AMHERST -- Batman may be one of the most famous fictional characters around, but if you ask most people who created him, they'll probably only get the answer half-right.
Author Marc Tyler Nobleman hopes to correct that with his new picture book. Nobleman will appear at the Eric Carle Museum on Saturday, at 1 p.m.
The book, "Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman," which was illustrated by Ty Templeton, chronicles the life of Bill Finger, the uncredited scripter and co-creator of Batman comics, who conjured up the most of the characters and lore that is now the foundation for the hit "Dark Knight" movies, as well as many other Batman projects. Finger was never credited for his work -- a practice all too common in the comic book industry at the time.
The credit, instead, went entirely to Bob Kane. Nobleman's ultimate quest with the book is to make Finger an equal partner to Kane in the history of comics.
"My goal in doing this book was to preserve Bill's legacy and to hopefully, in some small way, start to build a groundswell to get his name added to Batman," Nobleman said.
Nobleman, a life-long comic book fan, says it was inevitable that he ended up writing a book about Finger.
Nobleman's research for the biography started within the comic book world, but soon required leg work far beyond that if he was to really uncover the story of Finger.
Often, if someone in the comics field mentioned a church Finger was involved with or a street he lived on, that sent Nobleman scurrying through paper archives in New York City, trying to piece together connections. Sometimes they led to a dead end. But Nobleman's proudest accomplishment involved family investigation that led him to Bill Finger's heir, whose existence was not common knowledge outside the family.
Finger only had one child, a son named Fred, who died in 1992 without children. Fred was out as a gay man, and it was the presumption that this was the reason he had no children.
Nobleman had been immersed in research for the book for a year at that point, and searching out other people, including Finger's sister, but he wasn't prepared for what came next.
"The nephew said to me out of the blue, ‘Well, you've spoken to Bill's granddaughter, right?' as if I knew that he had one," he said. "The granddaughter was a total blindside."
It turned out that Fred did have a daughter, named Athena, who was the result of a very brief, early marriage. Nobleman found her on MySpace, where he learned, among other things, that she had a dog named Bruce Wayne, and contacted her. She got back to him almost immediately.
"Right away, she was hesitant to do anything," said Nobleman.
Eventually, she contacted DC Comics and, once she proved her identity to the company, began receiving royalties for reprints of Finger's stories.
Nobleman's impressed with the support shown the effort to get Finger his due credit. Last summer, Nobleman spoke about the subject twice at Comic Con in San Diego to packed rooms.
"I didn't know if modern fans don't care that much about the creators, or if anyone would even bother to show up," he said. "I was very pleasantly surprised. ... Ultimately I'm just a fan as well. I wrote a book on him, but I'm a fan first, so it was really nice to see that people do care about this man."
John Seven is the Transcript's arts and entertainment editor.