Golden Age of Comic Books Rotating Header Image

Real Fact…Or Fiction?

In the Spring of 1946, DC Comics introduced a new title to its readers, Real Fact Comics.  This anthology title was designed to present short stories detailing the “real facts” of the lives of famous individuals.  The title ran for 21 issues until July-August 1949.  Not only did the title provide biographical information about historical figures, it also introduced a new character, Tommy Tomorrow (issue 6), to the ranks of DC’s popular heroes (he later appeared in back stories in Action Comics).

Issue 5 of Real Fact Comics (November-December 1946) was the only issue to offer a biography of the creator of one of DC’s super heroes, Batman & Robin in a story titled, “The True Story of Batman & Robin”.  While this story was supposedly designed to tell the readers the “real facts” surrounding Bob Kane’s creation of Batman, Robin and their most notable villains, it was more fiction than fact. 

Real Fact Comics #5 (Nov.-Dec. 1946)

Real Fact Comics #5 (Nov.-Dec. 1946)

 The image of Batman and Robin on this issue was taken from Batman #9 (February-March 1942).

"The True Story of Batman & Robin" splash panel from Real Fact Comics #5

"The True Story of Batman & Robin" splash panel from Real Fact Comics #5

While it was admirable of DC to honor one of its creators, this fictionalized version simply ignores the true origins of Batman, Robin, the Joker, and other elements of the Batman family of stories.  It is now common knowledge that Bill Finger was the genius behind much of Batman’s creation, from the final costume design, to the well known origin.  Indeed, in this story in Real Fact Comics, DC allowed Kane to be credited for the creation of every aspect of the Batman, including the costume which Kane draws from a Batman costume sewn by his mother!  We all now know that Kane’s orignal costume concept for The Bat-Man was nothing like the version that appeared in Detective Comics #27 in 1939 (Batman’s first appearance).  It was Finger’s suggestions that led to the final design.  I wonder if Kane’s mother ever saw the original concept drawings!

"The True Story of Batman & Robin", Page 3 (Real Fact Comics #5)

"The True Story of Batman & Robin", Page 3 (Real Fact Comics #5)

The story credits Kane’s fan mail for the idea of Robin, and tells us that the Joker was Kane’s brainchild after visting a novelty store with a friend, who plays a practical joke on Kane by spraying him in the face with water from a fake flower in his lapel.  While it is clear that Kane was involed in the evolution of the Batman family of characters, Jerry Robinson, one of the earliest artists to ghost for Kane on the feature, created the Joker (first appearance in Batman #1, Spring 1940).   Finger and Robinson together had much input into the creation of Robin the Boy Wonder for Detective Comics #38 (the first sidekick to appear in comics).

"The True Story of Batman & Robin", Page 5 (Real Fact Comics #5)

"The True Story of Batman & Robin", Page 5 (Real Fact Comics #5)

The five page story concludes with a mention of the fame and fortune earned by Kane for his creation of Batman and Robin, and even has the pair thanking Kane for bringing them to life.  This must have been sad for Finger,  Robinson and the others (i.e. Dick Sprang) who did so much to develop the characters that became household names, and eventually american cultural icons.  It is particularly unfortunate for Bill Finger, who was responsible for many of the Batman and Robin stories during the 1940′s and 1950′s.

"The True Story of Batman & Robin", Page 5 (Real Fact Comics #5)

"The True Story of Batman & Robin", Page 5 (Real Fact Comics #5)

DC did not formally acknowledge Finger’s work on Batman until May, 1964 in the “Batman’s Hotline” letter column in Detective Comics #327 (the first appearance of the “new look” Batman).  In that column, Editor Julius Schwartz wrote of the next issue of Detective Comics, “Invigorated by our ‘new look’ policy, Bob Kane – Batman’s originator – has fashioned an extraordinary art job for ‘Gotham Gang Line-Up,’ inspired by the swell script of Bill Finger, who has written most of the classic Batman adventures of the past two decades.”  While DC chose to perpetuate the belief that Kane was still in charge of the art on all Batman features (which he was not), at least Finger got credit for writing  the stories for the previous twenty plus years.  As far as I know, this is the very first written acknowledgment  that Finger was the chief Batman scribe during the Golden Age of Comic Books (and long before Kane’s formal mention of Finger’s contributions).  It also confirms that Finger was still writing Batman stories into the 1960′s.

Yes, Bob Kane had a good lawyer when he made his deal with DC for Batman & Robin, and this is the main reason that we did not hear about the contributions of others like Finger until many years later; however, it’s still unfortunate that those unsung Golden Age creators did not profit more from their wonderful creativity.

