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Joker and Robin Creator Jerry Robinson, as Described by His Son Jens

By Eric Diaz

Joker and Robin Creator Jerry Robinson, as Described by His Son Jens

A lot of younger comics fans might not know the name Jerry Robinson, but they should. Back in the Golden Age of comics, Robinson not only created the Joker -- arguably one of the greatest villains of all time -- but he also co-created Robin the Boy Wonder, who would go on to be just as famous as his mentor Batman.

More importantly though, throughout his long career, Robinson fought hard for the rights of comic book creators, long before it was a popular cause, and fought to save as much early comic book art from destruction as he could. To the extent that comics art is celebrated as a legit art form today, we have Jerry Robinson to thank for a lot of that. And because of his massive contributions to the art form, Robinson has been inducted into the Wizard World Hall of Legends. 

Robinson passed away in 2011 after a long a fruitful career, but his son Jens Robinson is keeping his legacy alive. Recently, Jens published a new book together with Mike Richardson and Dark Horse Comics, focusing on his father called Jerry and the Joker: Adventures in Comic Art. "There was great a great biography back in 2011 that covered Jerry's career very thoroughly  illustrated, and included lots of photographs of his life" said Robinson, "and this is more of an art book, and fills in more of the gaps a bit." 

Speaking of the Dark Knight, Jerry Robinson's big two additions to the Batman mythos, the Joker and Robin, obviously can't ever be overstated when talking about his career. "He didn't come up with the concept of Batman's sidekick all by himself" Jens Robinson reminded us. "But The Joker was almost entirely his concept, that he took to Bob Kane and Bill Finger. But the idea of a sidekick was kicked around between the three of them. Jerry did come up with the name Robin, because he loved Robin Hood stories as a kid, and he came up with the costume." 

The book contains stories of Jerry Robinson's fascinating life as well. His son tells us "Jerry wrote a fair amount before he passed away, but he never finished his memoirs. He would have liked to have written more, but what he did write was some pretty interesting stuff. He talks about a lot of exciting aspects of his life, a lot about his adventures. I had a lot of fun reading about his trips to Europe to entertain soldiers with other cartoonists. There's a lot of flavor of that sort of thing in the book."

Aside from his iconic creations, the other main component of Jerry Robinson's legacy was his lifelong passion fighting for creator's rights. It's safe to say, he did it "before it was cool", going back decades. We had to ask his son, how did it feel for his father to see the fight for creator's rights snowball into the movement that it ultimately became?

"Well, it was very rewarding for him, to see what he did see," Jens told us. "He and Neal Adams fought for gaining the recognition and a settlement for Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who created Superman. That was very rewarding for Jerry, and he fought hard for that, and it set a good precedent going forward for creators. And he always throughout his adult life he always put forward Bill Finger as the unrecognized man behind Batman. Unfortunately he didn't live to see Bill Finger get the full recognition as Batman's co-creator that DC recently gave him. But clearly things my dad did and said helped things along, notably like starting the Bill Finger Awards for writing at the San Diego Comic Con."

Jerry Robinson was also known for fighting for cartoonist's rights domestically, with his work lobbying for behalf of copyright law reforms, testifying before congress. Jens Robinson is particularly proud of the time his father took up some of the human rights cases involving cartoonists abroad, notably an artist from Uruguay who was imprisoned and tortured and eventually got freed, all because of the mobilization of cartoonists around the world that his father was instrumental in.

In conclusion, Jens Robinson said of his father's legacy "Jerry always saw comics as one of the most important art forms. He saw that in places like Europe and Japan they took comic book art far more seriously, with museums dedicated to specific comic book and manga artists. In our country it was an uphill battle. but Jerry Robinson should be credited as one of the singular forces in the creation of the original comic book art collections that we see today."

Images: DC Comics