Bob Kane was born in New York City on October 24, 1916. At the age of 15 he entered a drawing into a contest where the object was to copy the characters from the strip Just Kids (by Gene Byrne) and won second prize – a Just Kids original. He attended the Commercial Art Studio where he trained for several months. Later he went to the Cooper Union and then, as did many other local New York artists at the time, the Art Students League. He broke into comics as a staff artist for the Eisner-Iger shop in the mid-thirties. His first published work appeared in Wow, What A Magazine #3 (9/36). For the studio he drew Peter Pupp, Hiram Hick, Pluto, Bobby and many others staying at Fiction House (the Eisner-Iger label) until 1939. While there, Kane sought work at National Publications where Superman was fast becoming one of the most popular adventure characters in the country. Here he drew a couple of adventure features written by Bill Finger.
In 1939 the company that would eventually come to be known as DC Comics (taken from the initials of one of the companies flagship titles- Detective Comics) asked Kane to develop a similar character to capitalize on Superman’s popularity. In response, Kane and Finger developed the Batman from one of Kane’s earlier concepts. The character, which was an immediate success, first appeared in Detective Comics #27 in May of 1939 and went on to become not only one of comics “essential” heroes but also an iconic character that ranks among Tarzan, Sherlock Holmes, and a handful of other fictional creations with truly universal and long-lasting appeal. Batman was influenced by Kane’s love of Douglas Fairbanks’ Zorro and Mary Rinehart’s mysterious villain The Bat. Finger offered such suggestions as giving the character a cowl instead of a simple domino mask, giving him a cape instead of wings, adding gloves, and removing the bright red sections of the original costume in favor of a grey/black color scheme not unlike that worn by the Phantom, right down to leaving the eye-holes in the cowl blank to connote mystery.
Finger wrote the first Batman story, while Kane provided art. Because Kane had already submitted the proposal for a Batman character to his editors at DC Comics, Kane was the only person given official credit at the time for the creation of Batman, in a tradition that was absent in the comic books but was routine in the more lucrative field of the daily newspaper strips. While Kane was certainly no great artist, his early drawings have an undeniable attraction. Simple and direct, they were almost elemental in their ability to convey a mood of darkness and menace, helping Batman – with fascinating imagery in those early issues of Detective Comics – take flight in the imaginations of fans. Though he had little to do with the comic industry after the 1940’s, Kane consulted on the hugely popular 1960’s Batman television show and, in the late 1980’s and 1990’s on the Batman feature films.
Bob Kane passed away in California on November 3, 1998 from complications of a long-time illness. As the creator of Batman and as one of the founders of the comics industry, he helped to contribute to the tremendous explosion and popularity of costumed heroes. Though there is much controversy surrounding Kane’s treatment of his “ghost” artists as well as the level of contributions he actually made to his creation, there can be no argument as to the popularity of the character he created. Indeed, Batman has appeared in virtually every country on earth in print, film, television, toys, coloring books, and practically every other form of media and merchandise. Kane’s lasting legacy is the immense popularity of the Batman – which was immediate when he appeared in 1939 – and has only grown in the nearly eight decades since.