Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Secrets of a Super-Hero Sketch Artist: Con Artist with a Cause

I used to attend the Comic-Con International held in San Diego quite regularly — seven years out of the decade of the naughties, in fact. This was just before the event had exploded into the massive pop-culture phenomenon that now offers extremely slim odds of my being able to attend.

Very interesting that it was only now that I made my first submission into the event’s Souvenir Book. I would admit that my then lack of confidence in my rendering of human figures made me apprehensive to participate a decade before. Perhaps my 100-plus weeks on The Line It Is Drawn had finally emboldened me...

The subtext of this piece was obvious. While Bob Kane may had triggered the initial imaginative spark, it had become more and more apparent that his collaborator Bill Finger provided much of the tinder to the creative fire that forged the enduring concept, and legend, of the Batman. It was very likely that the red-garbed, Flash Gordon-esque mystery man I had depicted above, which was based on Bob Kane’s original Bat-Man concept, may had been what Kane would have pitched to National Comics (now DC Comics) if he had not first consulted Finger.

Much of this had been brought to the public light recently thanks to the exhaustive efforts of author and historian Marc Tyler Nobleman and his book, Bill The Boy Wonder (a great read for all ages). While Kane profited by the Batman creation, Finger lived and eventually died, in the words of Nobleman, “poor and unheralded.” Nobleman had been leading a… dare I say, noble crusade to demand DC Comics and Warner Brothers to grant Bill Finger the co-creator credit Nobleman felt Finger deserved.

And it was not just Nobleman who believed this. Decades before Nobleman had written his book, though it was years after Bill Finger’s death, Bob Kane himself had publicly stated that Finger deserved co-creator credit for his invaluable contributions to Batman (two examples I had encountered in the 1980s were in Kane’s biography, Batman and Me, and a one-page essay Kane wrote for the History of the DC Universe 1988 special edition hardcover; there may had been others). It was my understanding that DC Comics had been contractually bound to credit only Bob Kane as the sole creator of Batman, and yet said contract was arranged by Kane himself. So I was forced to wonder why Kane, who (albeit sporadically) eventually acknowledged Finger’s right to co-creator credit, never renegotiated his contract with DC to award it.  

I started to sketch out this Souvenir Book submission idea back in the beginning of this year, and almost didn’t follow through after seeing a brilliant piece by Ty Templeton (the illustrator of the Bill the Boy Wonder book) that truly emphasized the importance of Finger to the Batman mythos. However, my wife reminded me that my idea did focus on one key Finger contribution upon which Templeton’s piece did not explicitly touch. Therefore, I pressed forward to create this piece that may also serve to add one more voice to further the Nobleman cause.

Art by Xum Yukinori. Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger (see, that was not that difficult). Batman and all related characters copyright DC Comics.