Carmine Infantino ~ Reflecting On The Loss Of An Old Friend I Didn't Know
Comic book artist Carmine Infantino died yesterday, April 4th. When fellow comic book artist Joe Kubert died last August, I wrote something very similar to this;
When a man like Carmine Infantino passes away, it's the kind of death where most will ask "Who's Carmine Infantino?", but many, who never met him, will feel a great sense of loss. Carmine Infantino died yesterday, April 4th, and I feel a great sense of loss.
Carmine Infantino, 1925 - 2013 ~
Carmine Infantino is a legend among comic book fans, as well as among other artists. He made superhero comic books look sophisticated, like genuine art pieces not merely action-packed illustrations to a story. Infantino was the first artist whose work, style, I began to recognize . . . no other comic books looked like his - being very direct, no other comic books looked as good as his, as beautiful as his, as both alluring and gratifying as his.
Carmine Infantino began drawing comics in the Golden Age of comic books, basically in the 40s and 50s, when superheros fought bank robbers and Nazis. But in the late 50s and into the 60s, Infantino was a key player in introducing the Silver Age of comics, and no one had greater influence over the new look of superhero comic books. Whereas Golden Age heroes frequently became 'super' when they discovered some magic artifact or recited some ancient incantation, etc, Infantino's Silver Age heroes were vivaciously science fiction oriented - these heroes became 'super' through laboratory experiments or cosmic intervention. Infantino's heroes didn't fight crime, they defended the Earth from interplanetary masterminds.
And no comic book hero ever looked better in his adventures in outer space than Carmine Infantino's Adam Strange ~
When I was a kid, the comic book I looked forward to, that I eagerly watched for, was Adam Strange, first in DC's 'Mystery In Space' and then 'Strange Adventures' comics. I liked Superman, I liked Green Lantern, etc, but nothing looked so spectacular as Adam Strange comics. The character of Adam Strange himself didn't look like any other comic hero . . . he wasn't decked-out in a multicolored, caped costume covering bulging muscles, he didn't wear a mask to hide his identity, etc - Adam Strange wore a red uniform, he was sleek, athletic, trim. And, he wasn't actually 'super' at all.
Adam Strange was an Earth archeologist who was struck by an interplanetary beam that instantly transported him galaxies away to the planet Rann. Rann was very advanced and had known only peace for so long that they fully lost any sense of military and police strategies or tactics - Adam Strange became their champion as he donned an ancient Rannian space uniform and combed through their museums collecting futuristic weapons and, apllying his Earth understanding of military and police strategies and tactics, he defended Rann from space tyrants and space villains.
The storyline and character were great, but it was the look of Adam Strange comics that made them standout from all other comic books. Not only did Adam Strange himself not look like other comic book heroes, but Infantino's landscapes and cities, his whole worlds looked different than anyone else's. Whether it was a New York City skyline or the green-skied cityscape of Rann's futuristic capitol city Ranagar, or the beaches off the coast of Australia or an otherworldly jungle on a distant planet, Infantino's landscapes and backgrounds were always compelling and very much a part of the story, and action. Many comic artists would drop any background at all when the panel was a close-up dialog between main characters, they would simply appear in front of a blank background - Infantino almost always had background, unless it served the nature of the dialog, unless it added to the intensity or poignancy of what was being said.
Look at the full page below from a random Adam Strange tale. Adam is acing to meet the beam that transports him t Rann, and to his Rannian sweetheart Alanna . . . , other comic books just didn't look like this ~
I still remember with great delight when the Justice League Of America appeared in an Adam Strange comic - Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, etc, etc, never looked so good. I recall wishing that Carmine Infantino would draw all comic books . . . I enjoyed Justice League Of America comics, seeing all those iconic superheroes together, but in their own book they looked cartoonish, thick-waisted, no muscle tone, always in the same poses, etc - when Infantino got to draw them in his Adam Strange story, they looked real and we got to see them in positions and maneuvers we never saw them in before.
But, Adam Strange wasn't at all the only comic art Infantno did, and excelled at. Most Silver Age comic fans likely think of and best remember him for the work he did in Flash comics. Again, Flash wasn't a strongman hero, he was a speedster, and Infantion drew him sleek and trim. Infantino was able to draw brilliant images of Flash, interesting position and striking poses, etc, while still portraying him as moving at super-speed. But, I think the most interesting thing about Infantino's Flash work, was the kind of residential Flash.
Flash was about the only superhero who was actually married. We got to see Flash kissing his wife 'goodbye' and leaving his suburban home to go save the world - you didn't see many superheros sitting in their living room reaching for the newspaper on the coffee table. It made the whole superhero world more tactile, more real.
Infantino also got to draw Batman for awhile . . . and when you looked at the cover, you knew Batman looked different when Infantino was drawing him. Infantino was in fact given the Batman series when Batman was near cancellation. It may seem odd to us now, Batman is one of the most very iconic comic heroes ever, but in the 60s Carmine Infantino made Batman so cool, that he virtually saved the character. Infantino made Batman trim yet mighty, taut yet elegant, solemn yet dynamic. And it was Infantino who designed the yellow background that the bat symbol on Batman's chest now rests in.
And it was when DC was launching it's 'new' Batman under the care of Carmine Infantino that infantino produced the 'new look' of Batman in a publicity poster that has become one of the most esteemed and iconic images in all of comic book history.
Eventually, Infantino became the first artist ever to become the editor, publisher, and ultimately the president of DC Comics. I didn't know it as I was pulling those old Adam Strange comics off the shelves when I was 10, but I've come to discover that I wasn't the only one who was appreciating the outstanding artwork of Carmine Infantino - he won every award for comic art just about every year he was drawing Adam Strange. And, Adam Strange remained the top selling Sci-Fi comic book series of all time until Marvel Comics began publishing Star Wars comics - and not to be outdone, the artist doing those Star Wars comics was, Carmine Infantino.
And, I must also add this final praise; the actual heroes, the costumes, the landscapes, etc, were all drawn flawlessly by Carmine Infantino - but it must be acknowledged, nobody, but nobody, drew such beautiful woman as Carmine Infantino. Alanna, Adam Strange's great love and Rannian heroine, was easily the prettiest woman in comics.
Comic artists today owe a great deal to Carmine Infantino, kids who grew-up in the 60s and still love Science fiction owe a great deal to Carmine Infantino, those who can find and appreciate beautiful artwork (even in an old comic book) owe a great deal to Carmine Infantino . . . Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Adam Strange all owe a great deal to Carmine Infantino - arguably the greatest comic book artist ever.