Last night I read an article about a man who, unbeknownst to me, was very influential in my childhood.
His name is Bill Finger.
Ever heard of him? I hadn’t either. According to the article, based on a book about his life and career, Bill Finger was responsible for most of the story concept and initial design of the original Batman comics.
Before you click off this because you are far too sophisticated for comic book chatter, just hang around for a bit. This has implications for us all.
The reason this is interesting, and thus the reason for the book, is that Bill Finger has never been credited for his work, not publicly anyway. Every time the credits roll on a Batman movie or cartoon, only one name is mentioned: Bob Kane. Kane is widely known as the creator of all things Bat.
However, the author of Bill the Boy Wonder: Secret Co-Creator of Batman, Marc Tyler Nobleman claims that Bill Finger was “responsible for just about everything enduring about Batman.”
How is that possible? Bob Kane made a lot of money on the Batman story. He received worldwide acclaim. His name is synonymous with Gotham City’s dark hero, and yet, if this book is accurate, he was just the business side of the operation.
Can you imagine being Bill Finger, knowing that you created a world, filled it with villains, and placed a hero in the shadows only to receive none of the credit and negligible financial compensation?
The Batman mythology has endured for decades, and the most recent film adaptation became the third highest grossing film in box office history. And it wouldn’t have been possible without Bill Finger, a name that is only now receiving attention. It’s a shame.
But this is bigger than a children’s story, a cheesy costume and the man who created them. This asks a question we all have to answer at some point.
Would you be willing to do something significant without worrying about who gets the credit?
At your workplace you created a system that saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars. Would you stand back and watch your manager accept the pat on the back?
You poured your heart into writing a song that people love, but everyone just keeps complimenting the vocalist. Is it worth it to you to write another one?
You launched a ministry at church stained with your blood, sweat and tears, but when the Pastor got to the podium he only thanked the volunteers. Are you satisfied with the good being done or do you need the public endorsement.
Paul, a man largely responsible for the worldwide spread of Christianity, said this to the Corinthian church when they argued over which pastor to follow,
I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7 ESV)
Personally, I struggle with this. Watching someone else get honored for your brainchild is a hard thing to do. But, in the end, do I deserve ultimate honor?
When people sing a good song, they don’t care about who wrote it. They care about how it makes them feel. In ministry, the leader is not as important as the impact the ministry is having on people in need.
God has given us all good gifts through his common grace. We can choose to pay them forward freely, taking joy in knowing we have enriched others, or we can clamp them tightly, sharing only what we receive credit for. The latter is a terrible way to live.
I believe in giving credit where it is due. I think DC Comics failed Bill Finger in that way, but I have to wonder if he didn’t find fulfillment in knowing that, for years, children everywhere have been draping bed sheets around their necks and rescuing their friends from the villains of Gotham City. I wonder if knowing that he played a part in sparking imaginations around the globe was recognition enough.
What do you think? Would it be enough for you? Comment below.
Photo Credit: Nathan Spotts (Creative Commons)
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