Hete is my research on how Batman was created in 1939
Batman was created by Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, then Artist Jerry Robinson contributed.
Once Superman was on the scene the pressure was on to create more superheroes.
If it wasn’t for Superman, there would be no Batman. and the heroes are now two iconic sides of the same heroic coin.
In response, Bob Kane conceived "the Bat-Man.’ Kane said his influences for the character included actor Douglas Fairbanks’ film portrayal of the swashbuckler Zorro; Leonardo da Vinci’s diagram of the ornithopter, a flying machine with huge bat-like wings; and the 1930 film The Bat Whispers, with its villain a thief and murderer who wore a bat like costume…Later he said that Bill Finger had wanted Batman to be a detective, so Sherlock Holmes was also an influence.
While not a character, Leonardo
Da Vinci’s early designs of a flying device planted the seed for artist Bob Kane. When he set out to create the character, Kane
remembered the images he had seen in his youth of a machine that appeared to have bat wings. Kane dug up the old Da Vinci drawings and knew he wanted his character to be a superheroic Batman.
Like Siegel and Shuster, Kane was most influenced by The Mask of Zorro in particular. Certain traits of his “BatMan” were more than a little similar to the rapier-wielding
The Mark of Zorro, with Douglas
Fairbanks Sr. Zorro had the
dual identity. By day, like Bruce
Wayne, he feigned being a
bored, foppish count, the son of
one of the richest Mexico. By night, he became a vigilante. He would disquise himself, wearing a handkerchief mask with the eyes slit out. He exited on a black horse from a cave underneath his home, and that’s the inspiration for the Batcave and the Batmobile. If it wasn’t for Fairbanks we would never have had Batman at all.
Kane’s idea did not go much further than a character named Batman. He enlisted a writer named Bill Finger, who had done some uncredited work (“ghostwriting”) for Kane on “Rusty and Pals” to help develop the hero.
An aspiring writer and part-time shoe salesperson, he had met Kane at a party, and Kane offered him a job ghost writing the strips Rusty and Clip Carson. He recalled that “Kane had an idea for a character called ‘Batman’, and he’d like me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane’s, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of reddish tights, I believe, with boots… no gloves, no gauntlets. with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out looking like bat wings. And underit was a big sign … BATMAN.”
He was not a scientific detective and he wasn’t named Bruce Wayne.
Finger said he offered such suggestions as giving the character a cowl and scalloped cape instead of wings; adding gloves; leaving the mask’s eyeholes blank to connote mystery; and removing the bright red sections of the original costume, suggesting instead a gray-and-black color scheme. Finger additionally said his suggestions were influenced by Lee Falk’s The Phantom, a syndicated newspaper comic strip character with which Kane was familiar as well.
So Kane actually came up with
the basic idea of Batman, but it was Finger who came up with his look (as well as much of iconic Batman’s lore).
Bill would add a few more things,
namely: Gotham City, the Batmobile, and (with Jerry Robinson) Alfred the butler, the
Joker, the Catwoman, the Penguin, and Two-Face. Robin was Jerry’s creation with input from Bill and Bob.
Finger then came up with the backstory for the character.
Admittedly, Finger was himself
cribbing much of his idea for Bruce Wayne from Lamont Cranston, the millionaire playboy alter-ego of the popular pulp fiction character, The Shadow. The first Batman story, was a reworked Shadow story and the character’s second appearance, was written by Finger, while Kane provided the art.
Eventually both would end up taking a lot more from other existing characters, like the Lone Ranger, Doc Savage and The Shadow.
As for the name Bruce Wayne, the name fused Scottish royalty
with an American Revolutionary
According to Kane, he and Finger chose the first name after a medieval Scottish king called Robert the Bruce. They thought it appropriate for a billionaire to be a descendant of a noble family. As for his surname, Finger took the
name Wayne after the American army officer and statesman “Mad
So who were these two men? Robert the Bruce was a Scottish
king from 1306 until his death in 1329. He became one of the best warriors and leaders in Scotland’s history; he led the country during Scotland’s war for independence from England. He won many successful battles, and today he
is celebrated as a national hero of Scotland A legend about Robert the Bruce suggests a link to the 20th century superhero. Once, while Bruce was on the run, hiding in a cave on Rathlin Island (Ireland), he
watched a spider trying to make a web from one side of the cave ceiling to another. After trying and failing several times, the spider finally succeeded in weaving its web.
