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Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman Hardcover – July 1, 2012
From School Library Journal
Gr 3-5-This eye-catching biography of Bill Finger is quite unique. It's the first picture book written about the co-creator of the comic-book character Batman. And until quite recently, Finger wasn't recognized, as Bob Kane accepted full credit. From the cover depicting a bust of Finger set against the backdrop of Batman, and the end pages that include the shadow, quotes, and teasers to the story, to the engagingly told story, this biography will be a hit. The illustrations are done in colorful, classic comic-book style, with text offset in boxes. The story begins with a young Jewish man, Milton Finger, changing his first name to Bill because of discrimination. It proceeds to his chance meeting with Kane and his uncredited collaboration. After 25 years of writing increasingly creative adventures for Batman, his contribution was discovered, though Kane was still reluctant to share credit. Finger died rather poor and largely unrecognized. After his death, a comic-writing award was named in his honor. The easy-to-read text is short and interesting. An author's note presents more detailed information on Finger and Nobleman's complex and thorough research. This title will appeal to children because of their interest in superheroes and their creators, and will be a draw for teachers as a read-aloud for language arts or social studies as an engaging look at a pop art icon. Source notes, a selected bibliography, and three photos round out the book.-Christina Dorr, Hilliard City School District, OHα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
About the Author
Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of BOYS OF STEEL: THE CREATORS OF SUPERMAN, which received multiple starred reviews and was named an American Library Association Notable Book. Due to discoveries Marc made in his research, the book also landed on the front page of USA Today. Marc never dressed as Batman for Halloween, but he was Robin twice (and Superman three times). Today he lives with his family in Maryland. He reveals his research secrets and promotional gambles at noblemania.blogspot.com.
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BILL has proven itself quite popular with primary-school children, which somewhat surprised me, because the text is long on some pages, there is some comics industry jargon, and the emotional content would appear to be too deep for kids. A lot is implied that would only be evident to adults. And the lengthy text-only coda would only be interesting to adults. Despite all this, kids have showered Nobleman with praise and thanks; the author himself, an acquaintance of mine, happily sent me links to photos of posters, cards, letters, and thank-you notes. Still, to my mind, BILL succeeds even better as a book for adults, for fans of comics and Batman. Bill Finger's name is still unknown to the general public and to Batman fans who don't read comics, and he's never before had an actual book devoted to him. So, this one is most welcome; I was excited about it when I first heard it was coming, especially from Nobleman, who did an excellent job with his previous effort, BOYS OF STEEL: THE CREATORS OF SUPERMAN. A lot of comics fans have been passionate in their desire to see Finger co-credited with creating Batman, and BILL is something of a nicely illustrated hardcover pamphlet for Nobleman's own public crusade. But children obviously have been drawn to the long-overdue story of a shamefully unsung creative person. So I recommend this slim volume for kids like those, plus comics fans and those who champion the underdog.
Age Range: 8 - 12 years
Grade Level: 3 - 7
Every page of the story is fully illustrated, like children books are, with oversized panels to echo the comic book motif. The artwork is clean and drawn in a realistic but simplistic style, presenting both specific key scenes in Finger's life as well as a few spreads spotlighting his most important work on Batman.
The Author's Note at the end is what really helps elevate this children's book to one readers of all ages will find worthwhile. Beyond his interviews with family and comic book industry colleagues, Nobleman's search for biographical information on and photos of Finger was quite challenging. At the time of publishing, he was only able to locate a total 17 photos of Finger. He later found out from his second wife that "We weren't photo people." And in hoping to find an heir of Finger's that could receive his modest royalty checks from DC Comics, he reveals both a sad and a happy ending.
I was shocked when I opened my package to find an oversized children's book. But was relieved that this turned out to be a satisfying biography shining a spotlight on a man that I never knew about but am now so grateful to. He wrote the earliest adventures of my childhood hero which Kane didn't always draw (Kane hired ghost artists, among them Jerry Robinson, to help draw those early Batman stories). It makes me a little sad knowing what Kane never shared with his collaborator. But through this modest book, Bill Finger finally gets some long overdue recognition.
But, let's be very clear here, this is definitely a children's book. If we want a true adult biography of the great Bill Finger, we're going to have to wait.