Batman had his own hidden hero


Anyone who grew up with classic comics has seen the name "Bob Kane," creator of Batman, close to a zillion times ... and has seen the name "Bill Finger" close to zero times. But a fascinating documentary -- available starting Saturday (May 6) on Hulu -- points to Finger as the prime Batman creator. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

For years, this was
one of those family-lore things you keep to yourself.

Athena Finger knew
her grandfather had molded Batman. But she wasn't sure others would
believe it.

“They (would)
expect to see a lot of glitz and glamour,” she said. But “I was a
normal child in a normal suburban life. (For) years, I actually
stopped talking about it.”

Now she's talking
again. Several Batman movies and TV shows list Bill Finger as
co-creator; a book and a new documentary back that up.

“Comic fans have
this innate sense of righteousness .... This is a story about a
hero,” said Marc Nobleman, the book's author.

And a villain? That
could be Bob Kane, who took sole credit for decades.

Kane had signed a
deal with DC Comics for a character named Batman. Finger then shaped
the rest, Nobleman insists; “it was 98 percent Bill.”

Still, he let Kane
take the credit. “Bill was desperate to create,” Nobleman said.
“This is at the end of the Depression; he's getting a chance to
write for a living.”

He wrote for Batman
and other comics, plus a few TV episodes and low-budget movies, then
died (heart trouble, at 59) in 1974.

Athena, born two
years later, wasn't a Batman buff. “Comics wasn't really my
medium,” she said

But her dad gave her
some Batman books and talked about the legacy, especially when the
“Batman” movie arrived in 1989. “You could see how passionate
and upset he was.”

Then Nobleman heard
the story. He created 700 pages of research (“I'm a compulsive
personality”) and boiled it into a 48-page children's book.

He's written at
least 88 other youth books, but this became his cause. He was like
Batman, documentary-maker Sheena Joyce said, “working in the
shadows, fighting for justice.”

-- “Batman &
Bill,” at www.hulu.com, starting
Saturday (May 6); Hulu is an $8-a-month streaming service with a free
trial period

-- “Bill the Boy
Wonder,” Charlesbridge, 2012