Bill the Boy Wonder
The Secret Co-Creator of Batman
Batman’s biggest secret is not Bruce Wayne.
Who created the iconic character of Batman? You only have to look at a Batman comic book to find the answer—every story is marked with the words “Batman created by Bob Kane.” But what if that wasn’t the whole truth? What if someone else, other than the legendary Bob Kane, had a hand in the creation of what is arguably the most popular comic book hero of all time?
Author Marc Tyler Nobleman explores for the first time the life of Bill Finger—the unsung hero behind the Dark Knight. Bill started off as a struggling writer and artist when he was approached by Bob, who had just been commissioned by the company that would become DC Comics to create a superhero sensation. Bill helped invent Batman, from concept to costume to character, and he even dreamed up the Dark Knight’s haunting origins and colorful nemeses. Yet Bill did all this in obscurity, and he was not recognized as co-creator until after his death—and is still not well-known even today.
Cartoonist and popular Batman artist Ty Templeton illustrates Marc Tyler Nobleman’s exhaustive research, which extends all the way to the present day and the fight to finally provide Bill Finger with the credit he deserves. Perfect for the reluctant reader, Bill the Boy Wonder is a classic story of the underdog. Bill’s story is a reminder that even the greatest talents have fears and shortcomings. It will empower readers of all ages to take pride in—and ownership of—their work..
Visit the Bill the Boy Wonder website.
Look Inside the Book:
Author & Illustrator Bios:Marc Tyler Nobleman, author
Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of BOYS OF STEEL: THE CREATORS OF SUPERMAN, which received multiple starred reviews and was named an American Library Association Notable Book. Due to discoveries Marc made in his research, the book also landed on the front page of USA Today. Marc never dressed as Batman for Halloween, but he was Robin twice (and Superman three times). Today he lives with his family in Maryland. He reveals his research secrets and promotional gambles at noblemania.blogspot.com.
Read more about Marc.
Ty Templeton, illustrator
Ty Templeton is a Canadian cartoonist who has written and drawn for Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, The Avengers, The Simpsons, Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, and countless other comic books. When not writing and drawing, he has also worked as an actor, a musician, a teacher, a comedian, a magician’s assistant, and a security guard.
Read more about Ty.
Awards & Honors:
- A Junior Library Guild Selection
- Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year
- ABC Best Books for Children
In 1933, Milton Finger, weary of signs that read “JEWS NEED NOT APPLY” changed his name to Bill. His lifelong dream was to be a writer but like many living in the Great Depression, he would gladly settle for whatever employment he could find. However, in 1939, a chance encounter with another artist gave him an opportunity few of that era had. He had a real chance to realize his dream and walk away from work in dry goods and shoe sales. He was so happy to be earning money, good money for something he was passionate about, that he didn’t fret over his new partner meeting the publisher without him nor did he care when his name didn’t show up on the byline of their creation. He didn’t have any interest in contracts and most importantly he had no idea– no one had any idea–how long lasting his work would be. This is the story of Bill Finger, a man who lived life from paycheck to paycheck doing what he loved. Bill Finger, who was not given an obituary. Bill Finger, the true father of Batman.
School Library Journal
This eye-catching biography of Bill Finger is quite unique. It’s the first picture book written about the co-creator of the comic-book character Batman. And until quite recently, Finger wasn’t recognized, as Bob Kane accepted full credit. From the cover depicting a bust of Finger set against the backdrop of Batman, and the end pages that include the shadow, quotes, and teasers to the story, to the engagingly told story, this biography will be a hit. The illustrations are done in colorful, classic comic-book style, with text offset in boxes. The story begins with a young Jewish man, Milton Finger, changing his first name to Bill because of discrimination. It proceeds to his chance meeting with Kane and his uncredited collaboration. After 25 years of writing increasingly creative adventures for Batman, his contribution was discovered, though Kane was still reluctant to share credit. Finger died rather poor and largely unrecognized. After his death, a comic-writing award was named in his honor. The easy-to-read text is short and interesting. An author’s note presents more detailed information on Finger and Nobleman’s complex and thorough research. This title will appeal to children because of their interest in superheroes and their creators, and will be a draw for teachers as a read-aloud for language arts or social studies as an engaging look at a pop art icon. Source notes, a selected bibliography, and three photos round out the book
It turns out that Batman—the orphaned, shadowy, well-heeled defender of an embattled Gotham—had another embarrassment of riches: two fathers.
