MOVIE REVIEW – ‘Batman and Bill’

Hulu's documentary tells the secret origin of Bill Finger, the mysterious co-creator of Batman.

Review by J.T. Johnson

DIRECTORS: Don Argott, Sheena M. Joyce
CINEMATOGRAPHY: Don Argott
MUSIC: Brooke Blair, Will Blair

If you grew up as a fan of the Batman comic books and films, then you definitely know that Bob Kane is the creator of the iconic character. If you grew up as a hardcore fan, though, you may have heard another name. Bill Finger was a ghost writer for Kane for over 25 years on the Batman comic books.

What many people may not know, however, is the fact that Finger also helped Kane conceive the character right from the beginning. In fact, Finger came up with just about every iconic trait related to the character while Kane pretty much just came up with the name. “Batman and Bill” is a documentary on Hulu about one man’s crusade to get Finger the credit he deserved for creating one of the greatest superheroes ever.

The documentary tells the history of how Kane told National Allied Publications (later DC Comics) that he would have a new superhero similar to Superman over the course of a weekend. Kane then went home, made a crude sketch, called the character “The Bat-Man” and realized it wasn’t enough. Kane then called his friend Bill Finger and when Finger came in, he redesigned Batman into the character that we know today.

Unfortunately, Kane took the idea into National and claimed that the idea was solely his creation. As a part of the deal with the publication, there is apparently a contract that was made that would only acknowledge Kane as the creator. He made an unofficial deal with Finger that while Kane would receive sole credit for Batman’s creation, Kane would share a portion of the money with his friend.

The truth beyond that point is a rather tragic tale for Finger. Kane would go on to make millions off of Batman, being that his deal made him the sole creator. Finger would eventually be ousted by DC in the 1960s along with several older writers and in 1974, Finger would die penniless and alone.

The film primarily follows Marc Tyler Nobleman, a man that decided to investigate the mysterious Finger and his eventual crusade to get Finger the credit he deserves. We learn how he retraced Finger’s steps and the extensive amount of research and detective work that he went through to learn who this lost creator really was. Filmmaker Kevin Smith is featured in the documentary and he makes the accurate claim that Nobleman became Finger’s Batman as Nobleman sought justice for the struggling writer.

The movie does not make an attempt to actively vilify Kane, but it does become pretty apparent that Kane screwed over his friend and many others as he took credit for things that he never even came up with. The good news is that I can say that the movie does have a happy ending.

In 2015, DC Entertainment and the Finger family finally came to an agreement. From that point on, in every film, television, and comic featuring Batman, the credit will now read “Batman created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger”. The greatness of the documentary is not its conclusion, though. It’s the journey to discover who Finger really was.

Over the years, I had always heard of Finger and he was mentioned in books as having helped create some of the iconic tropes of the Batman legend. There were even rumblings in the community that Finger actually had more to do with Batman than DC and Kane ever acknowledged. This documentary, thanks in large part to Nobleman’s research, reveals definitively that Finger is really the true creator of the Dark Knight (even that nickname was created by Finger).

“Batman and Bill” is not as well polished as other documentaries, but it still hits the high and low points that it aims for. Ultimately, the documentary gives the definitive account on how Finger finally got the credit that he always deserved for creating one of the most popular fictional characters of all time. Even more important is the fact that the film also reveals the mystery of who this man really was and now his story can finally be told.

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