In the 70 plus years since his creation, you would be hard pressed to find someone on the planet, who does not know the name Batman. For over 70 years, we have been transfixed and inspired by the Caped Crusader. Spreading fear into the hearts of the wicked, and comforting all the lost, good souls along the way. His accompanying cast of characters are just as memorable, entering pop culture on the same level as the Batman himself, Robin, Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, The Joker, Catwoman, Two-face, etc. For 70 plus years, the legendary being known as the Dark Knight, has been credited to one man. Bob Kane. However, despite years of it being believed, and beaten into public consciousness, there is one other. Denied credit, and publicly ignored for years, the forgotten Bill Finger was finally given his dues on September of 2015. However, the long journey to this breakthrough, came with its own heartache, sweat, and tears.
Directed by Don Argott (The Art of the Steal (2009), Last Days Here (2011)) and Sheena M. Joyce (Awkward Sexy People (2015) The Atomic State of America (2012)), Batman & Bill explores the long and tiring research of Marc Taylor Nobleman (Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman (2008), The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra (2017)) for his 2012 book, Bill the Wonder Boy: the Secret Co-Creator of Batman. Including interviews with those that knew the lost creator, admirers of his work, and his discovered family. Batman & Bill is a fantastic journey through the early creation of Batman, exploring the creation of his costume and iconography, the life and sad death of Bill Finger, a brief and entertaining look at copyright law, and the quest to find ‘The Heir to Batman’. The documentary follows Nobleman’s research, showing just how limited the information on Finger was, despite his monumental contributions. Following every scrap of information available, digging deep through archives, obituaries and birth records, Nobleman acts as the Dark Knight Detective himself, seeking to bring justice for the forgotten creator.
Including interviews with veterans of the comic industry, such as Roy Thomas (Batman #336 – 338 (1981), Star Wars #1 – 10 (1977-1978)), lawyers, the few surviving friends and family of Finger, and celebrity comic book fans and writers, such as Kevin Smith (Clerks (1994), Tusk (2014), Yoga Hosers (2016)). The documentary has a very well rounded nature to it, providing multiple opinions, as well as various accounts of events, backed up with phenomenal amounts of research. Utilising footage from previous documentaries, interviews with Bob Kane himself, and all strung together with fantastic comic book style animation, by the end, you’re left questioning how much we thought we knew about Batman’s lineage, but with a profound appreciation and respect for a man who has greatly impacted the lives of everyone who has ever felt a connection with a Batman story. We begin to understand Bob Kane far better through these revelations, as well, with these new perspectives, and the countless boasts he had in life to being the sole creator of Batman, and the life he ended up leading. It’s hard not to see him now, as a real life counterpart to some of the villains portrayed in the early Batman stories. Taking the money for himself, and never once helping a man he once called his friend, even in his final days. It’s amusing, though down right cruel, to note that the only time Kane publicly admitted to Finger’s involvement was over a year after Finger’s death, provided yet another sad twist to his life.
At moments, both heart-breaking and triumphant, Batman & Bill is a must see for any fan of the Caped Crusader, seeker of justice, or just those interested in learning about the marvellous genius that was Bill Finger.