UPDATE: June 30, 2009 – For further information about artists other than Kane getting credit, check out Pat Curley’s June 30, 2009 post at the Silver Age of Comic Books Blog.

Share

7 Comments

  1. I remember when I thought Bob Kane was the coolest comic creator ever because he created Batman. Now whenever I see him credited in a reprint collection, all I can think is, “Are you sure he drew it?”

  2. Pat Curley says:

    Amen, Bill. Dial B for Blog had a great feature a year or so ago showing how much of the art from the first Batman story in Detective #27 was cribbed from elsewhere. I recently read online a letter that Kane wrote to one of the fanzines in the 1960s where Kane claimed that he still drew the bulk of the stories himself, and after reading that I lost what little remaining respect I had for Kane.

  3. That Dial B For Blog feature really made me feel for Bill Finger. Not only did it take over 20 years for Finger to receive credit for all the Batman stories he’d written, but after his death, DC published a cruel parody of him.

  4. That’s a rather appalling comic. I wonder which of Kane’s ghosts drew it?

    Geez … it would be really awful if Finger scripted the piece.

  5. [...] much on the character, as on the origin of the comic book appearance itself.  Now, if you read my post about Kane and Finger, you know that I’m not going to focus on the “real facts” of how Batman was [...]

  6. arlen schmer says:

    I’m arlen schumer, the guy who discovered the swipe for Tec 27 back in 1999 (Alter Ego #5, back of Comic Book ARtist vol.1 #5), and Dial B for Blog credited a coupla years ago; if you don’t have the article (& cover) I wrote, e-mail me & I’ll send it to you as a PDF file!
    –arlen
    arlen@arlenschumer.com
    http://www.arlenschumer.com

    203-298-0374; cell: 203-803-6512

    ARLEN SCHUMER is one of the foremost historians of comic book art, named by Comic Book Artist magazine in 1998 as “one of the more articulate and enthusiastic advocates of comic book art in America.” He’s written articles appearing in Print magazine, including The New Graphics of Comic Book Art in 1988; presented multimedia “visuaLectures” at The New York Art Directors Club, 1992′s Superhero to Antihero: Comic Book Art in the 1960s, and ComiCulture in ’95; and created exhibit designs for the Words and Pictures Museum in Northampton, Massachusetts, The Graphic History of Batman in 1997 and The Art History of Superman in ’98. In the Fall of 2009 he presented a visuaLecture, Great Comic Book Typography, at The Type Directors Club in New York City.

    In the Fall of ‘02 he presented a visuaLecture series, Superheroes in the ‘60s: Comics & Counterculture, at The CUNY Graduate Center in New York City; he reprised it for CUNY in the Fall of 2003, this time titled, The Silver Age of Comic Book Art, to tie-in with his coffeetable art book of the same name, released in December 2003 from Collectors Press (www.amazon.com/Silver-Age-Comic-Book Art/dp/1888054867/ref=dp_return_2/102-3932749-3481757?ie=UTF8&n=283155&s=books), and winner of The Independent Book Publishers Award for Best Popular Culture Book of 2003. He continues to lecture on The Silver Age (www.wolfmanproductions.com/comics.htm) at colleges and universities.

    Schumer’s first book, Visions From The Twilight Zone, published by Chronicle Books in 1991 (www.amazon.com/Visions-Twilight-Zone-Arlen-Schumer/dp/0877017255), was based on the classic TV series, treating its images like art photography and its words like poetry. He based a multimedia presentation on the book, which he still tours around the country, along with his other mini-marathon/visuaLecture, The Five Themes of The Twilight Zone. His latest presentation, The Twilight Zone Forever, commemorated the 50th Anniversary of the series, October 2, 2009 at The New York Times’ TimesCenter in New York City (www.paleycenter.org/the-twilight-zone-forever/).

    Schumer is also one of comic book art’s most idiosyncratic practitioners, creating award-winning illustrations for the advertising and editorial markets the past two decades (www.arlenschumer.com). Other books and projects include:

    The Flintstones: Anatomy of a Pop Culture Classic (Hanna-Barbera, 1994)
    Neal Adams: The Sketch Book (Vanguard Productions, 1999)
    Streetwise (TwoMorrows Publications, 2000)
    The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (Vanguard, 2000)
    Curt Swan: A Life in Comics (Vanguard, 2002)

  7. Denis says:

    ”Yes, Bob Kane had a good lawyer”

    It is worth mentioning that thanks to Bob Kane Jerry Siegel and Jos Shuster were recognized with DC and Warner Bros. after the movie Donner.

Leave a Reply