FInger family is “not okay” with DC despite other statements

201405080946 FInger family is not okay with DC despite other statements

I think this statement from the family of Bill FInger, the long uncredited co-creator of most of the Batman mythos speaks for itself. The long memories of comics aren’t just for issue numbers, people.

During a recent WonderCon Anaheim panel for Batman’s 75th anniversary, an audience member asked panelists for opinions about the fact that writer Bill Finger does not get a creator credit alongside Bob Kane, who is credited as the legendary character’s sole creator even though Finger came up with defining qualities for this character before Kane ever signed his first contract to produce the Dark Knight’s adventures. Finger wrote the first Batman story, his tragic origin, and hundreds upon hundreds of comic book stories for more than a quarter of a century. He named both Bruce Wayne and Gotham City, he created Commissioner Gordon, he developed many other supporting characters, he created or co-created one fantastic villain after another, and yet he died broke and relatively unknown more than 40 years ago.

After a moment of silence following the audience member’s question, panelist Brian Buccellato joked, “Crickets.” The panel’s moderator, DC Comics’ Larry Ganem, then said, “We cherish what Bill Finger did and his contribution to creating Batman, and we’re all good with Finger and his family.”
The aforementioned Finger family, which consists only of Bill Finger’s granddaughter and her son, later learned about this exchange and did not agree with Mr. Ganem’s “all good” assessment.

ATHENA FINGER RESPONDS: “75 years of Batman! No one could have predicted the longevity and the continued relevance of this comic book hero that has become a cultural icon when my grandfather, Bill Finger, collaborated with Bob Kane back in 1939.  My grandfather has never been properly credited as the co-creator of Batman although was an open secret in the comic book industry and is widely known now.  It is now my time to come out of the shadows and speak up and end 75 years of exploitation of my grandfather, whose biggest flaw was his inability to defend his extraordinary talent.  Due to what I feel is continued mistreatment of a true artist, I am currently exploring our rights and considering how best to establish the recognition that my grandfather deserves.”

In his autobiography, Bob Kane acknowledged, “Now that my long-time friend and collaborator is gone, I must admit that Bill never received the fame and recognition he deserved. He was an unsung hero.” Regarding the issue of giving Finger official credit, Kane specifically said, “I often tell my wife, if I could go back fifteen years, before he died, I’d like to say, ‘I’ll put your name on it now. You deserve it.’”

This fall, the Warner Bros. television series GOTHAM will feature many Bill Finger creations, including the city itself. Will the series that carries the name he gave to Batman’s city credit him in any way?

Comments

  1. Credit is long overdue. We can’t go back 15 years except in ‘imaginary stories’, but the industry can give Bill Finger creator and writer credit, and pay his family a generous royalty for what he created.

  2. Hitfix and CBR reported that before Ganem spoke up, Buccellato said the panel couldn’t really answer the question, and another panelist followed with “I want to keep my job.”

    Cognitive dissonance is part of every corporate job, I guess. But that’s a touch pill to swallow.

  3. *tough

  4. solo500 says:

    Let’s not forget Jerry Robinson when speaking of Batman creators.

  5. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Kane gets sole credit on Batman comics as part of the contract he signed that gives DC ownership of the character. This is legal because, despite what Bill Finger actually did, his work was done as work-for-hire for Kane’s studio.

    Knowing this, my assumption is that lawyers for both the Kane estate and DC have advised them to not give Finger co-creator credit lest that undermine the original contract and open themselves up to legal action. I’m not a lawyer, though, so tha’ts just a guess…mostly because I can’t imagine anyone at modern day DC has any kind of personal grudge against Bill Finger.

  6. Chris Hero says:

    Johnny Memeonic,

    I’ve seen an opinion similar to yours repeated elsewhere and as a guy with some experience in this area, I disagree with that opinion. First, while the contract may have originally stated Kane must be credited as creator in perpetuity, I can think of many arguments where it would be okay to say, “Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.”

    Contracts aren’t as concrete as comic people seem to think they are, but it makes sense that comic people would think that because the large publishing companies are always using contracts as an excuse for their various actions.

    It bugs me because it’s not that hard to amend a 75 year old contract, DC just doesn’t want to. That’s cool, I just wish they’d say they don’t want to spend their resources on it rather than letting their creators and editors flail about for an excuse. It’s really not fair to them.

  7. Remco says:

    Is this where someone comes in and starts talking about how the Finger family is probably out for money, and that they should shut up, because a contract is a contract and nobody forced Bill to sign it, and that’s life, suck it up, and such on?

