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Four months before Jerry Robinson died in 2011, curator Andrew Farago presented the comic book artist, who created Batman characters the Joker and Robin, with the Cartoon Art Museum's lifetime achievement award at the San Diego Comic-Con International.
Inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004, Robinson enjoyed a prolific career that began under Batman creator Bob Kane, who hired him as an inker and letterer at DC Comics in the 1940s. While historians recognize Robinson as the progenitor of the Joker, introduced in Batman No. 1, which was released in the Spring of 1940, Kane claimed he and writer Bill Finger created the idea. Robinson also played a substantial role in creating Alfred Pennyworth, butler to Bruce Wayne. In 2007, DC Comics announced Robinson had been named a creative consultant.
Farago had a longstanding relationship with Robinson, his wife, Gro, and their son, Jens, but it was not until December 2012 that the curator learned 60 pieces of Robinson's work would be donated to the museum. Founded in 1984, the Cartoon Art Museum, located in the Yerba Buena Gardens district is the only museum in the western United States dedicated to preservation and exhibition of cartoon art.
The donation largely consists of comic strips dating back to the turn of the century, and only one piece of Robinson's own work, a "Jet Scott" comic strip from 1954, written by Sheldon Stark. Other highlights include "Wash Tubs" by Roy Crane, "Li'l Abner" by Al Capp, "Baron Bean" by George Herriman (who's best known for a strip called "Krazy Kat"),"Gasoline Alley" by Frank King, "Mutt & Jeff" by Bud Fisher, "Steve Canyon" by Milton Caniff, "Pogo" by Walt Kelly, and two pieces by Winsor McCay, including a hand-painted "Dream of the Rarebit Fiend" strip.
"These are the first originals by Winsor McCay in the Cartoon Art Museum's permanent collection, and it's extra special that these pieces come to us from a friend like Jerry Robinson," said Farago.
Exhibitions change regularly, but there is a display dedicated to the permanent collection. Farago hopes to incorporate pieces from the donation into the display soon, and hopes to eventually make the whole database searchable online. As always, the holdings are available for research purposes.