Spend any time with Batman in DC Comics and you will have seen it: “Created by Bob Kane.” Only half true. Cartoonist Bob did come up with a prototype, but it was writer Bill Finger who fashioned Batman into the night-tripping, class-and-trash, hero-and-villain intimidator in the pointy-eared cowl whom we have come to love, the superhero without superpowers. This testament to credit due from Nobleman is seriously researched—as the six-page author’s note attests—yet light on its feet, and the artwork from Templeton has all the lush, emotive brushwork one expects from Batman. But what makes this sketch of Finger so memorable is its intimacy with the characters, the way in which it coaxes out an engaging vulnerability in Finger and, by association, with Batman. “Bob’s greatest talent may have been the ability to recognize other talent. His greatest flaw may have been the inability to honor that talent. Bill’s greatest flaw may have been the inability to defend his talent. His greatest talent was the ability to forge legends.”
Though Finger has been a known commodity to comics cognoscenti for years, this salute in his own format will make the lasting impression he deserves
Geek Dad - Wired
You already know all of Batman’s secrets, right? Even if you aren’t a fan, you know he’s really Bruce Wayne, that he lives in Gotham City, that he became Batman because his parents were killed by a mugger, that he works out of the Batcave, and probably more. If you’re a comic book fan, you also probably know that he was created by Bob Kane. But if that’s what you think, there’s a big Batman secret you have yet to hear about.
It’s not that Bob Kane didn’t create Batman; it’s just that he had a lot of help from a man named Bill Finger, and the fact that most people have never heard of Finger is simply a travesty. Author Marc Tyler Nobleman, who four years ago put out an excellent book on the creators of Superman, attempts to rectify that situation with his newest book, Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. Like the earlier book, Bill the Boy Wonder tells its story via a not-quite-a-graphic-novel style mixture of text and illustration, very ably provided by Ty Templeton.
The story goes that, following the huge success of Superman, DC Comics commissioned Kane to create a new superhero for them. Kane ran into Finger, who was then struggling to make a living as a writer and artist, at a party, and asked him to help out. While it’s hard to be completely certain whose idea Batman was to begin with, Nobleman contends that it was Finger who was responsible for nearly every significant detail regarding the character, including his costume’s appearance and the names “Bruce Wayne” and “Gotham City.” It was Finger whose idea it was that Batman have no super powers, and who created the story of his parents’ murder as a reason for an otherwise normal human being to put on a bat suit to fight criminals. And the collaboration between Kane and Finger didn’t end with Batman’s creation: in fact, Finger would later be responsible for the creation of Robin and at least part of the creation of the Joker, among other iconic characters from the Batman comics. So, why is it that Finger did all that work, but Kane got and continues to get all the credit? Because while Finger may have been the more creative of the pair, it was Kane who sold the character to DC and who negotiated the contract, and he arranged it so that Finger’s contributions would go uncredited. Finger was evidently not too concerned with this situation, and didn’t say anything publicly about his role in Batman’s creation until decades after the character first appeared.
So, how does Nobleman know all this about Bill Finger? He provides an in-depth author’s note at the end of the book, mentioning contemporaries of Kane and Finger who related their knowledge of the partnership and Finger’s contributions in particular. These are people who in no way benefit from saying that Finger’s role in Batman’s creation and development was far greater than Kane ever admitted (Kane died in 1998, 24 years after Finger), so why would they lie? In fact, while DC is legally prevented from giving official credit to Finger for co-creating Batman, they have been paying a certain amount of royalties to his heirs.
Readers of the book will be fascinated to read the author’s note for its story of how Nobleman tracked down the various surviving members of Finger’s family, including finding that his proper heir was not the person DC thought it was. So the book has already corrected that injustice; we can only hope it leads to more public awareness of Finger’s involvement and thus corrects another.
Buy this book; it’s a great read, and you’ll come away knowing more about where Batman came from — and, more importantly, about an unjustly disregarded figure in comic book history.
