Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Batman and Robin gay? Bill Finger said...

In the controversial 1954 book Seduction of the Innocent, psychiatrist Fredric Wertham claimed that Batman and Robin were gay and that their comic book stories were (perhaps subconsciously) promoting a homosexual lifestyle.

In 1972, Bill Finger, uncredited co-creator of Batman and Robin, gave an interview that remained lost until 2008 and unpublished until 2011; in that interview, to my great surprise, Bill was asked about the sexual orientation issue. Here is his response:


What about his claim that Batman and Robin were homosexual fantasies?

I knew many homosexuals but I certainly didn’t think of Batman in those terms. I thought of it in terms of … Frank Merriwell and Dick Merriwell, his half-brother, who was the kid he was taking care of. … In America we always talk about the Western hero and the pioneer kind of man—the Davy Crockett types—as being loners. They’re never really. They always have a sidekick. … Certainly there’s no homosexual relationship. It’s just part of the American syndrome. … It was just that the author realized that you’ve gotta have somebody to talk to. Sherlock Holmes had Watson—were they homosexuals? Baloney. You just can’t have your hero walking around thinking aloud all the time. He’d be ready for the men in white coats after a time. So we created a junior Watson and that’s all [Robin] was.


Incidentally, Bill's only son Fred (who died in 1992) was gay.

8 comments:

Golden Age of Comic Books Podcast said...

Very interesting quote from the prolific Mr. Finger. Thanks for sharing this. He confirms what we all knew and what Dr. Wertham got all wrong.

Bill Jourdain
goldenagecomics.org

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks, Bill, and great to hear from you!

Golden Age of Comic Books Podcast said...

Thanks. Really looking forward to the Bill Finger book.

Anonymous said...

I heard Dick Sprang speak many years ago and said pretty much the same thing.

Odkin said...

I have a somewhat forward suggestion, but worth considering if it's not too late.

Your upcoming book is titled "Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman". "Co-creator" seems like a singular contribution. Bill was actively involved with Batman for decades of course, and his contribution is not simply the act of creation (or co-creation) but the actually AUTHORSHIP of the Batman mythos. "Author" connotes both creation AND execution.

You might consider renaming the book "Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Author of Batman"

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Odkin, I appreciate the suggestion. Even if it weren't too late to change the sub, I would keep as is. I agree with you to a point but the pivotal credit is that of "co-creator" - it indicates "there from the beginning." And while no one can dispute that Finger authored Batman stories, there are likely some who would argue against giving Finger an official credit. None *I* have encountered, mind you...

J. L. Bell said...

Thanks for sharing this; I plan to track down Tom Andrae's book.

I'm not surprised that someone asked Finger about the gay reading of Batman and Robin in 1972. Once Jules Feiffer made that a notable part of his The Greatest Comic Book Heroes in 1965, it looks like DC writers felt pressure to deny the suggestion. The foreword to Batman: From the '30s to the '70s has a somewhat angry (and less than convincing) denial in a forum that could have ignored the whole question.

I'm not surprised by Finger's response that he didn't see Batman and Robin as gay, It's notable that he said he "knew many homosexuals," apparently referring to the period when he was writing Batman stories, perhaps even to the early period when he was helping to develop the mythos. There's little hint in his remarks that being gay was undesirable, just that it didn't apply to these characters. Those aspects of his response are a pleasant surprise.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks J.L. In referring to knowing gay people, Bill was likely referring to his wife Portia's friends (not to mention his son Fred).

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