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JERRY AND THE JOKER

Jerry and the Joker: Adventures and Comic Art by Jerry Robinson
By Jerry Robinson, edited by Daniel Chabon and Hannah Means-Shannon and Robinson’s son Jens Robinson, who also supplies “notes” (it sez here), a summary of his father’s achievements
151 9x12-inch pages, b/w and color
2017 Dark Horse hardcover
$34.99

Jerry and the Joker coverChiefly a scrapbook of Robinson's art over a long career that included cartooning in many of the medium’s genres, this volume offers samples of his early work on Batman (several pages from original art, displaying a much more flexible line than is usually associated with Batman drawn by other artists), Atoman, and miscellaneous comic book work for westerns, crime, etc., sketches of scenes from his travels, theatrical drawings for Broadway’s Playbill magazine, magazine illustrations, and a couple samples of his political/social commentary feature, Still Life, which ran for over 30 years. But, alas, almost nothing from the period when he collaborated with Mort Meskin on Black Terror, Fighting Yank, Johnny Quick and Vigilante. But the Batman material and Robinson’s Still Life are worth the price of admission alone.

Pages of pictures are punctuated with essays by Robinson, who regales us with his adventures in Cuba and Rome (where he met Clifford Irving, the infamous author of the fraudulent biography of Howard Hughes, and also the son of Jay Irving, who drew the comic strip Pottsy about a comical cop). Two of his other essays cover his introduction to comic book illustration working for Bob Kane, and the invention of the Joker.

The latter has been disputed by various people, but writer Bill Finger, who is sometimes credited as the co-creator of the Joker, is quoted herein saying Robinson created the funnybook medium’s most despicable villain. I explored this topic several years ago and satisfied myself that Robinson’s claim was legitimate. Robinson’s six-page essay in this volume explores not just his invention of the character but villainy generally in comic books (and elsewhere).

The book concludes with a brief two-page biography of Robinson. In it, we learn that he was once president of the National Cartoonists Society and, on another occasion, prez of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists — the only cartoonist to have served in that role in the two principal national organizations for cartooners. He also founded and ran for many years Cartoonists & Writers Syndicate (CWS), affiliated with the New York Times, which syndicated the work of 350 leading cartoonists and graphic artists from 50 countries. And he was one of the prime movers in getting Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster recognition and recompense for their creation of Superman. Robinson was, in short, a giant in his chosen field.

Some of the book’s artwork appeared in Chris Crouch’s excellent 2010 biography, Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics (224 8x11-inch pages, b/w and color; Abrams Comicarts, $35), which, produced while Robinson was still alive (and using original art from Robinson’s inventory — and he hoarded great quantities of his art), is about as authoritative as is possible to be.

From Crouch’s tome, here are some of Robinson’s Still Life and a few of his True Classroom Flubs & Fluffs, a feature that illustrated mistakes in the utterances of school kids. And I’ve also included the sexily charged bodacious splash page he and Meskin did for a Black Terror story and a page from another Black Terror story.

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For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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