Lost Amidst Bustle: The Forgotten Heroes Behind Iconic Masks

I re-explored the pop-cult heroes in my late teens. I may have grown up watching Batman cartoons and became a core fan of Darth Vader later in my life, but every time I watched a Batman film or read a Star Wars theory or Behind the scenes, the insights about the efforts put in characters’ development increased my amount of interest in those tales and characters even more.

However, on exploring the background more and more, I figured a common thread between the two- about what went into developing a character and who grabbed all the attention from it. Perhaps there would be more of such tales about how the deserving person couldn’t have the credit for all the time and efforts they invested in, but I only know of these two so far:

  •  Bill Finger, Batman
  • David Prowse, Darth Vader

The Cases:
Bill Finger is the very man responsible for the creation of one of the biggest Popular Culture icons, Batman.

Batman and Bill
L to R: Bill Finger, Batman Detective Comic cover

Ever since any kid, my age or slightly older than me has known of Batman, knows that the only name publicly associated with Batman, as its creator is of Bob Cane. However, in this documentary, Batman and Bill (2017)the maker focuses on Bill Finger’s initiative to develop a comic character with the help of his friend, Bob Kane to be able to pitch his concept to the publishers. Unfortunately, as Bill was majorly focused on the character’s look and the story, the business side of it got neglected, resulting in Kane grabbing the opportunity to leverage this situation to his own advantage and paste his name with Batman as its ‘Creator’. Although Finger fell sick later and passed away, his family still held a grudge but felt powerless, because DC had refused to credit him in any of their films. Kane had glorified his existence very well as soon as he got control over the sales. However, Finger’s family was eventually successful in getting his name in the opening credits of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016).

Similarly, Star Wars has now become a massive franchise globally, but the most peculiar thing about it was the saga’s former villain, Darth Vader. Although George Lucas had developed the character himself, he cast David Prowse to perform it On-Screen.

Prowse_Vader
David Prowse as Darth Vader: source

Prowse is majorly known for portraying Darth Vader in the original trilogy by fans. Even though he portrayed characters in films such as Hammerhead (1968) and The Horror of Frankenstein (1970) and also made a special appearance in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), Prowse received his share of acclaim post-Star Wars. At the time, he also got interviewed by local newspapers and appeared on some reality T.V Shows. Unfortunately, for him, all this attention turned into a major repercussion for the span, the wounds of which have retained even after all these years.

Two days ago, I watched this documentary on Netflix called I Am Your Father (2015), which revealed David Prowse’s struggle and his everlasting feud with George Lucas- who would not acknowledge Prowse’s existence along with other of his co-stars.

In one of his interviews, Prowse apparently gave away the final film’s spoiler without his knowledge. Lucas, however, took the necessary precautions to not have the plot twists leaked. But at the same time, he didn’t inform Prowse about the substitute actors who would portray Vader. Case in point, the fight sequences were filmed with the stuntman, Bob Anderson. Even though Prowse was known to be muscular himself and was picked by Lucas primarily because of his physique, he wasn’t allowed to perform the stunt, which he found out when Anderson told him in person on the set while getting dressed for the shot.

But what’s even more disheartening is as Lucas was already pissed with Prowse for unconsciously revealing the main plot, he filmed the last scene in the Return of the Jedi (1983) with actor Sebastian Shaw. It’s the scene where the real identity of Darth Vader is revealed and his face is finally shown. The scene, however, was filmed without Prowse’s knowledge on the same day, when he was filming another scene of the film.

My Take On It:
Every time I come across a tale- wherein the deserving person doesn’t get credited for all of their blood and sweat, there are two things that spin in my mind constantly.

First, it proves to be a wonderful life lesson for each us- We must know to what extent should we involve a second person in the work we have initiated. Also, how much of (emotional) importance we should give to our role in someone else’s project so that we can escape the misery of not having given the deserving credit for our blood and sweat.

Secondly, I also find living in misery/regret for not getting credit for the work we did but had absolutely no control over- extremely foolish. If you became a Popular Culture icon overnight, you could leverage that fame to gain other projects as well and avoid your repentance- now this is my take on Prowse’s side of the story.

But on the other hand, not acknowledging the person’s effort even after the project got more than expected amount of fame and instead of forgetting the mistakes of the past, continuing the feud for as long as you both are alive is even way dumber. Lucas could’ve easily swallowed his pride and acknowledge Prowse’s efforts, but unfortunately only he knows his reasons for not doing so even after decades now.

However, I’m happy that both- Bill Finger and David Prowse got their share of fame in their own ways.

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