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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Legacy of Comic Artist Carmine Infantino!

The Flash DC Comics image

Carmine Infantino picture

If there is a well-noted comic artist and individual who majorly influenced the comic book industry during his career, one would have to mention Carmine Infantino a few times. And then a few times more!

Infantino's influence and stamp on the genre reaches from the golden, silver, and bronze age of comics. Not only has his amazing artwork helped to revitalize the comic industry at certain eras, but also his work as a one time DC editorial director and publisher. His brilliance and creativity has also spawned many beloved comic characters as well.

Flash Comics #86 comic cover picThe Golden Age

While Carmine Infantino drew comics for Timely and other publications during the golden age, his first landmark contribution to DC Comics and the industry was made in Flash Comics #86. What was so important about this landmark issue?

Well, it has to do with a character that has become a fan-favorite for many females and the Birds of Prey storylines. Also, you won't go to a comic con without at least seeing one hot fan dressed up as her. Yes, she is one of the most popular DC Comics characters that's cosplayed by fans other than the mighty Wonder Woman. 

DC Comics Black Canary
This issue features the first appearance of the Black Canary, and it was writer Robert Kanigher and artist Carmine Infantino who created the blonde, bombshell superheroine back in 1947. The first incarnation of Black Canary was an exceptional hand to hand combatant and crime fighter who did not possess any super human powers. Her sonic scream would be later implemented during the silver age of comics.

The Silver Age 

Infantino freelanced for many publishers and drawing comic genres such as Westerns, mysteries, and science fiction comics, but when he became a regular artist for the golden age Green Lantern and Justice Society of America comic books, a door would be opened that would seal his fate as one of the most legendary comic book creators in the industry

Back in 1956, superhero comics had declined in sales and the core comic market readership leaned more towards non-superhero related books. However, DC editor Julius Schwartz assigned writer Robert Kanigher and Infantino to spearhead DC Comics first revitalization of the superheroes under their flag. 

Showcase #4 comic cover image
The first attempt and character to be revamped in the DC line was The Flash. Kanigher and Infantino completely remade the character with a new identity and a completely new look. In Oct 1956, Barry Allen as the new silver age Flash made his debut in Showcase #4, and the issue became a smash with readers.  Not only did the new Flash become a smash with fans during the time, his debut in Showcase #4 also marks the beginning of the silver age era of comics.

Infantino's design for the new red and yellow costume has become the classic and iconic look for the Flash, who later adopted the nickname the Scarlett Speedster. Every redesign of the costume has been based on Infantino's revamp of the character, securing his place as a legend in the industry. 

But the legend doesn't stop there. Infantino also co-created the character of Wally West as Kid Flash in 1959. Wally West would later become known as the third Flash when the multiverse collapsed after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Contributing even more to the Flash and DC Universe, Carmine would later draw for the extremely important and landmark storyline Flash of Two Worlds in The Flash #123. It was this issue that introduced Earth-Two and the concept of DC's multiverse.

Detective Comics #327 cover image

 The Flash isn't the only character Infantino would give a make over during the silver age. At the time, the Batman titles were also fading, and Carmine Infantino is credited with giving Batman a "new look" in Detective Comics #327. In reality the "new look" was basically a change in the logo on Batman's chest, which incorporated the classic yellow oval encasing the bat emblem.

However, the Batmobile was redesigned as well by Infantino. Under the direction of Julius Schwartz, writer John Broome and Carmine Infantino also junked sillier characters like Ace the Bathound, Bat-Mite and the original Bat-Girl, Betty Kane, who were giving the titled series a campier feel.  Broome, Infantino, and Schwartz brought Batman back to his more detective roots during the silver age.

Bat-Girl Barbara Gordon
Infantino also co-created the new and legendary Bat-Girl that we are familiar with today, Barbara Gordon, into the series. Her character, like the Black Canary, is also another one of the most popular and iconic female superheroes in the world of comics. Barbara Gordon's famous first appearance as Bat-Girl debuted in Detective Comics #359. Like the Flash, the design of her iconic costume by Infantino has been the basis for all those comic artists who would later draw the character. 

