Bob Kane

Bob Kane

Kane (right) with Michael Keaton on the
set of the 1989 Batman film
Born Robert Kahn
(1915-10-24)October 24, 1915
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died November 3, 1998(1998-11-03) (aged 83)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Nationality American
Area(s) Writer, Penciller
Notable works
Detective Comics
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Sanders (?-1998; his death)

Bob Kane (born Robert Kahn; October 24, 1915 – November 3, 1998) was an American comic book writer and artist who, with writer Bill Finger, created the DC Comics superhero Batman. He was inducted into the comic book industry's Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1994 and into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1996.

Early life and work

Robert Kahn was born in New York City, New York.[1] His parents, Augusta and Herman Kahn, an engraver,[2] were of Eastern European Jewish descent.[3] A high school friend of fellow cartoonist and future Spirit creator Will Eisner,[4] Robert Kahn graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School and then legally changed his name to Bob Kane.[5] He studied art at Cooper Union before "joining the Max Fleischer Studio as a trainee animator in 1934".[6]


He entered the comics field two years later, in 1936, freelancing original material to editor Jerry Iger's comic book Wow, What A Magazine!, including his first pencil and ink work on the serial Hiram Hick.[7] The following year, Kane began to work at Iger's subsequent studio, Eisner & Iger, which was one of the first comic book "packagers" that produced comics on demand for publishers entering the new medium during its late-1930s and 1940s Golden Age. Among his work there was the funny animal feature "Peter Pupp" — which belied its look with overtones of "mystery and menace"[7] — published in the U.K. comic magazine Wags and reprinted in Fiction House's Jumbo comics. Kane also produced work through Eisner & Iger for two of the companies that would later merge to form DC Comics, including the humor features "Ginger Snap" in More Fun Comics, "Oscar the Gumshoe" for Detective Comics, and "Professor Doolittle" for Adventure Comics. For that last title he went on to do his first adventure strip, "Rusty and his Pals".


Detective Comics #27 (May 1939). The first appearance of Batman. Art by Bob Kane.

In early 1939, DC's success with the seminal superhero Superman in Action Comics prompted editors to scramble for more such heroes. In response, Bob Kane conceived "the Bat-Man."[8] Kane said his influences for the character included actor Douglas Fairbanks' movie portrayal of the swashbuckler Zorro, Leonardo da Vinci's diagram of the ornithopter, a flying machine with huge bat-like wings; and the 1930 film The Bat Whispers, based on Mary Rinehart's mystery novel The Circular Staircase.[9]

Bill Finger joined Bob Kane's nascent studio in 1938. An aspiring writer and part-time shoe salesperson, he had met Kane at a party, and Kane later offered him a job ghost writing the strips Rusty and Clip Carson.[10][11] He recalled that Kane

...had an idea for a character called 'Batman', and he'd like me to see the drawings. I went over to Kane's, and he had drawn a character who looked very much like Superman with kind of ... reddish tights, I believe, with boots ... no gloves, no gauntlets ... with a small domino mask, swinging on a rope. He had two stiff wings that were sticking out, looking like bat wings. And under it was a big sign ... BATMAN.[11]
Adam West, Bob Kane and Frank Gorshin on the set of the 1960s Batman TV show.

Finger said he offered such suggestions as giving the character a cowl and scalloped cape instead of wings; adding gloves; leaving the mask's eyeholes blank to connote mystery; and removing the bright red sections of the original costume, suggesting instead a gray-and-black color scheme. Finger additionally said[12] his suggestions were influenced by Lee Falk's The Phantom, a syndicated newspaper comic strip character with which Kane was familiar as well. Finger, who said he also devised the character's civilian name, Bruce Wayne, wrote the first Batman story, while Kane provided art. Kane, who had already submitted the proposal for Batman at DC and held a contract, is the only person given official company credit for Batman's creation. Comics historian Ron Goulart, in Comic Book Encyclopedia, refers to Batman as the "creation of artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger".[13]

According to Kane, "Bill Finger was a contributing force on Batman right from the beginning. He wrote most of the great stories and was influential in setting the style and genre other writers would emulate ... I made Batman a superhero-vigilante when I first created him. Bill turned him into a scientific detective.[14]

The character debuted in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) and proved a breakout hit. Within a year, Kane hired art assistants Jerry Robinson (initially as an inker) and George Roussos (backgrounds artist and letterer). Though Robinson and Roussos worked out of Kane's art studio in The New York Times building, Kane himself did all his drawing at home.[15] Shortly afterward, when DC wanted more Batman stories than Kane's studio could deliver, the company assigned Dick Sprang and other in-house pencilers as "ghost artists", drawing uncredited under Kane's supervision. Future Justice League writer Gardner Fox wrote some early scripts, including the two-part story "The Monk" that introduced some of The Batman's first "Bat-" equipment.[16]

In 1943, Kane left the Batman comic books to focus on penciling the daily Batman newspaper comic strip.[7] DC Comics artists ghosting the comic-book stories now included Jack Burnley and Win Mortimer, with Robinson moving up as penciler and Fred Ray contributing some covers. After the strip finished in 1946, Kane returned to the comic books but, unknown to DC, had hired his own personal ghosts, including Lew Schwartz[17] and Sheldon Moldoff from 1953-1967.[18]


