Comics Lowdown: Who created Batman?

Cape Cod man says his dad invented Batman! Plus: Pepe the Frog, Frank Miller, another comic convention legal battle and more!

Batman Claim: Although his claims have been met with some skepticism, Frank Foster III is firmly convinced his father invented Batman. The Cape Cod octogenarian has a number of sketches by his father, Frank Foster II, which depict a superhero with many of the same characteristics as DC’s Batman; the sketches are dated 1932, and one of them has several possible names, with a checkmark next to “Batman.” Frank Foster II went to art school with Li’l Abner creator Al Capp and in the 1930s, when he was living in New York, showed his portfolio to several comics publishers; the younger Foster believes someone may have seen the sketches and stolen the idea. He tried to interest several auction houses in the drawings, but none would take them, so he will be selling them on eBay. Foster elaborates further on his claims at his website.

Frank Foster II’s sketches for a superhero that might be Batman

Meme Time: Zach Weissmueller of Reason looks at the free-speech issues in the legal battle around Pepe the Frog. Creator Matt Furie hired the law firm WilmerHale to fight the increasing appropriation of his creation by racist bloggers and other far-right commentators. YouTuber Mike Cernovich has hired his own attorney, Marc Randazza, to defend his publication of Pepe memes and mashups:

“I believe things can be memed into the public domain,” Randazza told Reason. “You can take a whole bunch of already created works, and when you take them all together and then you blow new life into that and a new thought is expressed, you probably have engaged in what’s called fair use.” He says Pepe fits the bill.

Jessica Logsdon, whose paintings of Pepe sell for 99 cents (plus $37 shipping) on eBay, was sued by Furie but won’t take down her paintings; she admits she’s scared about going up against WilsonHale, whom she described as a “titan of law.” That doesn’t bother the 4chan crowd, however: They projected a giant image of Pepe on the building where WilmerHale has its offices.

Interviews and Profiles

Slice of Life: The fans turned out to see Sailesh Gopalan at the recent Bengalaru Comic Con; his webcomic Brown Paperbag is a lighthearted look at the daily life of a young person in India.

Reviews, Roundups, and Commentary

Deluxe Edition: Michael Dooley looks at Frank Miller’s Sin City: The Hard Goodbye Curator’s Collection; he talks to designer John Lind about producing these books, which give an intimate look at the creative process, and gets a sneak peek at a bit of art from the next Curator’s Collection title, Will Eisner’s A Contract with God.

Comics and Controversy: In honor of the release of their new comic, Un Presidential, Kevin Bieber and Victor Reynolds pick the 13 most controversial comics of all time.

Best of the Year: The pundits at the AV Club check in with their picks for the best comics and graphic novels of 2017.

The Biz

Battle of the Cons: First Comic-Con International sued Salt Lake Comic Con over the use of the term “comic con,” and now there’s another con tussle: New England Anime, the organizers of Anime Boston have filed a suit against two former volunteers who started their own anime con. The new show is technically called the Boston SouthCoast Comic Con & Anime Fest, and the website includes a Boston AnimeFest logo; the new con was also using the URL, but that appears to have been taken down. New England Anime claims that the branding of the new show (which is located in Hanover, not Boston) will confuse people who will think it has something to do with Anime Boston, but the upstarts responded that both “Boston” and “anime” are generic terms, as is the concept of an anime con.

Retailing: Bonanza Books & Comics in Modesto, California, is closing its doors after 44 years and lots of changes:

Bonanza —named after the iconic TV Western —sold mostly used paperbacks. Books went for 38 cents in the store back then. But as comics became more popular their focus changed and the shop has since become a popular gathering spot for readers, fans and even cosplayers. The store has taken part in the popular national Free Comic Book Day since it started more than 15 years ago.

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