Childhood & Early Life
Finger was born Milton Finger on February 8, 1914, in Denver, Colorado, to a Jewish couple, Louis Finger, and Tessie. He was raised along with his sisters, Emily and Gilda.
Finger's family was settled in The Bronx, New York City, where his father owned a tailoring shop, which shut down during the 'Great Depression.'
He attended 'DeWitt Clinton High School' in The Bronx and graduated in 1933. He aspired to be a writer.
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Finger had a part-time job as a shoe salesman. He then met comic book writer, artist, and future collaborator, Bob Kane, at a party. Kane was a 'DeWitt Clinton' alumnus, too.
He joined Kane's newly established studio in 1938 and later, on Kane's recommendation, got a ghost writing job for the 'Rusty and Clip Carson' comic strips.
When editors wanted to create a character to match National Comics' success with superhero 'Superman,' Kane came up with the idea of 'Batman.' When Kane conceived the idea for 'Batman,' he showed the drawings to Finger. Finger then suggested giving the character a cowl instead of the domino mask, a cape instead of wings, and gloves.
Finger later revealed that these suggestions were inspired from 'Phantom,' a syndicated newspaper comic strip character. Bill was the one to suggest the name of Batman's secret identity, ‘Bruce Wayne,’ where the first name was taken from the Scottish patriot Robert Bruce. Finger wanted to give a colonial name to the character's secret identity.
He was the writer of the initial storylines for Batman's debut (May 1939) and second strips of 'Detective Comics.'
When 'Batman' became an overnight success, Finger was asked to write more stories for the character. He had also made major contributions to Batman's nemesis, 'Joker.'
Finger co-created Batman's sidekick, 'Robin.' When Kane wanted the character’s origin to match that of 'Batman,' Finger suggested the death of the character's parents while performing their trapeze act in a circus.
'DC Comics' writer Gardner Fox had replaced Finger for a while. He returned, and created (or co-created) the 'Batmobile,' 'Batcave,' and the name 'Gotham City.'
Finger was one of the writers of the 'Batman' comic strip from 1943 to 1946. Usage of giant-sized props was common in his stories.
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Finger eventually left Kane's studio and joined 'DC Comics' as an independent artist.
He wrote the stories where fictional material ''kryptonite'' and Al Plastino were featured in 'Superman' (November 1949). He was also the writer of the 'DC Comics' series 'Superboy' and had created the character's love interest, 'Lana Lang.'
Finger continued to write 'Batman' stories and collaborated with artist Sheldon Moldoff to introduce 'Ace the Bat-Hound' in June 1955, 'Bat-Mite' in May 1959, 'Clayface' in December 1961, and 'Betty Kane,' the original 'BatGirl' in April 1961.
In addition to 'DC Comics,' Finger had produced content for 'Fawcett Comics,' 'Quality Comics,' and 'Timely Comics' for which he created the 'All-Winners Squad.'
He wrote the script to introduce Kane's character 'Scarecrow.' The two introduced 'Two-Face' in August 1942. He co-wrote the byline of the debut 'Wildcat' story (January 1942) for 'Sensation Comics.'
Some of his other co-creations were the 'Riddler' (October 1948) with Dick Sprang, and the original 'Green Lantern,' 'Alan Scott,' (July 1940) with creator Martin Nodell.
Finger solely created the 'Calendar Man' without any input from Kane.
As a screenwriter, Finger wrote films 'The Green Slime,' 'Death Comes to Planet Aytin,' and 'Track of the Moon Beast,' and contributed to the scripts to the TV series 'Hawaiian Eye' and '77 Sunset Strip.'
In 1985, 'DC Comics' honored Finger in its 50th-anniversary publication 'Fifty Who Made DC Great.'
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Disputes Over Credit
Although Kane never let 'DC Comics' credit Finger as the co-creator of 'Batman' and other characters for the comics, he had acknowledged Finger’s contribution to the creation of the character in his autobiography, 'Batman and Me' (1989).
He also wrote about how Finger transformed 'Batman' from a superhero-vigilante to a scientific detective. He described him as an "unsung hero."
Finger's biographer, Marc Tyler Nobleman, has mentioned about the incident where Kane had a deal with editor Vin Sullivan in Finger's absence. He even showed the drawings to Vin in Finger’s absence.
'National Comics' (later 'DC Comics') agreed to Kane's offer. 'DC,' however, began giving limited acknowledgment to Finger's writing work. He was also credited as the sole creator of the 'Riddler.'
As background artist and letterer George Roussos had recalled, Finger would do thorough research before writing a plot for 'DC Comics.' He would even go for pictorial references (usually from 'National Geographic') to design the setup of the stories. Roussos had also mentioned his orderly and systematic way of working.
The only fault Roussos had mentioned in Finger's style of working was his irregularity in producing content. Because of his inconsistency and slow pace, 'Batman' editor Whitney Ellsworth once suggested that Kane should replace him.
Author and 'Batman' comic collector Joe Desris, too, has described Finger as "notoriously tardy."
In 1994, Kane credited Finger for creating the 'Joker.' However, artist Jerry Robinson had also claimed the same. On the claim of Robinson, Kane had clarified that it was his and Finger's creation and Robinson made no contribution to the character. He backed the statements by citing Finger's contribution as the writer and that his idea of taking influences from actor Conrad Veidt in 'The Man Who Laughs' to create the character.
Another character named 'Penguin' that debuted in December 1941 also had disputes over creative credit. Finger claimed that he created the character.
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However, 'National Comic's sister company, 'All-American Publications' had credited Finger while he was alive.
After a long legal battle, a deal was reached between Finger's family and 'DC Comics,' and the latter finally acknowledged Finger's creations in September 2015. The following month, he was formally credited for 'Batman' in 'Batman and Robin Eternal' #3 and 'Batman: Arkham Knight Genesis' #3.
He was also credited for the 2016 superhero film 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' and the second season of 'Fox' series 'Gotham.'
Personal Life & Death
Finger had a son, Frederick, from first wife, Portia. After their divorce, he married Edith "Lyn" Simmons in the late 1960s and remained married until his death.
He was found dead at his home in Manhattan, on January 18, 1974. The cause of death was later revealed as occlusive coronary atherosclerosis. He had previously suffered heart attacks in 1963, 1970, and 1973.
As per his last wish, Frederick cremated his father and scattered his ashes in the shape of a bat in Oregon.
Finger's granddaughter Athena, born two years after his death, had challenged 'Warner Bros.' to credit him as co-creator of 'Batman.'
Unlike Bob Kane, who was an arrogant and boastful person, Finger was a total nerd.
He also never craved publicity and had made only one public appearance at a 1965 convention. He never gave an interview to the media.
Writer John Broome and penciler Gil Kane paid tribute to Finger through the comic-book villain 'William Hand' (Black Hand'), which was based entirely on Finger's personality.
He was inducted into the 'Jack Kirby Hall of Fame' (1994) and the 'Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame' (1999). He was also conferred the 'Inkpot Award' in 2014.
'Comic-Con International' honored him by establishing the 'Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing' in 2005.
On December 8, 2017, a street in the Bronx where Finger and Kane would meet to discuss 'Batman,' was named Bill Finger Way.
The injustice to Finger over creative credit has been featured in the 2017 'Hulu' original documentary, 'Batman & Bill.'