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Carmine Infantino

Infantino at the Big Apple Con, November 16, 2008.
Born May 24, 1925 (1925-05-24) (age 84)
Brooklyn, New York City
Nationality American
Area(s) Penciller
Notable works Detective Comics
Flash
[Showcase (comics)
Awards National Cartoonists Society Award, various Alley Awards. Expanded list.
Official website

Carmine Infantino (born May 24, 1925, in Brooklyn, New York) is an American comic book artist and editor who was a major force in the Silver Age of Comic Books. He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2000, and was cited in Comics Buyer's Guide Millennium Poll as the greatest penciller of all time.[1]

Contents

Biography

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Early life and career

Carmine Infantino was born via midwife in his family's apartment in Brooklyn, New York City. His father, Pasquale "Patrick" Infantino, born in New York City, was originally a musician who played saxophone, clarinet, and violin, and had a band with composer Harry Warren, but in the poverty of the Great Depression he turned instead to a career as a licensed plumber. Carmine Infantino's mother, Angela Rosa DellaBadia, emigrated from Calitri, a hill town northeast of Naples, Italy.[2]

He attended Public Schools 75 and 85 in Brooklyn before going on to the School of Industrial Art (later the High School of Art and Design) in Manhattan. During his freshman year of high school, Infantino began working for Harry "A" Chesler, whose studio was one of a handful of comic-book "packagers" who created complete comics for publishers looking to enter the emerging field in the 1930s-1940s Golden Age of Comic Books. As Infantino recalled:

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.[3]

With Frank Giacoia penciling, Infanto inked the feature "Jack Frost" in USA Comics #3 (Jan. 1942). He wrote in his autobiography that

...Frank Giacoia and I were in constant contact. One day in '40 we decided to go up to Timely Comics, which later became Marvel, to see if we could get some work. They gave us a script called 'Jack Frost' and that story became our first published work. Frank did the pencils and I did the inking. Joe Simon was the editor and he offered us both a staff job. Frank quit school and took the job. I wanted desperately to quit school and I told my father that it was a great opportunity. He said, 'No way! You're gonna finish school.' Things were very bad, he was desperate for money, but he wouldn't let me quit school. He said, 'School comes first. If you're that good, the job will be there later.' I can't love the man enough for that. So Frank took the job and I didn't. I was 15 or 16 and I just kept making my rounds in the early '40s, looking for freelance work while continuing my studies.[4]

Infantino would eventually work for several publishers during the decade, drawing Airboy and the Heap for Hillman Periodicals; working for packager Jack Binder, who supplied Fawcett Comics; briefly at Holyoke Publishing; then landing at DC Comics, where he became a regular artist of the Golden Age Flash, Black Canary, Green Lantern and Justice Society of America.

During the 1950s, Infantino freelanced for Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's company, Prize Comics, drawing the series Charlie Chan, which in particular shows the influence both of Kirby's and Milton Caniff's art styles. Back at DC, during a lull in the popularity of superheroes, Infantino drew Westerns, mysteries, science fiction comics. As his style evolved, he began to shed both the Kirbyisms and the gritty shading of Caniff, and develop a clean, linear style.

The Silver Age

In 1956, DC editor Julius Schwartz assigned writer Robert Kanigher and artist Infantino to the company's first attempt at reviving superheroes: an updated version of the Flash that would appear in issue #4 (Oct. 1956) of the try-out series Showcase. Infantino designed the now-classic red uniform with yellow detail, striving to keep the costume as streamlined as possible, and he drew on his design abilities to create a new visual language to depict the Flash's speed, making the figure a red and yellow blur. The eventual success of the new, science-fiction oriented Flash heralded the wholesale return of superheroes, and the beginning of what fans and historians call the Silver Age of comics.

Showcase #4 (Oct. 1956): The Silver Age starts. Cover art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert.

Infantino continued to work for Schwartz in his other features and titles, most notably "Adam Strange" in Mystery in Space, replacing Mike Sekowsky who did the penciling in Showcase 17-19. In 1964, Schwartz was made responsible for reviving the faded Batman titles. Writer John Broome and artist Infantino jettisoned the sillier aspects that had crept into the series (such as Ace the Bathound, and Bat-Mite) and gave the "New Look" Batman and Robin a more detective-oriented direction and sleeker draftsmanship that proved a hit combination. Other features and characters Infantino drew at DC include "The Space Museum", and Elongated Man.

After Wilson McCoy, the artist of The Phantom comic strip, died, Infantino finished one of his last stories. Infantino was a candidate for taking over the Phantom Sunday strip after McCoy's death, but the job was instead given to Sy Barry.

