He dressed up as a dark, brooding crime fighter but spent years bringing delight to children at hospitals and charity events.
Leonard B. Robinson, an American Jewish man known for dressing up as Batman, was killed along a highway when a car hit him as he was checking the engine of his custom-made Batmobile.
Robinson, 51, of Owings Mills, Maryland, was returning from a weekend festival in South Charleston, West Virginia, when he was struck by a Toyota Camry around 10:30 p.m. Sunday, about 90 miles west of Baltimore.
Robinson had pulled his car onto the median, with the passenger side partly in the traffic lane, Maryland State Police said Monday.
Police said the Camry also sideswiped the red-and-black Batmobile, a replica of the car used in the 1960s “Batman” television show. The Camry driver, a 39-year-old man from Charlottesville, Virginia, wasn’t hurt and hasn’t been charged.
Police said Robinson’s car was uninsured and wore a Maryland license, “4BATMAN,” that was issued to another vehicle.
Robinson, co-owner of an appliance repair business in Falls Church, Virginia, began visiting hospitalized children in 2001, masquerading as his son’s favorite superhero, according to Robinson’s website, www.superheroesforkids.org.
He gained national attention in 2012 when dashcam video surfaced of police in Silver Spring, Maryland, pulling him over while he was driving his black Lamborghini — not the Batmobile replica — dressed as Batman. Robinson traded the Lamborghini for the Batmobile later that year.
He averaged 18 visits a year to hospitals, schools and charity events, handing out toys and t-shirts, giving “Batman” autographs and discouraging kids from bullying, according to his website and his father, Larry Robinson.
“To see these children, the smiles that come onto their faces — it was like a miracle for these children,” Larry Robinson said.
According to the Baltimore Jewish Times, one of the patients Robinson visited told her friends at school that she was friends with Batman and was subsequently mocked by her peers. When Robinson heard, “he showed up at school to prove them wrong. Then she became the star,” Marilyn Richardson, child-life specialist and pediatric liaison at the LifeBridge Sinai Hospital, said.
The Washington Post reported in 2012 that Robinson spent $25,000 of his own money on Batman-related items for kids every year.
Sharen Sumpter-Deitz, a board member of the South Charleston, West Virginia, Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Robinson had left for home Sunday afternoon after meeting hundreds of children over the weekend at the city’s Summerfest, two daycare centers and a library. It was his third visit, she said.
“He always told the children how much he valued them and how good they were and that everything they did meant something,” she said. “He made them feel like they were the most important person in the whole wide world when he was talking to them.”
DC Entertainment, the Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. unit that owns Batman, said it was aware of Robinson’s work and had no objections. The company posted a message on the official Batman Facebook page: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Leonard Robinson, who shared his love of Batman with everyone around him.”
A doctor at the LifeBridge Sinai hospital said that Robinson had always told the kids they were “the real heroes.”
“The amazing thing about Lenny is that he used the Batman costume and the car to form a bond with kids; their eyes would light up, and the adults too,” Dr. John Herzenberg told the Baltimore Jewish News. “But the real contribution was Lenny; his humanity, his beautiful kindness, his generosity and his complete lack of guile. He was just a sincere, honest, caring man.”