All written content (c) 2013 Mike Pascale. Visuals are copyright their respective owners.
As you probably know by now, Carmine Infantino, one of the industry’s–and DC’s especially–biggest creative and artistic forces for decades, passed away on April 4 (same day as Martin Luther King Jr., 45 years earlier).
I’ll leave his career retrospective to those who know more. The best place to begin is at his web site.
Already, though, some folks are attempting to rewrite history. I just read a brief obituary on NPR, which contained this bit: “Infantino’s great creation was The Flash, a fast-moving, red-suited crusader. An earlier version of the character had existed before World War II, but went nowhere.” “Nowhere”? How about 104 issues of his own title, spanning nine years? And being a founding member of the Justice Society Of America (the first superhero team) in All-Star Comics #3 in 1940, with adventures published for seven years? And let’s note that the Golden Age Flash sold three or more times more comics of his title than today’s version has for the last decade.
If that isn’t “somewhere”, I don’t know what is.
That said, I much prefer Carmine’s, and it was that version that I enjoyed most as a kid (although I bought it many years after he had stopped drawing it). Most sources consder the creation of that character the beginning of the Silver Age of comics (1956) and some consider it responsible for making the genre popular again (although other argue that was due to the Fantastic Four’s introduction in 1961, which was inspired by the Justice League of America, introduced the year before—which had Carmine’s Flash as a founding member). But what everyone can agree on is that Infantino contributed some of the era’s most iconic, inventive, enticing and just plain fun covers!
As a kid, my friends and I used to gripe a bit that the Infantino-drawn comics people all had “pointy noses”. (Yes, we had quite snooty aesthetic standards.) But as I grew older and more experienced, I developed a great admiration and enjoyment for Carmine’s storytelling–as well as the sales appeal of those amazing covers. He was one of the first to make frequent and effective use of low-angle shots (sometimes called “worm’s eye views”) and his storytelling was always crystal clear. Like his peers, he was skilled at unconsciously moving the reader’s eye around the page where it should (despite using distracting directional arrows sometimes).
He also co-created Elongated Man (DC’s version of Plastic Man/Mr. Fantastic), Deadman (a favorite DC hero of mine, especially once Neal Adams got him) and the Barbara Gordon Batgirl we all love. And though he didn’t design sci-fi superhero Adam Strange (that was Mike Sekowsky), Infantino’s defining work on his adventures beginning in 1959’s Mystery In Space title also made him one of my top five DC favorites.
The NPR blurb also ignored Carmine’s role as publisher of DC in the 1970s. His tenure was controversial but undeniable. (A famous anecdote: Dave Cockrum drew a magnificent two-page spread featuring a plethora of characters in the Legion Of Super-Heroes. He asked Infantino for the original art and was refused. This led to Dave’s leaving DC and going to Marvel, taking what would later become Nightcrawler and Colossus in the relaunch of the X-Men. So in a small way, one could argue that Carmine even had a back hand in the creation of one of Marvel’s biggest franchises!) He also began the “pro-zine”, The Amazing World Of DC Comics, which competed with Marvel’s similar F.O.O.M. Magazine in the mid 1970s.
As far as I know he never married, was a devoted son to his mother, and respected by his peers. He had a long career and thankfully attended many conventions later in life. I met him at a San Diego show years ago and at least obtained his signature on a couple comics (he was gruff but polite, signing the books right across the cover art. Definitely wasn’t a collector.)
Like his contemporaries, Carmine Infantino was another member of a dying breed that had a strong foundation in the fundamentals of art and placed storytelling above superficial drawing techniques (even though he could draw damn well). He also embodied a strong work ethic and devotion to the job rarely seen today.
He’ll be missed but his work will live forever.
P.S.: If you’d like your own original art tribute to Carmine’s Flash or any other of his or others’ characters, please contact Craig here.