This motivated Bruce to try and
fight the English with more
determination. The legend fits
perfectly with Batman’s life. He
often fails to defeat his enemies, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. He always returns to
the fight, eventually managing to
eradicate the evil forces from Gotham.
The other gentleman who
inspired Batman’s surname, Anthony Wayne, was an officer in the colonial army during the American Revolution. His bravery
and strategic smarts made him a
brigadier general in a very short time. His easilv ignitable personality earned him the nickname “Mad” Anthony Wayne.
Wayne led troops in several successful battles against the
British forces, including the Battle of Monmouth and the Battle of Stony Point.
The character now settled, Kane sold the new comic idea to National Comics. The issue was that Finger was working for Kane independently and thus only Kane had business dealings with National Comics.
The bigger issue was that Kane
later reworked his deal with National during a time when
Siegel and Shuster were in a lawsuit with National for
ownership of Superman (no one
knows the particulars of this
secretive agreement, but
legend has it that Kane claimed that he was under the legal age to make a binding contract when he first sold Batman to National, thus nulling and voiding his original deal with the company). The deal was mutually beneficial to both
Kane and National Comics. For Kane, it guaranteed him steady, well-paying work on the
character for the rest of his life and for National, it guaranteed that they would own the. copyright to Batman completely and without worry of later legal challenges (unlike Siegel and Shuster, Kane was not looking to get the rights to his character back). That deal remained, with modifications in the 1960s, for the rest of Kane’s life.
This contract with National Comics, the future DC Comics, that signed away ownership of the character in exchange for, among other
compensations, a mandatory byline on all Batman comics (and adaptations there of). Finger’s name, in contrast, does not appear as an official credit on Batman stories or films, even the comics he wrote in the 1940s and 1950s.
Kane was the only person given an official company credit for Batman’s creation. Jerry
Robinson also did not get credit for creating the Joker.
Thus, if DC Comics were ever to
credit Bill Finger as the co-creator of Batman, that would make their deal with Kane void and open themselves up to a lawsuit by Finger’s estate over the Batman copyright.
Hence, Finger did not get any credit as Batman’s creator. Kane, for his part, also made sure never to give Finger credit for the creation of Batman. Only in the last years of his life (Finger passed away in 1974, Kane in 1998) did Kane even acknowledge Finger’s role, noting in his book, Batman and Me, “Bill Finger was a contributing force on Batman right from the beginning. He wrote most of the great stories and was influential in setting the style and genre other writers would emulate… I made Batman a superhero-vigilante when I first created him. Bill turned him into a scientific detective.”
Only from 2015 onwards, acknowledging Bill Finger for his work on Batman for the first time, did Warner Brothers agreed to put on the credits: “Batman was created by Bob Kane with Bill Finger.”
The aesthetic of the Joker was inspired by German actor Conrad
Veidt’s role as Gwynplain in the
1928 silent film The Man Who Laughs, which was directed
by the German Expressionist
filmmaker Paul Leni. In the movie, the character is sentenced to have his face surgically altered into an eternal grin.
For Catwoman, the creators drew their inspiration from actresses Hedy Lamarr and Jean Harlow. Catwoman was also partially inspired by Kane’s second cousin by marriage, Ruth Steel.
Kane hired art assistants Jerry Robinson (initially as an inker) and George Roussos (backgrounds artist and letterer). Though Robinson and Roussos worked out
of Kane’s art studio in The New York Times building, Kane himself did all his drawing at home. Shortly afterward, when DC wanted more Batman stories than Kane’s studio could deliver, the company assigned Dick Sprang and other in-house pencilers as 'ghost artists", drawing uncredited under Kane’s
supervision. Future Justice League writer Gardner Fox wrote some early scripts, including the two-part story “The Monk” that introduced some of The Batman’s first "Bat-"equipment.