Bill Finger recalled that,

Robin was an outgrowth of a conversation I had with Bob. As I said, Batman was a combination of [Douglas] Fairbanks and Sherlock Holmes. Holmes had his Watson. The thing that bothered me was that Batman didn't have anyone to talk to, and it got a little tiresome always having him thinking. I found that as I went along Batman needed a Watson to talk to. That's how Robin came to be. Bob called me over and said he was going to put a boy in the strip to identify with Batman. I thought it was a great idea.[11]

Kane, who had previously created a sidekick for Peter Pupp, proposed adding a boy named Mercury who would have worn a "super-costume".[19] Robinson suggested a normal human, along with the name "Robin", after Robin Hood books he had read during boyhood, and noting in a 2005 interview he had been inspired by one book's N. C. Wyeth illustrations.[20]

The impetus came from Bill's wanting to extend the parameters of the story potential and of the drama. He saw that adding a sidekick would enhance the drama. Also, it enlarged the readership identification. The younger kids could then identify with Robin, which they couldn't with Batman, and the older ones with Batman. It extended the appeal on a lot of levels.[20]

The new character, orphaned circus performer named Dick Grayson, came to live with Bruce Wayne as his young ward in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940) and would inspire many similar sidekicks throughout the Golden Age of comic books.

The Joker

Batman's nemesis the Joker was introduced near that same time, in Batman #1 (Spring 1940). Credit for that character's creation is disputed. Kane's position is that

Bill Finger and I created the Joker. Bill was the writer. Jerry Robinson came to me with a playing card of the Joker. That's the way I sum it up. [The Joker] looks like Conrad Veidt — you know, the actor in The Man Who Laughs, [the 1928 movie based on the novel] by Victor Hugo. ... Bill Finger had a book with a photograph of Conrad Veidt and showed it to me and said, 'Here's the Joker'. Jerry Robinson had absolutely nothing to do with it. But he'll always say he created it till he dies. He brought in a playing card, which we used for a couple of issues for him [the Joker] to use as his playing card.[21]

Robinson, whose original Joker playing card was on public display in the exhibition "Masters of American Comics" at the Jewish Museum in New York City, New York, from September 16, 2006 to January 28, 2007, and the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta, Georgia from October 24, 2004 to August 28, 2005, has countered that:

Bill Finger knew of Conrad Veidt because Bill had been to a lot of the foreign films. Veidt ... had this clown makeup with the frozen smile on his face (classic). When Bill saw the first drawing of the Joker, he said, 'That reminds me of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs.' He said he would bring in some shots of that movie to show me. That's how that came about. I think in Bill's mind, he fleshed out the concept of the character.[22]

Robinson added, however, "If you read the Batman historian [E. Nelson] Bridwell, he had one interview where he interviewed Bill Finger and he said no, the Joker was created by me — an acknowledgement. He can be credited and Bob himself, we all played a role in it. ... .He wrote the script of that, so he really was co-creator, and Bob and I did the visuals, so Bob was also."[23]

Other characters

According to comics historian Les Daniels, "nearly everyone seems to agree that Two-Face was Kane's brainchild exclusively".[24] Catwoman, originally introduced by Kane with no costume as "the Cat", was partially inspired by his cousin, Ruth Steel.[25][26] Kane, a frequent movie goer, mentioned that Jean Harlow was a model for the design and added that "I always felt that women were feline".[27] Kane created the Scarecrow and drew his first appearance, which was scripted by Finger.[28] Kane also created the original incarnation of Clayface.[29] According to Kane, he drew the Penguin after being inspired by the then advertising mascot of Kool cigarettes — a penguin with a top hat and cane. Finger, however, claimed that he created the villain as a caricature of the aristocratic type, because "stuffy English gentlemen" reminded him of emperor penguins.[27]

Later life and career

Grave of Bob Kane, at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills

In 1966, Kane retired from DC Comics, choosing to focus on fine art.[30] As Kane's comic-book work tapered off in the 1960s, he parlayed his Batman status into minor celebrity. He enjoyed a post-comics career in TV animation, creating the characters Courageous Cat and Cool McCool, and as a painter showed his work in art galleries, although some of these paintings were produced by ghost artists.[31] DC Comics named Kane in 1985 as one of the honorees in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.[32] In 1989, Kane published the autobiography Batman and Me, with a second volume Batman and Me, The Saga Continues, in 1996.

Kane worked as a consultant on the 1989 movie Batman and its three sequels with directors Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher.

Stan Lee interviewed Kane in the documentary series The Comic Book Greats.


