When Jerry Robinson was 17 years-old, fresh out of high school, he landed a job selling ice cream for the summer, which resulted in the already skinny chap--he weighed just 98 lbs--losing 20 lbs from working that heavy cart in the heat. Robinson's mother decided to ship the boy off to the country, with $25 in hand, to fatten him up before beginning college.
"My first day out at this resort which I selected out of nowhere, I put on this tennis jacket that I wore as a warm-up jacket, and it was covered with drawings, cartoons of mine, which was the fad at the time," Robinson told us from the DC Comics headquarters in New York City. "I ran out to the tennis court, to find a partner, while looking, standing at the court, I felt a tap on my shoulder. They said, 'Who did those drawings?'" Robinson thought he was about to be arrested, but in actuality he was being questioned by Bob Kane, creator of Batman. "Bob Kane had just finished the first issue of Batman and was also on a vacation. If he didn't happen to walk by the tennis courts at that moment and spot the tennis jacket, I guess we wouldn't be sitting here today."
Kane immediately offered Robinson a job working on Batman for Detective Comics. "I was set to go to college at Syracuse but luckily I was also accepted in Columbia, so I quickly called Columbia...I quickly called Syracuse...I called home, 'Mom, I'm going to New York.'" And he was whisked right from the mountains to New York City.
Jerry jumped right into work on Batman, "I began inking, doing all the lettering, and designing, and shortly I began to do the penciling as well." He worked with DC for seven years, having a hand in creating some of the Dark Knight's iconic villains, "The Penguin, Two-Face, The Riddler, Catwoman...with the writer, Bill Finger, who was really the co-creator of Batman," Robinson said.
But it's his creation of Batman's most famous and formidable foe that put Robinson on the map. "I knew that all great heroes had a principal protagonist," Robinson said. "I really wanted a villain that had more substance, was more of a literary tradition of great villains, and I knew that all great characters had some contradiction in their nature...so my first thought was a villain with a sense of humor." And with that, Jerry Robinson created "The Clown Prince of Crime," The Joker.
"Cards were very common in the household, one of my brothers was a champion Bridge player and my mother was an expert player, so there were always cards around and I think that was my immediate association, it was like a eureka moment," he said. "The Joker playing card, the image of the Joker, sprang to mind."
Now, through ComicConnect.com, Robinson has decided to auction the original art from his cover for Detective Comics #69, also known as, "The Double-Guns Joker," the first large image of the Joker on a Golden Age cover.
"What an incredible image of the Joker, looming over Batman and Robin, the guns, you never see that," said Vincent Zurzolo, COO of ComicConnect.com.
In addition to his "Double-Guns Joker" cover, Robinson is auctioning off another item from his personal collection, Fred Ray's cover image from Superman #14, the most iconic Superman cover of all time.
"These pieces are incredibly important in terms of the history of comic book art. The Superman 14 cover is probably the most iconic piece of artwork in existence. This image of Superman is known around the world, this is truth, justice and the American way in one piece of art," Zurzolo said. The image from Superman 14 became of symbol of the United States' efforts during World War Two and is epitome of everything that not only his adopted country stands for but the Big Blue Boy Scout as well.
"All the art at that time was routinely destroyed because it was a reproductive art, it wasn't meant to be shown," Robinson said. "So I had to contact the engraver myself...and say don't destroy that cover or that story, send them back when you make the next pick up."
Both pieces will be on auction until December 1, 2010. "So I hope that whoever does collect it will preserve it and eventually it will find it's way to an American museum for future generations.," Robinson said.
Comic book art can be an incredibly lucrative investment. An 8.0 graded issue of Action Comics #1, Superman's introduction, was sold for $1 million and a higher graded version was sold for $1.5 million through ComicConnect.com. Earlier this year, an original 1955 Frank Frazetta piece for Weird Science Fantasy #29 was sold for $380,000 and the original cover for Frank Miller's Daredevil #188 was sold for $101,575, both through Heritage Auction Galleries.
"What this means for the industry as a whole," Zurzolo said, "it's only good, it's only positive, people see comic books and take them more seriously, respect them more as a piece of American art, just like Jazz, comic books are one of the truest American art forms. The ability for serious investors, collectors and pop cultyure afficinados to come into the comic book and original comic book art marketplace on a daily basis and buy these treasures is just growing and growing."
For more information on these are many more auctions visit ComicConnect.com