Home News Obituaries RIP: Jerry Robinson — UPDATED

RIP: Jerry Robinson — UPDATED


Batman artist, creator rights activist and creator of the Joker Jerry Robinson passed away in his sleep last night. He was 89.

Like many Golden Agers, Robinson started young: At age 17 he became an assistant in Bob Kane’s Batman shop where he co-created Robin. He also provided the majority of visuals and background for The Joker. Eventually moving into editorial cartooning, Robinson had a long, distinguished career as an artist and educator. In the ’70s he helped spearhead the movement to get Siegel and Shuster compensation for creating Superman; he also traveled to Uruguay and the Soviet Union to help free jailed cartoonists. He was President of both the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) and the National Cartoonists Society (NCS).

In the last ten years, Robinson was a fixture at comics conventions, both as one of the last links to the Golden Age and a still passionate advocate for creators rights, making many friends and thrilling many fans along the way.

Robinson made headlines last year when he auctioned off two of his most iconic piece of art. When asked why he was parting with them, he said simply, “It’s time.”

Robinson was a class act all the way and there won’t be another one like him.

UPDATE: DC has released several statements on Robinson’s passing:

“Jerry Robinson illustrated some of the defining images of pop culture’s greatest icons. As an artist myself, it’s impossible not to feel humbled by his body of work. Everyone who loves comics owes Jerry a debt of gratitude for the rich legacy that he leaves behind.”—Jim Lee, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher and artist of BATMAN: HUSH
“Jerry Robinson was one of the greats. He continued to be a vibrant, creative force well into his nineties, with ideas and thoughts that continue to inspire. Jerry was a great advocate for creators. It was my pleasure to meet and work with him. He will be missed.”—Dan DiDio, Co-Publisher, DC Entertainment
“It’s impossible to work at DC Entertainment­ without feeling the impact of Jerry Robinson’s contributions to the industry. His influence continues to resonate today.”—Bob Harras, DC Entertainment Editor-in-Chief
“Jerry Robinson was an innovator, a pioneer in storytelling. His artwork was always astonishing, but his contributions to the Dark Knight mythology go far beyond art. The streets of Gotham City are a little lonelier today…Jerry will truly be missed.”—Mike Marts, BATMAN editor

  1. …and a great comics historian. things i think of when i think of jerry: uber-talented artist, classy, astute, a great business man, consumate original art collector, wise, a gentleman, integrity, encouraging. 89, but csn i say,”he died too young.” i’m going to miss you jerry…

  2. He was an activist as well as an artist. For me, his greatest achievement wasn’t as the “creator of the Joker” but the way he courageously stood up for artists all over the world. Along with Neal Adams and a others, Robinson championed Siegel and Shuster, getting DC to give them both credit for creating Superman and a modest but decent pension. And Robinson also stood up for political cartoonists who were being persecuted around the world. This little tidbit from his website gives some sense of the scoop of his work as an activist: “Robinson has led creator rights cases including copyright, trademark, censorship, First Amendment and human rights. Examples include: representing Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel, creators of Superman, in their struggle to obtain financial security and restore their creator credits; obtaining the release of jailed and tortured cartoonists in Uruguay and the Soviet Union; writing briefs on behalf of the AAEC and NCS, one in trademark litigation brought against editorial cartoonists and the other presented before a U.S. Senate committee on postal laws; and serving on the joint arts committee that negotiated creator protection in the copyright renewal law.”

  3. Jerry sold those pieces last year…he said he hoped to take a trip around the world with his wife with the money. I sure hope he was able to do just that. There is a great lesson in there.

    R.I.P. Jerry. A total class act all the way!

  4. I’m really glad that I was able to see him in San Diego in 2010 and let him know how much I appreciated his work. My condolences to his frineds and family. He’ll be missed.

  5. Jerry also did something that very few Golden Age creators did: he made it. Not only did he contribute to the landscape of popular culture in an astounding way with The Joker, but, as Craig and Jeet note above, he believed in the value of what he (and so many others) had done as teenagers as something more than throwaway entertainment. His 1974 “The Comics” began solidifying this view into what we think of comics today — as no less than a form of art. He created comics, helped shape our cultural appreciation of them, and would drop everything (literally in the case of Siegel and Shuster) to become involved in — and help win — creator battles in which he had no financial stake whatsoever. His life and legacy, unlike his famous creation, is truly one of a kind.

  6. The world has lost a class act and a great storyteller but he certainly left his mark not only as an artist but as a tireless and gifted advocate for comic art. Let’s not forget among Jerry’s other notable accomplishments his scholarly book “The Comics: An Illustrated History of Comic Strip Art” which I’m sure graces many bookshelves beyond my own. In recent years, Jerry had also curated exhibitions of comic art that traveled the country.

  7. I’m grateful that I was afforded the honor of meeting him a few years ago and thankful to Paul Levitz for making the introduction. Echoing Jimmy’s sentiment “A class act all the way.”

  8. Jerry also came up with the idea for the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing. That award is now given each year to two writers (one living, one deceased) who deserve more recognition for their contributions to the comic book artform (the kind of recognition that he felt his good friend, Bill Finger, should have gotten). And Jerry has been there every year at the Eisner Awards ceremony to honor the recipients.

    It is impossible to put into words how much Jerry gave us in his amazing 72-year career. And on top of that, he was a real sweetheart. We’ll miss you, Jerry . . .

  9. Some of my best memories are of traveling through japan with Jerry and his lovely wife, Gro, as guests of the Osama Tesuka Foundation, in 1995. Jerry was plain and simply fun to be with, as he turned out tons of Batman sketches for hordes of squealing schoolgirls. On our last evening the CEO of the foundation, Mr. Matsutani, had intended to take us karaoki-ing, but something happened that made it impossible, so instead Jerry and I serenaded him by singing “By Meir ist Du Shoen,” a Yiddish song to a guy who couldn’t even speak English! Despite the fact that he was clueless about what in the world language we were singing in, Mr. Matsutani enjoyed it, and I loved singing with Jerry!

  10. I attended my first SDCC last year with the express hope of meeting Jerry. When I did, I found him to be incredibly gracious, with great stories to share and an autograph to anybody who wanted one. A highlight for me, and I would think everyone who went to his table. We were very lucky to have him, and lucky for such a long and great body of work!

    Lance Roger Axt
    The AudioComics Company

  11. I’m going to miss Jerry too. He was the first pro I had interviewed face to face. I always made sure to visit him and his wife at conventions. Condolences to his family and friends.

  12. NBC News with Brian Williams mentioned Jerry Robison’s passing, then showed a photo that was not Jerry Robinson and went on to talk about how scary Caesar Romero was as the Joker. Really?

  13. Is there a better example among American cartoonists of a career lead by raw talent and the simple idea of doing what is right? Jerry’s fame for talent, important to a few of us within comics, turned into a moral standard for everyone else thinking of this as a business. His contribution to BATMAN was singularly important, but only because it echoed his approach to the job of cartooning in general; he brought conscience and the desire to reward personality to an industry that treated artists like journeymen. And as the industry grew the conscience he brought to it became increasingly important. Very few people knew the importance of comics and creator rights as well as Jerry and none of them worked longer and harder to change things.

    Thank you, Jerry, for the wonderful drawings and so very much more.

  14. I had the pleasure of meeti.g Mr Robinson at this years Comic-Con and it was a true treat. I hang the Joker picture he and Neal Adams signed with pride. I feel sad I won’t get to see him next year but hope that he is in a better place. Rest in peace Mr Robinson, my condolences to his friends and family

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