Batman creator Bob Kane: 5 things you didn't know about the comic artist
Every single Batman comic, movie, cartoon, toy, and video game comes emblazoned with the words: “Batman created by Bob Kane.” Kane, who died in 1998, was the artist who first infused the nascent superhero genre with a dose of pulpy darkness, creating a Superman rival in the image of Zorro and Dracula. Today, the Batman creator finally was recognized posthumously with a star on the Walk of Fame. In honor of Kane’s Hollywood star, here are a few things you may not have known about the Batman creator.
Batman originally wore red tights
Superman was an immediate phenomenon when he hit stands in 1939. Hungry for more, the editor of National Comics (what we today know as DC) commissioned another superhero. Kane, an 18-year-old art student at the time, conceived of Batman as a mix of Zorro, pulp hero The Shadow, and even Leonardo da Vinci’s sketches for a bat-like flying machine. However, this early incarnation of Batman was slightly different than the hero we know today. For one thing, he wore colorful red tights. Writer Bill Finger added the cowl, cape, and grey-black color scheme, as well as the civilian Bruce Wayne identity. (Finger only recently has started receiving official recognition for his role in the creation of Batman.)
Kane approved of Batman’s campiness
The first Batman story is pretty intense; it climaxes with the Dark Knight knocking criminals into a vat of acid. But Kane’s vision for Batman was not as all-out gritty as, say, Christopher Nolan’s movie version. Kane was fond of the campy version of Batman popularized by the Adam West TV show.
“Batman and Robin were always punning and wisecracking, and so were the villains,” Kane told an interviewer in 1965. “It was camp way ahead of its time. How could you [take superheroes seriously]?”
Catwoman is based on Kane’s cousin
Much has been made of the inspiration for iconic Batman characters. The Joker, for instance, was based on a picture of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs, while the Penguin came from the old logo for Kool cigarettes. Catwoman, however, came from a little closer to home. Kane based her initial design off his pretty cousin Ruth Steel.
Kane was friends with Stan Lee
Fanboys and promoters both like to drum up the rivalry between Marvel and DC, but this never bothered two of the companies’ foremost creators. Kane was friends with Marvel maestro Stan Lee, playfully grilling him when Tim Burton turned Batman into a blockbuster movie franchise in the ’80s. Lee reportedly regrets that Kane died before he could see the 2002 Spider-Man blockbuster.
Kane won recognition for his creation
Friendship isn’t the only thing that united Kane and Lee; both creators succeeded in retaining rights to and official recognition for their work. This is rare in the comic book world — take Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who went unrecognized for decades. And Jack Kirby was the artist and co-creator of many of Lee’s superheroes, but his heirs only recently reached a settlement with Marvel. That one line, “Batman created by Bob Kane,” is a remarkable achievement in itself.