Happy Batman Day! What do you mean, you’ve never heard of it?
It’s only the anniversary of the Dark Knight’s first appearance!
Except it’s made up, and on the wrong date. But you get a present,
DC Comics has declared 23 July to be this newest and most sacred
of holidays, celebrating the debut of the Caped Crusader in the
pages of Detective Comics #27. However, that issue is
cover dated May 1939, and due to the tendency for periodicals to be
future-dated (back in the news stand era, it helped older issues
stay looking current) may have been on sale as early as March.
Oops. As far as actual Bat-anniversaries that might be
celebrated this month, the July 1939 cover dated issue
29 has the first appearance of the iconic utility belt and
the villain Doctor Death. The September 1939 dated issue
31, which would have been sold in July, features the first use
of the Batarang weapon and the Batgyro, the first of Batman’s
expanded fleet of vehicles.
However! This is indeed the 75th anniversary year of Batman and
to celebrate its seemingly arbitrarily chosen date, DC has made the
digital comic version of the first appearance free. There are two
options — a ‘pure’ reproduction of Detective #27’s
seven-page Batman tale, or an enhanced edition featuring the original strip plus some more
recent stories. The publisher is also running a digital
sale, with hundreds of classic Batman issues available for 69p
each, and should you venture into a brick-and-mortar comic book
store, there are free Batman masks to be had today.
More importantly, the anniversary special actually redresses one
of the long-standing injustices surrounding Batman’s creation — it
credits both his creators for the first time. Although officially
recognised as the work of Bob Kane, much of the work was done by
Bill Finger. Kane had the initial idea, in a very different form, but it was Finger who came up with
Batman’s dark costume, origin, weapons and much of his supporting
cast and rogue’s gallery, including Robin, Catwoman, and The
Finger wrote the vast majority of the character’s stories for
years, but due to legal maneouvering, shady contracts, and changing
the dates on key artwork, Kane secured his own name as the sole
“Created by” credit, preventing DC from crediting Finger for
decades even if the company wanted to. Bob Kane was kind of awful, and Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ty Templeton’s
excellent book, Bill, the Boy Wonder, provides an in-depth look at the
entire history of the two men. For now though, seeing Finger’s name
front and centre on the new comic is one of the best gifts Batman
and his fans could ask for on his 75th birthday.