Living in the big sprawling city of Los Angeles, there always seems to be something cool happening. Seeing that this is a town of entertainment talent, that something cool often is related to my profession which I really dig! I love being around creative people. This past Thursday night, March 5, happened to be one of those cool nights.
My writer friend, Steve D’Arcangelo, and I drove to The Skirball Cultural Center right off the 405 freeway not far from the famous Getty Center museum. I’ve driven past the Skirball hundreds of times yet never made it my destination. It is known as a museum and fine arts center celebrating the Jewish contribution to the arts and American life. By reputation, I have heard of their wonderful exhibits over the years, but right now they have an exhibit that appealed directly to me – COMICS!
The exhibit ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938-1950 is currently on display there until August 9 (together with a sister exhibit of comic book characters in the movies). This comics exhibit showcases the artwork of the many Jewish artists responsible for the creation of Batman, Superman, Captain America, and many more. Work by Joe Simon, Will Eisner, Jack Kirby, Bob Kane, Siegel and Shuster, and the great Jerry Robinson are among those featured.
Jerry Robinson, now in his late 80s, was the curator of this special exhibit, and flew out from New York to give a talk to a very full auditorium that night. For those of you unfamiliar with his work, his legacy is forever sealed as the creator of the Joker when he worked for Bob Kane as a youth, and after comic books went on to draw political cartoons for over 35 years in syndicated strips such as Life With Robinson and Still Life. Perhaps one of his most heroic real life moments was when he negotiated a financial settlement for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster back in the late 1970s decades after they had been forced to sell their creation for a paltry sum back in the early days of comic books.
I first met Jerry about thirteen years ago through the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) and have been friendly ever since. When I was President of the Comic Art Professional Society (CAPS), back in January of 2007 we held a banquet in Jerry’s honor for his lifetime of inspiration. He may have created one of comicdom’s greatest villains, but Jerry is one of the good guys.
Jerry’s talk at the Skirball was really a conversation on stage with Mark Evanier – a wonderful writer of many television shows animated and live action, as well as in comic books (he works a lot with cartoonist Sergio Aragonès). Few people know as much about comics and the rest of pop culture quite like Mark, and is really the perfect person to guide such an evening.
What made the evening even more special were the fact that many colleagues were in attendance that night. Folks like Bill Morrison (Bongo Comics), David Folkman (Hogan’s Alley magazine), Mell Lazarus (Momma comic strip), Keith Robinson (Making It comic strip), Marv Wolfman (comics writer), Mark Waid (comics writer), Tom Luth (comics colorist), Benton & Anson Jew (storyboard artists), Michael Aushenker (comics writer and artist), Bradley Rader (comics artist), and even Dan “Homer Simpson” Castellaneta.
Jerry Robinson, a true gentleman, a wonderful talent, and a tireless advocate for the work of cartoonists!