|Edited by Jon B. Cooke||Comic Book Artist, Eisner Award winner for "Best Comics-Related Magazine", celebrates the lives and works of great cartoonists, writers and editors from all eras through in-depth interviews, feature articles, and unpublished art.|
The Bob Kane Letter
Batman's First Artist discusses the Creation of the Darknight Detective in a 1965 missive to Biljo White, Batmania Editor.
From Comic Book Artist #3
September 14, 1965
AN OPEN LETTER TO ALL "BATMANIANS" EVERYWHERE
First, I would like to commend you on your dedication to perpetuate the legend of "Batman;" through your "Fanzine; Batmania, which I think is a very constructive gesture on your part. I'd like you to know that I have been reading it with great-interest since its inception but due to a busy schedule, could not find the time to write you until now.
Now, Biljo, I'd like to emphatically set the record straight, once and for all, about the many "myths" and "conjectures" that I read about myself and my creation, "Batman," in your "Fanzine" and other publications. I can only call all the stories I read about myself "conjectures," because most of them are written without my advice or consent, and, therefore, cannot be entirely the truth, because how can an article about me or the Batman be the true story, when I am not consulted or interviewed? It only stands to reason then, that the writers write what they "think" is the truth, by receiving their information from second and third parties, in fragments, until what I read is so distorted that I cannot believe that the person they are talking about is myself. (They also do this to the movie stars whom they never even interviewed.)
It is true, however, that much is written about the "Batman" because he is publicly exposed in print, but very little is known personally about Bob Kane, his creator, because I haven't given out that many interviews. Here, for the first time, straight from the "horse's mouth" is the real inside story about myself and "Batman," with no holds barred, and I intend to explode the myths about myself and get down to the real truth about the legend that is "Batman," so, fasten your seat belts, Batmanians, as the fireworks begin.
We can call this story, "Inside Bob Kane," or will the real creator of "Batman" sign in, please!
The Myth: Bob Kane is not the sole creator of "Batman." (I've heard this a thousand times in my lifetime), that "Batman" was really created by Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson, Carmine Infantino, Jack Schiff, Julie Schwartz, my publisher, etc., etc., and my housekeeper!
The Truth: All hogwash! I, Bob Kane, am the sole creator of "Batman." I created "Batman" in 1939, and it appeared, if memory serves me correctly, in Detective Comics as a six or eight page story, and I signed the first strip, "Robert Kane."
I read your article that you sent to me, "If the Truth be Known,'' ''A Finger in Every Plot," and it seemed to me that Bill Finger has given out the impression that he and not myself created the ''Batman, t' as well as Robin and all the other leading villains and characters. This statement is fraudulent and entirely untrue. That is ''myth" and I quote an excerpt from the article written by Jerry G. Bails, "The Cowl and Cape, the utility belt and gauntlets were all Bill's contribution."
Also, further down in the article and again I quote , "Bill also created Robin, of course, but also Commissioner Gordon, (who appeared in the first Batman story), Alfred the Penguin, The Catwoman, etc., etc.
I challenge Bill to repeat those statements in front of me. I am sorry that I was absent from the comicdom's convention so that I could have answered him. The truth is that Bill Finger is taking credit for much more than he deserves, and I refute much of his statements here in print The fact is that I conceived the ''Batman`' figure and costume entirely by myself' even before I called Bill in to help me write the "Batman.'' I created the title, masthead, the format and concept, as well as the Batman figure and costume. Robin, the boy wonder, was also my idea, . . . not Bill's.
The only proof I need to back my statement is that if Bill co-authored and conceived the idea, either with me or before me, then he would most certainly have a by-line on the strip along with my name, the same as Siegel and Schuster had as creators of Superman. However, it remains obvious that my name appears on the strip alone, proving that I created the idea first and then called Bill in later, after my publisher okayed my original creation.
(Attention Jerry G. Bails; the self-appointed authority on Batman. If Bill Finger created Batman, as you wrote, where is Bill Finger 's byline on my strip' It is conspicuous by its absence. So?)
Now, Biljo, in all fairness to Bill, I will admit he was influential in aiding me in shaping up the strip, and there are certain characters Bill created, aside from my main characters' and many other characters that I created, including the Batmobile. It's been 25 years now, and truthfully, time sometimes blurs the memory and it is difficult to separate, at times, the myth from the truth, so that I cannot blame Bill too much if at times his memory "clouds."
