Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

April 12, 2013 | 3:27 p.m.
carmineinfantino comics 600 Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

Carmine Infantino, the comic artist and editor whose work shaped Silver Age comics, died April 4 at age 87. Click through the gallery for a look at some of the work he contributed to the world of comics. (DC Entertainment)

blackcanary flash Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

Carmine Infantino's first published work for DC Comics was 1947's "The Black Canary." The six-page story about the undercover crime-fighter -- a superheroine co-created by Infantino and Robert Kanigher -- debuted in "Flash Comics" No. 86. (DC Entertainment)

flash showcase Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

In 1956, Infantino and Kanigher was assigned to revive and update the Flash after a lull in the popularity of superheroes. "Showcase" No. 4, featuring the speedy hero, was a success and the Silver Age of comics began. (DC Entertainment)

flash twoworlds Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

In 1961, Infantino drew the landmark "The Flash" No. 123 story "Flash of Two Worlds," which introduced Earth-Two -- marking the beginning of the DC multiverse concept. (DC Entertainment)

adamstrange myseryinspace Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

DC editor Julius Schwartz created Adam Strange, a spaceman superhero, and recruited Infantino to draw the character. "Mystery in Space" No. 75 earned Infantino a 1962 Alley Award for the story "The Planet that Came to a Standstill!" (DC Entertainment)

batman detectivecomics Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

In 1964, Schwartz enlisted Infantino and writer John Broome to revamp the "Batman" titles. Infantino gave the characters sleek makeovers. (DC Entertainment)

batgirl Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

Spurred in part by the urging of the producers of the Adam West "Batman" TV series to attract more female fans, Infantino and Gardner Fox co-created a new version of Batgirl -- Barbara Gordon, the daughter of Gotham police commissioner James Gordon. She debuted in 1967's "Detective Comics" No. 359. (DC Entertainment)

strangeadventures deadman Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

Writer Arnold Drake and Infantino teamed up to create Deadman, the ghost of a former circus trapeze artist. Deadman made his first appearance in "Strange Adventures" No. 205, released in 1967. (DC Entertainment)

starwars11 Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

In the late 1970s and '80s, Marvel Comics recruited Infantino to draw "Star Wars," among other titles. (Marvel Comics)

Carmine Infantino, the comic book artist whose sleek, futuristic drawing style heralded the Silver Age of Comics, died last week at his home in Manhattan at the age of 87. Infantino began as a comic artist and went on to become DC Comics’ artistic director, then editorial director, then publisher. In a guest essay for Hero Complex, comics historian and Eisner-winning comic writer Mark Waid – who, like Infantino, enjoyed a long run on “The Flash” and created comics for both Marvel and DC – looks back on Infantino’s game-changing work.

For most of us, his career stretched from comics we were way too young to care about to comics we were way too old to care about. We cared an awful lot about the ones in the middle.

Carmine Infantino was, depending on your age, the Flash artist or the Batman artist or the Star Wars artist. Jack Kirby’s work was pure power. Will Eisner’s was pure mood. But Carmine’s was pure design.

Lesser artists rendered each of their comic panels as a separate little snapshot. Leafing through their work was like sifting pleasantly through a stack of picture postcards. Carmine, better than anyone before or since, instead choreographed each illustration to immediately seize the eye and then sling it to the next panel and the next and the next without a break, taking readers on a breathless rocket-ride that wouldn’t stop until the story was told.

DC editor Julius Schwartz created Adam Strange, a spaceman superhero, and recruited Infantino to draw the character. "Mystery in Space" No. 75 earned Infantino a 1962 Alley Award for the story "The Planet that Came to a Standstill!" (DC Entertainment)

“Mystery in Space” No. 75 (DC Entertainment)

He distinguished himself as an innovator at a time when all his fellow craftsmen, most of them a generation or two older and either resigned to or bitter about entertaining an audience made up exclusively of children, couldn’t have cared less about breaking new ground. Not Carmine. He learned basic craft in the 1940s. By the ’50s and ’60s, he developed a style that was startlingly sophisticated for the era.

Even the untrained eye could instantly tell a Carmine page from those of his contemporaries; Carmine’s were the ones filled with flesh-and-blood adults, not cartoon drawings.

His characters had two speeds: Lazy Sunday and Escape Velocity. When they relaxed, they posed as naturally as your aunt and uncle lounging by the pool. When they moved, they exploded. His fighters threw punches that could flatten Muhammad Ali. His speedsters zoomed down roads as a blurred series of after-images. His Adam Strange, Earth’s First Spaceman, jet-packed across alien vistas in a spacesuit sleeker than an Atomic Age Cadillac.

