Like many comic-book fans of my generation, I was initially exposed to the late Carmine Infantino’s work through Batman, Flash and Adam Strange reprints DC published as back-up features in the early 1970s.
At this point in my fanboy evolution, I had taken an interest in the creators behind my favorite heroes. I looked through my DC collection for other pieces by Infantino and discovered the artist had become the company’s publisher.
I was 10 years old and didn’t really know any better, so I sent a letter to Infantino pitching my Batman knock-off, “Night Man,” as DC’s newest superstar. (Not the most original concept, I admit, but at least my character beat Steve Englehart to the name by 20 years!)
As you might expect, Night Man – and his teen sidekick, “Kid Comet” (!) – weren’t destined for stardom. However, I did receive a kind letter from Infantino that let me down easily and encouraged I continued honing my craft.
(Sadly, I later learned there was little craft to hone. But that’s another story …)
Even though I stupidly lost Infantino’s letter, I always remembered his words fondly and followed the artist’s career after he moved to Marvel and drew such faves as Spider-Woman, Nova and Star Wars. He also returned to The Flash in time for Cary Bates and DC to wrap up the character that jump-started the Silver Age in the first place.
(Like many other seemingly unalterable deaths, Barry Allen eventually got better. Again, that’s a different story.)
The greatest compliment I can pay Infantino is that his best work – which spanned decades – still stands up today.
A good summation of Infantino’s legendary career can be found here. As for this very small corner of the comics-o-sphere, I’d like to pay tribute to his work by posting several stories from Infantino’s bibliography.
Like many of his contemporaries, Infantino was greatly influenced by the work of Milton Caniff. The following tale, which was originally published in 1947, shows that Infantino had already mastered Caniff’s trick of mixing aesthetically pleasing art with gritty, he-man action.
The story, entitled “Mr. Bedlam Hires A Killer,” first appeared in Airboy Comics Vol. 4 #3 (Hillman, April 1947). The hero of the tale, “Rackman,” can best be thought of as Marvel’s Stilt-Man re-imagined as a hard-boiled P.I.
The art is by Infantino and Bernard Sachs.
Our second story demonstrates how far Infantino’s skill had progressed in the span of two years. His slicker style proved a good match for the romance genre, as shown in this tale from Hollywood Confessions #2 (St. John, 1949). “The Scandal I Had To Confess” was written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Infantino.
Carmine Infantino is best known, of course, for his long tenure at DC Comics. Here’s a story featuring the Golden Age Flash. Although Infantino’s art – and John Broome’s story – are more sophisticated than most super-hero stories of the era, “The Rival Flash” marked the final issue of Flash Comics until the “Flash” concept was revamped and redesigned by Infantino, Broome and Robert Kanigher seven years later.
The resulting character, Barry Allen, proved popular enough to jump-start the Silver Age of super-hero comics. The boom in sales also led to the revival of the Jay Garrick Flash as well, bringing everything full circle.
From Flash Comics Vol. 1, #104 (DC Comics, February 1949), here’s “The Rival Flash” by Broome, Infantino and Sachs.
When Infantino returned to active freelance work, his style had grown looser but remained vivid. Here’s a story from his tenure at Warren Publications that also demonstrates his long mastery of the sci-fi genre.
“Stand-In,” written by Bruce Jones and inked by Dick Giordano, is primarily about cheating death. Through his lifelong contributions to the comic book industry and its fans, Infantino has achieved an immortality of his own.
The story originally appeared in Vampirella #57 (Warren, January 1977).
My deepest condolences to Mr. Infantino’s family, friends and fans.