Deeply researched, this picture book delves into the true origins of the Dark Knight. Bob Kane got the credit, but struggling writer Bill Finger helped create the costume, named Gotham City and more, dying in obscurity after 25 years on the title. Nobleman and Templeton give Finger his own bat-signal with this revelatory book.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Every superhero has an origin story, and Nobleman parallels his picture-book history of the literary creation of Superman (Boys of Steel, BCCB 10/08) with the equally riveting story of Milton “Bill” Finger, whose vital role in the development of Batman has not been fully credited—or remunerated—since the character debuted in 1939. Whereas the Shuster/Siegel vs. DC battle royale is relegated to the epilogue of Boys of Steel, the injustice suffered by easygoing Bill Finger at the hands of Batman’s more assertive co-creator, Bob Kane, is the main event here. Boxed narration is heavily and delightfully laced with “bill” and “finger” puns and wordplay: “Bob publicly accused Bill of exaggerating. Despite that, Batmanians believed Bill. They began to murmur that he should be credited as the co-creator of Batman—that his Bill was long past due.” Templeton’s color artwork is a stylized homage to the period, with large frames, boxed insets, and splash pages that suggest rather than rigidly emulate the flow of a comic book. Engrossing and appropriate as the information in the main text may be for young listeners and readers, a six-page appended author’s note once again saves a heckuva lot of the good stuff for the older readers who will tackle its denser, sparsely photoillustrated prose. Here Nobleman discusses his research into the life of Bill Finger, which begins as a photo hunt and ends by uncovering an entire branch of the family that had lost all public connection with Finger, and who now collect royalties from DC: “And it may be as close to a happy ending as Bill Finger will ever get. He just didn’t live long enough to experience it.” Older readers will enjoy the vindication, and they will never again read the words “Batman created by Bob Kane” without a mildly disdainful snort.
The Tablet Magazine
I’m not a huge superhero fan, but I found this fascinating; I can only imagine how Batman and comics history fans will rejoice. Of course, even clueless wonders like me know that Batman was created by Bob Kane … but guess what! This is wrong. Bill the Boy Wonder argues that for years, Kane suppressed the creative role of another writer, Bill Finger, in the invention and development of Batman. Finger, who changed his name from Milton Finger because Jews faced discrimination in getting writing jobs, allowed Kane to take all the credit for Batman. But Finger was the one who came up with Batman’s scary and poignant origin story; Finger was the one who gave Gotham City its name; Finger was the one who created the series’ liveliest villains. After he died, obsessive Batman fans began calling for DC Comics to give him credit. Today, like the Dark Knight himself, those fans still fight for Finger’s rights and for justice. The author’s note at the end explains Nobleman’s own detective work in seeking Finger’s heirs who might be entitled to royalties from DC. It’s illustrated in the style of a comic book, but with blocks of text plunked down on white backgrounds; I do wish it were a true graphic novel, with the text better integrated into the pictures.
Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson battled bad guys while in disguise and never received public acclaim for their efforts. Likewise, Bill Finger, the co-creator of and main writer for Batman and Robin hid behind his pen for decades and remained virtually unknown except to a select few. In this graphic novel-style book, Nobleman strips away the mask of oblivion and tells the story of an identity uncovered and a wrong righted. Finger’s use of secret identities began early in his writing career when he needed to obscure his Jewish roots in order to get a job during the Great Depression, changing his first name from “Milton” to “Bill.” The cloak of secrecy remained in place following Finger’s initial collaboration with Bob Kane after brainstorming ideas and concepts for the new superhero, Batman. Kane pitched their comic book idea to an editor at the company which later became DC Comics. Their concept was accepted, yet Kane negotiated a deal which left Finger in the shadows, giving all the credit to Kane alone. As was typical for the time, Finger agreed to write the new series without getting a byline. Consequently, unlike Kane, Finger did not reap the huge financial rewards or accolades associated with being a co-creator of the wildly successful series. It was not until many years later that fellow comic book writers and dedicated comic book fans lobbied to recognize Finger’s intimate and ongoing contribution to the Dynamic Duo’s birth and longevity. Their efforts brought about the Bill Finger Awards for Excellence in Comic Book Writing given annually at the San Diego Comic-Con.
Thanks to Nobleman’s tireless research, the story has another happy ending. After finding Finger’s long-lost and only grandchild, Athena, he urged her to take her place as the rightful heir to Finger’s portion of the royalties. Templeton, a Canadian cartoonist who has written and drawn for Batman and other comic books, stayed true to the original style when creating the book’s illustrations. They are done on 30-lb. bond paper, inked with Faber-Castell artist pens, and colored in Photoshop. The day-to-day scenes favor muted tans, browns, and blues, while the imaginary world inhabited by the instantly recognizable comic book characters pop off the page in bold and vivid colors. A six-page author’s note details Nobleman’s exhaustive sleuthing done in order to bring the truth to light. The book includes a selected bibliography for further reading. Bill the Boy Wonder is a recommended read for Batman enthusiasts of all ages who enjoy stories about justice being served. The Caped Crusader would also approve. (Nobleman is the prolific writer of more than 70 children’s books including Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman.)
ISBN: 978-1-60734-446-9 PDF
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Ages: 8 and up
Page count: 48
81/2 x 11