Comics artist Jerry Robinson talks about the birth of The Joker, Robin and more!

Detective Comics #38 (April 1940), the first a...By BOB ANDELMAN
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For many years, Jerry Robinson was one of the forgotten men in comics. Little known within the industry for all the years he toiled in obscurity, drawing and creating Batman comic books under the byline of the character’s creator, Bob Kane, Robinson emerged from the shadows to become a celebrated and recognized talent in his own right.

He is perhaps best known as the actual creator of the greatest supervillain ever, The Joker, and Batman’s cheery sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder.

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And unlike many men who spent their entire careers doing nothing but comics, Robinson’s work branched out over time to fine illustration. He did commercial work on Broadway, for example, as well as contributing to books and magazines.

One of the surprising things we learn about Robinson is his compassion for his fellow artists around the world, many of whom struggle against much greater political issues than whether a superhero’s cape should be red or blue. Along the way he developed a point of view of a world larger and more real than is found in the studios and minds of many American artists.

He and Neal Adams banged the drum loudest in the mid-1970s for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster to be fairly compensated for creating Superman in 1938, which led Robinson to support a number of artists struggling around the world, including Uruguay’s imprisoned editorial cartoonist Francisco Laurenzo Pons.

Robinson is the subject of a new book by N.C. Christopher Couch – Chris, as he’s best known — that looks at the entire scope of Jerry’s career and reproduced a wide array of his life’s work. Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics also features an introduction by hardboiled journalist and lifelong comics fan Pete Hamill, and a foreword by the guiding hand behind much of the modern Batman’s stories, Dennis O’Neil.

This is my second formal interview with Jerry; I also spoke to him several years ago for my biography, Will Eisner: A Spirited Life. He and Eisner were long-time contemporaries and members of a mutual appreciation society. Eisner and Bob Kane, if you didn’t know it, grew up together, went to high school together, frequently double-dated, and were quite competitive with the young ladies back in the mid 1930s.

JERRY ROBINSON Papers at Syracuse UniversityWikipediaComic Connect

Hear it now!JERRY ROBINSON audio excerpt: “It always bothered us. Bob had gone down and signed the contract, unknown to Bill Finger and myself, for Batman. I was only 17. I didn’t know anything about creator rights. Neither did Bill. Bill was a shoe salesman trying to break into the writing field. We didn’t know enough to protect our rights.” 

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Bob Andelman is the author or co-author of 10 books, including ‘The Profiler’ with Pat Brown, ‘Built From Scratch’ with the founders of The Home Depot, and ‘Will Eisner: A Spirited Life.’ • Follow Bob on Twitter or Facebook.

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