Frank Foster III is convinced that his father created the first Batman, and he says he has the drawings to prove it.
The sketches he has depict a muscular superhero wearing a mask that has small pointed ears and slits for eyes. Scrawled on the back are the words “Batman,” and “Night-Wing,” and there’s a check mark next to the name “Batman.” The notations are dated 1932 — seven years before Batman first appeared in comic books.
Foster, who turns 82 this month, is putting his father’s drawings up for sale. The West Harwich resident wants to find a permanent home for the illustrations — preferably in a museum — so his father’s legacy is not forgotten.
“Even though my father is gone, I’d still like to have him recognized for what he did,” Foster said in a telephone interview on Monday. He believes his father came up with the idea for Batman long before anyone else did.
Foster said his father passed away in 1995 at the age of 86, and he’s held onto the drawings for years. As first reported in the Cape Cod Times, he’s decided it’s time to part with the drawings. “I can’t sit on them any longer,” he said.
Foster said he initially wanted to put them up for sale through a comic book art auction, but has yet to find any takers. The auctioneers he’s contacted, Foster said, were “afraid” of his father’s drawings because they might raise questions about who conceived Batman.
“They’re all afraid of it,” he said. “You have to have deep pockets if you’re going against Time Warner,” he said, referring to the company that owns Warner Bros., the parent company of DC Comics, which publishes Batman comics.
Press contacts at DC Comics did not immediately respond for comment.
According to the DC Comics website, cartoonist Bob Kane is credited with creating Batman along with writer Bill Finger. The website states the first Batman story, drawn by Kane and written by Finger, appeared in the May 1939 issue of Detective Comics, which hit newsstands on March 30, 1939. (A rare copy of that issue later sold at auction for more than $1 million in 2010.)
Foster has a website (aptly named www.originalbatman.com) that details the events that led to his father drawing a bat-themed superhero who came out at night to fight villains. The website also features images of his father’s sketches.
The website states that Foster went to art school in Boston with Al Capp, who later became famous for creating “Li’l Abner,” and early in his career they worked together briefly and each “cooked up” some ideas for comic book characters. Frank Foster II recalled in a 1975 interview: “It seems to me that in those days, and even now, that most all of the strips were the heroes of the day — such as, flying through the sky during the day and doing good deeds and so forth and so on — and I thought, well, why couldn’t that be done at night? Have a good guy do stuff at night.”
Foster said his father lived and worked in New York in the 1930s and showed his portfolio to comic publishers there, and he believes that his concept for Batman was stolen somewhere along the way.
Unless an ideal buyer (such as a museum) comes forward, Foster said he plans to put the original drawings up for sale on the auction website eBay.
“I just can’t keep them,” he said. “I’m not going to be around that much longer.”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.