Bob Kane died from natural causes on Tuesday, November 3, 1998, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 83. He was survived by his wife, Elizabeth Sanders (Kane), an actress who appeared in three Batman films; and daughter Deborah Majeski.[1] Kane is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles, California.[33][34]

Kane's work is housed in collections in New York City's Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and St. John's University.[30]

Awards and honors

Kane was inducted into the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1994[35] and the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1996.[36]

On October 21, 2015, for his work in motion pictures, he posthumously received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 6764 Hollywood Boulevard.[37][38]


  1. 1 2 Boxer, Sarah (November 7, 1998). "Bob Kane, 83, the Cartoonist Who Created 'Batman,' Is Dead". The New York Times. Archived from the original on September 29, 2015.
  2. Mondello, Salvatore; Carnes, Mark C., ed. (2005). American National Biography: Supplement 2. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195222029. Retrieved December 30, 2012.
  3. "Holy sunflowers! How Batman drove Van Gogh out of town". Irish Independent. 20 March 2010.
  4. Weinstein, Simcha (2006). Up, Up, and Oy Vey! (1st ed.). Leviathan Press. ISBN 978-1-881927-32-7.
  5. Kane, Bob; Tom Andrae (1989). Batman & Me. Forestville, California: Eclipse Books. p. 44. ISBN 1-56060-017-9.
  6. Chris Ryall, Scott Tipton, Comic Books 101: The History, Methods and Madness (Impact Books, 2009). ISBN 978-1-60061-187-2
  7. 1 2 3 Desris, Joe (1994). "Biography". Batman Archives, Volume 3. DC Comics. p. 223. ISBN 1-56389-099-2.
  8. Daniels, Les. Batman: The Complete History. Chronicle Books, 1999. ISBN 0-8118-4232-0, pg. 18.
  9. Daniels, page 20
  10. Walker, Brian. The Comics Since 1945 (Harry N. Abrams), pp. 10-12
  11. 1 2 3 Steranko, Jim. The Steranko History of Comics (Supergraphics, Reading, Pa., 1970; ISBN 0-517-50188-0), p. 44
  12. Finger in Kane, Andrae, p. 41
  13. Goulart, Ron, Comic Book Encyclopedia (Harper Entertainment, New York, 2004) ISBN 0-06-053816-3.
  14. Kane, Andrae, p. 43
  15. Gruenwald, Mark (April 1983). "George Roussos". Comics Interview (2). Fictioneer Books. pp. 45–51.
  16. Kane, Andrae, p. 103; Daniels, page 29
  17. Lew Schwartz interview, Alter Ego #51 (Aug. 2005)
  18. Moldoff, in a 1994 interview given while Kane was alive, described his clandestine arrangement in Alter Ego #59 (June 2006, p. 15)
  19. Comic Book Interview Super Special: Batman, Fictioneer Press, 1989
  20. 1 2 Interview, (October 2005). "Jerry Robinson". The Comics Journal (271). ISSN 0194-7869. Archived from the original on May 22, 2009. Retrieved November 18, 2007.
  21. "Web Exclusives — Bob Kane interview". (official site of Entertainment Weekly writer). 17 May 1994. Archived from the original on 4 February 2012. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  22. Brady, Matt (October 18, 2006). "The Joker, the Jewish Museum and Jerry: Talking to Jerry Robinson". Archived from the original on May 2, 2009. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  23. Jerry Robinson in "The Joker's Maker Tackles 'The Man Who Laughs'". August 5, 2009. Archived from the original on September 10, 2015. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  24. Daniels, Les, Batman: The Complete History, Chronicle Books, 1999, p. 45.
  25. Kane, Andrae, p. ???
  26. Steel, Ruth. "Ruth Steel Interview (Age 96)". Video. YouTube. Retrieved June 2, 2011.
  27. 1 2 Daniels, Les, Batman: The Complete History, Chronicle Books, 1999, p. 42.
  28. Daniels, Les, Batman: The Complete History, Chronicle Books, 1999, p. 55.
  29. Wallace, Dan (2008). "Clayface I-IV". In Dougall, Alastair. The DC Comics Encyclopedia. New York: Dorling Kindersley. p. 85. ISBN 0-7566-4119-5. OCLC 213309017.
  30. "POV Online (column of March 15, 2007): "News from Me: Arnold", by Mark Evanier". Archived from the original on 2009-05-23. Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  31. Marx, Barry, Cavalieri, Joey and Hill, Thomas (w), Petruccio, Steven (a), Marx, Barry (ed). "Bob Kane Batman Takes Wing" Fifty Who Made DC Great: 10 (1985), DC Comics
  32. "The Grave of Bob Kane". Retrieved 2010-12-29.
  33. Bob Kane at Find a Grave
  34. Hahn, Joel, ed. "1994 Harvey Award Nominees and Winners". Comic Book Awards Almanac. Archived from the original on June 8, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  35. "Will Eisner Hall of Fame". San Diego Comic-Con International. Archived from the original on July 7, 2015. Retrieved August 22, 2015.
  36. "Bob Kane". Hollywood Walk of Fame (Hollywood Chamber of Commerce). October 21, 2015. Archived from the original on April 3, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2016.
  37. Ruiz, Sara (October 21, 2015). "Batman Creator Bob Kane Honored Posthumously with Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame" (Press release). DC Comics. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2016.

Further reading

External links

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