Batman & Bill
Batman & Bill 2017
Everyone knows who Batman is, Bruce Wayne, billionaire, crimefighter. Not everyone knows who’s listed as the creator of Batman unless they’re a comics fan, and very few people unless they’re die-hard comics fans know who really created Batman. This documentary follows the research of novelist Marc Tyler Nobleman as he not only uncovers the seldom told story of Bill Finger but also manages to get him officially credited as the rightful co-creator of Batman right alongside Bob Kane. The documentary itself is a fascinating story that has a few surprises going for it as it tells its quest for recognition that was long overdue. The interviews are bolstered by comics inspired simple animations. It’s a story that I didn’t know but I’m glad I know it now.
One difficult decision to make for documentaries is how much to include the filmmakers themselves, or in this case the researcher/interviewer Marc Tyler Nobleman. In many cases it’s actually a bad decision as it feels like someone inserting themselves into a story where they don’t belong. But in this case, Nobleman is very much a part of this story as it was clearly his drive, his passion that really carried this story through to the end. He may not have been a part of Bill Finger’s story, but he’s absolutely a part of this story.
Before this story came out, Bill Finger seemed like he was the ghost story told ’round the comic con. Both Bill Finger and Bob Kane have passed many years ago, the big difference was that Finger died in the late 70’s with barely any money and only a handful of close friends knew who he was and how much he contributed to Batman. A character at the time who had gained popularity through the Adam West television show but was still a popular in comic books. Meanwhile, Bob Kane has used his sole creator credit for Batman to turn him into a wealthy and famous man. More or less the prototypical Stan Lee.
But besides just giving us a background into the story behind Bill Finger’s contributions to Batman and how Bob Kane not only hogged the credit, but also spoke out against those who tried to get Bill Finger some recognition while he was alive. This film also is about the journey to give Finger the posthumous recognition he so badly deserved. And in order to do that, Nobleman had to find someone related to Bill Finger which was more difficult than it might have seemed in the first place. Finger died in the 70’s and only had one son who was gay and died in the 90’s. It wasn’t until Nobleman started looking backwards through the family of Finger’s first wife that he discovered that even though Finger’s son was gay, he was actually bisexual and had a daughter. Athena Finger ultimately became the missing puzzle piece that allowed Nobleman to push things through. It almost felt like a little bit of fate as Athena’s half sister was actually a copyright lawyer.
The majority of this film really is Nobleman combined with motion comic style animation as he tells the stories about Bill Finger based on what he’s researched for his book Bill: The Boy Wonder. Not only that, but we get to see how this has been such a long term investment for him as we see an early moment with his young daughter and son as an infant where his daughter already knows about his obsession with Bill Finger’s life. And when he finds out about the news story that Bill Finger will be getting official credit on Gotham on TV and on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice his daughter is a teen and his son is older than his daughter was in the earlier scene.
The flow and pacing of the film works very well, it’s great to see the story unfold from the initial background of Bill Finger to the search and discovery of his granddaughter. There’s some great interviews from still living people who knew both Bob Kane and Bill Finger as well as a few other people involved in the comics and movie industries like Todd MacFarlane and Kevin Smith. There are also some great archival recordings with the actual voice of Bill Finger and even a brief archival interview between Stan Lee and Bob Kane. It was a fascinating documentary from start to finish and it was especially great to see that it had a happy ending. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.