot him dead. (The story is adapted to great effect in the 2010 Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Chill of the Night!")
The Wayne murder case was reopened in September 1956's Detective Comics #235 ("The First Batman," written by Bill Finger and penciled by Sheldon Moldoff). This tale explained that Dr. Thomas Wayne had once worn a Batman-like outfit to a masquerade party, at which he ran afoul of gangster Lew Moxon, and that Moxon had hired Chill as a hitman. In his father's old costume, Batman finds Moxon. Terrified, the criminal runs into the path of an oncoming truck.
In his retelling of the origin in Batman #232 ("Daughter of the Demon"), artist Neal Adams restored the original version of Martha's death, in keeping with his and writer Denny O'Neil's desire to return Batman to his violent roots.
Excerpted from "100 Things Batman Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die"
Copyright © 2017 Joseph McCabe.
Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
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