Comics

AICN COMICS pays tribute to a fallen comic book icon, Jerry Robinson…

Published at: Dec. 15, 2011, 10:06 a.m. CST

 

R.I.P. Jerry Robinson…

By BottleImp


Ask any casual comic book fan “Who created Batman?” and they’ll most likely be able to name Bob Kane. Those who know a little more regarding the history of the Caped Crusader will also name Bill Finger, who wrote the lion’s share of the Batman’s formative adventures. But most comics historians agree that there was a third creator who made a lasting contribution to the Batman legacy in the creation of an arch-nemesis—perhaps the greatest villain the medium (and by extension, film and television) has ever known. That villain is, of course, the Joker, and that creator is Jerry Robinson. Jerry Robinson passed away in his sleep on December 7th, 2011 in New York City at the age of 89.

Robinson was just 17 when he met Bob Kane and was hired as an assistant in Kane’s studio. Starting as a letterer and background inker, Robinson soon became the primary inker on the Batman comic, and as Kane had more of his time taken up by the Batman daily newspaper strip, Robinson began to pencil as well as ink the Batman stories in DETECTIVE COMICS. Though his time with the Batman was short (Robinson left superhero comics in 1946), his legacy in the character’s mythology is assured as long as the Batman is menaced by the Clown Prince of Crime…though the origin of the Joker is still a matter of dispute.

In an interview from 1984, Robinson said this of the character’s creation: “I felt that Batman needed a supreme arch-villain to test him…Batman didn’t need another crime lord like Al Capone. I felt he needed something more exotic…the strip needed an antagonist that would be more enduring; a continuing conflict in the literary tradition of Holmes and Moriarty or King Arthur and Mordred…[the Joker] was a diabolically sinister villain and yet had a clownish aspect. I found the idea of a sinister clown utterly fascinating.” The late Bill Finger had told DC editor Nelson Bridwell that Robinson first told him of the Joker concept over the phone and later showed Finger his sketches for the character along with the now-iconic Joker playing card design. Finger thought the initial drawings weren’t quite right and produced stills of the actor Conrad Veidt from the silent movie “The Man Who Laughs,” and the look of the ghastly, permanent rictus grin became the model for Batman’s nemesis.

However, Bob Kane seems to have taken umbrage with this version of events and constantly maintained that Robinson had next to nothing to do with the character. In an interview from the same time period, Kane claimed that Finger invented the Joker and that Robinson’s only contribution was the playing card idea—added, Kane said, after the Joker had already been more-or-less fully fleshed-out.

Now, since Finger himself gave credit to Robinson for the initial inspiration for the character, most historians tend to accept this version of events as the truth. It was well-known that Kane never gave Finger the proper credit for his contributions to the comic when Finger was still alive; perhaps after Finger’s death Kane’s conscience got the better of him and he sought in some way to make up for his earlier marginalization of his writer? Perhaps Robinson, being very much alive and able to relate his version of events, did not elicit the same feeling of guilt? Whatever the reason, the fact remains that Jerry Robinson was indeed a key component in the creation of the Joker, even if just in the application of the playing-card metaphor.


 



After his departure from the comic book medium, Robinson moved to the field of magazine and newspaper illustration, making a career of drawing editorial cartoons that lasted 32 years. During this period he served as president of the National Cartoonists Society and as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists. In 1974 Robinson wrote “The Comics,” a comprehensive look at the history of newspaper comic strips. During the 1970s Robinson was a crucial supporter of Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their fight with DC for recognition and compensation, and was integral in organizing the support for the two neglected creators.

Though his time with Batman was short, Jerry Robinson left an indelible mark on the character’s mythos that has grown throughout the decades and into the 21st Century, and will no doubt continue to do so well into the future.

When released from his bottle, the Imp transforms into Stephen Andrade, an artist/illustrator/pirate monkey painter from New England. He's currently hard at work interpreting fellow @$$Hole Optimous Douche's brainwaves and transforming them into pretty pictures on AVERAGE JOE, an original graphic novel to be published by Com.x. You can see some of his artwork here.
 

Readers Talkback

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  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:08 a.m. CST

    NOOOOOOO!!!

    by Iowa Snot Client

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:13 a.m. CST

    Very Sad

    by SonOfChiba

    RIP, Jerry. A very important figure, not just in the world of Batman, but in the field of comics overall.

