Tagged: Jerry Robinson

Jerry Robinson: 1922 – 2011

Comics legend Jerry Robinson died this morning at the age of 89.

Best known for his work with Bob Kane during the earliest days of Batman, the Trenton, New Jersey born artist started off as a teenager lettering and inking the Batman feature in Batman, Detective Comics and World’s Finest Comics. As Batman rapidly grew in popularity, he progressed to the role of character designer and, shortly thereafter, penciler of the feature. It was Robinson who named Dick Grayson “Robin,” not after himself (as often reported) but after N.C. Wyeth’s famed illustrations of Robin Hood. Shortly thereafter, Jerry designed Batman’s most famed enemy, The Joker. His original art for that initial design, in the form of a playing card, has been on display at various museums across the nation.

(It should be noted that the late Bob Kane disputed this and most other creator-credits regarding The Batman. As a matter of contractual obligation, DC Comics gives Kane sole creator credit for the feature, a matter of significant dispute with Robinson as well as writer Bob Finger.)

In later years, Robinson started an international newspaper syndicate (the Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate) and wrote an important history of the comics medium, titled The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art. He also served as president of the National Cartoonists Society in the late 1960s.

His other comic book work included Bat Masterson and Lassie for Dell Comics, Black Terror for Standard Publications, Green Hornet for Harvey, Vigilante and Green Arrow for DC (with his friend and frequent collaborator, Mort Meskin), Green Lama and Atoman for Spark Publications, Journey Into Mystery, Battlefront, Crime Exposed, Strange Tales and Battle Action for Marvel, Rocky and His Fiendish Friends for Gold Key, and Astra for Central Park Media.

Jerry received numerous honors and tributes during his long life, including four separate awards from the National Cartoonists Society: the Comic Book award in 1956, the Newspaper Panel Cartoon in 1963 for Still Life, the Special Features Award in 1965 for Flubs and Fluffs, and the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000. He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004 and, in 2010, was the recipient of the first annual The Hero Initiative Dick Giordano Humanitarian Award for his “outstanding efforts in changing comics one day at a time.”

The Giordano award focused on Jerry’s less-well known work as a political activist obtaining the release of jailed and tortured cartoonists in Uruguay and the Soviet Union. He also joined Neal Adams and others in the creator rights movement and aided Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their struggles with Warner Communications / Time Warner in obtaining recognition and financial security for their efforts.

[[[Jerry Robinson: Ambassador to the Comics]]], the definitive history of this critically significant cartoonist, was published by Abrams late year.

On a personal note, I had the honor and privilege of dining with Jerry and discussing both politics and comics on numerous occasions during the 1970s, 80s and 90s. When, last year, we met up at the Baltimore Comic-Con at the reception prior to his Giordano Award presentation, I found Jerry to be as gracious, as warm and as sharp as he had ever been, and he entertained my daughter with stories peppered with quotes from material I had written about him many, many years earlier.

It was one of the most wonderful moments of my life.

MIKE GOLD: 24-Hour Comics Day — Before

This weekend includes at least three elements: the Jewish holy week between the New Year and the Day of Atonement, the weekend, and 24-Hour Comics Day.

I note that first part just in case somebody reads this to my mother. Hi, Mom!

24-Hour Comics Day  was created by Scott McCloud and it is exactly what the name implies: comics creators get together in local conclaves (not autoclaves; that’s a completely different thing) “to create a 24-page comic book in 24 continuous hours.” It’s sort of a tribute to the days of yore when a creator would get an emergency over-the-weekend assignment and get a bunch of friends together to write, pencil, ink, letter and color the entire book over the weekend, deliver it on Monday, and hopefully get paid for their effort.

Of course, way back then comic books ran 64 pages – 48 pages after World War II hit speed. But today we’ve got to do all those poster shots and, you know, backgrounds and stuff so we’ll ignore the drop in pages.

It’s enormous fun for participants and observers, kibitzers (Hi, Mom!) and hecklers. Since the last thing these 24-hour comics creators need is the sabotage of an admittedly grossly talented editor, I’m going to drop by Challengers Comics and Conversation in Chicago (1845 N. Western Avenue, about a block south of the Blue Line Western Avenue L stop) to do what I do best: mooch food and annoy people. There will be about 25 creators creating, fulfilling the “Comics” part of Challengers’ name, and plenty of kibitzers to meet the “Conversation” part. It all starts at 11 AM Saturday; I’ll probably wander in around 1 or 2 PM after everybody gets down to the hard work. But enough about me.

The type of creativity and camaraderie shown at 24-Hour Comics Day is the lifeblood of this medium. It’s been there since day one when young fans of pulp writing, science fiction and newspaper strips got sought out employment in the new form. Everybody in the biz was a kid back then; Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, Joe Kubert, Gil Kane and many, many others weren’t old enough to get their driver’s license when they started out in comics.

This sort of enthusiasm endures to this day. I love going to “independent comics” shows such as MoCCA in New York just to soak in all that energy and see where the young creative spirits are wandering. Plus, I’m working on that incubus thing.

It’s pretty busy, so you’re trying to break into the racket 24-Hour Comics Day probably isn’t the place to schlep (Hi, Mom!) your portfolio. Call ahead to see if your local venue is receptive to walk-in presentations. However, it’s a great place to see how it all happens, how it’s put together, what people use as their tools (yeah, I know, laptops and iPads) and network. Not the Howard Beale type; you know what I mean.

