My Jerry Robinson moment

Photo © Los Angeles Times.

It’s been such a busy week for me that I haven’t had time to reflect on the passing of one of the giants in the comics industry and beyond. I was enjoying the Batman comics Jerry helped create long before I ever knew of his involvement. (And as Mark Evanier said in his recent blog on this subject, even after Jerry left the strip, the style and direction he developed lasted for decades.) As a child, I enjoyed his one-panel comic in our Sunday newspaper, “Classroom Flubs and Fluffs.” When I started working at DC, I got to meet Jerry and hear him talk a little about comics, but he was a modest guy who didn’t blow his own horn, so it wasn’t until I read the recent Abrams book, “Jerry Robinson, Ambassador of Comics” that I came to understand the vast and wide-ranging scope of his career, his talent, and his championing of human rights for artists and others.

In the fall of 2009 I was busy researching the creators of DC Comics logos, and came to the conclusion, from looking at the first Robin story, that Jerry must have created the original Robin logo, but of course I had no way of knowing for sure. I asked Paul Levitz, and he suggested a very simple solution: call Jerry and ask him! Now, I’d said hello to the man a few times over the years, but I didn’t really know him, so the prospect was daunting, but I summoned my courage and called the number Paul gave me.

It was a business office, and after explaining what I wanted, I was put right through to Jerry, who took about 10 minutes out of his day to talk to me. He couldn’t have been nicer or more helpful, and after he confirmed he’d designed that Robin logo, he dropped another bombshell on me: he’d also designed the iconic Batman logo that appeared on the book for decades! You can read more about this HERE.

After we discussed logos, he asked me about myself, and it happens he had a reason. Jerry had a childhood friend with the same last name as mine, and he wondered if there might be some connection. There wasn’t, but I was happy to listen to him reminisce about his childhood in Trenton, New Jersey, not so very far from where I grew up. It was a nice moment.

That’s my Jerry Robinson story. I have to admit, when Jerry used to speak at the Eisner Awards in some past years, and spin long tales about the winners of the Bill Finger Award he helped start, and Bill Finger himself, I used to think poorly of him. I feel bad about that now, and wish I’d listened more closely. A man of his importance to the field of comics and human rights (including the rights of comics writers who were overlooked or not credited for their work) deserved to be heard every time and for as long as he wanted to be heard. Thanks for everything, sir.

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