Aside to Jerry G. Bails: I ought to sue you for misrepresentation and distortion of the truth about your "Finger Article" that blatantly intimates that Bill Finger was the true creator behind Batman, and not Bob Kane. Your article is completely misleading, loaded with untruths fed to you by Finger's hallucinations of grandeur.
May I say to you, Mr . Bails, that before you wrote so smugly and assuredly about Bill Finger being the real creator and ''tour de force" behind the Batman for publication, don't you think that you should have double-checked your information back to me, so that I could verify and clarify Bill Finger's comments? After all, I was involved with the Batman, don't you think? But, of course, you minimized my part in the creation and maximized Bill Finger's part, only because you listened to one side of the story - Finger' s side. I am sure that you have heard that there are "two sides to every story"? At any rate, now you've heard my side. Are you still convinced about Finger's immortality?
I am sick and tired of opinionated people, like yourself, who throughout the years have written distorted and untrue stories about how Batman was created and by whom, receiving their information from unreliable sources, when it would have been much easier to get the true story simply by contacting me, the one and only creator of Batman, that could be proven so easily by merely asking my publisher or simply by looking at the lone by-line of "Bob Kane" on the strip.
I'd also like to state here, Mr. Bails, that although Bill Finger literally typed the scripts in the early days, that he wrote the scripts from ideas that we mutually collaborated on and that many of the unique concepts and story twists also came from my own fertile imagination and that I was not just a puppet cartoonist alone, following a writer's script and contributing nothing more than the art work.
Many a story I "silently'' wrote by giving Bill the premise and he took the ball from there. (I am sure that Bill failed to mention this fact?)
You see, I am also a writer and that is a fact not known by the public in general. The point is, I didn't have the time to literally write and draw the strip at the same time. However, I personally wrote many stories of my early creations, Clip Carson, Rusty and his Pals, Gingersnap, etc . even before Mr. Finger was called into the picture.
The Myth (continued): The "New Look" Batman. It has been hinted and at times stated openly that I do not draw the ''New Look'' Batman, that I am retired and out of the picture. Many of my fans think that Carmine Infantino has taken over the strip and there is constant mention of many fans in your ''Fanzine" who are overly concerned about who inks the strip, who pencils it, who letters it, etc .
The Truth: First of all, let me state that I still draw about ninety percent of all Batman stories. I do all the stories for Batman Bimonthly, and share Detective Comics with Infantino, who draws every other one . Infantino now does all the covers for Batman and Detective Comics. As for inking and lettering, I am not too sure myself who finishes my pencils. However, the results are good, so I don't care.
I do know one thing though, that in the "Golden Age" of Batman, I penciled, inked, and lettered my strip by myself.
I've often been asked, do I like the "New Look'' Batman better than the old look. My answer to that question is, ''Emphatically, no!!" (Although there are certain aspects of the "New Look" that I do like better). I feel that my original style was much more unique and individual and was much more the "real me." It had much more "zing and schmaltz" and I feel that any "immortality" that Batman enjoys came from my original style, that lasted about twenty years, and not the "New Look" style that is only a couple of years old, but improving all the time. I feel that the "New Look'' lacks the individuality of my original style, although it is more illustrative and realistic (like everybody else) . However, "In Rome, do as the Romans do" seems to be the motto, so at editorial request to me to "Keep up with the times," meaning follow the sheep who all draw alike (like Alex Raymond imitators), I conceded.
I have also read comments in your "Fanzine" about Infantino's art being better than mine on the ''Batman" strip.
Let me put it this way: Infantino, I feel, is a better illustrator that I'd ever care to be, as I still try to combine a little of my old "semi-comic" style with the illustrative ''New Look'' style. I think Carmine is a very fine artist but does not capture the essence of "Batman" at all. On his own strips, he excels and he is almost too fine an artist, I feel, for the comic books. He should have been a top illustrator.
There is an old saying, ''To the victor belongs the spoils, " and after it is said and done about who does what on the Batman assembly line, and I do not underestimate all of the help I've received, I am assured that in the folklore of legendary comic history of our times, I know that Bob Kane will be remembered as the creator of "Batman'' and no one else .
The trouble with being a "ghost" writer or artist is that you must remain rather anonymously without credit. However, if one wants the "credit," then one has to cease being a ''ghost" or follower and become a leader or innovator. (There must be a moral there somewhere for aspiring young cartoonists and writers).
In conclusion, Biljo, I would like to say that I have some very exciting news to report on the ''Batman." First of all, the Batman is coming to television, and judging from your latest Batmania cover, you are either clairvoyant or heard the news through the grapevine.
