Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Jerry Robinson previously unpublished interview, 6/9/06; part 3 of 3

Part 1.

Part 2. 

Where did [Bill Finger] do his research?

We’d go to the library. We’d go to the newsstands. Movies. Park. Everywhere.

Did he carry with him a notebook and a pen and jot things down in movies and places like that?

I don’t remember him doing that. I think he would clip things in that extensive clip file when he read things. Anything that he thought might be useful.

He clipped out things from magazines?

Yeah.

But he wasn’t jotting things down all the time?

 
I don’t remember him doing that. But he had a great memory so he probably didn’t have to.
 

[asked about the two blizzard stories that were similar enough to seem like the same event, yet still different: one in Batman and Me, one in Men of Tomorrow; Jerry’s response (part verbatim, part paraphrased): “Bob was full of crap” (laughs); he probably read that, that’s what he did all the time—read a story, adapt it as his own, “I never heard that story before”; Jerry mentioned the “preposterous” interview Bob gave to Jerry Bails where he said Bill Finger didn’t create anything—anyone who would say that is capable of anything; “I’m probably the one who gives Bob more credit than anybody”; I asked Jerry about the sketches dated 1/17/34 and how Gerard Jones said they were fabricated; Jerry agreed and said another Bob lie was that he said he went to anatomy classes] 

There’s this convention in 1965 where Bill first publicly spoke about his involvement. Were you there?

I don’t remember if I was there or not.

There was a panel that you were not on, but maybe you were there.

I might’ve been there, but I don’t have any specific memory now.

Did you ever go to a convention with Bill after that?

I can’t remember ever doing that.

So you never got to see Bill interact with fans?

If I was at that one, I might have, but I don’t remember generally, no.


Was he funny in person?

He could be. We joked a lot.

But was it a defining characteristic of him in person?

I wouldn’t say defining.


Did you ever play golf with him?

No.

Or tennis?

I don’t know that he played tennis. If he played tennis, I’m surprised I wouldn’t have [played with him], because my thing was tennis.
 


Was he already married when you met him?

No.

Did you guys ever go try to pick up girls together?

No, I think early on he fell in love with Portia. I don’t know where they met, actually, being she was way up there till she came to New York. I think pretty early on, because I was still on Batman in this instance where I told you when he stopped and called Portia. [After he?] married, I don’t know that he ever fooled around. Not to my knowledge.

Sorry, I wasn’t implying that. I just thought if he wasn’t already married…

No, I understood what you said. I think he very deeply loved Portia. She was a fighter, she would call me and rail against the injustice done by Bob. She hated it.


When did they divorce?

I don’t know when they divorced. I wasn’t in touch with them at that time. And when I did find out and talk to Portia, I was very surprised.

Because you never saw signs of that?

No.

[asked him about comment he made in Comics Journal that Joe Shuster did marry at one point]

In his later life, yeah. At the end of his life, the last few years. Married in California.

But then divorced because I think he was a bachelor when he died?

Were you in touch with him at that time?

I was in touch with him but I didn’t meet her. Jerry and his wife knew her very well.

Do you know how long Joe was married?

Not exactly, but it wasn’t too long. [unintelligible] …few years. 


Do you know what Bill thought of Jerry and Joe going after the rights to Superman?

I don’t remember discussing it with him specifically, but I can’t imagine he would be other than supportive or happy about it.

Do you think it ever gave him a kick to try to do that himself, get some rights to Batman?

He might’ve entertained it, but I think he was so beaten down, and without resources, and without any seeming legal avenue to do it, he probably never thought seriously.


Were you in touch with Bill up until his death?

Sporadically. He would visit here. For a while, I was sharing an apartment with another writer, just before I got married. And he collaborated with him on various things. Mostly for television, I believe. And so they would write up here in my apartment and I would see him then. And then on a few other occasions. I’ll tell you something but it’s not for print.

Okay.

[redacted]

Do you remember how you heard that Bill had died?

I don’t know if I read it or somebody called me, I’m not sure.

Were you at his funeral?

No, I never knew that there was one. Usually, DC has a service, but they never had one for him. They had one for Siegel and Shuster and I attended each one.

Where were their funerals, by the way?

I don’t know if they had a public funeral as such, but we had a special service at DC.

For both of them?

Not together, each one.

Do you know where Bill is buried?

No, I don’t know that, either. It may be that nobody survives who does know. That’s possible.

[I say that Freddie’s friends might know but I don’t how to find them…though eventually, I did find some; Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman reveals what happened to Bill after he died...he was not buried...]

I never knew the service for Portia. I was never called. And I knew I was one of the closest friends.

You weren’t called when she passed away?

[inaudible no]

If you were doing this book [on Bill] yourself, who would be the main players?

The editors at DC and some other editors. But on a personal level he might have had some other friends I don’t know of, some school friends. Portia. His son. [something including “myself” and “Bob”] …the editors at DC we dealt with, mostly [Mort] Weisinger and [Jack] Schiff.



[Bill] created most everything for [Bob]. He definitely was a full co-creator. I think he had more to do with the molding of Batman than Bob. He just did so many things at the beginning. As an artist, I can appreciate what goes into that. Aside from creating almost all the other characters, creating the whole persona, the whole temper, the history, origin of Batman. Everything. It made it a success from the beginning.

Anything in particular about Bill that you think kids would find interesting?

[unintelligible] …how widely read he was and how he would absorb everything and you never know how something he read would turn up in the feature. He was very hard-working. [unintelligible] …one of the best writers in the business, certainly at that time. … As you probably know, it came hard for him. He was always late in deadlines. Maybe some of his personal life interfered with that as well, but I know a lot of times it was due to his painstaking work, that he wouldn’t hand it in until he was satisfied with it. And they would never appreciate the time and effort he put in, even though they were benefiting from it and it made the feature so great. But he couldn’t help himself. He would slave over it. He was not a natural writer in the sense that it would pour out.


How did he influence you?

In many ways. I was an aspiring writer myself at that time. That’s what I intended to be. Fortunately, as my career went I was able to do a lot of writing. So his approaches and inventiveness, his creativity, humor, I appreciated his injection of that to humanize the strip and Batman. His idea of introducing Robin to humanize Batman enlarged the plot potential, the parameters of the strip. I think a lot of his reading went into the creation some of the great villains that he molded, like the Penguin, the Riddler.


Anything else about Bill that I didn’t cover?

He suffered a lot. And that’s sad. He didn’t deserve it. He was a very fine guy and a very fine writer and a good friend.
 


What I’d like to do is, I mean, you’re the legacy, and if this gets together, I’d like to show you what I wrote. It’ll be as short as what you read, the Boys of Steel book. (laughs) It won’t take much of your time. I’d welcome all your feedback.

Yeah, I’d appreciate it before it’s published.

[NOTE: Sadly, Jerry died in December 2011, six months before the book came out.]

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