Marc Tyler Nobleman is an historian perhaps best known for writing the definitive biography of Bill Finger, the famously uncredited co-creator of Batman. Finger's story is an epic tragedy of comic book industry heartbreak and shady contractual IP maneuvers. While Finger's contributions to the Batman mythos are better known today (and occasionally even credited!), that's only after a long road of hard-fought battles, largely spearheaded by Nobleman himself.
In addition to his writing, Nobleman often travels around, giving speeches and presentations about the research he's done about the behind-the-scenes business of the Batman industrial complex. That's how he received an invitation to speak at Sharon Elementary School in Forsyth County, Georgia — and how he ended up receiving this little note from the school principal:
Nobleman shared more details on Facebook, saying:
After my first talk at a Georgia elementary school today, administrators asked me to omit the word "gay" from the last two presentations or leave.
This was my third of three schools in this district, and after one of the principals heard that I would say "gay," he handed me this note midway through the talk.
To be clear, there was no gay "content" in the speech. There were no visceral descriptions of gay sex, let alone *gasp* drag queens. What there was was a factual recounting of history and truth: Bill Finger passed away in 1974, without ever receiving public or financial compensation for his work on Batman. His only son, Fred, was a gay man who died of AIDS in 1990—and, as such, it was believed for a long time that Finger had no other heirs who could continue the legal battle for his proper credit, and inherit any potential wins on behalf of the Finger estate.
In the course of Nobleman's research, however, he discovered that Fred Finger had in fact been married to a woman at one point—with whom he had a child, Athena Finger, born the same year that her grandfather died.
Recruiting Athena to the cause was a crucial step in the battle to win proper credit for Bill Finger's work—and as such, is a central part of Nobleman's story. The real-life complication of identifying and finding Athena is the crux of the journey, and one that cannot be extricated from the simple fact that her father's sexuality and death contribute to her obscurity and estrangement.
But that's not how the principal took it, writing a letter to parents "apologizing" for the supposedly inappropriate content of the speech:
Good afternoon, Sharon 5th grade families,
As trust and transparency are foundational to our partnership, I am reaching out to make you aware of subject matter that was brought up today by a guest author during his speech to our 5th grade students.
Marc Tyler Nobleman is the award-winning author of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, a book about Bill Finger's role in the creation of the comic book character Batman. Mr. Nobleman encouraged our students to find their passions and be resilient, which align with Sharon Elementary's beliefs and resonated well with our students. As Mr. Nobleman chronicled the tale, he included that Mr. Finger was "gay". This is not subject matter that we were aware that he was including nor content that we have approved for our students.
I apologize that this took place. Action was taken to ensure that this was not included in Mr. Nobleman's subsequent speeches and further measures will be taken to prevent situations like this in the future. Please contact me with any questions or concerns. I appreciate your continued support of our school and staff.
Nobleman, to his credit, refused to remove the word—and thus, his speech was cancelled. But he had no regrets, telling The Messenger that, "You don't apologize for saying that someone has a certain sexual orientation. That's not a grievance."
And he's right. Just like he was right about Bill Finger.
Author Who Said 'Gay' in Batman School Talk Slams Principal's Apology to Parents (Exclusive) [Katherine Esters / The Messenger]
GA Principal Cancels Speech About Batman Co-Creator Over Use of the Word 'Gay' [Brian Cronin / Comic Book Resources]