Jerry Robinson, the cartoonist widely credited with creating the Joker, the iconic arch villain in the Batman comics franchise, died Wednesday at a New York City hospice, according to DC Comics and a statement from his family. The cause of death was not disclosed. He was 89.
Robinson was first hired as a teenager by Batman co-creator Bob Kane in 1939, when superhero comic books were in their infancy. It is difficult to trace the lineage of some early comic characters, but many historians credit Robinson with drawing the initial, grease-pencil image of the Joker, who was introduced in 1940’s Batman No. 1, and with co-creating Batman’s sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder.
What is beyond debate is that he helped create the early Batman mythos.
In an interview with The Washington Post last year, Robinson recounted how at a summer camp in 1939 he wore a sports jacket covered with his own cartoons. The artwork was spotted by a passing Kane, Robinson recalled.
Soon the teen was working in the studio as part of the original Batman team, which included Kane and co-creator Bill Finger. Robinson said a deck of cards inspired him to create the Joker character. He also said he was influenced by an N.C. Wyeth illustration of Robin Hood, wearing tights, in helping invent the Robin character.
Robinson would go on to create such superheroes as Atoman and Jet Scott. Known for his beautiful brushwork, he would start the syndicated strips “Still Life” and “Flubs and Fluffs.” He founded the agency CartoonArts International in 1978.
“Jerry Robinson was not only one of the finest artists ever to illustrate comic books,” Marvel Comics mastermind Stan Lee said in an interview with The Post, “but he was also the head of an editorial syndicate which made cartoons available worldwide, as well as being an inspiration to young artists whom he always found time to help and advise.
“A genuine talent and a genuine gentleman, he was truly a credit to the arts.”