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Batman Book Author Scolded for Saying 'Gay' in Georgia School District

Batman Book Author Scolded for Saying 'Gay' in Georgia School District

Marc Tyler Nobleman, Batman, and book cover

Marc Tyler Nobleman was admonished for telling students the co-creator of Batman had a gay son.

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The author of a book on the Batman comics has gotten in trouble with school officials in Georgia because he mentioned a gay person in a presentation to fifth-graders.

Marc Tyler Nobleman is the author of Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman, which details the contributions of comic book writer Bill Finger in creating the character. Batman debuted in 1939 in Detective Comics, and Bob Kane has long received sole credit for coming up with the character.

But Finger played a role that was not recognized for many years, partly because he was thought to have no heirs who would speak up for him, according to Nobleman. Finger died in 1974, and his son, Fred, was a gay man who died of AIDS complications in 1992. Fred Finger was believed to be the creator’s only child, but later it emerged that Bill Finger had a daughter, Athena, who advocated for her father’s recognition.

Nobleman, in speaking to fifth-graders August 21 at Sharon Elementary School in Forsyth County, a suburban area near Atlanta, mentioned Fred Finger’s gayness. During a second presentation at the school, the principal, Brian Nelson, passed Nobleman a note saying he should “only share the appropriate parts of the story,” The New York Times reports.

Nelson then emailed an apology to the students’ families, saying, “This is not subject matter that we were aware that he was including nor content that we have approved for our students.” He added, “Action was taken to ensure that this was not included in Mr. Nobleman’s subsequent speeches.”

A principal at another school in the district also asked Nobleman to omit the information that Fred Finger was gay, and Nobleman agreed because he felt “trapped,” the author told the Times. However, he mentioned that fact in speaking at a third school and then canceled his remaining presentations.

He said he told district officials, “In the best interest of these kids, I can’t do that anymore,” meaning the omission of relevant information.

Jennifer Caracciolo, the chief spokeswoman for Forsyth County schools, told NBC News that mention of the word “gay” wasn’t the problem in and of itself, but it resulted in questions from students that could have led to discussion of sexuality without parental consent.

Speaking to the Times, she said the topic was not appropriate for fifth-graders under “state standards” and might have been appropriate for older students. “It would be almost like if someone was doing a speech to kindergartners and they talked about the Holocaust and the horrors of the Holocaust,” she said.

Georgia doesn’t have a “don’t say gay” law, like those in Florida and some other states, prohibiting classroom instruction on LGBTQ+ identities, although one has been proposed. But it did pass a law last year that says parents have the right to direct their children’s “moral and religious training” and to withdraw their kids from any portion of a sex education curriculum they find objectionable.

Cindy Martin, chair of a conservative group called Mama Bears (not to be confused with the LGBTQ-supportive group of the same name), said Nobleman broke the state law. “No one has the right to talk to a child about sexuality unless it’s the parent, or the parent has given permission,” she told NBC. “Mr. Nobleman did not have permission. So he went against Georgia law.” He should be “ashamed of himself,” she said.

Nobleman, who lives in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., found Forsyth County schools’ action shameful. “We’re long past the point where we should be policing people talking about who they love,” he told NBC.

The Human Rights Campaign also denounced the school district’s act “The idea that these folks are saying that they just don’t want to talk about [sexuality] at all is very disingenuous,” HRC State Legislative Director and Senior Counsel Cathryn Oakley told the network. “What they mean is they don’t want views other than theirs to be expressed. And they believe that that means everyone should have to hear what they believe.”

If any discussion of sexuality, including heterosexuality, is banned, “then you certainly better not be teaching Romeo and Juliet,” she added.

Nobleman’s book on Bill Finger came out in 2012, and he and Athena Finger both appeared in a Hulu documentary about her father, Batman & Bill, released in 2017. He has given the same talk on Bill Finger in schools about 1,000 times without incident, he said.

Pictured: Marc Tyler Nobleman, Batman, and his book

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.