The comic book artist credited with creating the Joker -- the archfoe of Batman played in film adaptations by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger -- has died at the age of 89, the New York Times reported.
The Times said Thursday that Jerry Robinson -- first hired to draw comic books in 1939 at the age of 17 -- had died in New York City's Staten Island.
He is widely credited with drawing the Joker, a clownish villain with green hair and a stretched smile who debuted in 1940 and battled Batman through hundreds of comic books and film and television adaptations.
Cesar Romero first brought the Joker to life in a 1960s television series, followed by Nicholson, who humorously hammed him up in the 1989 film "Batman," and Ledger, who won a posthumous Oscar for playing a chillingly sadistic Joker in 2008's "The Dark Knight."
"Villains, I always thought, were more interesting," Robinson told the Times last year. "I think the name came first: the Joker. Then I thought of the playing card," he said. His parents were bridge players.
Batman creator Bob Kane claimed that he and Bill Finger, the original writer on the series, crafted the Joker. But the Times said many comic book historians believe the idea originated with Robinson, who was hired by Kane in 1939.
There is no dispute over the fact that Robinson created Batman's young sidekick Robin, who accompanied the "Caped Crusader" for decades.
Robinson left the Batman team in the early 1940s but continued to create comic book characters, including London, a character inspired by the Nazi bombings of World War II, and Atoman, a nuclear version of Superman.
He is survived by his wife of 57 years, a son, a daughter and two grandchildren, according to the Times.