Bob Kane created the comic book superhero Batman, one of the most popular and enduring characters of the 20th century.
A self-described "doodler from the Bronx," Kane developed his skills as a child by tracing cartoons out of newspapers before breaking into comics in 1936, working on humorous material such as "Peter Pupp" and "Hiram Hick." He continued to draw comic strips, selling "Rusty and His Pals" to Adventure Comics in 1938, and "Clip Carson" the next year to Action Comics.
The success of Action Comics' Superman led its publisher, National Publications (a forerunner of DC Comics) to seek an equally powerful and appealing hero. Over one weekend, Kane developed "the Bat-man" from three sources: the character of Zorro, a Leonardo da Vinci sketch of a man trying to fly with bat-like wings, and the silent mystery movie "The Bat."
"Batman is associated more with the average man than Superman. He doesn't have superpowers, but that's part of the longevity of him. He's Mr. Average Guy; he could bleed and die," Kane told The Times in 1995. "Couple that with the fact that he fights for the oppressed. He battles for everybody."
The caped crusader first appeared in May 1939 and quickly grew in popularity. The character moved from comic books to radio in 1943, to television in 1966, to animation in 1974, and film in 1989. There have been more than 10 big-screen incarnations of the comic book superhero, dating to 1940s serials. Kane served as a consultant on Tim Burton's "Batman" and three sequels, and made a cameo in a crowd scene in 1997's "Batman & Robin."
Comic historians and critics say writer Bill Finger, who wrote the first stories for the comics, should have been credited as a co-creator for his contributions to the Batman universe, including naming the hero’s alter ego Bruce Wayne, the cowl and blank white eyes.
Finger’s widow, Lyn Simmons, lobbied Warner Bros. and film producers to credit her husband in the 1989 "Batman" movie for his contributions to the comic book saga. Kane said he had no objection to Finger's credit but the studio rejected the plea, saying they would have had to credit every writer who contributed as well. Kane told The Times in a 1989 interview that although Finger deserved credit for being the "first and best" writer of the early Batman comic books, he should not be considered a co-creator.
"Bill was a friend and I needed a writer and he looked at the character and wrote the first story," Kane said. "He was a writer for hire, who came in after the fact, after the character was drawn."
DC announced in 2015 that Finger would be recognized as co-creator of Batman and would receive credit in the Warner Bros. television series "Gotham," and the 2016 motion picture "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice."
In the early years of the Batman saga, Kane assembled a staff to work with him on the comic strip but remained the principal artist through the 1940s. He also created the television characters Courageous Cat, Minute Mouse and Cool McCool.
"Bob Kane is a giant in the field of popular culture, one of a handful of people who launched the comic book industry and who gave the world a group of characters so colorful and inventive that they continue to captivate every new generation," said Jenette Kahn, then-president and editor in chief of DC Comics, in 1998. "Bob will be greatly missed, but he has left a legacy that will keep his memory alive."