In 1943, Kane left the Batman comic books to focus on penciling the daily Batman newspaper comic strip. DC Comics artists ghosting the comic-book stories now included Jack Burnley and Win Mortimer, with Robinson moving up as penciler and Fred Ray
contributing some covers. After the strip finished in 1946, Kane returned to the comic books but,
unknown to DC, had hired his own personal ghosts, including Lew Schwartz and Sheldon Moldoff
Influences on Batman
1844 Novel The Three Musketeers features the lead character d’Artagnan, who was based on the
real captain of the Musketeers
(Charles de Batz-Castlemore
d’Artagnan). D’Artagnan was a
daring, brave, and impetuous
swashbuckler who became a fan favorite early on. He caught the eye of Bill Finger, who wanted to model part of d’Artagnan’s character on Batman. Finger wanted Batman to be as much a man of action, as he was a man of intellect.
It was d’Artagnan’s heroism and
willingness to do the right thing that surely connected most with Finger and readers alike. Today,
Batman and d’Artagnan seem
quite different save for their
incessant need to pursue justice, even at the risks of their own lives.
1887 Magazine First Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet” was published Arthur Conan Doyle. Bill Finger based Batman mainly on two characters. The first being d’Artagnan, and the second was Sherlock Holmes. Bill Finger realized the value of making Batman a self-made hero, and in order to do that he had to be really smart. Who better to model an intelligent character after than fiction’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes? Kane said, “I made Batman a superhero-vigilante when I first created him. Bill turned him into a scientific detective.”
1897 Novel Dracula Bram Stoker
Dracula’s influence on Batman
shouldn’t seem like much of a stretch. After all, the Count is a nocturnal creature who wears a black cape and dark clothing.
Kane and Finger wanted criminals to fear Batman, and for him to seem like a true creature of the night. The gothic nature of Dracula is the most immediate influence that stands out. The dark ambiance and mysterious tone of Dracula was something that both creators set to emulate, but with their own heroic spin on it. While Bob Kane and Bill Finger never cited Dracula as a huge inspiration, they did acknowledge their admiration his gothic style and tone. The duality between both characters would fittingly lead to tales of the two battling against each other.
1905 Play then Novel The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy The story starred Sir Percy Blakeney, a British baronet married to Marguerite -“the cleverest woman in Europe.” Sir Percy is a man skilled in swordsmanship, disguise, and strategy. During the early days of the French Revolution, he secretly rescues people he considers unjustly sentenced to death by Madame Guillotine. To cover his tracks,.he uses an alias taken from an old family seal, the Scarlet Pimpernel, and recruits nineteen friends as agents in his “League of the Scarlet Pimpernel.” In public, Sir Percy acts like a shallow fop, one who grows faint at the mention of violence and believes that all problems can be solved by luxury relaxation, and beautiful clothing. His wife hates him for what he has become.
We needed The Scarlet Pimpernel before we could figure out how to take things further. Superman debuted in Action Comics #1, published in 1938. There was still the element of a man who pretended to be meek in public so none would suspect he was a hero who protected others from harm and evil. The Scarlet Pimpernel was not a traditional superhero. He was actually the proto-superhero, that first model that eventually led to Superman and the rest. Orczy’s premise of a daring hero who cultivates a secret identity disguised by a meek or ineffectual manner proved enduring. Zorro, The Shadow, Superman and Batman followed within a few decades, and the trope remains a popular one in serial fiction today.
1915 Novel Doctor Syn: A Tale of
the Romney Marsh by Russell
Thorndike. Dr. Christopher Syn, a pirate turned reverend living in Dymchurch (a town in Kent, England) who decided not to simply stand by as his parishioners were victimized by the government and criminal elements. At night, Dr. Syn rode a dark stallion, which he kept in a hidden lair, and donned the
costume of a demonic scarecrow. None suspected that the kindly, somber reverend was secretly the terrifying Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, feared even by those he helped.
Syn is a very different character on the surface, but Thorndyke followed many beats from the Scarlet Pimpernel. Similar to Orczy’s hero, Dr. Syn acted
less aggressive in his public life, using tricks to appear older and weaker than he was. While
Blakeney had the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Syn had a few trusted agents, including a witch.
