Superman begat Batman. More specifically, it was the huge success of the comic books featuring the mighty visitor from a distant planet that got editors at National Publications looking for a superhero of their own. In 1939, artist Bob Kane came up with the Bat-Man, a crime fighter that drew upon influences as varied as Douglass Fairbanks (the swashbuckler) and Leonardo Da Vinci (the inventor). Kane’s original conception had the character wearing a small pair of wings and a “domino mask” like that worn by the Lone Ranger.
It was Kane’s writing partner—an ex-shoe salesman named Bill Finger—who suggested the look we now associate with Batman: the cowled mask and scalloped cape. More significantly, it was also Finger who came up with the notion that Batman should be a hero who got by on his wits and intelligence. “I made Batman a superhero-vigilante when I first created him,” Kane later said. “Bill turned him into a scientific detective.”
Batman, of course, went on to become a huge success and a fixture on our pop-culture landscape. Kane, who signed away ownership (as was common in those days), eventually got his recognition—all Batman stories now carry the words “Created by Bob Kane.” Sadly, Finger’s rather significant contributions are mostly unnoticed—his contract did not give him any on-page credits. Even Kane minimized his collaborator’s efforts—though he expressed sincere regret years after Finger’s death in 1974.