Jerry Robinson was an American comic book artist known for his work on DC Comics’ Batman line of comics during the 1940s. He is best known as the creator of the Joker, and for his work on behalf of creators’ rights. Born January 1, 1922 he passed away on the afternoon of December 7, 2011 in New York City. 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. Robinson received the Sparky Award for lifetime achievement from the Cartoon Art Museum at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con International.
Over the course of his early years in comics, Robinson proved a creative and social dynamo, moonlighting as a comics artist on projects such as the infamous “created in one night” issue of “Daredevil” while taking classes in Journalism at Columbia University. As the production of comic books wound down near the end of World War II, Robinson moved primarily to newspaper comic strips where he remained for the late ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, becoming known for Editorial illustration, political satire comic strips such as his long-running “Still Life With Robinson” and lush cover paintings for Broadway’s “Playbill.”
The artist also served as President of both the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) and the National Cartoonists Society (NCS), and remains the only person to receive both honors. Robinson in the 70’s became a comics historian and advocate for the rights of artists. “Starting in 1972, I curated the first comics at a fine art gallery. That was, I think, the year after, or almost simultaneously, with a show at the Louvre on comics, which I went over to see. I think that started it,” this from his interview with CBR this year. “The following year, I was a guest curator at the Kennedy Library in Washington, where we did I think the largest show ever held on the comics. Certainly in the US. It was the size of a couple football fields and had all the genres of the comics. So it’s been a long time, but more and more universities and colleges have taken it on as a course of study, serious scholars and so forth.”
Also in the 70’s Robinson created “The Comics” one of the first definitive books on the strip comic artform as a whole, written by Robinson in 1974 and recently published in a new edition by Dark Horse. Robinson became a key figure along with artist Neal Adams in the fight to get Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster proper credit and pay for their hero from DC Comics. Recently he served as a paid creative consultant for DC and Warner Bros on projects including Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” which drew heavily on Robinson’s original stories in its portrayal of the Joker.
DC Comics has released the following statements from its senior staff:
“Jerry Robinson illustrated some of the defining images of pop culture’s greatest icons. As an artist myself, it’s impossible not to feel humbled by his body of work. Everyone who loves comics owes Jerry a debt of gratitude for the rich legacy that he leaves behind.”—Jim Lee, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher and artist of “Batman: Hush”
“Jerry Robinson was one of the greats. He continued to be a vibrant, creative force well into his nineties, with ideas and thoughts that continue to inspire. Jerry was a great advocate for creators. It was my pleasure to meet and work with him. He will be missed.”—Dan DiDio, Co-Publisher, DC Entertainment
“It’s impossible to work at DC Entertainment without feeling the impact of Jerry Robinson’s contributions to the industry. His influence continues to resonate today.”—Bob Harras, DC Entertainment Editor-in-Chief
“Jerry Robinson was an innovator, a pioneer in storytelling. His artwork was always astonishing, but his contributions to the Dark Knight mythology go far beyond art. The streets of Gotham City are a little lonelier today…Jerry will truly be missed.”—Mike Marts, “Batman” editor
I agree Robinson was a force in comics for many years his only rival would be Stan Lee on his total influence on the comic world. He helped change the industry to what it is today. He gave great credibility to artist and writers as literary contributors to society itself, and academic credentials to the work of comic entertainment. In America I hope that people appreciate the freedom and rights that everyone has and how it can open the way for a creative person like Jerry Robinson. May that never change and be censored into something less than freedom. We are always on the look for the greatness in the entertainment industry. Stay tuned comic faithful for more. 🙁 Walt