In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, find out if DC actually knew that Bob Kane had stopped drawing the Batman comics period in the 1960s.
Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and fifty-second episode where we take a look at three comic book legends and determine if they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three captions. Click here for the first caption of this episode.
DC knew that Bob Kane had stopped drawing Batman comics in the 1960s.
I go with false
When it comes to the history of Bob Kane and his ghost artists on Batman, there is a very important influence to consider. Kane, like almost all of the original creators of the golden age of comics (guys like Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Joe Simon, Jack Kirby, Will Eisner) grew up reading comics and when they were kids, comics were king (there were also Golden Age creators who drew most of their influences from pulp fiction, such as Bill Finger, Otto Binder, Gardner Fox and many others. Writers tended to be more influenced by the pulps than the artists). So the DREAM of the comic book artists of the early Golden Age was to make comics.
And the comics had a certain factory character. For example, while we sometimes balk at the idea of an artist using a “ghost artist” to draw their comic (i.e. another artist working under your name), it was COMMON in the cartoon world. Artists who DID NOT use ghosts were often bigger deals than those who did. Even to this day, there are a number of comics that are not signed by their current artist, but with the signature of the original artist of the comic (this is actually not as common these days, because comic book readers basically have the idea that the guys who drew comics in the 1920s probably aren’t drawing them today, but in the 1970s it was still very common to keep this fiction alive) . Therefore, the idea of ghost artists was just second nature to guys like Bob Kane and Joe Shuster, et al.
Kane, of course, was also infamous for making as little original art as possible (whether because he thought it was quicker to copy or he felt he wasn’t good enough without him), and his early Batman stories are full of panels that were downright copied from other artists. Even that, however, was also quite common at the time. Unless you were Hal Foster or Alex Raymond, you would frequently copy Hal Foster and Alex Raymond.
Anyway, Kane legitimately drew the first Batman comics, he would just work with the greats Jerry Robinson and George Roussos, with Roussos drawing backgrounds and coloring the feature, and Robinson inking Kane (and for as far as I can tell, Kane might have been the loosest of pencils). Eventually, however, as demand for Batman content grew, other artists began drawing the comics under Kane’s signature. Kane eventually left the comics altogether to do the Batman comic which, again, would have been the pinnacle for someone like Kane. At the end of this tape, Kane was a bit lost. He didn’t really want to go back to the comics, but what else could he do?
Around 1947-1948 he made a deal with artist Lew Schwartz, where Kane would draw the Batman and Robin characters in each issue, while Schwartz would draw the rest of the comic, and Schwartz would then ink the whole thing, but this would be presented to DC as being made by Kane, since Kane had a deal with DC where he would do X number of pages per month. Eventually Schwartz was replaced by Sheldon Moldoff in 1953, at which time Kane stopped doing any of the artwork. Moldoff, funnily enough, also worked for DC and was sometimes hired to ink “Kane’s” pencils, which of course were drawn by him.
The question, however, becomes “Did DC KNOW Kane wasn’t drawing the comics anymore?”
Moldoff thought not, but that’s obviously a tricky question. A number of DC employees said they knew for sure, while some said they didn’t know at all. Mark Evanier asked DC editor George Kashdan about it, and I think it was the best take on it all: “Nobody thought Kane did it all or even most of it. But Kane had that contract and it was easier to do. “Don’t ask, don’t tell. As long as the pages arrived on time, which they almost always did, nobody cared. I guess we thought that Shelly was doing a game and we weren’t shocked to learn that he was doing everything.
This, to me, sounds like the truth. DC editors clearly thought Kane used assistants to do most of the work, but it was rare for an artist to have ANY involvement in the work like Kane did in the late 1950s, so I think that the fact that Kane was ‘Drawing the EVERYTHING comics was always a surprise to DC, even Julius Schwartz, who took over as Batman’s editor in 1964 and made Kane’s life boring enough that Kane eventually “retire”, doubted Kane’s skills as an artist, but still believed Kane had some involvement in art. But that’s a pretty fun story for another day!
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PART THREE COMING SOON!
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