RARA-AVIS: Da Black Bat

From: James Michael Rogers (jeddak5@cox.net)
Date: 25 Jun 2009

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     Sorry for the delay. Mark asked why I mentioned that the pulp character "Black Bat" never sued the comic book character "Batman" or vice versa. The reason is, supposedly, that they are the same character - by which I mean they shared a common genesis.

    The corporate identities of these publishers pose questions that are, um, complex. And ambiguous.

    The comic fans here will remember the distinction between National Comics (then National Allied) who published Batman and Superman, and M.C. Gaines's All-American Comics who published Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and all of the rest. Though these companies had independent corporate realities, they were closely enough related that they would share some advertising and, occasionally, even a crossover appearance by one of their properties.

    Respecting The Black Bat/Batman, the allegation is that the publishers had too cozy a connection to bear much legal scrutiny. Thus, Batman scripter Bill Finger days the resemblance between the two characters -who appeared one month apart in 1939 - was a mere miraculous coincidence (you can ask Captain Marvel about National's belief in coincidence). Another part of the official legend is that Whitney Ellsworth -a National editor who, coincidentally, wrote for The Black Bat guys - simply said "can't we all just get along" and made peace with everyone.

    For Whitney was an honorable man. So are they all, all honorable men.

    I believe the titular owner of The Black Bat was Ned Pines, who published Nedor Comics. I would note, tangentially, that Black Bat never had a comic book incarnation in spite of being a very popular pulp character. I suspect that they divided up use of the character between pulp and comic. Makes sense as, in 1939, there were a lot of similar figures and no one could have guessed how iconic the Batman persona would become

    Since I daresay the Black Bat copyright is still good to go.....in fact , I think Gunnison may have reprinted some over the last decade....my fantasy is that someone licenses the property for comics and hilarious copyright hijinks ensue. Actually, I 'm guessing that the Bat's current owners wouldn't grant such a license.

    I now return you to your normal hard-boiled programming, already in progress.



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