The Twelfth Day of Classic Comics Christmas 2020 Dec 24, 2020 13:06:16 GMT -5 shaxper, Slam_Bradley, and 9 more like this
Post by Prince Hal on Dec 24, 2020 13:06:16 GMT -5
1. Bill Finger
As with my other choices, all I had to do was to start looking up the stories that have made the deepest impressions on me. It made selecting the writers who were by dint therefore, my “favorites.” That made the selecting, if not the ranking, a heckuva lot easier, with this exception.
I was torn for only a minute about whether Bill Finger should be first or second, but when I factored in his enormous influence on popular culture, let alone on comics culture, I had no doubt.
If Finger did not “create” Batman, he gave him the depth and substance that an icon requires if it is to last. Batman certainly has lasted; indeed he has become one of the iconic characters, in popular culture.
As a kid, being ushered into the vast realm of comics, I was like Billy Batson walking through the subway tunnel to meet Shazam. eager to learn the secrets of this comic book universe. Thanks to the magic of 80-Page Giants, I was able to experience the tapestry of the Batman saga that Finger had woven from strands of legend, myth, pulp adventures, and his own imagination. His fingerprints (Sorry!) are all over comics, television, and movies today, and they always will be.
Were there stretches of memorable dialogue, flights of poetry, the angst, the Sturm und Drang, and the iconoclasm that have so dominated comics these last couple of decades?
No, none of that. For better or worse, Finger worked in a system as rigid and factory-like as the studio system that produced thousands of popular entertainments for the masses and kept the flow of filthy lucre streaming into the pockets of the wealthy men who owned these artistic plantations.
However, Finger, working within the strict boundaries of expedience, and laboring in the shadow of Bob Kane, sculpted a character and a legend that transcended those boundaries and became an archetype. What Batman’s legend needed, Finger supplied: an evil nemesis (the Joker); a sultry female counterpart (Catwoman); a Rogues’ Gallery rivaled only by Dick Tracy’s (Hugo Strange; Two-Face; Riddler; Clayface); a dashing young sidekick (Robin); even silliness on a par with Weisinger’s Superman (Bat-Hound, Bat-Mite, etc.).
He wrote clever mysteries; oddball science-fiction; melodramas tinged with social comment; and intriguing slice-of-life stories in which Batman stayed out of the spotlight. Not to strain the movie studio analogy, but Finger turned Batman and Detective into the equivalent of Warner Brothers. His stories in the 30s and 40s were inevitably marked by violence, vengeance, realism and tragedy.
Few Finger villains were simple. For all the Joker’s sui generis evil in his first appearances, Finger changed everything when he wrote “The Man Behind the Red Hood “ for Detective 168. Forget the ripple effect; that story has been like a tsunami. Then there were the maniacal (original) Clayface; the damaged Catwoman and her love-hate relationship with Batman; and the poignant story of Two-Face, an eerie version of what Batman himself might have become.
Finger worked in sub-text, however unknowingly, but his sensitivity and his emotional intelligence made him an ideal writer for Batman, who at his core, was a hero with deep dark secrets, and a hunger for justice that often threatened to become a lust for vengeance in his early days. He spent his life in pursuit of wounded grotesques not very different from him and Finger was the first to hint at that sad side to his character; it has become a trope that nowadays risks becoming a cliché.
And when Finger broke the formula, he left us with the kinds of stories that have become canonical, no matter which era’s Batman they involved. Where would the story of Batman be, for instance without, the aforementioned “Man Behind the Red Hood” and two other Finger classics, the haunting "The Origin of the Batman" (Batman 47); and the powerful “Robin Dies at Dawn (Batman 156)?
I thank Bill Finger, who so long was taken advantage of by Kane and DC for imagining the Batman and his complex story into four-color life.
And for introducing one eager young reader into a new world of adventure, emotion and imagination.