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:14 a.m. CST

    RIP Sir

    by KilliK

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:35 a.m. CST

    Fine tribute

    by Daytripper69

    Thanks for putting this up, BottleImp. Without Mr. Robinson, the Batman would have been deprived of his greatest nemesis. Come to think of it, which character would have been Batman's greatest enemy if not the Joker?

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Thanks.

    by rev_skarekroe

    Now do Gene Colan.

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Joe Simon and Eduardo Barreto just died too

    by Mickster_Island

    That's what Ron Marz is tweeting anyway

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:41 a.m. CST

    too little to late on your part

    by zom-bot.com

    it took you over a week to organize this?

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:46 a.m. CST

    What next?

    by David Riches

    While I will not say he wasn't important I will say Jerry Robinson did the same three basic sketches at conventions for the past decade. Too often you wanted to ask Jerry to mix it up a little and he looked at you like you nuts I am drawing the classic Joker here. Jerry always told the same old stories that you would think Bob Kane copied everything for himself. When asked who was the next great creator he never wanted to get pigeon holed into one straight answer. I will miss him I just wish I knew him sooner in life.

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:49 a.m. CST

    R.I.P

    by evilnik

    that hack bob kane continues to get undeserving credit in the mainstream media.

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:54 a.m. CST

    A Long Life Served Well.

    by Stewart Wolfe

    R.I.P.

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 10:55 a.m. CST

    RIP sir.

    by cameron

    As the Joker said 'If your gonna go, go with a smile :)

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 11:02 a.m. CST

    Joker and Batman - Yin/Yang

    by impossibledreamers

    It might be true that Batman could stand alone but the nature of the Joker being his antethesis only made Bruce's stories even strong and resonate deeper. Thank you Jerry. PS - Did anyone else notice that the picture of the young Jerry from the book cover looks a lot like the Joker from the same cover? Just me?

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 11:46 a.m. CST

    You know what snyder_fired_from_superman?

    by superhero

    Got eat ass. Sometimes it takes a while for the news of a death a while to sink in and you need some time to get the words right. A lot of us here at AICN Comics were extremely bummed about Robinson's passing and just because we didn't hop on the site right away and post something doesn't mean that we didn't LOVE the man's work and RESPECT his contribution to the comics and pop culture field. So despite my love of your AICN moniker...get over yourself. RIP Jerry Robinson. I saw you speak at the Skirball Center here in LA once...it is one of my most treasured comic memories.

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 12:30 p.m. CST

    Great obit

    by Roger Moon

    RIP J.R.

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 1:24 p.m. CST

    honey badger don't give a sh*t

    by John Hughes

    He sleeps and shit's on comics

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 4:29 p.m. CST

    And it just gets worse. RIP Joe Simon at 98

    by Jeff Myers

    Guys there was a lot of anger here intended to provoke a reaction from AICN. If a remark had been left explaining 'any' respectful future intent they would not have happened. These people are our heroes too.

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 4:37 p.m. CST

    But no Harry Morgan obit.

    by Grammaton Cleric Binks

    Ain't It Pathetic News.

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 6:58 p.m. CST

    ya...right on time to write another 2

    by john

    barretto....taken too young simon...shouldve lived forever

  • Dec. 15, 2011, 8:41 p.m. CST

    Sorry

    by John Hughes

    Honeybadger might not care (he is what he is) but I care and apologize for him. We'll keep that under control in the future.

  • Dec. 16, 2011, 11:39 a.m. CST

    he fought for creator rights

    by john

    he got the creators of supes....paid he worked for human rights he was a bigger man than anyone here on aicn, and didnt deserve to have his obit buried

  • Dec. 16, 2011, 12:13 p.m. CST

    What is this 'buried' bullshit?

    by Jon Forbing

    Seriously, what the fuck is the matter with you people? When a person dies, it is not AICN's responsibility to immediately shit out an obituary to satisfy you. As "superhero" said above, and as I said in a different talkback almost a week ago, they need to take the time to pick the right writer and make sure it's done correctly. Would you prefer it if, on the day he had died, Harry had just thrown up a quick "oh hai jery robinsons dead it sux k bye!!" And you know what? Sometimes they probably won't even put one up at all, because EVERY OTHER SITE ON THE INTERNET may already have one. Stop acting like AICN represents the entire fucking internet, especially considering that half of you come on here day after day to do nothing but bitch about how much you hate the site, Harry, the other writers, etc. Jesus Christ. They don't owe you shit.