Artist Spotlight on Carmine Infantino

by Blaise Tassone

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Carmine Infantino’s dynamic art is to DC what Jack Kirby’s powerful drawings were to Marvel: trendsetting and unforgettable.

Infantino’s design work on the Silver Age Flash comic is so iconic, that it still stands as the definitive representation of that character for many comic readers.

There’s no doubt that Carmine Infantino is a legend. In his heyday, his work on Batman and countless other titles, including publishers other than DC, was consistently excellent.

In fact, anyone who appreciates modern comics should know something about his contributions.

Infantino was born May 24, 1925, in Brooklyn, New York. Entering the comic industry when he was still in high school (since he was too young to be drafted), in the early 1940s, Infantino started working for Timely Comics. It was around the same time that he met inker Frank Giacoia, who he would work with regularly in the coming years.

His earliest work in the industry was in Captain America Comics, but it wasn’t long before he was drawing for DC. Infantino’s earliest work for DC was on the ‘Johnny Thunder’ series in Flash Comics (where Black Canary was introduced). Before long Infantino was regularly contributing to Flash, Green Lantern, Batman and many other titles.

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Showcase #4 (September 1956) – First Silver Age Flash (Barry Allen); Issue marks the Silver Age of comics; First appearance of Iris West; Origin of Silver Age Flash

We can start with this book. One of the indisputable keys and a central comic of the Silver Age, DC’s 1956 reintroduction of the Flash in Showcase #4 is a groundbreaking work. Important as much for its stunning cover as for the change in direction this issue heralded in the comic book field as a whole. If Infantino had only produced the cover for this comic, he would still be remembered today.

 

 

 

 

 

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Flash #123 (September 1961) – First G.A. Flash in Silver Age; First comic to suggest multiverse; First appearance of Earth Two

Although well known for his depictions of ‘Elongated Man’, ‘The Space Museum’, and ‘Batgirl’ – not to mention the excellent art he produced for ‘Adam Strange’; it was his work on Flash that always characterized the essence of Infantino’s art. In fact, I’d wager that Infantino’s work on DC’s relaunch of Flash, on which he partnered with writer Robert Kanigher for eleven years (1956 to 1967), is considered his most memorable by many.

Of the original Flash series, however, there’s no cover more iconic for me than that of Flash #123. The Silver Age meets the Golden Age and the DC Universe would never be the same.

 

 

 

 

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Batman #171 (April 1965) – First Silver Age Riddler

Infantino was more than just the Flash artist. In 1964, he drew the ‘new look Batman’ who marked the introduction of a more serious direction in the Batman stories. A good place to go after the Flash for gaining an appreciation of Infantino’s most memorable Silver Age work is the classic Batman cover for issue #171. Featuring the Silver Age Riddler’s first appearance, this is a book that is perpetually sought out by comic collectors and the new ‘Batman’ film will apparently feature Paul Dano playing the Riddler, so this comic should start seeing some serious attention very soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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Star Wars #14 (August 1978) – Example of Infantino’s Bronze Age Marvel Art

In the late 1960s, still at the top of his game, Infantino’s drawing assignments had to be curtailed so that he could take a more direct role in the publishing aspect of comic production. As Editorial Director at DC from 1967- 1971 and then Publisher from 1971-1976, Infantino had an even more direct role in shaping Bronze Age DC output. For example, in 1967, Infantino hired Dick Giordano from Charlton Comics. He was also responsible for having Jack Kirby come over to DC from Marvel. On top of this, Infantino worked tirelessly to give more important roles to personnel at DC like Joe Kubert and other artists. Last but not least, he hired up-and-coming artists of the new generation of talent, like Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil, to contribute to established series. Occasionally, he still found time to draw, and although his later work is not as artistically satisfying, he could still produce a standout cover or two once in a while. Star Wars #14, is an example.

During these years, Infantino returned to penciling duties and worked for companies such as Warren and Marvel. Through the late 1970s and early 1980s, he contributed to titles such as Nova, Ghost Rider, Spider-Woman and others. Infantino eventually returned to DC in 1981 where he worked on Adventure Comics (1981–1982), a return to Flash (1981–1984) and the new Supergirl title (1982–1984).

Receiving the National Cartoonists Society ‘Best Comic Book’ award in 1958. From 1961 to 1969, Infantino received the Alley Award 12 times. In 2000, he received an Inkpot Award and was inducted into the Will Eisner Awards Hall of Fame. He died on April 4, 2013, in Manhattan.

 

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