Carmine confidently let empty space play a huge part in his layouts. Breathing room was everything; his urban scenes took place in clean, spacious plazas where the skyscrapers across the street looked a quarter-mile away. A lifelong New Yorker who lived through several cycles of boom and decay, he fantasized cities that were sanitary, quiet, orderly and as open as the prairies.

In 1964, Schwartz enlisted Infantino and writer John Broome to revamp the "Batman" titles. Infantino gave the characters sleek makeovers. (DC Entertainment)

“Detective Comics” No. 327. (DC Entertainment)

In 1964, Carmine joined his “Flash” editor, Julius Schwartz, to rejuvenate a commercially and creatively dying series on the brink of cancellation. It was called “Batman.” Carmine’s visuals — his interpretation of Gotham City, its crime fighters and arch criminals — would soon find themselves translated into color television broadcasts. Many of the images from the 1960s “Batman” show, which defined “comics” to the public for a long time to come, had flowed from Carmine’s imagination right to the heart of mainstream culture.

Carmine’s bosses at DC took note of his accomplishments and rewarded him with influence. Appointed to the post of publisher, Carmine injected dynamism into a staid line of titles that was beginning to feel the sting of its upstart competitor, the Marvel Comics Group. He stopped hiring writers as editors and began hiring artists. He designed almost all of DC’s covers himself and opened the doors to young creators who, like Carmine, were eager to push boundaries. And he taught more than one generation of illustrators how to flat-out draw, how to write, how to do the job and do it smartly.

By all accounts, Carmine was always a better artist than he was an executive. He left the corporate gig — not happily — midway through the ’70s and returned to freelancing, not just for DC but for Marvel, Warren and many other outfits. A proud man, he always felt he had more to say, more to pass along, and was eager to stay at the forefront. But time has its way about these things.

With every young artist who shone hotter and brighter, Carmine’s long shadow dimmed. By the time of his passing, he was still a legend to today’s creators … but too few of them could tell you exactly why.

It’s not hard to figure out. Go find one of his stories. Flash. Batman. Deadman. Human Target. It’s all right there on the page, timeless: a master class in illustrative storytelling open to anyone willing to learn.

– Mark Waid

Mark Waid is an Eisner Award-winning author who has written a variety of well-known characters, including Superman, Spider-Man and the Justice League. His award-winning graphic novel with artist Alex Ross, “Kingdom Come,” remains one of the best-selling comics of all time.

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Comments


8 Responses to Carmine Infantino: An appreciation by Mark Waid

  1. Jesse Sifuentes says:

    Marks words ring true. I knew the name and knew he was a legend but now i know why. As a graphic designer I will make a point at looking at his art and getting some inspiration and knowledge. Thanks for everything Mr. Infantino.

  2. Harley says:

    Having been born in a small town I didn't discover comic books until around 1965 when I was nine and we moved to a city. I vividly remember Carmine Infantino's books on the comic rack at my local drug store: Batman,The Flash, The Elongated Man in Detective Comics and Adam Strange reprints .in Strange Adventures. I can even remember paying a "whole 25 cents" for the DC Special that featured Carmine's stories in differant genres -Detective Chimp yet !! Those were good times. To me Infantino was the Good Artist at DC. Sorry to read about his passing but this is article is a fine tribute to him.Thanks Mark.

  3. James Elliot says:

    His Batman and Robin were unforgettable.

  4. Henry Gonzalez says:

    Thank you for your insightful tribute to the great Carmine Infantino. Your words truly capture the artist I remember so well from the pages of the Silver Age Flash. (I loved the fun way he would sometimes draw a hand with a pointing finger directing you to another panel). Along with the late Gil Kane, Mr. Infantino was one of those artists whose work was always just thrilling to look at in it's creativity and grace. He will be missed….

  5. Chuckzilla says:

    Silver Age Flash and Adam Strange (most especially when inked by the great Murphy Anderson)! Nothing looked better!

  6. demoncat4 says:

    marks words are true Carmine left his mark on the industry and sadly is a now one legend who the new crop of comic book artists know of him but not why he is an influence on them still. a nice tribute to a legend that really has become lost to the new generation and almost forgotten

  7. Richard Backer says:

    When I applied to colleges in 1974, looking to get into one with a good art department, the inevitable question was "who is your biggest influence?" They'd heard about Picasso, but I had to explain Carmine Infantino.

  8. MotoMike says:

    Excellent tribute to an artist whose work was immediately recognizable in its deftness and grace; his illustrations really made a difference in the impact of the stories. It's been decades since I was read the DC comics that he illustrated, but I remember thinking that the Batman TV show seemed to owe a lot to his work, doubtless because his characters looked so natural even when they were doing the superhero thing.

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