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Jerry Robinson (born January 1, 1922 in Trenton, New Jersey - December 7, 2011 in Staten Island, New York) was an American comic book artist best known for his work on Batman comics during the 1940s.
He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004.
Early life and career
Jerry Robinson was a journalism student at Columbia University in Manhattan when he began working for writer-artist Bob Kane in 1939. Kane, with writer Bill Finger, had shortly before created the character Batman for National Comics, the future DC Comics. Robinson rented a room from a family in The Bronx near Kane's family's Grand Concourse apartment, where Kane used his bedroom as an art studio. Within a year, he became Batman's primariy inker, with George Roussos inking backgrounds. Batman quickly became a hit character, and Kane rented space for Robinson and Roussos in Times Square's Times Tower.
Approximately a year and a half after Robinson and Finger were hired by Kane, National Comics lured them away, making them company staffers. Robinson recalled working in the bullpen at the company's 480 Lexington Avenue office, alongside Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, as well as Jack Kirby, Fred Ray, and Mort Meskin, "who was one of my best friends, who[m] I brought up from [comics publisher] MLJ".
Robin and the Joker
By early 1940, Kane and Finger discussed adding a sidekick. Robinson suggested the name "Robin" after Robin Hood books he had read during boyhood, saying in a 2005 interview he was inspired by one book's N.C. Wyeth illustrations. The new character, orphaned circus performer Dick Grayson, came to live with Bruce Wayne (Batman) as his young ward in Detective Comics #38 (April 1940). Robin would inspire many similar sidekicks throughout the remainder of the 1930 and 1940s period historians and fans call the Golden Age of Comic books.
Batman's archnemesis the Joker was introduced near that same time, in Batman #1 (Spring 1940). Credit for that character's creation is disputed. Robinson has said he created the character. Kane's position is that
Bill Finger and I created the Joker. Bill was the writer. Jerry Robinson came to me with a playing card of the Joker. That's the way I sum it up. [The Joker] looks like Conrad Veidt — you know, the actor in The Man Who Laughs [the 1928 movie based on the novel by Victor Hugo. ... Bill Finger had a book with a photograph of Conrad Veidt and showed it to me and said, 'Here's the Joker.' Jerry Robinson had absolutely nothing to do with it. But he'll always say he created it till he dies. He brought in a playing card, which we used for a couple of issues for him [the Joker] to use as his playing card." Robinson, whose original Joker playing card was on public display in the exhibition "Masters of American Comics" at the Jewish Museum in New York City, New York, from Sept. 16, 2006 to Jan. 28, 2007, and the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta, Georgia from Oct. 24, 2004 to Aug. 28, 2005, has countered that:
Bill Finger knew of Conrad Veidt because Bill had been to a lot of the foreign films. Veidt ... had this clown makeup with the frozen smile on his face. When Bill saw the first drawing of the Joker, he said, 'That reminds me of Conrad Veidt in The Man Who Laughs.' He said he would bring in some shots of that movie to show me. That's how that came about. I think in Bill's mind, he fleshed out the concept of the character.
In 1943, when Kane left the Batman comic books to focus on penciling the daily Batman newspaper comic strip, Robinson took over the full penciling, along with others such as Dick Sprang. As was customary of the time, only Kane's name appeared on the strip.
Robinson went on to work on numerous other characters and for several publishers, at one point even doing free-lance illustrations for at least one textbook publisher. In a long, successful interlude outside of comic books, as a newspaper cartoonist, Robinson created True Classroom Flubs and Fluffs, which for most of the 1960s ran in the New York Sunday News (later incorporated into the Daily News).
He was president of the National Cartoonists Society from 1967 to 1969 and served a two year term as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists starting in 1973.
During the mid-1970s, Robinson was a crucial supporter of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their long struggle with DC Comics to win full recognition and compensation as the creators of Superman. With comics artist and rights advocate Neal Adams, Robinson organized key support around Siegel and Shuster, to whom DC, in December 1975, granted lifetime stipends and a credit in all broadcast and published Superman works. In 1978, he founded Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate/CartoonArts International.
During 1999, Robinson created an original manga series, Astra with the help of mangaka Shojin Tanaka and Ken-ichi Oishi. This was later on released in English through Central Park Media by their manga line CPM Manga as a comic book miniseries and then a trade paperback.
On May 26, 2007, DC Comics announced that Robinson had been hired by the company as a "creative consultant". The press release accompanying this announcement did not describe Robinson's duties or responsibilities.
Robinson died on Wednesday, December 7, 2011. According to Michael E. Uslan, a close family friend, he died peacefully in his sleep during a late afternoon nap. He was 89.
For his work in comics, he won several awards, including the National Cartoonists Society award for the Comic Book Division in 1956, their Newspaper Panel Cartoon for 1963 for Still Life, their Special Features Award in 1965 for Flubs and Fluffs, and their Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. Robinson was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004.
- Richard John "Dick" Grayson/Robin (co-created with Bob Kane and Bill Finger)
- Alfred Thaddius Crane Pennyworth (But not Alfred Beagle who was co-created by Bob Kane and Donald Clough Cameron) (co-developed with Bill Finger)
- The Joker (co-created with Bob Kane and Bill Finger)
- Dr. Thomas Wayne (co-created with Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Gardner Fox)
- Anthony "Tony" Zucco (co-created with Bob Kane and Bill Finger)
- Entertainment Weekly writer Frank Lovece official site: Web Exclusives — Bob Kane interview
- Newsarama (Oct. 18. 2006): "The Joker, the Jewish Museum and Jerry: Talking to Jerry Robinson" (interview)
- Jones, Gerard. "Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book." New York: Basic Books, 2004
- Groth, Gary. "Jerry Robinson" - The Comics Journal (October, 2005)
- Newsarama (Oct. 26. 2007): "DC Comics Names Jerry Robinson Creative Consultant"