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R.I.P. Jerry Robinson, The Man Behind The Joker, Robin, and a Glut of Golden Age Comics

so long and thanks for all the fish

Numerous sources are coming forward this morning with the news that Jerry Robinson, one of the artists on the ground floor of DC Comics in the late thirties, whose work has informed enormous chunks of the Batman stories we read today, died peacefully last night at the age of 89.

Robinson was a seventeen-year-old journalism student in 1939 when he took a job as an assistant to Bob Kane. Kane himself was only twenty-five, but upon being asked to create another “superman” like the runaway success the work of his colleagues Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, he’d sat down with writer Bill Finger and come up with a guy called Batman.

You may have heard of him. At the time, Batman was really taking off, and in response to his popularity Kane was being asked to lighten up the stories a bit. Take away the guns, add more characters, you know, maybe a strong villain and a kid sidekick. Enter Jerry Robinson.

As Kane’s assistant, Robinson seized upon the perfect inspiration for a villain in the form of an old playing card and the recently released film The Man Who Laughs, featuring Conrad Veidt looking like this:

And one of the most thematically perfect villain/hero pairings in American fiction was born. Robinson was also on board for the creation of Robin, The Boy Wonder; suggesting that he be named after his childhood hero Robin Hood. The writer/artist became a regular feature on Batman stories for about a decade, but continued his comics career through the rest of the 20th century and beyond, forming comics studios, becoming a scholar of newspaper comic strips, supporting Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their bids to reclaim the rights to Superman, even dabbling in manga in 1999.

Rest in peace, Mr. Robinson, a great deal of comics history rests with you.

(via The Beat.)

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Susana Polo thought she'd get her Creative Writing degree from Oberlin, work a crap job, and fake it until she made it into comics. Instead she stumbled into a great job: founding and running this very website (she's Editor at Large now, very fancy). She's spoken at events like Geek Girl Con, New York Comic Con, and Comic Book City Con, wants to get a Batwoman tattoo and write a graphic novel, and one of her canine teeth is in backwards.