Although comic artists may create fantastic characters and spin tales about daring feats and narrow escapes, their lives are usually quiet ones spent writing and drawing in studios. But writer Bill Finger’s life was as intriguing as the world he built. Finger helped create Batman, the most popular superhero of all time, and most of his antagonists. For over twenty-five years, he wrote the comic. However, he never received official credit for his work. Co-creator and original artist Bob Kane seized the byline – and almost all of the profits – for himself. Although editors and fellow artists recognized Finger’s genius, he remained obscure and poorly paid, while Kane soared to wealthy and immortality.
In Bill the Boy Wonder, Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ty Templeton tell Bill Finger’s story. Readers learn about he generated ideas for Batman and other comics and how various characters evolved. The picture-book biography, which is sophisticated enough to appeal to middle-graders, employs the energetic prose of comic books. Nobleman uses alliteration, metaphor, slang, and other word play to capture the genre’s playfulness and the drama of Finger’s life. For example, Batman artists “loved when Bill was at Bat.” The book’s illustrations reflect the drama and vivid colors of comic book art. This is no surprise: Ty Templeton has drawn for Batman, Superman, and other well-known comics.
Bill the Boy Wonder is an exciting introduction to Bill Finger, comics, and the creative process. It is also a cautionary tale about the possibilities and perils of collaboration. In addition, the fascinating author’s note describes Nobleman’s research for the book and his own hand in the continuing story of Bill Finger and Batman.
Dorothy A. Dahm