    Or is that just on the Other Site?…

  8. Nicholas Winter says:

    From the many, many discussions online, it appears that DC is stuck with the contract the predecessor company signed with Kane that have him sole credit for the look and feel of Batman. It is clear that Finger was work for hire for Kane, not the company that became DC.

    I think that the problem is that DC is rightfully concerned that myriad work for hire contractors will assert that they too had a meaningful contribution to a given character, storyline, or other aspect of the product DC publishes. And with nearly a century of existence in one firm or another, the current DC could be tied up in court for decades. We’re the contracts decades ago badly written? No as they wre considered good by the standards existing then.

    I’ve done work for hire — my contracts always make it clear that I retain no rights to the product I’ve hand a role in creating.

  9. Johnny Memeonic says:

    Chris Hero, you’re confusing my take on the situation with my opinion on the subject, which I didn’t state. My opinion is the same as (presumably) most peoples’ in that I think Bill Finger should share a “Batman created by” credit alongside Bob Kane in the comics and elsewhere. And Jerry Robinson should also get credited when the Joker and Robin appear.

  10. Chris Hero says:

    Sorry, Johnny, I didn’t mean to assume your position. I’m in total agreement with you. These guys should be credited.

  11. James Woodward says:

    It seems to me that DC, if they cared to, could amend the “created by” line to read “Based on characters created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane”, especially in ancillary properties such as movies and television. This wouldn’t breach their original contract with Kane and is vague enough not to ascribe creation of the strip itself to Finger, while still giving him some credit. Not perfect, but it would be something.

  12. jonboy says:

    Yes. Let’s all blame DC for this because they’re the big evil corporation, and it’s much easier to do that.

    Seems to me that the most logical step would be for the Finger estate to sue/negotiate/b!tch to the Kane estate.

  13. Torsten Adair says:

    Meanwhile, Marvel doesn’t list any creator credits at all.

    The simple solution:
    Kane retains the “Batman” credit.
    Finger and Robinson get a “special arrangement” “created by” credit for Robin and Joker, when Warner settles with the estates. Perhaps all three estates get some money whenever any Bat-stuff gets used, since those three were the architects of everything that’s been created since then.

    How/When did Paul Norris gain a credit for Aquaman?

    Does anyone have a scorecard of creator credits in DC Comics?
    Constantine doesn’t have one.
    Huntress does, but not Power Girl.
    Bane has one.

  14. Remco says:

    Jonboy: Yeeeuh! *ticks of bingo card*
    Seems that there are good solutions around (Torsten, James W, …), even without handing over wads of cash, a simple acknowledgement would go quite far. You know, do the decent thing. And besides, even giving only a couple of thousands from the profits of a Batman movie to the Finger estate – how much would that hurt WB in the wallet? And if that sets a precedent for whomever has created Renee Montaya – so there’s another $2500 gone, but some creator doesn’t have to worry about the rent for a couple of months.
    Multinationals didn’t get big by giving their money away. I get that. But it’s a damn shame when readers feel they need to stick up for the big companies, and don’t have it in them to side with the creators – and not because technically, juridically, robotically it’s correct, but because it’s the decent thing to do.

  15. Rich Harvey says:

    There’s always the amendment: “Created by Bob Kane, with acknowledgement to the works of Bill Finger (and whomever)”

  16. But Marvel does list a “Based on…” byline for its movies and TV shows. Kirby and Lee are listed in “Agents of SHIELD,” for example. But a line credit is a paid credit, right?

    Paging Jeff Trexler!

    It seems like there are two pushes here: 1) to get Finger a line on the Gotham show and 2) have the family explore any outstanding legal options. Are those (legally) similar or different things?

    When Siegel & Shuster got their byline, it was by popular opinion alone. Finger finally found his public champion in Marc’s book, but the cause needs more enforcers. Jerry and Joe had Neal Adams — will it be Kevin Smith here? A big-time editorial somewhere? I’m a huge fan of Marc’s book, but I think that part of the issue here is that a majority of non-comics fans have no idea who Bill Finger was. We need to continue to get his story out there — to non-Batman people — and not just as “uncredited creator,” but as the person he was. That’s what people respond to.

Trackbacks

  1. […] may have opened with a rule break, but try as we might, we can’t go a week without a DC dig. Nor can Bill Finger’s family. Maybe some people at DC need to read these great books on comics, and get their facts straight? To […]

  2. […] Of course, there is still some rancor within the Finger family over these matters. […]

  3. […] may have opened with a rule break, but try as we might, we can’t go a week without a DC dig. Nor can Bill Finger’s family. Maybe some people at DC need to read these great books on comics, and get their facts straight? To […]

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