- —Joe Robertson[src]
Joseph "Robbie" Robertson lived his childhood in Harlem, New York. An avid reporter, Robbie had become the editor of his high school's newspaper by his senior year. In spring of his final year, Robbie had been working on an exposé on his classmate Lonnie Lincoln, who extorted other kids for money and was known as "Tombstone." Before Joe could publish the article, Tombstone brutally assaulted him and forced him to drop the story. Wracked with guilt, Robbie swore to himself to never retreat another story no matter the cost.
After finishing high school, Robbie attended the Columbia School of Journalism, where he had been granted a scholarship. Four years after he graduated Columbia, Robbie had moved to Philadelphia, where he married a woman named Martha. Robbie's parents had died at some point before he had met Martha, and their relationship helped Robbie overcome the grief. Joe worked as the night desk catcher for the Philadelphia Inquirer, often answering trivial calls. One night, a caller named Isadore Hipper promised Robbie information on the death of crime boss Ozzy Montana. When Robbie went to meet up with this contact, he found Tombstone taunting him with the man's dead body. After returning home in a state of shock, Joe was further taunted by Lincoln on the phone. Realizing that if he said anything, Tombstone would kill him, Robbie left Philadelphia and returned with Martha to New York, where he landed a job at the Daily Bugle. Over the following twenty years, Robertson developed a fascination for Tombstone's career as a mob enforcer, keeping track of his activities.
Presumably not long after moving to New York, Robbie and Martha had their first child, Patrick. Tragedy struck Robbie again when the baby died at six months of age. Joe was devastated, but eventually moved on and had another child, Randy. Working with the Daily Bugle, Robbie quickly became one of its best reporters and moved through the editorial ranks, eventually achieving the position of city editor. Robbie would quickly become the straight man to the Bugle's editor-in-chief J. Jonah Jameson, shutting down Jameson's conspiratorial bias against the costumed vigilante Spider-Man, whose alter ego of Peter Parker was one of the Bugle's freelance photographers.
Robertson would study Spider-Man's career closely, becoming one of the few people not to believe him to be a criminal, and an ally of the hero within the Daily Bugle. Robbie also became a mentor figure to Peter, vouching for him to Jonah, and becoming concerned for him when he experienced trouble. At one point when Peter's girlfriend Gwen Stacy moved to England, Joe sent Peter on a coverage abroad as an excuse so the Bugle would pay the expenses for the trip to give him the chance to reunite with her.
Once Jameson became the target of an experiment by Jonas Harrow, the villain beamed Jameson's office with a ray that exploited his paranoia against Spider-Man to slowly drive him mad. As a result of Jameson's increased irrationality, Robbie quit his job. After this, Robbie returned to writing, working on magazine articles and the like. Robbie's resignation further drove Jameson to the edge, and he had a nervous breakdown during a discussion with the Bugle's board of directors. Robertson quickly returned to the Daily Bugle when the board of directors asked him to replace Jameson as publisher, and since he started occupying Jonah's office, Joe became affected by Harrow's ray as well. The rest of the Daily Bugle's staff was driven to madness as well when Harrow amplified the ray's intensity, but Peter managed to put an end to it by sounding the building's fire alarm and forcing an evacuation. Afterward, Harrow was defeated. Jonah regained his sanity, and when he came back to lead the Bugle, Robbie returned to his city editor position.
When a new villain named the Hobgoblin surfaced, he attempted to blackmail Jameson with evidence of his involvement in the creation of the super villain the Scorpion. Refusing to be yield to the Hobgoblin, Jameson published a confession in the front page of the Daily Bugle and stepped down, enlisting Robbie as the new editor-in-chief. Not long afterward, Robbie's past demons resurfaced when Tombstone moved his operations to New York. Joe came to believe that since he didn't stop Tombstone back in high school, all the murders Lincoln committed since then were his fault as well. Before personally confronting Tombstone, Robbie taped a recording detailing his history with Lincoln as well as the evidence against him and left it to Peter Parker. When Robertson faced against Tombstone, he tried to kill the mobster with a gun, but he failed since Lincoln was wearing a bulletproof vest. In retaliation, Tombstone squeezed Robbie with his arms, nearly breaking his back and leaving him crippled.