ABC Television Network and 20th Century-Fox Films are jointly in the process now of making an extremely high-budget color pilot of an hour a week Batman series that may wind up as two half-hour-a-week shows. The show will be shown in a prime time slot at 7:30 and should hit the TV screens some time next September of 1966 season . This is a top budget show and they are putting the best of everything into it. They are building a special "Batmobile" with a million gadgets an it that will make the "Goldfinger'' car look like a kiddie car. They will have some of the villains that I created, The Joker, The Riddler, Catwoman, etc. This is going to be the ''in'' show to watch and will be real "camp'' with some very exciting innovations and gimmicks which I would rather not reveal right now.
The time is now ripe for a Batman TV series, following on the heels of the James Bond hysteria, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. series, and various other satire take-offs. Did you know that I created "Batman" about ten years before Ian FIeming created James Bond?
It took them a while to catch on that ''Batman" would be the greatest, but this year it seems, after celebrating 25 years of its fame, the ''Batman" has had its biggest comeback and has had the accolades paid to me and the "Batman" from every source imaginable: Newsweek article, ''Batman Has Become a Collector 's Item." The San Francisco Pop Ballet had a large ''Batman'' back-drop honoring me, the first time a comic hero was used in a ballet. I received write-ups in various newspapers, Time Magazine, etc., etc. I am quite thrilled with all of this sudden, renewed interest in my indestructible heroes, and the TV series coming up will be the topper to it all. "Batman'' has been acknowledged as a legend in my lifetime.
The second exciting news event worth mentioning is that I am planning a one-man art show of original Batman oil paintings that I will show in New York City at a new gallery in the CarIton House, called the Paul Stooshnoff Gallery, which will be held some time this coming November or December. I will let you know the exact date in advance, as soon as I find out, so that you can alert my fans who would like to attend the opening of this unprecedented show.
It will be kind of "Pop Art" but not really. The paintings are three-dimensional oils that are almost life-like in appearance. I am doing it partly for the Cancer Fund, and it will be a charity affair with a blacktie opening.
There will be all kinds of Batman and Robin shots, some in action, some in portrait, and also a liberal sprinkling of all of my villains: The Joker, Clayface, The Batwoman, The Catwoman, and The Penguin.
The prices of the paintings will be quite high, but I am counting on the rich patrons of "Pop Art" to buy them and I will personally autograph the catalogues for a very nominal fee, so that the younger set could afford them.
Well, Biljo, old chap, this sounds like my autobiography, but I thought that this would be a good time to sound off about myself, as I think that I have been silent too long about my views and opinions, and I have gotten a bit tired about hearing what people think I have said, along with misquotes and distortions of the truth.
As this is the first comprehensive document authored by myself, may I suggest that you keep this original copy so that the historians of comic folklore may one day think it valuable enough to lock in their vault . They can then quote excerpts about the real Bob Kane, instead of getting their information from second-hand sources which are genuinely false in context.
In the future, Biljo, I'd like you to know that I am making you kind of my unofficial guardian of pertinent Batmania folklore and oddities and may I suggest that if you ever want to get the facts straight about me or the Batman, please write to the original source, myself, for the truth, instead of second guessing. I will be most happy to help you and my fans in the future with any information that you may need.
So, good luck to you and all you Batman collectors, may I wish you continued success with your "Fanzine" Batmania and thanks again for your personal interest in my heroes and myself.
With best wishes,
P.S. I would appreciate it if you would devote your next issue to my entire document and use all of the material that I have stated, as I feel that it is important enough to relate to my fans, once and for all, by being as candid and honest as I could. I am sure that this open letter will be welcomed by all my readers that have never heard any real comment about the personal side of Bob Kane, by Bob Kane.
The next issue of Playboy Magazine will have a featured story about the comic book heroes and their creators of the "Golden Age" of comics by Jules Ffeifer. Look for it!
Just as this issue of Comic Book Artist and Alter Ego was going to press, we received the sad news of Bob Kane's passing on November 3, 1998. In his 1989 autobiography Batman & Me, written with Tom Andrae, Kane attempted to give his early collaborator Bill Finger something resembling his due, admitting that, "Bill never received the fame and recognition he deserved." Whatever the controversies that still surround the origins of the Darknight Detective, and without diminishing the contributions of others, especially Bill Finger, Kane was undeniably correct when he said in his 1965 letter to Biljo White: "In the folklore of legendary comic history of our times, I know that Bob Kane will be remembered as the creator of 'Batman,' and no one else." Batman is the second most famous super-hero created in the history of comic books, and Bob Kane deserves full and eternal credit for at least the initial concept.
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