Monday, May 18, 2009

Geoff Boucher on cartoonist Jerry Robinson's "serendipitous meeting"

(Image from LA Times Blogs)

The Korea Herald had the above photo of cartoonist Jerry Robinson in its weekend issue, along with an article so interesting that I had to find the original in the Los Angeles Times, but I found the even more original in the LA Times Blogs, where Geoff Boucher has posted his full article "'Joker' creator Jerry Robinson reflects on Gotham and the golden age" (and see a video on Boucher's interview with Robinson).

One thing that caught my attention was Boucher's reference to a book that I read last year:
Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Joe Shuster, Mac Raboy, Lou Fine and Robinson are some of . . . young Jewish artists who became the basis for the ink-stained dreamers in Michael Chabon's wistful, Pulitzer-winning novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay."
Readers may recall that I referred to that novel on this blog some time back, though I never wrote a full review.

But something that struck me even more powerfully in Boucher's article was the significance of chance occurrences in our lives. Robinson was 17 in 1939, had just graduated from high school, and was working so hard at earning money for college by pedaling around as a bicycle ice-cream salesman that his mother -- alarmed that her son weighed under 90 pounds -- insisted that he take a break at a resort in the Catskill Mountains. He took her advice and went to the resort, where he relaxed by playing tennis. The weather must have been cool, for he was wearing a white painter's jacket decorated with his own cartoons while warming up on the court:
"That was a fad then, kids would get these linen jackets with all the pockets and personalize them with all this razzmatazz," he recalled. "I was wearing mine as a warm-up jacket and someone tapped me on the shoulder and asked, 'Hey, who drew that stuff?' It was Bob Kane, who had just finished the first issue of Batman [which was "Detective Comics" No. 27]. I didn't even know what that was. He showed me the issue that was on sale there at the local village. I wasn't very impressed."

Robinson, however, was impressed with Kane's offer of a drawing-table job in New York. The teenager had been accepted at three universities and had planned on Syracuse, but after the serendipitous meeting, he phoned Columbia in the city and said he was on the way.
He certainly was, for he became so involved with the Batman series that he is often credited with creating the Joker . . . though this 'origins-story' remains disputed in its details.

At any rate, I was impressed and showed the Korea Herald's copy of Boucher's article to my daughter, who tells me that one of her three career choices is to become a cartoonist. I told her, "You've got the talent. Now, you've just got to get some luck."

Looking back over my own career, I can't identify any lucky moment, but I had an even more serendipitous meeting that utterly transformed my life . . . so I can't complain.



Post a Comment

<< Home