Let's not forget another important fan-favorite character that Infantino helped to create for the DCU. That's right, fans! Here's a shout-out to Deadman!

Deadman DC Comics artwork Co-created with writer Arnold Drake, the supernatural superhero, Deadman, made his debut in Strange Adventures #205. The issue was published in Oct 1967, and was the first comic issue to show narcotics that was approved by the infamous Comics Code Authority

Near the end of the silver age, Infantino was made an offer by Stan Lee to go over to the Marvel camp. Although DC couldn't or wouldn't match the offer, DC offered Infantino a promotion to art director. Reluctant at first, he stayed with DC Comics and when the company was sold to Kinney National Company, he was made editorial director.

As editorial director, Infantino made other artists like Joe Orlando, Joe Kubert and Mike Sekowsky editors and begun hiring new talents. The new talents hired under his direction would change the face of comics forever and make new legends in the industry.

One of the new talents that Infantino hired as an editor was a freelance comic artist for Charlton Comics by the name of Dick Giordano. This move by Infantino would prove be especially exceptional as writer Denny O'Neil and fellow freelance artist Neal Adams followed Giordano over to DC from Charlton.  

The Bronze Age

Because of Infantino's ability to spot new talent, the collaboration of Giordano, O'Neil, and Adams would prove to be one of the of the most, or perhaps the most, influential creative teams for DC Comics during the bronze age. 

O'Neil, Giordano and Adams' run on the Batman titles during the 70s is one of the most beloved and highly recognized. O'Neil continued Schwartz's determination to get Batman to his more darker roots, and O'Neil captured this. The team also brought the Joker back to his homicidal maniacal roots with the storyline The Joker's Five-Way Revenge! in Batman #251 (Sept. 1973). Before, the Joker was plagued by the Comics Code Authority and rewritten as more of a campy prankster, as we see from the 1960s T.V. series.

Not only did the team of Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams, and Dick Giordano revamp the Batman series, they also revamped other characters like the Green Lantern. The creative team brought more social issues and awareness into DC Comics. The most famous is the Green Arrow story in Green Lantern #85-86, which revealed Green Arrow's sidekick Speedy as a heroin addict.

In 1970, Infantino also hired legendary Marvel artist, Jack Kirby, to DC Comics. Although Kirby's stay at DC was brief, Kirby produced such series as OMAC, Kamandi, The Demon, and a new incarnation of the Sandman.

In 1971, Carmine was promoted to a DC publisher. The company's battle with rival Marvel Comics, who was quickly becoming the number one comic company on the market, resulted in declining circulation of DC Comics. He tried a number of changes to increase circulation, but his big mishap was raising the price of comics from 15 cents to 25 cents

However, during the bronze age he co-created The Human Target, which became a short-lived ABC television series in 1992 that starred Rick Springfield. Infantino also consulted with screenwriter Mario Puzio, the Godfather author, for the plots to the movies Superman: The Movie and Superman II. He also helped orchestrate the historic company-crossover publication Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man

When Warner Communications relieved Carmine Infantino and replaced him with Janette Kahn, a magazine publisher new to the comic book world, in 1976, he returned to freelance art work. He was hired on briefly at Marvel Comics. Such titles he worked on were Spider-Woman and Star Wars. He also co-created the comic character and mercenary, Paladin, who was first introduced in Daredevil #150.

Later Career 

Carmine would continue to freelance well into the 90s as well as teach at the school of visual arts before retiring.

In 2004, he sued DC for rights to characters such as Wally West, Captain Cold, Captain Boomerang, Mirror Master, Bat-Girl, and many others. Infantino also wrote two books detailing his life and career -  The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino, and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. 

Carmine Infantino pictureIt's easy to see why Carmine Infantino deserves the title of legend in the comic industry with all the landmark moments and characters he's helped created. Even all the contributions he made as an editorial director and DC publisher helped to impact and shape the world of comics as we know today. 

Carmine Infantino died this month of this year on April 4, 2013. He is not only a legend but legendary. He will be missed, but his legacy will forever echo in that mystical place where imagination can make anything magically possible. R.I.P Carmine!

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