After piano lessons, my mom would take me to a comic book store around the corner. She’d wait near the entrance as I mechanically zipped to the cardboard boxes underneath the main displays where thick plastic covered cheap issues of Batman. The smell of cardboard and ink grew thick in my nose as I looked for the thickest issues with the coolest cover art. I’d pass my findings to Mom for inspection, sometimes getting rejected because there were indecently drawn women on the cover, but they’d otherwise get accepted. I remember pieces of when Batman’s back was broken and Jean-Paul Valley was the new Spawn-like Batman. Or when Batman fought a group of pirates, I think that was it for that plot. Pirates! Or the issue of Ego, my greatest find.
I’d hold them safely in my lap as we drove home. Looking out the window, I’d imagine backflips and somersaults off the cars and buildings. At home, I’d turn the tv on to Batman: The Animated Series. The screen would pass over the credits, Created by Bob Kane. Afterwards, I’d ration off each comic book. Each cover saying the same thing. Created by Bob Kane.
Bob Kane, the big name at the beginning of Tim Burton’s movies with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. The only name. And that’s a lie.
The man investigating this story is Marc Tyler Nobleman, a children’s book author. And at first, I was wary of Nobleman and his story. The editing and choice interview points used in the documentary seemed forced and almost narcissistic. Nobleman is made out as a hero equal to Batman with illustrated segues in the style of old comics. His wife praises him. He says it just didn’t feel right that Bill Finger is wrongly unrecognized. It didn’t feel right and I was almost drawn out of the documentary thinking this was about as good as it would get. A fan talking about someone he admires.
I was wrong.
Nobleman is a relentless detective. Over several years, he dedicated his life to righting the wrong of such an iconic character. He found friends, family, business affiliates to give testimony to the kindness and creative power that was Bill Finger. And once the characters are established, the all-too-human villains are revealed. Bob Kane and his over-dramatic flailing to keep Batman his alone. DC comics and Warner Brothers’ fight to keep Bill Finger unannounced. It’s a mystery game of cat and mouse with new revelations at every turn. And the stakes get pretty high.
I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll say this. I was happy with Batman and Bill. Nobleman really is an unspoken hero who is spreading the gospel of Bill Finger around the world.
If you love comics, find a way to watch this doc. Nobleman does justice where justice is due. Hats off to you, Mr. Nobleman. You’re one of a kind. Cheers.