Jerry Robinson, 89, creator of Batman characters

Jerry Robinson, a major figure in the development of comic books and superheroes in the 20th century — including creating Batman’s arch-nemesis the Joker and sidekick Robin — died Dec. 8 at 89.

Jerry Robinson

“The streets of Gotham City are a little lonelier today,” said Mike Marts, editor of the Batman series at DC Comics, who called Robinson “a pioneer in storytelling.”

“Jerry brought a realism to comics, and a sense of humor,” said comics editor Charles Kochman, who published a book about Robinson last year. “He saw the value of comics as an art.”

Robinson was known for his early artwork and storytelling, as well as for books and museum exhibits on the history of comics. In 2004 he curated one of the first museum-level exhibitions of comics, “The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books 1939-1950,” at the Breman Jewish Museum of Atlanta. Two years later he curated an expanded version of the exhibition, “The Superhero: Good and Evil in American Comics,” at the Jewish Museum in New York.

In an in-depth interview in 2007, Robinson spoke of the almost overwhelmingly Jewish background of early comic book artists, writers, editors and publishers.

“They did dominate the genre the first few years, as well as Jewish publishers,” he said. “My research indicated there were a number of reasons. And it happened in other disciplines with other ethnic groups, so it’s not that surprising.” — jta