DC Comics editorial director

In late 1966/early 1967, Infantino was tasked by Irwin Donenfeld with designing covers for the entire DC line. Stan Lee learned this and approached Infantino with a $22,000 offer to move to Marvel. Publisher Jack Liebowitz confirmed that DC could not match the offer, but could promote Infantino to the position of art director. Initially reluctant, Infantino accepted what Liebowitz posed as a challenge, and decided to stay with DC.[5] When DC was sold to Kinney National Company, Infantino was promoted to editorial director. He started by hiring new talent, and promoting artists to editorial positions. He hired Dick Giordano away from Charlton Comics, and made artists Joe Orlando, Joe Kubert and Mike Sekowsky editors. New talents such as Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil were injected into the company.

Infantino was made publisher in 1971, during a time of declining circulation for DC's comics. Infantino attempted a number of changes, including the launch of starting several new titles. Older characters including Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Superman, Wonder Woman and, again, Batman were revamped to mixed results.

The same year he was made publisher, Infantino scored a major coup in signing on Marvel Comics' star artist, Jack Kirby. Beginning with Jimmy Olsen, Kirby created his Fourth World saga that wove through that existing title and three new series he created. With sales of his comics landing below expectations, however, the titles were eventually canceled and a few years later Kirby went back to working at Marvel Comics.

In an effort to raise revenue, Infantino raised the cover price of DC's comics from 15 to 25 cents, simultaneously raising the page-count by adding reprints and new backup features. Marvel met the price increase, then dropped back to 20 cents; DC stayed at 25 cents, a decision that ultimately proved bad for overall sales.

After working with writer Mario Puzo on the Superman movie, Infantino collaborated with Marvel on the historic company-crossover publication Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man. Yet in January 1976, before sales on that hit book had been recorded, Warner Communications replaced Infantino with Jenette Kahn, a person new to the comics field. Mr. Infantino returned to drawing freelance.

Later career

Spider-Woman #8 (Nov. 1978). Cover art by Infantino and Steve Leialoha.

Infantino later drew for a number of titles for Warren Publishing and Marvel, including the latter's Star Wars, Spider-Woman, and Nova. In the 1980s, he again drew the Flash for DC Comics. In 2004, he sued DC for rights to characters he alleges to have created while he was a freelancer for the company. These include several Flash characters including Wally West, Iris West, the Elongated Man, Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, and Gorilla Grodd.[6] As of 2005, Infantino is retired.

Vanguard Productions published his autobiography The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (ISBN 1-887591-12-5) co-authored by J. David Spurlock.

Infantino is the uncle of Massachusetts musician Jim Infantino, of the band Jim's Big Ego.[7] He contributed the cover art to the group's album They're Everywhere, which features a song about Barry Allen.

Bibliography

Interior pencil art includes:

DC Comics

Marvel

Warren

Awards

Infantino's awards include:

Quotes

Nick Cardy on the popular but apocryphal anecdote, told by Julius Schwartz, about Carmine Infantino firing Cardy over not following a cover layout, only to rehire him moments later when Schwartz praised the errant cover art:

[A]t one of the conventions ... I said, 'You know, Carmine, Julie Schwartz wrote something in [his autobiography] that I don't remember at all and it doesn't sound like you at all'. And I told him the incident ... and he said, 'That's crazy. You know I always loved your work. Gee, you were one of the best artists in the business. The guy's crazy'. So I said, 'Okay, come on'. We went over to Julie Schwartz's table and we told him what our problem was. And Carmine and I said, 'We don't remember the incident'. So Julie said, 'Well, it's a good story, anyway'. [laughs] And that was it. He let it go at that. [laughs] He just made it up".[8]

Footnotes

  1. ^ "Guests of Honor," New York Comic-Con #4 program booklet (2009), p. 10.
  2. ^ Carmine Infantino with J. David Spurlock, The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino: An Autobiography (Vanguard Productions, 2000; ISBN 1-887591-11-7), pp. 12-13
  3. ^ Gary Groth. "Carmine Infantino". The Comics Journal. http://www.tcj.com/2_archives/i_infantino.html. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  4. ^ Infantino, J. David Spurlock, p. 19
  5. ^ Ro, Ronin. Tales to Astonish: Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and the American Comic Book Revolution, p. 117-118 (Bloomsbury, 2004)
  6. ^ "Looking at Infantino's Complaint". Newsarama. 2004-06-14. http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?s=&threadid=14262. Retrieved 2007-06-24. 
  7. ^ "Other Infantinos". jiminfantino.com. Jim Infantino. http://www.jiminfantino.com/index.php?page=imgallery&category=Other_Infantinos&display=520. Retrieved 2008-09-24. 
  8. ^ Back Issue #13 (Dec. 2005), p. 6

References


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