Tombstone later visited Robbie at the hospital, and threatened to kill his family if he attempted to expose him. Joe then started physical therapy to regain the use of his legs. While Spider-Man dealt with Tombstone and defeated him, Robbie contacted the Department of Justice to give them his deposition against Lincoln. Since this entailed Robbie admitting to witnessing a murder that went unreported, the death of Isadore Hipper, Robbie went on trial and was sentenced to three years in Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary. To Robertson's surprise, Tombstone had managed to pull some strings and was transferred to the same prison, in the cell next to Robbie, since in his own morbid way, he believed himself and Robbie to be friends.
In jail, a muscular convict named Lemuel McPhee but better known as "Bruiser" decided to befriend Robbie since he reminded him of his older brother, protecting Joe from Tombstone until becoming a target himself and dying defending Robbie. Tombstone then forced Robbie call Randy for Spider-Man, luring the hero into a trap. Drugged and beaten up, Spider-Man was used as a hostage by Tombstone to stage a breakout, and the incident resulted in Tombstone escaping on a helicopter with Robbie. When Spider-Man, still weakened, clung to the helicopter, Tombstone began kicking him from above. Finally overcoming his fear for Tombstone, Joe grabbed Lincoln and lunged out of the helicopter. They survived the fall, landing on a river, but Robbie was injured. An Amish named Aaron DeWeiss found the duo, and sheltered them at his farm. Tombstone waited for weeks until Robbie healed and challenged him for a final battle, during which Robbie impaled him with a pitchfork. Although the injury wasn't grave, Tombstone felt betrayed that his "friend" would try to kill him, and walked away. Robbie surrendered himself back to authorities, and, shortly after, Bruiser's brother, a White House adviser named Stuart McPhee, learned of Robbie's situation and managed to get him a presidential pardon. Once free, Joe held a celebration to commemorate Bruiser, whose courage and self-acceptance to face death had given Robbie the strength to face life.
When Tombstone became an enforcer for Hammerhead, the mob boss hired the new Hobgoblin to kill Robbie due to his history with him. Lincoln secretly intervened to stop the Hobgoblin, since he didn't want anybody killing Robbie except himself in due time. With the Daily Bugle having been purchased by Thomas Fireheart during Robertson's imprisonment, Fireheart offered Robbie the position of president and publisher, but Robbie turned it down to take Jameson's own offer to have Robbie as the editor-in-chief of his new photo news magazine, The Jameson News Digest. Around this time, Robbie had a falling out with Peter Parker after rival photographer Nick Katzenberg spied on him taking pictures as Spider-Man for his wife Mary Jane Watson. While Peter's secret identity wasn't compromised since the photos were passed off as him posing as Spider-Man, Katzenberg used them to cast doubt in the genuine pictures of Spider-Man that Parker regularly sold Jameson. Because of this, Robbie barred Peter and his photos, a decision caused by his stint in prison having hardened Robbie and his ideals.
Since Hammerhead still wished to kill Robbie, Tombstone himself lured him to one of his operations in a chemical plant to kill him. In the resulting tussle, Robbie accidentally locked Lincoln in a chamber filled with a preservative gas that mutated Tombstone and made his skin virtually indestructible. After taking over Hammerhead's operations, Tombstone summoned Robbie to Hammerhead's mansion since he wanted to put aside their feud out of gratitude since Joe had been accidentally responsible for the new powers he enjoyed. After Spider-Man intervened to assist Robbie, a confrontation between Tombstone and Hammerhead saw the mansion explode, and Tombstone fled. Having realized that he had held Peter to a standard of ethics he himself had failed to fulfill years ago with Hipper's murder, Robbie decided to forgive Peter. After Fireheart handed over the Daily Bugle to Jameson, Robbie and the rest of the staff moved to a new Daily Bugle building.
Following an attack by a Sentinel on the Daily Bugle during the rampage of the super villain Onslaught, the costs of reparations combined with declining revenues from advertising and readership forced Jameson to make cutbacks. The firing of staff members resulted in Robbie working additional hours without compensation, which caused a strain on his marriage, since Martha believed Robbie was putting his work before his family and his own life. This tension was exacerbated after Robertson and Martha were attacked by the assassin Dragonfly on behalf of Black Tarantula, a criminal who had targeted Joe for being a high-ranking member of the press. The assassination was thwarted when Spider-Man intervened, but Martha was apalled by Robbie's decision to report on the story instead of running away with her. Martha began pressuring Robbie to quit, and Robbie later became disillusioned with Jameson after he sold the Daily Bugle to Norman Osborn, who was secretly extorting Jonah, and the newspaper's new owner amped up its anti-Spider-Man rhetoric. After Matha was attacked by the serial killer Carnage while visiting the Bugle, Robbie made up his mind and quit.
