By Greta Chiocchetti
Kevin Robinette, affectionately known as “Professor Comics,” passed away on Nov. 18, 2021, at the age of 72. Robinette was a respected comics historian and collector who joined the Academy of Art University in 2010. He created and taught the School of Illustration’s (ILL) History of Comics class.
“Mr. Robinette was a wonderful instructor, who had a passion for teaching,” said Academy President Dr. Elisa Stephens. “He was greatly beloved by his students, a lovely person, and he will be missed by our Academy community.”
“Kevin represents the best kind of teacher that the Academy has—someone who has immersed himself in the skills and the passions of that part of the art world and is deeply, deeply, deeply resourced in his specific area,” said ILL Chair Emeritus Chuck Pyle. “He was very obsessed with the things that he cared about.”
Robinette, whom Pyle described as a “lovable eccentric,” had a personal collection of comics totaling over 40,000 and was knowledgeable about comics both across the globe and over the decades. He was known around campus to wear handpainted ties to his classes that reflected the subject matter of the day’s lecture.
“This was a guy with serious health problems, who would walk up the Powell Street hill to class with 40 pounds of comic books in his suitcase simply because he wanted the students to see,” said Pyle, describing Robinette’s weekly journey to campus—he flew in from Colorado every week with comic books in tow. “He just felt he owed that to the kids—getting them to understand what was important, what was worth being passionate about.”
A graduate of the Rocky Mountain School of Art, Robinette fused his illustration background with a lifelong love for comic books, which endured from a playful childhood competition with his brother to see who could collect the most comics. Robinette went on to found several comics organizations and conventions, including the Greater Rockies Organization of Ultimate Panelologists (GROUP) and Colorado Art Conventions, a local version of Comic-Con, which Robinette faithfully attended each year.
“He would always pull a rare comic from his suitcase and give you a true lesson,” shared ILL Department Manager Dax Santi. “Despite his age, he still connected with the students from his sheer joy of discussing the history of the comic book.”
Though he certainly left an impression with his students, Robinette helped elevate the art form within his own department, said Pyle, a legacy that will endure at the Academy for years to come. Though comics have not always enjoyed the same esteem as their fine art counterparts, Robinette gave the art form the esteem it deserves.
“I think he raised the level of respect and deep knowledge on all of our parts as to how comics tie into visual culture,” said Pyle. “He gave them dignity and worth, and we all benefited from it. You just knew you were going to learn right along with those kids this week. Whatever Kevin was talking about would show up in the faculty room, in the office—everybody got educated. But he did it with such positive energy that you wanted to hear what he had to say. It’s storytelling. It’s fantastic art. It’s really moviemaking condensed into the pages of a cheap, flimsy book.”
It is clear that Robinette’s love for comics and his eagerness to share his passion has left an indelible mark on the Academy community.
“One of the beautiful things about art school is that the teachers are not hired because of the academic pedigree they have—they are hired because they are so deeply passionate about what they’ve been hired to teach,” said Pyle. “He’s the kind of instructor that a student will remember.”