A Tribute to the of

As with all of you, I'm sure, I was terribly saddened to hear of the passing of Jerry Robinson earlier this month. While he is forever linked with his vital contributions to the Golden Age Batman, he had several careers and I own a copy of his excellent historical guide, "The Comics," along with his equally excellent biography "Skippy and Percy Crosby." I loved the interview he gave me and I spoke to him a few times subsequent to that and he was unfailingly kind, helpful and friendly. Ironically, when his fellow Bob Kane "ghost" Lew Schwartz passed earlier this year, Jerry hadn't heard until I called him. I also took the liberty of calling Steve Ditko to see if he knew of his former teacher's passing. He'd seen it in the newspaper, but I was apparently the first to call.

I last talked to Jerry in September to get his help for an article I'm working on about the Scarecrow. As usual, he was gracious. By way of tribute I'd like to review an early Batman story Jerry worked on from Batman #2, published in the Summer of 1940. Jerry inked the Bob Kane penciled cover and the untitled story with the help of George Roussous who also lettered. The story was penciled by Bob Kane. The author is Bill Finger, the editor Whitney Ellsworth and the tale features both The Joker, Jerry's creation, and an early Catwoman. This would be the first meeting of Batman's foes.

The story opens with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson discovering via the newspaper that the Joker is alive after all. Last issue, of course, when we first met the Clown Prince of Crime, he appeared to have died at the end of the story. Bruce dons his Batman costume and explains to Dick that he plans to abduct the Joker from the hospital and get him to a brain specialist who can cure and rehabilitate him.

Elsewhere a crime syndicate, headed by "Weasel" is making the same discovery and they decide that the Joker will be an ideal new leader, so they begin to hatch their own plans to get him from the hospital.

The syndicate infiltrates the hospital and force the OR surgeon to operate on the Joker.

Outside, Commissioner Gordon and the Gotham City police have set up guards, unaware of what is transpiring inside. Just then, they see the figure of the Batman on the roof after he's thrown some pebbles on them. The cops rush the Batman who gives them a terrific battle, knocking two of the policemen to their deaths below. (Ah, the pre-comics code days.) Leaping into a roadster, the Batman tears off into the night with Gotham City's finest in hot pursuit.

Failing to negotiate a turn, the Batman crashes into a tree and then takes refuge in a nearby barn. Breaking down the barricaded door, the cops are greeted by burning hay bales and the Batman at the top of a staircase, where he lets fly with a pitchfork, killing off another officer. He then leaps onto a horse, but before he can escape again he's gunned down.

The police then discover that the man in the costume is Circus Charlie, an escaped convict, who had apparently engaged in the masquerade to decoy them away from the hospital.

Speaking of the hospital, the scene shifts back where the Joker is being taken away. We also see an old woman by the entrance selling chewing gum, but when the car pulls away, Selina Kyle is revealed under the old woman's disguise. Just then the real Batman appears and herds her into his car and while Robin drives, he questions her about the Joker's whereabouts. She bargains the information for her freedom and fills the Batman in about the Joker being tapped to head the syndicate and to go after some jewels, but Batman has cleverly created a method to track her through the radioactive material on the floorboards that now coats her shoe soles.

Over a week's period, the Joker has enjoyed a full recovery, and in a pattern that will repeat itself again and again throughout his career, he turns the tables on the syndicate so that he can obtain the Pharaoh's jewels for himself. As he announces his plan, along with the critical information that he has given Weasel and his men a sleeping potion, Batman crashes into the room to take the gang down. The Joker uses the bedlam as an opportunity to depart.

Catwoman has gone to the home of E.S. Arthur, who owns the coveted jewels and finds the lord of the manor dead with a grotesque smile on his face. The perpetrator then arrives and the Joker demands the jewels of Catwoman at gunpoint. Before anything unpleasant can occur, however, Robin, who had been trailing Catwoman, bursts onto the scene. The Joker overcomes the Boy Wonder, but then Batman himself arrives and the fisticuffs begin anew.

The Joker uses some flaming arrows to try to get to Catwoman, who has barricaded herself and the injured Robin behind an oak door. Batman takes down the Joker, leaving him behind in the burning room and hoists Robin onto the rope ladder leading up to the apparently suspended Bat-plane. He urges Selina to come with them, but she dives into the water below and the caption reads: "The end of the Cat-Woman??"

Robin frets that she got away with the jewel case, but Batman reveals that's all she's got as he removed the jewels.

Of course this story was neither the end of Catwoman or the Joker, both founding members of the rogue's gallery of the Batman.

Rest in peace, Jerry Robinson. Your legacy is secure and will endure, just as it has for over seven decades.

Have a great holiday season, readers. Send your comments and questions to my e-mail any time at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you in 2012 and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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