Friday, April 05, 2013

Carmine Infantino 1925-2013

Comic book artist and editor, and later, DC Comics publisher, Carmine Infantino, died April 4, 2013. He was 87 years old. No cause of death reported.

A "Golden Age of Comics" practitioner, the Brooklyn-born artist began his career in the early 1940s. He was a freshman at the High School of Art and Design when he began working for Harry "A" Chesler.

From an interview in The Comics Journal #101:

"I used to go around as a youngster into companies, go in and try to meet people — nothing ever happened. One day I went to this place on 23rd Street, this old broken-down warehouse, and I met Harry Chesler. Now, I was told he was a mean guy and he used people and he took artists. But he was very sweet to me. He said, 'Look, kid. You come up here, I'll give you a dollar a day, just study art, learn, and grow.' That was damn nice of him, I thought. He did that for me for a whole summer."

He worked for many publishers during the 1940s;  Hillman, Holyoke, Fawcett, and, finally, National Periodical Publications (DC Comics). At DC, he drew the Golden Age Flash, Green Lantern and the Justice Society of America. 

But, the sales of superhero titles slumped after the war. The Senate hearings and Wertham study combined to demonize comics as accelerants to juvenile delinquency. During this time, Mr. Infantino continued to freelance.

He worked for Simon and Kirby's Prize Comics line, drawing the Charlie Chan book with a heavy Kirby/Caniff ink line. He then worked on DC westerns and science fiction titles. His Wikipedia entry notes:

As his style evolved, he began to shed both the Kirbyisms and the gritty shading of Caniff, and develop a clean, linear style.

Within a few years, DC cautiously reentered the superhero format. Infantino brought this style to the reimagined Flash superhero in 1956. As superhero sales began to pick up, Infantino was assigned to revive Batman. His other DC work at this time included Adam Strange, The Elongated Man, and many others.

In 1966/67, Infantino was asked to create the covers of the entire DC superhero line. Stan Lee heard about this and offered him $22,000 to work for Marvel. DC could not match that, but DC Publisher Jack Liebowitz, proposed the title of art director to the veteran artist. Infantino accepted.

Infantino was promoted to editorial director, and began hiring new creatives (Dick Giordano, Neal Adams, writer Denny O'Neil), as well as promoting veteran artists to editorial positions (Joe Kubert, Joe Orlando, Mike Sekowsky). He also hired Jack Kirby, who had hired the teenage Infantino decades before. Kirby would  create his Fourth World series.

He was promoted to DC Comics Publisher in 1971. Charged with creating more revenue for DC corporate parent The Kinney National Company, DC Comics' cover price was raised from 20 cents to 25 cents. The extra nickel had its impact. Sales declined, while rival Marvel held its price at 20 cents for a year. Infantino also created the 50 cent 100 Page Super Spectacular" format, which all of the major DC Comics titles followed in the 1970s. Each issue would have 20 pages of new content, with the rest reprints from its DC and Quality Comics backlog.

He consulted with Mario Puzo on SUPERMAN; THE MOVIE. He collaborated on the first historic DC/Marvel crossover SUPERMAN VS. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN.

With DC Comics sold to Warner Communications, a corporate decision was made to replace Mr. Infantino with Jenette Kahn in January 1976.

Seemingly without a break in his stride, he returned to being a freelancer. His art appeared in Warren Publications, Marvel Comics (Star Wars, Spider-Woman and Nova). In the 1980s, he returned to DC to draw a series of titles, including The Flash. He also worked on the Batman comic strip revival.

The 1990s saw him teaching at the School of Visual Arts. He retired during this decade, but was an active convention guest.

In 2004 he sued DC for rights to characters he created as a freelancer (Wally West, Captain Cold, Gorilla Grodd, the Elongated Man, Batgirl, among others).

A giant in the industry, whose career spanned the Golden Age to today, this creative force worked for every publisher in the industry. A true giant, he left behind a seminal impact on generations.


There are a lot of tributes on the Web that are easily looked up. I heartily recommend my friend Ger Apeldoorn's generous sampling of many, many pages of Infantino comic book art. 

1 comment:

Brian Fies said...

I always associate him with the Spider-Man/Superman crossover, which wouldn't have happened without him and was a big deal at the time. No one drew the Flash better. And his DC covers in the '60s were just wonderful little stories in themselves. A terrific talent.