In Memory of: Carmine Infantino

In Memory of:
Carmine Infantino
(May 24, 1925 – April 4, 2013)

Another great legend in comics and media passed away this week.  Carmine Infantino, whose work spanned ages of comics and both major companies, passed away April 5th.  He was a great giant for both Marvel and DC, but many today do not know much about Carmine because his legacy has been blacklisted by people he worked with at both companies.  You see, there was a time when Carmine Infantino was DC comics and was a main player at Marvel Comics.  Well, during his time as a lead editor, many of his artists wanted to form a union.  Carmine went to the management with this notion, and they told him to fire those who wanted to unionize.  Carmine never forgave or forgot both the companies that made him do this nor the artists who called him a sellout and many of whom now are besmirching the man's memory.  Carmine was artist, writer, creator and editor. 
With initial training under his belt at the School of Industrial Arts, the budding young comic creator received his first assignment in the industry from Fox Features Periodicals. Though that six-page job found its way into the rejection pile, Infantino persevered and went on to work for the legendary Harry “A” Chesler and his shop and from there learned at the elbow of his heroes, artists Lou Fine, Reed Crandall and Will Eisner at Quality Comics. Then, the young man found work at a company he’d return to much later in life: Timely, which would one day be known as Marvel Comics.

Carmine helped revive Batman and he brought the Flash to the Silver age with the introduction of Barry Allen as the red clad Scarlet Speedster.  Carmine Michael Infantino was born in Brooklyn on May 24, 1925. As a boy, he adored drawing and dreamed of becoming an architect, but family finances amid the Depression put that calling out of reach.

The young Mr. Infantino enrolled in the School of Industrial Art, a Manhattan public high school now known as the High School of Art and Design. When he was still only a freshman there, he began working part-time for the noted comic-book packager Harry Chesler.

In the coming years, Mr. Infantino did freelance illustrations for several comic-book publishers. His first comic for DC was “The Black Canary” (1947), which introduced the sultry superheroine of the title.

By the mid-1950s, when Mr. Infantino was contributing regularly to DC, comic books were under siege. The chief assailant was Fredric Wertham, a psychiatrist whose inflammatory 1954 book, “Seduction of the Innocent,” argued that they were, for America’s youth, the first big step on the road to the depths of degradation.

Dr. Wertham’s primary targets were the crime and horror comics whose popularity had by then eclipsed the superheroes of an earlier, gentler age. As the comic-book industry scrambled to allay the public’s fears, those tired superheroes would be called upon to come to its rescue.

In 1956, DC’s editor, Julius Schwartz, asked Mr. Infantino and the writer Robert Kanigher to revamp the Flash, created in 1940 and by the mid-’50s in woeful decline. If sales did not improve in six months, the two men were told, the series would be dropped.

Mr. Infantino put his minimalist eye to work, streamlining the hero, creating his now-familiar red-and-yellow costume and capturing his preternatural speed in a dynamic blur of color. The new Flash was a hit, and Mr. Infantino became the artist most closely associated with the character.
In 1964, Mr. Infantino and the writer John Broome were asked to work similar magic on Batman. In Mr. Infantino’s hands, Batman took on an urbane, Bondian aspect. This “new look” Batman, as he was known to the trade, inspired the ABC television series starring Adam West and originally broadcast from 1966 to 1968.

In the late 1960s, Mr. Infantino became DC’s art director and, soon afterward, its editorial director. In 1970, he lured the artist Jack Kirby, one of the brightest stars in the comic-book firmament, away from Marvel, a coup akin to the Yankees’ acquisition of Babe Ruth from the Boston Red Sox. During the 1970s, Mr. Infantino served as DC’s publisher.

Mr. Infantino, who leaves no immediate survivors, was a former faculty member of the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan.

In 2004, Mr. Infantino, whose illustrations for DC were done on a freelance basis, sued the company and its corporate parent, Time Warner, for the intellectual-property rights to a range of characters he created. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.

He also was in part responsible for bringing Marvel and DC together with the team up in the 1970s of Superman and Spiderman.  He touched or worked on virtually every main character in both the Marvel and DC stables.

Later in life, Mr. Infantino seemed to sour on the superhero genre, maybe in part due to the treatment he received from both companies.  However, Mr. Infantino helped give us the Iconic Silver age Flash, saved Batman from cancellation, and helped usher in the Silver Age of comics that gave us Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, Kator Hol, and others. 

An amazing man and an awesome legacy.....

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