Jerry Robinson 1922 – 2011

Jerry Robinson passed away yesterday, just a few weeks shy of his 90th birthday.  He was the last surviving member of the group of four men who created the mythology of Batman :  Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Jerry Robinson.   Jerry was Bob Kane’s first ghost artist, and probably the most important of the Batman artists of the Golden Age.

Along with writing partner Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson created the Joker, Alfred the Butler, Robin, the Batcave and a host of other important parts of Gotham City while Bob Kane watched from across the room and pretended to be the one doing it.  Though Kane spent his life lying about the huge contributions that his partners made, comics historians did eventually see through the nonsense, and Robinson lived long enough to get his due as one of the seminal creators of our industry.   There was at least THAT justice.

Batman and Robin, keeping the cartoonists' drawing table safe, thanks to Jerry Robinson!

I had the rare chance to meet him a couple of times over the years, at awards ceremonies and conventions, etc, and Jerry was delightful and awe-inspiring company whenever I was fortunate enough to be around him.  I’ll never forget the first thing he said to me, though:  When I told him I was a Batman creator, writing and drawing the characters he helped create, he reached out to shake my hand and said (with a twinkle in his eye) “Where’s my cheque?”

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Jerry Robinson…my world would not be the same without having shared the planet with you for the last forty-eight years.  You gave me a childhood filled with unbridled joy and fun and I cannot conceive of who I would have turned out to be if you’d never been there before me.

Ty the Guy OUT!

Here now, your Bonus Jerry Robinson moment:

I have a bunch of images of Jerry Robinson on my computer because I recently had to draw his portrait for a project about Bill Finger (see the top of this column for the drawing) but I went searching for a photo of the man to adorn this blog post and was astounded to discover the first two or three images of Jerry that pop up on google search are photos of Jerry posing in front of one of my drawings of the Joker.  Why Jerry would pose in front of MY drawing of his character, rather than one of his own drawings, is baffling to me, and I assume the photographer didn’t know he’d matched up the wrong artist.  But I am humbled and honoured to have Mr. Robinson and I share a few photos like that.


NOTE:  For those in the Toronto area:  The Toronto Cartoonist Workshop Faculty Art Show for its instructors is tomorrow night, Friday December 9!  I’ll have at least one framed image of the Joker up on the wall, but I’ll make a point of bringing the original art for my portrait of Jerry with me to show off as well as sharing the wall with fellow instructors LEONARD KIRK, DAVE ROSS and ERIC KIM.

Come on down and see how comic book artists live and work, but don’t feed us, we have a very specific diet and might become ill with real food.

587A College Street (at Clinton), Toronto, 7-10pm

8 responses to “Jerry Robinson 1922 – 2011

  1. Paul the Curmudgeon

    Am very glad that he lived to see the publication of his book “Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics” as well as the book collecting his “Jet Scott” newspaper strips, both volumes worth picking up. (For those in Toronto, I believe both can be found remaindered at the various branches of BMV, though the Jet Scott may be sold out by now). I’ve heard him described as a ‘second-tier’ artist, and that’s probably fair, with the proviso that second tier is still damn good.

  2. Pingback: Jerry Robinson (1922-2011) | THE JOE SHUSTER AWARDS

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  4. In his last years Bob Kane acknowledged the contribution of Bill Finger to the creation of Batman and the supporting characters. He stated that it was Finger’s idea to model the Joker after Conrad Veidt in “The Man Who Laughs” while Robinson’s suggestion was merely to have him look like a Joker card.

  5. His passing was such big news that my father heard about it and was the one to tell me the other day (“The man who drew Two-Face is dead!”). I wasn’t aware of Kane taking more credit than he was due, so I’m glad you mentioned it Ty. Was that Joker mural over at the DC offices? It’s really nice, and that’s such a terrific photo.

    • I have no idea where that Joker mural that Jerry is posing in front of, is. And yeah, Bob Kane was a complete jackass about sharing credit, though he grudgingly admitted some of it after Bill Finger died, he still managed to lie about it when he did.

  6. Another great Artist gone; but NEVER forgotten! My prayers go out to his Family, his Friends and Fans… RIP Jerry! YOU WILL BE MISSED!!

  7. Ty – finally figured out where that mural is from: ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books display at the Skirball Museum (no idea where that is though!) I was reading an article over at a blog called “Three Dollar Bill” by Richard “Bugs” Burnett, in which he discusses how the Joker is gay, and in the middle there is a youtube video, apparently from the launch of the exhibit, where Jerry explains how he saved original cover art. He’s talking in front of the same mural and is wearing the same clothes as in the above shot, so voila – mystery solved! Here’s the link:

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