When I heard the news yesterday morning that Jerry Robinson had passed I was deeply saddened. And when I saw that there was no article about his death on Batman-News I was troubled even more…then I remembered that I’m the guy who writes about comics. And even though I usually just do hastily written reviews that try to be funny at times, I’m the one here who’s supposed to write the article. And…so now here I am doing my best to write an appropriate piece for our little site that pays respect to this man who was so instrumental in creating that crime ridden city we love so much. So please, set all the Dark Knight Rises hype aside for a moment and ask: would we even be here, today, anxiously awaiting the final film of a Batman film trilogy if it wasn’t for Jerry Robinson?
Sadly, there are many who are unfamiliar with Jerry Robinson and just as many who have never heard the name Bill Finger or Dick Sprang. The world we obsess over, that has shaped our childhoods and fuels our imaginations to this day was not crafted overnight by Christopher Nolan, Paul Dini, or even Bob Kane himself. It has taken many creative minds to shape the architecture of Gotham into something that could appeal to every generation and survive the 20th century. The fact that Batman did not fade into obscurity is nothing short of a miracle. At no other time in human history has this much fiction been written. Never has it been this available to the masses! Yet somehow, in a sea of countless protagonists and thrilling adventures across so many mediums, Batman has stood above them all and lasted 72 years. He survives because each story is only as good as its villain and Batman…Batman has The Joker, a character we wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for one of the many creative minds responsible for Gotham, Jerry Robinson, who passed December 8th at age 89.
The name and design for Robin and now the boy wonder is likely the most famous sidekick in the world, were also Robinson’s doing. Had he not played a part in the making of Robin there would be no Dick Grayson, which means there is no Jason Todd, Tim Drake, or Damian Wayne. Kane simply wanted a side-kick character that children could look up to and thought of the name “Mercury” while Finger suggested the name “Wildcat”. Robinson even played a vital role in the creation of Alfred and another favorite villain, Two-Face (I don’t mean to frighten you, but without Jerry Robinson’s influence we may not have had a Joker or Two-Face which means that we would’ve lived in a world without The Dark Knight). Thanks to Jerry Robinson’s superb work on Bruce’s friends and allies the streets of Gotham are more dangerous, but Batman didn’t have to face them alone.
We have lost a legend whose legacy goes beyond creating the Joker, a feat that for most men would’ve been legacy enough! Robinson was a prolific artist who did everything from Batman issues to the weekly newspaper strip, an editorial cartoonist, a comics historian, and a champion for creator’s rights who fought tooth and nail for Siegel and Shuster who created Superman. It was Robinson who trained Steve Ditko. Yes, THAT Steve Ditko. Had Jerry Robinson never met Bob Kane on that tennis court in the Poconos back in 1939 the world may well have been a very different place. He is one of the greats who deserves to be honored.
My sincere sympathies go out to Jerry Robinson’s friends and family.
(January 1, 1922 – December 7, 2011)