It’s that time year again. Every July since the 1970’s, throngs of people flock to the San Diego Convention Center (I wish I was there right now to be honest), to partake in the annual event that is Comic Con. Though the event was originally about the art form included in its name, in recent decades it has become something else entirely. A slovenly and gluttonous festival for our nation’s most well-known media conglomerates to peddle their wares to the general public.
Today at the Con, Warner Bros. had its turn to shill its merchandise. In an attempt to take the internet by storm and generate some media buzz for their upcoming slate of superhero films, the company released a new trailer for their team up of the “World’s Finest”. If you’d like to watch it, I being the kind and bald man that I am have graciously included a link to it right here. Go check it out, I’m sure the navel gazing public was wowed and will be wowed by it. Seriously, I will wait for you to get back.
Finished? Ok, cool. Now I can get back to discussing the problem I have with the piece. It’s not anything in the video section of the trailer, but instead something that comes up in the bit where they show the credits on the production. Right by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s credit for Superman (Which they had to fight to get.) is a line that makes my blood boil every time I have to see it.
“Batman created by Bob Kane.”
For the record, that one sentence is total bullshit. That man had no hand in creating one of the most recognizable characters on the planet. If you dig into the history surrounding the conception of the Batman IP, you will discover that the man credited with creating the Dark Knight was a remarkably cruel and egotistical asshole who cheated a man by the name of Bill Finger out of millions.
To those who aren’t aware, Bill Finger was a writer for D.C. Comics, he came up with Batman’s origin, helped create the Green Lantern, wrote Superman’s origin story, created Alfred, Gotham City, Batman’s distinct look, the Batmobile, the Riddler, Two Face and Catwoman. In spite of all that work in crafting the character, Bill still goes uncredited today and died in poverty in the 70’s.
Now, you’d think that D.C. or even Bob Kane himself would’ve been more than willing to acknowledge the work done by this immensely talented writer, but you’d be wrong. You see, when Kane was negotiating rights to the character with D.C. Comics (Even though he used ghost writers and artists and took 50% of their earnings), he lied to them and said he was underage when he started working for the publisher. In a panic about a potential child labor violation, D.C. caved and signed an exclusive contract that guaranteed Bob sole credit in perpetuity at the expense of Bill.
To be blunt, this is total and utter bullshit. Through the years D.C. has exhibited a remarkably tone deaf and wildly out of touch position when asked about this by fans. If Warner Bros. and D.C. wanted to, they could fight the contract in court and change things for a minute cost from the point of view of a billion dollar company. But they won’t, instead, they let Bob’s widow Elizabeth (An awful woman if ever there was one) profit off of work her husband didn’t do.
If you’re a comics fan or just a person with half a sense of decency, this should make you angry. Marvel is not innocent in creator treatment either and deserves to be harassed about this issue just as much as D.C. and Warner’s. To those that say, “Well, they didn’t know in the 30’s and 40’s that this stuff would be so valuable and a contract is a contract”, I ask you this, how would you feel if your favorite musician, athlete or film director suffered a similar fate. I think you’d be pissed. In a perfect world, enough people would see this and make some serious noise, but that sort of thing only happens in the comics. For now, Bill will continue to languish in obscurity.
Where is Batman when you really need him?