It turns out that the Joker -- pop culture's pre-eminent villain -- was created by one of the good guys. N.C. Christopher Couch's new book, Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics (Abrams ComicArts, 224 pp., $35.00), recounts how, in 1939, Robinson, then a 17-year-old preparing to study journalism at Columbia, met artist Bob Kane, who had an unexpected comic-book hit on his hands in the form of a mysterious crime-fighter named Batman.

 
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