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HOME > Biographical > 100 New Yorkers of the 1970s > EASTSIDER BOB KANE
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Creator of Batman and Robin


At the 1939 World's Fair in New York, a time capsule was filled with memorabilia thought to be representative of 20th-century American culture, and scheduled to be opened by historians 5,000 years later. Among the objects chosen was a comic magazine that had appeared for the first time that year, the creation of an 18-year-old artist and writer named Bob Kane. Whoever chose the contents of the time capsule must have been prophetic, because today, 40 years later, few characters in American fantasy or fiction are so well known as Kane's pulp hero — Batman.

"It was a big success from the very beginning," says the cartoonist, a tall, wiry, powerful-looking man of 58 whose tanned, leathery features bear a striking resemblance to those of Bruce Wayne, Batman's secret identity. "Superman started in 1938, and the same company, D.C. Comics, was looking for another superhero. I happened to be in the right place at the right time.

"The first year, Batman was more evil, more sinister. My concept was for him to scare the hell out of the denizens of the underworld. And then the second year, I introduced Robin, because I realized he would appeal to the children's audience. That's when the strip really took hold."

The walls of his Eastside apartment are covered with vintage hand-drawn panels by America's most famous cartoonists, and Kane, with his casual attire, his broad New York accent, and his habit of twirling his glasses around while slumped far down in his easy chair, would not seem out of place as a character in Maggie and Jiggs. Yet he likes to consider himself a serious artist, and has, in fact, had some notable achievements in his "second career," which began in 1966 when he resigned from D.C. Comics, on the heels of the successful Batman TV series.

"I got tired of working over the drawing board after 30 years. I wanted to be an entrepreneur — painter, screenplay writer, and producer." Since that time, he has built up a large body of work — oil paintings, watercolors, pen and ink sketches and lithographs, most of them depicting characters from Batman. They have been purchased by leading universities, famous private collectors, and New York's Museum of Modern Art.

As ............
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