Batman & Bill Scoop From Hulu’s TCA Panel

After unveiling their new ‘limelight documentary’ series back in August, Hulu brought the minds behind their upcoming Batman & Bill film to the TCAs Winter Tour. This documentary explores the life and contributions of Bill Finger, a comic book writer who who created many of the concepts that made Bruce Wayne so famous (including his birth name!) without receiving any of the credit. Since so little was known about him, the team behind the film followed the fight to get him credited alongside Batman’s more famous creator, Bob Kane.

The directing and producing team of Don Argott and Sheena Joyce discussed their journey through the world DC Comics at the panel. They were joined by author and narrator Marc Tyler Nobleman (Bill the Boy Wonder), as well as Bill Finger’s granddaughter Athena Finger and her sister Alethia Mariotta.

Don, Sheena & Marc at the TCA panel

When describing the lengthy process between the documentary’s conception and its completion, Don Argott explained, “The story needed time to evolve and take shape.” He and Sheena met Marc while he was still researching Bill’s story and getting involved with Athena in order to fight for Bill’s credits. But until that fight was finished, the story couldn’t continue. “For the longest time, we only had two acts of a film,” he commented. Don’s partner and fellow producer Sheena Joyce added, “We felt like it needed a resolution.”


Sheena also brought up the unexpected expansion of Marc’s story within the film. “Of course it’s Bill’s story, but it’s also Mark’s journey as well.” As their work on the documentary progressed, the shape of the story changed. “I think we’ve learned to not try and predict who your film is for,” Sheena concluded. “Because you’re always going to be wrong.”

Athena Finger shared her unwavering faith in her father’s stories about Bill while she was growing up as a child. For her, the struggle was always the difficulty of disseminating that truth so that others would know of Bill’s accomplishments as well. “When I would try to tell people what my family history was, they would question it,” she recalled. Without physical proof, it was difficult to make others believe what she already knew to be true.

On the other hand, once she began her work with the Batman & Bill team, she was gratified to learn just how many people were aware of Bill and his contributions. And even though DC at one point tried to buy her silence, Athena declared that “Obviously it wasn’t enough.” In fact, that document was her entry point into making a legal case for Bill’s credit.

Because superhero comic books are meant to be a form of escapism, researcher and author Marc Nobleman noted his concern about audiences wanting to see this story told. After his book came out, he didn’t know what to expect. “Here I am talking about the background, which is not a happy story. Do people want to stick around for that or do they want to stay in fantasy land?” Thankfully, he was met with the sense of righteousness instilled in many comic fans, who wanted to see justice done for Batman’s creator.

Marc went into great detail about why Bill didn’t make sure to get the proper credit from the start, and his explanation helped set the story behind Baman & Bill in its proper context. Bob Kane was the dominant figure from a business perspective because he was already working for DC, while Bill “was a man who was desperate to create.” As an aspiring writer and part-time shoe salesman in an era where comic novels were a nascent art form and far from lucrative, “he was more willing to compromise in ways that we now look at as unacceptable.”

“I know [Marc] would not compare himself to Batman,” Sheena remarked about Marc’s efforts to get Bill Finger the credit he deserved. “But I’ll do it.” Life imitated art in a way, as these people researched and worked and fought from the shadows to make sure that Bill could be recognized in the limelight.

Depiction of Bob Kane & Bill Finger comparing Bob’s design for Batman with Bill’s new one.

In the spirit of trying to be the Batman to Batman’s creator, the producers decided to depict Bill and his story in comic book form. “We knew we needed to rely on some device to bring Bill to life, and the comic thing seemed like the most natural creative device to do that,” Don explained. Instead of creating an animated film, they chose to employ a Golden Age comic book aesthetic throughout Batman & Bill to reflect the time period of early comics.

Of course, there was a practical reason for the animated panels of Bill – there are only 14 surviving photos of him, and he looks different in each one. Now Don and Sheena are masters at getting into the minds of their subjects, and their 2009 documentary The Art of the Steal already showcased how well they can shed light on a shadowy figure through their inherent empathy and excellent production. What better way to make him known to the audience then, than through the medium that was such an important part of his life?

Sheena went into more detail about the visual aspect of Batman & Bill, describing the shift in aesthetic when comparing Bill’s story to Marc’s. “We wanted one style, kind of more like the old school comics, when we were telling Bill’s story. And a more modern look when we were telling Marc’s story.” Don’t be fooled by the animated Marc, though! The real life version claims he doesn’t wear suspenders or drink coffee, unlike his more fashionable and caffeinated comic counterpart.

Batman & Bill will debut as part of Hulu’s Limelight series in May 2017. Look for our in-depth interview with the producers available then.