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