Marc Tyler Nobleman had planned to speak to students about the hidden co-creator of Batman, aiming to inspire young minds in Forsyth County, suburban Atlanta. However, the school district requested him to omit a crucial aspect from his presentation — the fact that the artist he helped bring out of obscurity had a gay son. Nobleman, refusing to comply, ultimately cancelled his remaining talks.
This incident highlights that even in states like Georgia, which have not officially banned discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity, schools may still be limiting such conversations. While eleven states have “Don’t say gay” laws explicitly banning discussion of LGBTQ individuals in certain public schools, five additional states mandate parental consent for such discourse.
Though legislation curbing LGBTQ rights has gained traction, this suppression is not a recent development. In 2021, a New Jersey school district, which mandates LGBTQ-inclusive curriculums, attempted to prevent a valedictorian from discussing his queer identity during a graduation speech. That same year, a federal judge ordered an Indiana district to afford a gay-straight alliance the same privileges as other extracurricular groups. Two years later, Indiana passed a law prohibiting discussion of LGBTQ individuals in grades K-3.
Books featuring LGBTQ themes or characters have faced challenges nationwide, leading many schools to remove them, including Forsyth County, which has been a focal point in educational politics.
Advocates for LGBTQ rights argue that Nobleman encountered a moral panic instigated by conservatives seeking to reverse progress towards acceptance. They contend that those opposing these discussions are not actually against talking about it at all, but rather, they do not want views differing from theirs to be expressed. They believe this means everyone should only hear what aligns with their beliefs.
They further argue that discussions about heterosexual individuals with traditional gender identities are commonplace, and if all talk about sexuality is prohibited, then classic works like “Romeo and Juliet” should also be off-limits.
Nobleman, a self-professed “superhero geek” residing in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., is renowned for his book “Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-creator of Batman,” which unveils the story of Bill Finger, an author who was long overlooked despite playing a crucial role in creating Batman and other comic book characters.
Finger, who passed away in obscurity in 1974, had artist Bob Kane credited as Batman’s sole creator. Nobleman’s research brought to light the existence of Finger’s son, Fred Finger, who was gay and died of AIDS-related complications at the age of 43 in 1992. This revelation played a pivotal role in Nobleman’s presentation, which he estimates to have delivered approximately 1,000 times in schools.
The discovery of Fred Finger’s daughter, Athena Finger, resulting from Nobleman’s research, pressured DC Comics to reach an agreement with her in 2015, officially recognizing her grandfather and Kane as co-creators. This achievement led to the documentary “Batman & Bill,” featuring Nobleman.
During his presentations at Sharon Elementary on August 21, Nobleman disclosed Fred Finger’s sexual orientation in his first talk. Following this, during his second talk, the principal handed him a note, urging him to share only the appropriate parts of the story for the elementary students.