1919 Pulp Magazine. Zorro was the creation of Finger and Kane’s favorite writer, Johnston
McCully. They often admitted to loving the pulp stories and the film The Mark of Zorro. They even featured the movie in Batman’s origin. Zorro bears so many similarities to Batman. it’s astounding. Kane loved Zorro’s dual identity and mainly used that to develop Bruce Wavne and Batman The list of Zorro’s similarities to Batman doesn’t end there. Zorro had his own secret lair, like Batman, and the entrance to his hideout was behind an old grandfather
clock, also like Batman.
Zorro sported a black mask that
covered half of his.face and a long black cape. He even had his own form of a Batmobile; Tornado, his trusty black stallion. Zorro was also a self made hero, who trained himself to be the best swordsman the world had ever seen.
1920s Film Douglas Fairbanks Senior By 1920, Fairbanks had completed twenty-nine films
(twenty-eight features and one two-reel short), which showcased his ebullient screen persona and athletic ability. By 1920, he had the inspiration of staging a new type of adventure-costume picture, a genre that was then out of favor with the public; Fairbanks had been a comic in his previous films. In The Mark of Zorro (1920), Fairbanks combined his appealing screen persona with the new adventurous costume
element. It was a smash success and parlayed the actor into the rank of superstar. For the remainder of his career in silent films he continued to produce and star in ever more elaborate, impressive costume films, such as The Three Musketeers (1921). Robin Hood (1922), The Thief of Bagdad (1924), The Black Pirate (1926), and The Gaucho (1927). Fairbanks spared no expense and effort in these films, which established the standard for all
future swashbuckling films.
While Fairbanks had flourished in the silent genre, the restrictions of early sound films dulled his enthusiasm for film-making. His athletic abilities and general health also began to decline at this time, in part due to his years of chain-smoking.
1931 Pulp Magazine, Radio The Shadow is the first ever pulp hero, and also the one that had the biggest impact in the creation of the Dark Knight. The Shadow was a dark and mysterious avenger who had the ability to cloud men’s minds (on radio). He would use this ability to blend with the shadows, striking fear in evil hearts
everywhere. By day he was. a
wealthy playboy named Lamont
Cranston (on radio). His persona as the Shadow was completely different from his playboy persona. Kane and Finger took the darkness and gritty tone of the Shadow and applied it to Batman. The Shadow’s New York city is very similar to Batman’s Gotham City. Much of Batman’s brooding and dark nature must also be attributed to The Shadow.
The Shadow has been featured on the radio, in a long-running pulp magazine series, in American comic books, comic strips, television, serials, video games, and at least five feature films. The radio drama included episodes voiced by Orson Welles
Alter egos Kent Allard (print)
Lamont Cranston (radio, film and television)
In print, radio, and film:
Expert detective, Skilled marksman, hand-to-hand combatant, Master of disguise and stealth
In radio and film only:
Ability to make himself nearly invisible to others
Hypnotic/telepathic mental-clouding abilities altering and
reading a person’s thoughts and
1931 Comic Strip Dick Tracy
We mentioned how much Bill Finger liked Sherlock Holmes and detective pulp characters, but one of Bob Kane’s favorite detectives was Dick Tracy; a man of action and a great detective in his own right. He bore a slight resemblance to Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne
Kane always admired Chester
Gould’s style of art and tried to emulate that in his Batman
artwork as well. One of the most
important. influences that came from the Dick Tracy comic strip
was his impressive cast of colorful villains like Flat Top, Pruneface, Big Boby Caprice, and more. Bob Kane has stated several times that he admired Gould’s eccentric villains and wanted to create villains
that were as strange and as
interesting as Batman himself.
Today, Batman’s rogue gallery is
almost as iconic as its lead character.
1933 Pulp.Magazine Doc Savage is yet another pulp character that sought to fight crime and right wrongs. He was raised to be a perfect physical and intellectual specimen. He possessed great strength and had mastery over several forms of martial arts. What Kane and Finger liked the most was Doc Savage’s scientific mind. The character commonly referred as " the world’s greatest detective", frequently used many specialized gadgets And much like Batman, he relies on them a great deal. While Doc Savage was also a billionaire, you would hardly call him a playboy like Bruce Wayne.
1933 Radio The Lone Ranger
Kane and Finger were fans of
both the show and the pulp magazines that came after it.
