Monday, January 1, 2024

Comics: A Few Details About Jerry Robinson, Letterer, Inker and Artist (Plus Ernie Kovacs, Teenage “Pirate”)

Jerry Robinson was born on January 1, 1922 in Trenton, New Jersey according to an interview in Alter Ego #39, August 2004. His first name, Sherrill, was recorded on his birth certificate which was partially transcribed at The middle name, David, was on his World War II draft card. Robinson’s parents were Benjamin (1881–1970) and Mae (1884–1968) and siblings, Harold (1907–1963), Avner (about 1909–1983), Maury (1911–1974) and Edith (1914–2008). 

In the 1920 United States Census, Robinson’s parents and siblings (lines 41–46) lived at 38 Atterbury Avenue in Trenton. His father was a theater manager. 

The Robinson family has not yet been found in the 1930 United States Census. 

The Trenton Evening Times, March 21, 1936, said
Har Sinai Plans Special Service
Dr. Pitt Will Be Speaker; Confirmation Day Arranged

The guest speaker during the regular Sabbath Eve service at Har Sinai Temple tomorrow night will be Dr. Lawrence J. Pitt, pastor of the methodist Episcopal Church of Princeton, N.J. Dr. Pitt formerly was at Greenwood Avenue Church, Trenton. ...

... Confirmation services at Har Sinai Temple will be held on Wednesday at 9:30 A.M. The following children of Har Sinai Temple will be confirmed: ... Jerry D. Robinson ...
In the interview conducted by Jim Amash, Robinson did not identify his Trenton high school. He said “I drew posters for my high school’s plays, like The Pirates of Penzance.” One of his schoolmates was comedian Ernie Kovacs. The Trenton Evening Times, March 17, 1937, said Kovacs “will have the role of Pirate King in ‘Pirates of Penzance’.”

Kovacs was a student at Trenton Central High School and a senior in the 1936 Bobashela yearbook. Kovacs, a 1937 graduate, was held back a year because of poor grades in several subjects.

Kovacs in 1936 yearbook

In 1939 Robinson graduated from Trenton Central High School. (The 1939 Bobashela yearbook was not available at

In the History of Comics (1970), Jim Steranko said 
... [Bob] Kane recruited the services of his assistant, Jerry Robinson. ... Kane was impressed by the art work and told him about the Batman strip, suggesting he might be interested in assisting with the book. Robinson began in September 1939. He was 17.

Robinson, intending to pursue the profession of journalism at Columbia [University], was soon caught up in his enthusiasm and the popularity of Batman. He worked with Kane, first lettering, then pencilling backgrounds and finally inking. ...
Regarding the creation of Robin, Amash asked if the name and costume were essentially his ideas?
Well, I wouldn’t say entirely. ... It was a collaborative creation, but the genesis of Robin’s name and look came from Robin Hood. 

The last touch was the “R” on Robin’s chest. If you look at the early Batman stories I lettered—the beginning of each caption—the first letter I enclosed in a circle and dropped out the line. I thought that would be a counterpoint to the Bat emblem on Batman’s chest. 
In Comic Book Marketplace #70, August 1999, Will Murray interviewed Robinson and also asked about the creation of Robin.
... I knew N.C. Wyeth drawings of Robin Hood, so I sketched the traditional costume of Robin ... and put the little “R” on it.

I had been doing all the lettering and had been using the gimmick of putting the first letter of each caption in a circle, but dropping out the line. I thought the “R” on Robin’s vest would be analogous to Batman’s insignia. If you look at the rest of the costume, the little vest, ‘chain-mail’ pants, and the boots were a la Robin Hood. [see Todd Klein’s blog post on Robinson] 
Robinson said he rented an apartment within walking distance from Kane who lived with his parents in the Bronx. According to the 1940 census Kane’s address was 2255 Grand Concourse. Robinson was counted twice in the census. Robinson’s parents included him (line 33) in Trenton at 643 West State Street. Robinson (line 32) resided in the Bronx at 2298 Creston Avenue. His occupation was artist. 

Around 1941 Robinson moved. Steranko said
... Robinson shared an apartment on 33rd Street with another DC artist, Bernie Kline [sic]. They had installed two drawing boards, one of which was so big that two people could work on it at the same time. The flat became a hangout for comic men. Frequently a half dozen artists and writers like Charles Biro, Bob Wood, Mort Meskin and Whit Ellsworth would congregate there to finish a few pages and discuss storytelling techniques.
I believe the address was 207 East 33rd Street which was recorded on Robinson’s World War II draft card, signed on June 30, 1942. Robinson’s description was five feet seven-and-a-half inches, 125 pounds, with brown eyes and hair. 

In many Fall 1946 magazines and newspapers were advertisements for Pond’s Cold Cream endorsed by Ruth Conrad. The first paragraph said
Miss Ruth Conrad, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Claude L. Conrad, prominent in the musical and artistic circles of Rochester, N.Y., is engaged to Mr. Jerry D. Robinson of New York City. Another Pond’s engaged girl ...

The Jackson Citizen Patriot (Michigan), October 6, 1946, said 
... Miss Ruth Conrad, Rochester, N.Y., formerly of Hillsdale college student, appears in a cosmetic advertisement in the latest issue of Life magazine. Miss Conrad, formerly of Quincy, is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Claude L. Conrad. Her engagement to Jerry D. Robinson, New York, has just been announced.

In the fall of 1946, they married in New Jersey. In the interview, Robinson did not mention his first marriage. 

Robinson was misspelled Robenson.

In 1949 their divorce was granted in Florida according to a record at 

The 1950 census said Robinson (misspelled Robison) was divorced. He was a self-employed cartoonist living in Manhattan at 67 Riverside Drive. He had completed two years of college (line 11). 

Robinson was one of many cartoonists who visited U.S. military bases around the world. The following June 3, 1956 passenger list included Robinson, Marjorie Johnson, Michael Berry, Tony DePrita and Vernon Greene

The New York, New York Marriage License Index, at, said Robinson and Gro Bagn obtained, in 1957, Manhattan marriage license number 29653. 

Further Reading
The New York Times, December 9, 2011
Timely-Atlas-Comics, Jerry Robinson (1922–2011)—The Timely Years
Columbia University Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Formation of a comic book artist
Syracuse University Libraries, Special Collections Research Center
Barry’s Pearls of Comic Book Wisdom, Jerry Robinson interview, 1988
Amazing World of DC Comics #4, January–February 1975

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