I’m saddened to learn that my longtime friend, Jerry Robinson, died in his sleep on Wednesday night. He was 89. Jerry was best known as the cartoonist creator of Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker.
Jerry started his long career in comics in the late thirties when Batman co-creator Bob Kane hired him. He worked side-by-side with Kane and Bill Finger; he came up with the name “Robin,” and contributed to the creation of Two-Face and Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s butler.
With such a prolific career in comics, most people don’t know he was also a prolific political cartoonist, and drew 6 political cartoons a week as part of two features, Still Life and Life With Robinson, that were internationally syndicated for 32 years. Jerry drew a cool Sunday comics feature called True Classroom Flubs and Fluffs illustrating crazy things that kids really said in school. Jerry is the only cartoonist to serve as president of both the AAEC and NCS. In 2000, Robinson was awarded the NCS’s Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004.
Jerry was also a stanch defender of artists’ rights; he was an important supporter of Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster in their struggle with DC Comics to win recognition and compensation as the creators of Superman. He played a leading role in defending the rights of oppressed, international editorial cartoonists and did important work to defend the right of editorial cartoonists to use trademarked characters in their cartoons in the landmark “Reddy Kilowatt” case.
I first met Jerry in 1979 when I took his college course in cartooning at the New School in Manhattan; it was a great class and was important in shaping my career as a cartoonist. Jerry emphasized cartoon history and marketing in his class, and he took us all to visit his studio in his Riverside Drive apartment. At that time Jerry was just starting his editorial cartoon syndicate with his own “Life with Robinson” cartoon panel, breaking away from his old syndicate. Jerry’s entrepreneurship with his own cartoons led to the creation of his own syndicate, Cartoonists and Writers Syndicate, now run by his son, Jens.
Jerry was a seasoned world traveler, known to cartoonists around the globe. He was a great guy who made a big difference in my career. I’ll miss him.
Here are some examples of Jerry’s editorial cartoon, Life with Robinson. Check out more here.