The few similarities between Batman and the Lone Ranger that stick out are their strict codes and the concealing of their identity with a mask.
The mask stood for something more than himself, while also protecting his identity. The Lone
Ranger was one of the first heroes to do this. His strict moral code of no killing would eventually become a staple of Batman’s code as well.
1933 Pulp Magazine The Phantom Detective is another
lesser-known hero from the pulps. The Phantom Detective is the second masked pulp character to have appeared. His influence on Batman can’t be denied. The Phantom Detective was a rich playboy who was a master of disguise and a brilliant forensic scientist. He became a master detective and used his skills in the fight against evil. The Phantom Detective had his own secret lab, like Batman, but his most glaring similarity has to be the method with which other do-gooders contacted him. The Phantom Detective had installed a flashing red light atop the police tower for certain members of the press and law enforcement to contact him
whenever they needed his help.
Batman would soon adopt a similar method and develop the iconic Bat signal.
1933 Pulp Magazine The Black Bat is often considered to be the first vigilante to carry the moniker of Bat anything. The Black Bat was lawyer Anthony Quinn by day and a masked crusader by night. In an origin story eerily similar to DC’s Two Face, Anthony Quinn was
tragically blinded in court when the defendant he was prosecuting threw acid into his eyes. Through an experimental.procedure, Quinn was not only able to see again, but could now see in the dark.
Think the pulp version of DC’s Doctor Midnight or Marvel’s
Daredevil. He used his newfound
abilities to wage war on organized crime. It turns out that Bill Finger liked the spiked fins on the Black Bat’s gloves, and advised Kane to draw them on Batman. Soon after, both companies threatened lawsuits against each other. They eventually managed to coexist
peacefully, but it’s safe to say that Batman came out on top.
1934 Comic Strip Flash Gordon was the brainchild of the immensely talented artist Alex
Raymond. Flash Gordon was
one of the first comic strip
spaceman and a huge influence on Superman and Hawkman.
Artists and fans marveled at the
detailed art on display in many of
the Flash Gordon comic strips. Much of Raymond’s artwork stands up, even today. The high concept look and feel of Flash Gordon dazzled the eye of Bob Kane, who was a huge fan of Alex Raymond. Kane tried to emulate the style of Alex Raymond during the early
stages of Batman’s creation. Even Kane’s first Batman cover, Detective Comics #27, is said to be an homage to Flash Gordon.
1934 Pulp Magazine
The Bat is a very obscure pulp
character that was only featured in a handful of stories. The Bat was created by Johnston McCuly, who had previously created Zorro. Reporter Dawson.Clade was framed for a murder he didn’t commit. He decided to take on the crooks who framed him and he became a hooded avenger called the Bat. As the Bat he wore a black hooded mask with a white bat emblem on his forehead. Perhaps the most startling similarity comes from a scene where Dawson Clade is trying to figure out his origin. As Clade sits in his chair, stumped and unable to come up with a name for his new alter ego, a bat flies in through the window. Clade gazes at it and says “That’s it!” Kane and Finger created nearly the exact same scene for when Bruce Wayne figures out his alter ego. Kane
and Finger were practically fanboys of Johnston McCully, so it’s hard to imagine this was a coincidence.
1936 Pulp Magazine The Whisperer. If it isn’t obvious by
now, Bob Kane and Bill Finger really liked the pulp magazines. The Whisperer is a forgotten favorite of many pulp fans but in his heyday, the Whisperer made a major impact on Kane and, particularly, Finger.
The Whisperer started out as a a
police officer who had to go
outside the law to get things properly done. He took no
prisoners and sometimes relished in making criminals pay. It should be noted that Batman himself was a bit more bloodthirsty in his first few issues. The most obvious influence the Whisperer had on a
Batman character wasn’t Batman
himself. The Whisperers true
identity was Commissioner
James Gordon. Kane and Finger paid homage to the Whisperer by naming Batman’s greatest ally after him.
Nice work @TurokSonOfStone1950 !
Very interesting read. At a small local Con last year there was a presentation on Bill Finger very interesting story there.
Thanks for taking the time to post this
@TurokSonOfStone1950 Fantastic article! Thanks for the history lesson.