Bob Kane (1915-1998)

pencils 1939-1947

born: 25 Oct 1915   
 died: 03 Nov 1998   

Kane gravestone from Dial B for Blog.

 

Robert Kahn grew up in the Bronx, a somewhat more sedate and suburban part of New York City than Brooklyn, the Battery or Hell's Kitchen.  He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, a school which focused on the arts.  There he met Will Eisner but did not meet Bill Finger who was a class ahead of him.  Kahn graduated in 1933 at age 18. (www.nndb.com).  He got a job at the Fleisher studios, which was then in New York, as a cell washer in the ink and paint department, but soon realized this was a dead end. 

 

He then got a one year scholarship to the Cooper's Union Art Student's League, but his family kept pressuring him to find a more secure career.  Meanwhile he hustled his cartoons around the city, looking for a steady source of income.

 

Kane sold a few cartoons  to Wow What a Magazine, producing Hiram Hick for issue 2.  Wow was edited by Jerry Iger and financed by a shirtmaker, who let Iger use part of his factory for an office When Wow failed after 4 issues,  Iger teamed up with Will Eisner and formed a comic shop to produce material for other publishers. Kane produced an ersatz Mickey Mouse called Peter Pupp for them. Kane's work appeared in Jumbo 1-8 and then other hands continued the strip after Kane left when his demands for a pay raise weren't met.

In April 1937 Kane had a story in Detective Picture Stories #5 from Comic Magazine Company. Spark Stevens in Wonder Comics #2. (June 1939) Fox Comics- an Eisner Iger studio job.

Sidestreets of New York- Circus, the Comics Riot- Globe publishing Van Bragger Circus, the Comics Riot- Globe publishing-both 1938

 

In 1938 Kane began selling humor strips to Vin Sullivan, editor for Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson's publications.  Ginger Snap ran in More Fun Comics 31-48. Professor Doolittle appeared in Adventure 26-47

Oscar the Gumshoe appeared in Detective Comics 15-30 Gag page from Detective 28
Doing two page fillers wasn't very lucrative though, so Kane tried to break through with a series feature.  For that he needed a writer, so he enlisted fellow De Witt Clinton student Bill Finger to ghost write Rusty and His Pals for him. Rusty ran in Adventure 26-52. Clip Carson Action 14-36 July 1939-script by Bill Finger
According to Kane's auto-biography, Kane inquired of editor Vin Sullivan how much Siegel and Shuster were making on Superman.  Although Sullivan didn't know exactly, he gave him a general idea, so Kane decided he wanted to do a mystery man strip too.  He went home and found a recent Flash Gordon Sunday page to trace a figure off to use for costume design.  To the right is Arlen Schumer's recreation of what Kane said his original Bat-Man drawing looked like.

(See Comic Book Artist #5 and Batman and Me  for the full story).

According to Kane, he brought the picture to Bill Finger and Finger recommended extensive changes.  He added the cowl and the ears and changed the wings into a cape and made the costume colors darker and more mysterious.  Then Kane took the drawing to Vin Sullivan and got a contract to produce a new feature for Detective Comics.

Finger swiped the plot for the first Batman story from Partners in Peril in the November 1936 issue of the Shadow. (Shadow reprint #9 from Nostalgia Ventures)  Kane, who wasn't really up on doing realistic art swiped heavily from Henry Vallely's 1938 Big Little Book Gang Busters In Action.

Finger also came up with the name Bruce Wayne.  With Finger supplying the script, Kane soon had a complete Batman story in Vin Sullivan's hands and the series premiered in  Detective Comics 27 in May 1939.  Kane was 24 years old at the time, a fact which would later become a point of contention between him and National Comics.

For more details check out Dial B For Blog: http://www.dialbforblog.com/archives/389/

An early Batman page showing Kane's cartoony roots,

from Detective Comics 30 page 10.
August 1939. Bob Kane pencils and inks, story by Gardner Fox.

 

Vin Sullivan didn't know about Bill Finger's contributions however, so he soon assigned Gardner Fox to write Batman scripts.  Fox wrote  six stories, including Batman's origin, before he moved on to other assignments.  Kane then owned up to Finger's earlier involvement and got him hired by Sullivan to write directly for Detective Comics, Inc.  It was the beginning of a long and fruitful career, which included co-creating the Golden Age Green Lantern, dozens of Superman stories, Green Arrow, Challengers of the Unknown, Wildcat, Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys and work for other publishers including Marvel (the All-Winners Squad).  Finger died in 1974.

from Detective 33 page 2 November 1939 pencils by Bob Kane, inks and letters by Sheldon Moldoff, story by Bill Finger

Batman was almost immediately perceived as a hit.  The page count was expanded from 10 to 12 pages a month.  To help handle his increased work load, Kane hired an assistant, Sheldon Moldoff to ink and letter his Batman work.  Moldoff, a much more accomplished draftsman than Kane was able to provide the dark realism the strip demanded.  Unfortunately for Kane he only stayed for a few months before getting work on his own strips Hawkman and the Black Pirate.  Ironically, Moldoff would return a decade later to ghosting Kane's work.

from Black Book v12 #2 Jan 1941 artist unknown

Meanwhile In the July 1939 issue of Black Book Detective magazine, Ned Pines introduced a new hero called the Black Bat, the creation of Norman Daniels under the pen name G. Wayman Jones.  The Black Bat had no ears on his mask but he did have nifty looking gloves that Bob Kane soon swiped.  Detective and Thrilling Publications settled their differences and agreed the resemblance was only a coincidence

Detective Comics 36 page 5 -story by Bill Finger, pencils by Bob Kane, inks and letters by Jerry Robinson. Notice Batman's funky new gloves.

Kane then turned the assistant chores over to a young college student he met while playing tennis. Jerry Robinson turned out to be a major find, going on to pencil and ink may important Batman stories solo, as well as doing many other features for Detective Comics, such as the Vigilante, and other publishers, such as the Black Terror. before graduating to his own syndicated panel.  

From Detective 77 page 10 by Bob Kane, George Roussos and Bill Finger. July 1943.

The last member of the Kane shop of the early forties to arrive was George Roussos.  Once Batman received his own comic book, things were starting to get really hectic in the Batman office so Roussos took over the background and lettering work from Jerry Robinson.

By 1943, with the start of the Batman comic strip there was now so much work that Robinson and Roussos had to split up and work on separate stories.  Roussos' solo inking style soon earned him the nickname "Inky" for his generous use of shadow and silhouette.  Roussos would also go on to his own strip, Airwave and a long career inking and coloring for almost everyone in the business.  

from Detective 43 page 01 story by Bill Finger, pencils by Bob Kane, inks by Jerry Robinson, backgrounds and lettering by George Roussos.

Robinson did not slavishly follow Kane's pencils, but freely interpreted them burying the stiffness of Kane's anatomy behind his own fluid sense of design.  The stiff cardboard Bat-Cape now began swirling and flowing.  Figures leaped from the panels.  Fog infested Gotham's streets and everything became ominous and dreary.    

As Kane's attention was taken over by the forthcoming comic strip, other artists, not working directly for him began to take on the comic book chores.

 

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