Using his severance pay, Robbie took Martha to Europe for a second honeymoon, using the trip as a cover to secretly investigate Norman Osborn's operative Alison Mongrain. Since Osborn had tried to have her killed, Mongrain escaped to Paris, where she was tracked down by Robbie. Joe smuggled her back to New York, where they became the target of the Molten Man. They managed to evade him, in part due to Spider-Man's intervention, and Robbie helped Mongrain get to Mary Jane Watson, where Alison told her before dying that Peter's Aunt May, whose death had been faked by Osborn, was alive. Following Osborn's defeat, Jameson reacquired the Daily Bugle, and Robertson returned to the newspaper, becoming again editor-in-chief and the buffer to Jameson's anti-Spider-Man libel.
After Jonah suffered a heart attack, the Daily Bugle was bought by Dexter Bennett and he rebranded it into "The DB!." Robbie endured as the newspaper stooped to becoming a sensationalist tabloid, holding onto hope that Jameson would find a way to take the Bugle back and set things right. However, after Bennett insisted on pursuing a story involving abusive movie star Bobby Carr whose victims were killed by Carr's stalker, Paper Doll, following The DB!'s reports on Carr's incidents with them, Joe became fed up and quit. Robbie would quickly find a new home at the Front Line, a fledging newspaper run by Robbie's former Bugle colleague Ben Urich, where he was hired as editor-in-chief.
Some time following the collapse of The DB!'s building at the hands of the super villain Electro, Jameson's wife Marla convinced him to buy back the Daily Bugle from Bennett's shareholders. They handed over the rights to Robbie as a gesture of gratitude for his friendship, and the Front Line was rebranded as the Daily Bugle. When Jameson returned to journalism using a personal online blog fueled by the same anti-Spider-Man agenda, he attempted to get Robbie to collaborate on a story involving government secrets and the vigilante. Robbie refused to associate the Daily Bugle with Jonah again, feeling that his old friend's slant had worsened. This prompted Jonah to cut ties with Robbie. Not long afterward, and following the collapse of his company Parker Industries, Peter Parker was invited back into the Daily Bugle by Robbie so he could become a science editor. Peter's stint was short-lived due to his doctorate being revoked for plagiarism, since Joe saw himself forced to fire him to preserve the Bugle's credibility. Despite this incident, Joe and Peter remained in good terms.
With the Bugle's future becoming more uncertain due to the overall obsolescence of newspapers, Robbie decided to change the paper's focus and double down on long-form investigative journalism. He enlisted Peter Parker as a freelance photographer, and also welcomed his niece Chloe Robertson into the fold as a social media journalism specialist to improve the paper's reach. During this time, Randy had become romantically involved with Janice Lincoln, the daughter of Tombstone and a criminal herself, better known as the Beetle. Both fathers learned of this separately but concurrently, and each tried to persuade their child to drop the relationship to no avail. Joe and Tombstone would put aside their differences after Randy and Janice were kidnapped by the crime bosses Madame Masque and Crime Master in a bid to take over Lincoln's territories. Working together, Tombstone and Joe managed to save their kids with the help of Spider-Man and Beetle's team, the Syndicate. Afterward, both Joe and Lonnie decided not to let their own grudge interfere in their children's future, and called a truce for anything pertaining to their children's relationship.
- Robbie Robertson was one the first African-American characters who played a serious supporting role, rather than acting as comic relief.
- During his teens he was a boy racer known as "Rocket Robertson" who was known to regularly outrun the police.
- Amazing Spider-Man #58 hinted at Robbie having a military background when Colonel John Jameson jokingly asks him if he ever feels like getting back in uniform.
- In prison, Robbie's prisoner number was 432071.
- Robbie's blood is type A.
- Robertson has used an unidentified social media under the moniker DailyBugleRobbie.
- Robbie's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- 621 appearance(s) of Joseph Robertson (Earth-616)
- 9 appearance(s) in handbook(s) of Joseph Robertson (Earth-616)
- 19 minor appearance(s) of Joseph Robertson (Earth-616)
- 38 mention(s) of Joseph Robertson (Earth-616)
- 3 mention(s) in handbook(s) of Joseph Robertson (Earth-616)
- 76 image(s) of Joseph Robertson (Earth-616)
- 6 quotation(s) by or about Joseph Robertson (Earth-616)
Links and References
- Joseph Robertson (Earth-616) on Marvel.com
- Joseph Robertson (Earth-616) on Wikipedia.org
- SpiderFan.org - Characters - Joseph "Robbie" Robertson