[Each week, Complex columnist Percy Carey a.k.a. MF Grimm dives into the world of comic books with industry interviews, reviews and more. All MF Grimm music can be purchased on Itunes]
I'm a big fan of the Joker and also of the people who played the Joker on film and television: Cesar Romero (1966), Jack Nicholson (1989) and Heath Ledger (2008). So it was a dream to finally meet his creator, Mr. Jerry Robinson, at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. I picked up some important lessons on the way, and hopefully you'll pick up some too. Keep reading for some photos (taken with my G-1 cellphone) and a recap of how the chance meeting went down...
When my friend Ann Marie invited me to the Skirball Cultural Center to see an exhibit called "ZAP! POW! BAM!: The Golden Age of Comic Books (1938-1950)," I knew it would be fun, but not even the great mind reader Percy Carey could foresee the outcome of that day (or could he?). First of all, Skirball is a gigantic place, and the staff was friendly and very helpful, which is always a plus. When Ann Marie and I entered the comic book exhibit, my jaw dropped when I witnessed the gigantic superman busting through the brick wall (I bust through brickwalls everyday, so you would think I'd be used to it by now).
We walked around and observed the golden aged comic books, and other priceless artifacts that were on display inside of glass cases and secured by guards'visitors were not allowed to photograph the items on display (That's more reason to go and see it for yourself)'then we watched some of the vintage live action black and white superman movies of the 40's. It was weird seeing them again as an adult, because I spotted a few things that I didn't pay attention to as a child, such as Superman's filght scenes were all created in animation (I guess I just didn't care as a kid) ; I still laughed at the funny parts (You know when the crook fires his pistol at Superman only to have all of the bullets bounce off of his chest and then throws the pistol at Superman like that's going to work).
After watching a few of the films, we then continued to check out more of the exhibit; I wanted to take a picture of a rare Green Lantern comic book, but I was told by a very nice security officer that I wasn't allowed to; The security guard and I then spoke about all of the children who were dressed up like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman inside of the exhibit and how much fun they were having running around pretending to be them. That's when the security guard told me that Mr. Jerry Robinson, the creator of "The Joker," was there the day before.
The security guard went on to say that after hearing Mr. Robinson speak to everyone, it inspired him to concentrate on his creator-owned comic book, and he wished that everyone had the chance to hear Mr. Robinson speak. My friend Anne Marie asked the security guard when would Mr. Robinson return to speak, only to have the security guard say, "He's not, it was only for that day. I'm sorry." At that time, I remember thinking about all of my Golden and Silver age conversations with Mr. Paul Levitz (President and Publisher of DC Comics) and how great it would've been to tell Paul that I had the chance to finally meet Mr. Jerry Robinson, so we thanked the security guard and moved on through the exhibit.
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Then, as we walked past the section where the children are allowed to illustrate, I noticed that a man with a very expensive camera was setting up for a photo shoot. I assumed he was going to take photos of the kids, which I thought was cool, so I asked the gentlemen what the photos were going to be used for, and he said, "I'm with The Los Angeles Times, and we're covering a story on Mr. Jerry Robinson. He's about to be here any minute for an interview and then we're going to take a couple of pictures of him." Now I thought to myself, What are the odds of this? Ann Marie and I waited around for a few to meet Mr. Robinson.
When he came in with his family, the reporter immediately started the interview. I sat quietly with many other adults and young children who listen to Mr. Robinson passionately answer the great questions asked of him by the reporter. Mr. Robinson spoke about the creation of the Joker and the golden age and legends such as Jack Kirby, Will Eisner, Julius "Julie" Schwartz, Stan Lee, Joe Simon and many others. Mr. Robinson painted such a vivid picture of the golden age time period and the brotherhood that came with being a part of the golden age, you couldn't help but feel you were there. The children and adults were equally quiet and paid attention to every word that came out of Mr. Robinson's mouth.
Once the interview was over, the kids (including the biggest kid of all, Percy Carey) all lined up to get Mr. Robinson's autograph. Then it was finally my turn. Mr. Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times introduced me to Mr. Robinson and said, "Jerry, this is Percy Carey. He's a writer for Vertigo/DC Comics and his book Sentences was nominated for two Will Eisner awards." Mr. Robinson turned to me with a smile on his face and said, "Oh really? That's wonderful, it's a pleasure to meet you" while extending his hand out. I explained to him that it was an honor to meet him, and I then had the rare opportunity to talk with him and his wonderful family for quite some time. Mr. Robinson's son (Jens) and I found out we had a lot in common, and even grew up in the same area of Manhattan, so there was already a bond. We exchanged information (no, you can't have it so don't ask) and then we promised to keep in touch.
After parting ways, all I could think about was how the security guard had said Mr. Robinson inspired him, and how I felt the same way. It was a life changing experience to meet the living legend Jerry Robinson, and how lucky I am that the Los Angeles Times decided to alter plans and interview him there that day; and boy do I have something to talk to Paul Levitz about now when we have one of our regular chats.
I would like to use this time to send a special thank you to Mr. Jerry Robinson and his family, Mr. Geoff Boucher of the Los Angeles Times, Ms. Mia Carino of Skirball Cultural Center, and Ms. Stacy Lieberman of Skirball Cultural Center, and of course Anne Marie. You can find out more about The Golden Age of Comic Books exhibition (ZAP! POW BAM!) at www.skirball.org. I plan on going back again. Hey, you never know who might be there. I will post the LA Times interview at www.thepercycareyshow.blogspot.com as soon as I get it or just go to the LA Times. Until next week, I'm Percy Carey signing out.
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