The spotlight shines today on a terrific artist who defined comics’ Silver Age! (Also, the archive now has 0% trans-fat and 100% Reasons to Love Comics.)
(Updated 7/27 with even more beautiful images!)
207. Carmine Infantino
Carmine Infantino just turned 82 this past May, and it’s high time he appeared on this list. His art style is quite snazzy and has grown and changed over time.
His first break came at Timely Comics with some inking work, and after bouncing around from job to job, he landed at DC, drawing Golden Age greats like Flash Comics. He also co-created Black Canary at the time with our man Robert Kanigher.
Carmine’s claim to comics fame, however, would come when he ushered in the Silver Age on the cover of Showcase #4. Editor Julie Schwartz was keen on revamping some of DC’s classic superhero stable, and the Flash was first up. Infantino penciled the issue, written by Kanigher and inked by the mighty Joe Kubert. Naturally, it was a smash success. The art was slicker and more realistic than most of DC’s fare at the time, and readers ate it up. His Flash was elegantly detailed, and the books featured superb character work and emotive depiction. And man, those covers! There were some really brilliant covers during this run.
Infantino also designed all the most classic Rogues, from Gorilla Grodd to the Trickster to Mirror Master to Captains Cold and Boomerang– strange, bizarre, sometimes gaudy lunatics who nonetheless had an irresistible charm to their appearances and personalities. Also, his Central City was a mighty beast with tremendous skylines (some say the city must have been truly massive). The artist would return to the Flash years later in the ’80s as well with a slightly different style; he saw Barry Allen through to the end of his run.
It was during his original Flash run that Carmine co-created and drew my favorite character, the Elongated Man! Mr. Infantino’s best work on the Dibnys, however, came about in the Elongated Man back-ups in Detective Comics several years later. Infantino inked his own pencils on quite a few of these stories, giving us my personal favorite look to his art. It provided an intriguingly rough and scratchy look to the art that really worked. Check it out in this following page (which follows immediately from the “ear in the fireplace” page in the Elongated Man entry):
Infantino really knew how to portray Ralph; the depictions of his stretchiness were top-notch, and the rough-hewn style is great to look at.
Infantino also designed the “new look” Batman, putting the yellow oval around the Bat-insignia and bringing his sleek style to the book. He was the first artist who didn’t ghost for Bob Kane— because Infantino’s style was too recognizable! Hah. Yes, this is the run that saved the Bat-titles from cancellation and inspired the amazing ’60s TV series with Adam West and Burt Ward. It was considerably less silly than the wacky sci-fi Batman of the ’50s, turning reader’s attention to mysteries and classic baddies.
(There are the Infantino Hands! Carmine was the guy who added those little hands onto caption boxes or between panel borders and the like, for a fun little touch.)
Luckily, DC is kind enough to print giant Showcase volumes of Infantino’s work on Flash, Batman and Elongated Man! Hurray!
Carmine’s also noted for being the co-creator and original artist of Deadman, with writer Arnold Drake, and for drawing a great Adam Strange run in Mystery in Space. He also eventually became a company-wide cover designer when it was discovered that Infantino covers sold better than anyone else’s.
By the late ’60’s, Carmine was promoted to editorial director, and became publisher of DC by the early ’70s. He brought quite a few excellent artists into the DC fold, and managed to nab Jack Kirby! He also revamped several of DC’s characters (like Superman, as we discussed a few days ago) and dealt with some harrowing comics-pricing issues. It was a really neat time for creativity at DC, but he eventually exited the post and returned to drawing. He hopped over to Marvel for a bit, drawing Nova and Star Wars, but went back to DC and the Flash.
Carmine Infantino is the definitive Silver Age artist who brought excitement back to the pages of superhero comics. Without him, superheroes may not have come back into prominence and the Silver Age never would’ve happened. We would’ve lost a great era of imagination. Thankfully, we had Carmine, dutifully drawing away and producing beautiful, expressive work. Thanks for the memories, sir– enjoy your retirement.
For more on Mr. Infantino, visit www.carmineinfantino.com, and read this neat “Infanterview” with Gary Groth from the Comics Journal. There’s also the cool Infantino tribute at Dial B for Blog. Enjoy!
And does anyone have a link to that cool Infantino self-portrait where he chastises a banana-eating Gorilla Grodd? I can’t find it on the internet, but I know it’s out there. Help me out, dear readers!