Thursday, June 13, 2013

Requiem For Carmine

You may not know this but if it hadn’t been for a DC creator there might never have been a Fantastic Four, or Avengers…or X-men. In fact if it had not been for this particular DC creator there might never have been a Silver Age of Comics.
Carmine Infantino was that DC creator. He was born in Brooklyn on May 24, 1925 and spent most of his life as a comic book artist and editor. But he was much more than that. Carmine was an idea man, a creator.

He left us on April 4th of this year at the age of 87. He left behind a trove of over 60 years of wonderful comic book art dating back to 1942.

When I was a kid in the very same Brooklyn that had produced Carmine you would be hard pressed NOT to see his work on several covers a month. He had a slick, modern style that was his alone. He gave Batman his “new look” and introduced Batgirl (Detective # 359 in 1967), created Deadman in Strange Adventures #205 and was THE Adam Strange artist.
AND he gave us the Silver Age of Comics.

After the Second World War comic book superheroes had almost entirely faded from the comic book scene. The entire Timely stable (including The Torch, Submariner and Captain America) were retired in favor of horror, western, humor and romance comics. The same was happening at DC with the exception of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. In fact the only “new” superhero to get his own book during this period was Superboy…who wasn’t really a new character at all. Just Superman, pint sized.

This would change in 1956 when Julius Schwartz assigned writer Robert Kanigher and Infantino with the task of reviving the superhero genre. Schwartz had reasoned that enough time had passed that an entire new generation of comic book readers had come along who had never been exposed to the huge roster of superheroes so prevalent during the Golden Age of Comics.

He was right. And he picked the perfect artist to shake the dust off of the old characters.

Beginning with the October 1956 issue of Showcase (#4) Infantino began the process of reviving defunct Golden Age superheroes. He began with the Flash.

He gave the character a whole new look, slicker and more modern, along with a more science fiction style back story. Barry Allen was a police Scientist who is accidently doused in a chemical bath when a stray lightning bolt strikes his lab. A stretch, maybe but a heck of a lot more plausible than the golden age origin which had Jay Garrick becoming the Flash from consuming “Hard Water’ (ice???)
The fresh new look and tight story telling was an immediate hit. In short order Showcase launched the Silver Age careers of The Atom, Aquaman…and some guy called Green Lantern among others. The superhero boom was on.

Over in Brave And Bold a superhero team was born…The Justice League Of America. The JLA was such a huge hit that it gave the boys over at Marvel the impetus to create their own team of super heroes…The Fantastic Four.

And we all know what happened after that! The Marvel Age Of Comics was born!!!

All because of a DC creator.

Carmine was not done though. As an editorial director he was instrumental in bringing an entire generation of new talent into the comics industry including Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. In 1070 Carmine landed the Legendary Jack Kirby who created the Fourth World in the pages of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen.

Infantino eventually became DC’s publisher in 1971, though he always kept his hand in the creative side including the creation of The Human Target in 1972. He would remain active into the new century and became a fan favorite at comic conventions across the country.

When Infantino passed from the scene in April he left behind a legacy of joy, fun and wonder.

Thanks Carmine.

That’s 30!


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