Mr Flibble Talks To... Battling The Penguin
Batman creator Bob Kane passed away in 1998, leaving the world with perhaps its most famous comic book character. Before he died, Bob took some time out from a comic convention he was attending to discuss the creation of his winged vigilante, and his opinion on the Tim Burton movies, with the other penguin...
20 November, 2000
Bob Kane
Mr Flibble's right hand provided by
Andrew Ellard

Tell us about the origins of Batman.

I created Batman in 1939. I was 18 years old, and my influences were two or three. My major influence was Leonardo daVinci - Leonardo had a flying machine 500 years ago, [it] was a huge man-sized, bat-like contraption; he had huge bat wings on a sled, and a man would go on the sled and try to glide off the mountain.

DaVinci had a quote, he said, "Remember your model shall have no other wings but that of a bat." It was right there for everyone to see - especially young Bob Kane. So Leonardo, wherever you are, thank you for the residuals.

The second influence was Zorro - The Mark of Zorro (1920) with Doug Fairbanks Snr. He was my idol as a youngster. Doug Fairbanks was [all about] swashbuckling, derring-do deeds, he did them all himself. And he had the dual identities, you know; during the day he was a bored count in the southern west of California - and they were under the oppression of a dictatorship at that time, and so he decided to become a vigilante at night. He would don a handkerchief mask and put a sword on the side of his belt, and he wore a cape and a black sombrero, and he would exit from a cave in his house on a black horse called Tornado. Which gave me the initial idea for the Batmobile coming out of a Batcave, and the dual identity.

So I was a good copycat. There was a third influence called The Bat (1926), a movie by Mary Roberts Rinehart, the mystery writer. The bat was a villain, but he wore a bat costume. And I saw that - only instead of making mine a villain, I made him a hero. And therein lies the creation of the Batman. From three major influences. Need I say more!

Let me also ask you about one of the great comic villains, The Joker, and how he came to be.

There was a book called 'The Man Who Laughs' by Victor Hugo, and they made a movie of that also (1928). In a nutshell it was about a young gypsy boy who had his mouth slashed into a ghastly grin by rival gypsy gangs. As he grew up he had had this ghastly grin - which looked like Jack Nicholson's Joker - and I saw the movie when I was thirteen years old, and there's a picture of Conrad Veidt, the English actor, who looks exactly like the Joker. And I looked at the photograph and I emulated that to get the Joker character. There's always an influence somewhere. (Laughs)

Sometimes you create your own, like The Penguin. There was a cigarette ad called Cool Cigarettes, and it had a penguin on the pack; and to me a penguin always looked like a little fat man with a tuxedo. I added the umbrella, and that's how the Penguin was created.