|From TRUE FACT COMICS #5, 1946. Art by WIN MORTIMER, script by JACK SCHIFF,|
MORT WEISINGER & BERNIE BRESLAUER. (Images copyright DC COMICS)
Thursday, 14 October 2021
POST FROM THE PAST: THE TRUE STORY OF BATMAN & ROBIN - (OR: DO YOU STILL BELIEVE IN FAIRY TALES?)
You'd think that BOB KANE, as the 'creator' of BATMAN, would be a revered figure in the world of comics, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Going by accounts I've read of people who met him, he was egotistical, self-centred, and many fans found him to be an immense disappointment. It gives me no joy to impart any of this information to anyone who isn't already aware of it, because it would be nice if he was held in the same high regard as STAN LEE is by his fans, but it's hard to escape the facts.
In BILL SCHELLY's excellent book, SENSE Of WONDER: A LIFE In COMIC FANDOM, he has this to say about hearing Bob Kane speak (as one of the Guests of Honour) at the 1973 New York Comic Art Convention.
"The first major event of the comicon was a talk by Bob Kane.
While some knew that others had contributed much to make
Batman a great success, Kane was held in high esteem. When
he was introduced and strode up to the front of the room, a tall,
good-looking man with a dark tan, he received a thunderous
When he left the room after completing his talk, the applause
was a mere polite smattering. Bob Kane had gone from hero to
heel in a mere half-hour. That was no mean accomplishment,
given his place in the comic book firmament.
How did he do it?
Humility was not a trait that could be found in Bob Kane.
There was little room to admire him when he was so busy ad-
miring himself. All his stories about his time in the industry, the
awards he'd received, the celebrities he'd met, and the movie
projects he'd masterminded, had one thing in common: they
were to reinforce how great, how brilliant, and how famous
Bob Kane was.
It was nauseating.
Having enjoyed the adventures of Batman and Robin for
so many years, I was disappointed to discover that the man
behind the Dynamic Duo was such a jerk. It wasn't that Kane
was having a bad day, either; I heard later that stories about
the man's ego were legion."
I once read an interview with Kane in which he related the tale of someone at a convention asking him to autograph an issue of either DETECTIVE COMICS #27 or BATMAN #1. Kane offered the fan a page (or two) of original artwork in exchange for the comic and was apparently astounded when his offer was politely declined. "Why would anyone prefer a printed comic over original art by the guy who drew it?" he mused. (And the pages he was offering were not from the comic he was trying to swap them for.) No great surprise really, as, at the time, the comic was worth many thousands of dollars (which Kane must surely have known), whereas there wasn't really much demand for original Bob Kane art - especially as it was suspected that he routinely back-dated his artwork decades earlier than it had actually been produced.
I remember reading another interview (or perhaps it was the same one) in which he says he just couldn't understand the scene in FRANK MILLER's The DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, where an emaciated SUPERMAN's costume 'fills out' as he flies closer to the sun, the source of his power. Was Kane really ignorant of this long-established piece of Superman folklore? If so, it tends to suggest a lack of interest in any comic that wasn't by him. (Although not many actually were, according to some.)
Having read his autobiography, BATMAN And ME, some years ago, I was struck by how unsophisticated Kane appeared to be. There's an account of when, as a youth, he encounters a neighbourhood gang, and the comicbook dialogue he attributes to them as he dashingly and daringly (as he tells it) evades their clutches reads like pure invention. As does his tale of meeting a young (and as yet unknown) MARYLIN MONROE and going to the beach with her for a swim; it has all the hallmarks of fiction by a fantasist who just can't see that his stories are unbelievable.
In the 1989 BATMAN movie, a newspaper cartoonist hands a sketch of a bat-like creature to one of the reporters. It's prominently signed 'Bob Kane'; the reporter takes one look at the sketch and mutters "What a d*ck!" Were the movie-makers delivering their verdict on Bob Kane, the creator (or co-creator) of one of the most popular icons of 20th century mythology? Sadly, it very much seems like it.
However, this isn't meant to be a 'hatchet job' on Bob Kane. I write this post in sorrow rather than in anger, and certainly no malice is intended on my part. I merely want to point out that it's just a shame that Batman's creator isn't held in the same high esteem as his creation - even if it does seem to be largely his own fault. At least Bob wasn't (as far as the credits go anyway) responsible for the following 'highly imaginative' account of how the daring Dynamic Duo first came to be. Cue Jackanory theme music...
Posted by Kid at Thursday, October 14, 2021