A Comic About the Real Life Origin of the Inspiration for Bruce Wayne

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The inside front cover of Real Life Comics #29 contains a blurb that helps explain why I like this issue of the biographical Real Life Comics series: “Mad Anthony Wayne is remembered for his capture of the important British redoubt on the Hudson River, but his was a dramatic career of sacrifice and service for his country throughout the American Revolution.”

But of course, Anthony Wayne is remembered by many for another reason today:  his name is the inspiration for the name of Batman’s alter ego, Bruce Wayne.  The story behind that inspiration is a fascinating tale that combines pop culture and American history. There’s a Real Life Comics #29 (Nedor Publications, 1946) CGC VF- 7.5 White pages available in this week’s 2021 June 13-14 Sunday & Monday Comics, Animation & Art Select Auction at Heritage Auctions.

Real Life Comics #29 (Nedor Publications, 1946)
The exploits of Anthony Wayne in Real Life Comics #29 (Nedor Publications, 1946)

The Ghost of Anthony Wayne

Isaac Wayne took something from under his arm.
“I found your school books ‘tother side of the road near your Uncle Gilbert’s house; I did not know whether you had dropped them.”
“I left them there,” said the boy frankly. “I was going to return and get them, sir.”
“Too heavy to carry home, Anthony?”
“No father, but old Jess started a rabbit by the side of the road and we chased it down by the edge of the clearing. I dropped the books there.”
Mr. Wayne opened a copy book, very ragged and dog-eared. “Will you tell me, son, what is the meaning of all this?”
He pointed to a page covered with lines and strange markings.
“Just a plan, sir.”
“A plan of what?”
“Of battle, father.”
— The Hero of Stony Point; School Days at Chester, by James Barnes, 1916

The above passage was the one I decided to include in this piece about the root inspirations of part of the Batman Mythos after I’d reluctantly discarded three other perfectly amazing choices from what I’ll call Anthony Wayne’s origin story.

Reading each of them brings a corresponding moment from the Batman Mythos readily to mind: his determination to study science as well as train his body, Gilbert Wayne‘s Alfred-like barbs meant to push Young Master Wayne towards his potential. I hadn’t intended to dwell much on “Mad” Anthony Wayne in research, because I’d initially made the error of thinking that this historical figure was likely little more than just a name that evoked certain qualities that Bill Finger wanted the character to embody — but it’s possible that Wayne was a little more than that to him.

Wayne is much more than just a name — both in the context of American history and to the members of the Finger family who observed that history directly. But the Mad Anthony Wayne anecdote which connects that figure from American history to the Batman Mythos does not come directly from Finger. In the book Batman & Me from 1989, Bob Kane quotes Finger as saying, “I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock … then I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne.”

That immediately suggests that there’s probably more to it than that. This aspect of the history of Batman is beyond the scope of this piece, but it has been well chronicled. To make a long story short: Finger’s work on Batman was uncredited by DC Comics from 1939 to 2015. Finger was largely unknown to comics fandom at large, until 1964 when the truth of his role started to emerge via DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz and fanzine editor Jerry Bails.  Anthony Wayne’s name doesn’t readily come to mind today for most in the company of historical figures like Adams and Hancock, but there may be an excellent reason that it did for Bill Finger. It would appear that the first member of the Finger family to come to America lived in New York (as a tenant on a very stately manor indeed, as it turns out) not all that far from Stony Point, during the time that Anthony Wayne earned the nickname “Mad Anthony”.

More on this remarkable little backstory another time. There’s a Real Life Comics #29 (Nedor Publications, 1946) CGC VF- 7.5 White pages which brings Batman history together with American history available in this week’s 2021 June 13-14 Sunday & Monday Comics, Animation & Art Select Auction at Heritage Auctions.

Real Life Comics #29 (Nedor Publications, 1946)
Real Life Comics #29 (Nedor Publications, 1946)

Real Life Comics #29 (Nedor Publications, 1946) CGC VF- 7.5 White pages. Atom bomb story. Overstreet 2020 VF 8.0 value = $120. CGC census 6/21: 1 in 7.5, 2 higher.

View the certification for CGC Certification ID 3727545002 and purchase grader’s notes if available.

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