Many venues are doing 24-Hour Comics Day in association with a local or national non-profit group, and that’s great – particularly in these troubled times. But, really, giving young and new creators the opportunity is a great thing in and of itself. Helping out, even by simply attending and hanging out (although buying a few comics would be swell) is a great thing as well. As we Ashkenazi-Americans like to say, it’s a Mitzvah.

Hi, Mom!

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

Review: ‘Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics’

Review: ‘Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics’

Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics
By N.C. Christopher Couch
Abrams ComicArts; 224 pages, $35

The early days of comic books was a vast frontier as the rules were being written and the flourished so rapidly that the demand for talent was voracious. As a result, just about anyone, of any age, who could hold a brush or tell a story was given a chance to work. The more successful ones built up a client base and then brought in others to assist, paralleling the development of comic strips.

When young Bob Kane added the costumed feature Batman to his list of properties produced for Detective Comics, Inc, he found himself in need of help. He had already been working with writer Bill Finger to take his shapeless ideas and turn them into witty adventures. But, Batman meant Kane also needed artistic help and a chance meeting led to 17 year old Jerry Robinson beginning an artistic career that begins today.

Robinson is one of the last of his generation and remains a vital talent, curating museum shows and encouraging the next generation of talent. His story is known in bits and pieces but for the first time, his wide-ranging artistic career is covered in the aptly named [[[Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics]]].

Written by N.C. Christopher Couch, a former [[[Manga]]] editor and professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst, the book begins with a young Robinson learning to draw on his own while his family fell from the middle class during the Great Depression. It was while Robinson was on a brief vacation in the Poconos that Robinson met Kane and a friendship developed.

Quickly, Robinson was immersed in Kane and Finger’s world, brainstorming stories and characters whenever they were together. Robinson realized he was going to learn by doing and absorbed everything he could with Finger proving a knowledgeable tutor about all manner of fine arts, especially foreign films.

As organized, Couch’s work divides Robinson’s career into thematic chapters but you never really fit all the pieces together. While we know Batman had already debuted in [[[Detective Comics]]] # 27, on sale in the spring of 1939, and can intuit that by the time Robinson began working for Kane it was September, just in time for Finger to create Robin and add him to the feature but we’re never told which issue first featured Robinson’s work. Not long after, though, DC must have commissioned the [[[Batman]]] quarterly title which led to Robinson’s greatest contribution to comic books: creating the Joker. But Couch doesn’t lay it all out for us in a linear manner, so there are jumps and overlaps in Robinson’s career that would have benefitted from a better chronology or timeline as an appendix.


Getting Reality Right, by Dennis O’Neil

Getting Reality Right, by Dennis O’Neil

Vinnie Bartilucci said it better than I did. Commenting on a couple of columns that asked, sort of, if the science in comics should be real, Vinnie wrote, “… once a writer chooses to mention actual, proper science, he should get it right.”

Yes. Exactly. Well put.

But I wonder if we shouldn’t extend the idea to other real life areas. Social problems, for example.  Or such knotty personal problems as addiction. One of the difficulties is, there isn’t the kind of consensus on personal and societal quandaries that there is on the basics of, say, physics. All but the most skeptical – or reactionary – can agree that Newton’s three laws are on the money and Einstein was right about relativity, both general and special, and even Heisenberg’s principle doesn’t seem terribly uncertain these days.

But, to pluck just one example from the ether…addiction? What, exactly, is it? My imperfect understanding is that many, if not most, addictions are caused by environment acting on genetics. In other words, nature and nurture combine to rot out somebody’s life. But, with patience, determination, and rigorous self-honesty, the addict can put his demons in the coal bin, and if he’s able to continue being patient, determined, and honest, they’ll stay there until he dies and they die with him. Addiction is not exactly a disease, in the conventional sense, but it’s more that than character defect.

That was, more or less, the version of addiction I posited in an extended comic book continuity some years ago, and most people who saw the stories seemed to agree with me. But not everyone. A source I trust told me that a person much higher on the corporate food chain than either my editor or me thought that the fictional addict should have just…I don’t know – snap out of it? (In fairness to all concerned, the executive in question never confronted me personally, so I am taking a trusted somebody’s word for what happened.) On another occasion, an excellent artist, a man I respect, refused, politely, to draw a one-page shot of a hero dreaming he was drunk – just dreaming, mind you – because, in the artist’s opinion, heroes don’t behave like louts, even when snoozing.


Batman Pisses Off Hong Kong

Batman Pisses Off Hong Kong

Hong Kong is generally considered to be one of the most polluted major cities in the world. Its beautiful skyline is virtually invisible due to a permanent haze, and the water is so dismal that the producers of the next Batman film, The Dark Knight, killed a scene where Batman was to drop from a plane into the harbor because the water quality could pose a significant health risk to the stuntmen.

Well, now the shoe is on the other foot. The Dark Knight producers asked the owners of 60 buildings facing a waterfront to keep their lights and signboards on all night for a week to make for a more visually stunning scene.

For some reason, environmentalists went ape. The amount of energy that would be wasted by such a stunt would be insane in a city half as polluted as Hong Kong.  "We welcome the filming of Batman in Hong Kong, but why do we need to keep the lights on to make the backdrop?" Green Sense project manager Gabrielle Ho told The Associated Press. "It seems like film-making is coming before environmental protection. We believe producers are able to create the same effects via post-productions works, but instead they are asking us to turn on so many lights, wasting so much energy," Ho concluded.