Remembering Jerry by Tyrone Biljan

Tyrone Biljan is one of the four founding members of the Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards Association and is also the man who does the design work for the awards ceremony presentations, as well as the poster, logo, presentation guides and award plaques.

In 2004, Tyrone was instrumental in contacting and establishing a relationship between Jerry Robinson and the Awards Association and he was directly responsibly for Jerry Robinson’s presence at the 2005 and 2007 Joe Shuster Awards ceremonies and the Paradise Toronto Comicons.

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It‘s April 2005 and I’m worried for two friends in their 80s after a horrendous effort to help them get to the airport in time for a flight to New York from Toronto. I also see the lengthy line up to go through security ahead. They make it through okay, but past security I won’t know how they are until they land in New York.

A couple hours later I get a phone call:

“Tyrone.”

“Hey Jerry.”

“Listen. There’s a problem.”

“What is it?”

“We’re still in Toronto.”

“Oh no! You’re kidding.”

Long pause.

“I’m calling from home. We’re fine.”

I sigh and he laughs. I think I could hear his wife Gro laughing in the background.

In a nutshell: I got “punked” by Jerry Robinson.

I’m sure that I am not the only one!

I had the great pleasure through my association with the Joe Shuster Canadian Comic Book Creator Awards to meet and become friends with Jerry Robinson and his wife Gro.

Jerry Robinson was the creator of The Joker and the co-creator of Robin the Boy Wonder from Batman’s universe. He also created the iconic Batman logo that made its debut on the Spring Issue of Batman No. 1. Not only was he a prolific comic book artist but also photographer, writer and as Denny O’Neil says in his Forward to Jerry’s recent book, “Jerry Robinson – Ambassador of Comics” – Jerry was a Good Samaritan. Jerry helped, along with Neal Adams, to get Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster their recognition and increased compensation for Superman.

Part of my role with the JSA’s was to discuss with Jerry what we wanted to do with the awards and the significance of naming them after one of Superman’s creators. He instantly embraced the concept and threw in his support to become our inaugural award ceremony keynote speaker.

In conversations later, he would speak to me with pride his association with the awards and that he helped to launch them. Truly, Jerry’s support gave us a lot of credibility within the industry.

I have a lot of great memories from that small room where we held our first awards ceremonies during the Paradise Toronto Comicon in April 2005.

Jerry had also said that it was his involvement with The JSA’s that inspired him to create the Bill Finger Awards for Excellence in Comic Book Writing that are presented annually at the Eisner Awards during the San Diego Comicon.

Gro and Jerry Robinson with Dragon Lady manager Joe Kilmartin.

After the 2005 JSA ceremony, I had dinner with the Robinsons and Joe Shuster’s sister, Jean Shuster-Peavy. At the end I mentioned to him, with all that he has done for creators all over the world, he will get the recognition and credit for creating The Joker and his part in developing Robin. With a twinkle in his eye and a smile he would say, “Well, as long as good people like you know, that’s all that matters.”

Most likely, that was his standard response. I shook my head and said “But you will.”

We were lucky to get Jerry up to Toronto in 2007 for the JSA awards once again as keynote speaker. It was another truly memorable event for Jerry but also for all involved with the awards that he was present.

Since then the awards have grown and evolved as they do over the years. I would see him, Gro and his son Jens, most often at the San Diego Comic Con. He would ask how the awards were doing. His concern was for our continued success and check in on what was going on in our lives. The Calgary ceremony this year didn’t work out but he was willing. The Montreal awards were on his horizon.

In the end, we still have the art from Jerry. For a person who fought hard for the creative rights of artists around the world. It’s time his accomplishments and creative contributions for two of the most memorable icons in pop culture be recognized by the industry as well.

Thanks Jerry.


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