There are some comic creators out there that I feel don’t get the praise they deserve not because they’re unrecognized, but because it’d be really hard to imagine what comic books would be like without them. Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Stan Lee, Julius Schwartz, Neal Adams…lots of people who have been so influential and prolific that it’s hard to really imagine a superhero genre existing without them. And I’m going to add Carmine Infantino to that list as well, because the man really was astonishingly good at everything he did for an amazingly long time.
Infantino is probably best known for his work on the Silver Age Flash, which would certainly be enough to leave him fondly-remembered by itself. His new take on the character was iconic, from the new costume with its crisp, elegant simplicity to his amazing artwork that conveyed an incredible sense of motion and energy–perfect for a series about the Fastest Man Alive. (I’ve already commented previously on his Elongated Man backups, which also conveyed a lot of dynamic energy in an entirely different way, showcasing the lead character’s elasticity and finding visually exciting ways to weaponize it.) To this day, I’d say that if you asked Flash fans about the definitive artists on the series, Infantino would make the top of just about everybody’s list.
But that was really just the tip of the iceberg. He was already an industry vet by the time he did ‘Flash’, and he went on from there to do a lot more for DC. He moved up to their editorial division, working at times as an editor, art director and publisher, and was responsible for getting Neal Adams and Denny O’Neil onto titles like ‘Batman’ and ‘Green Lantern’. Oh, and he got Joe Orlando in as editor on ‘House of Mystery’, and he got Kirby away from Marvel to do the Fourth World stuff, and he was also responsible for getting the original DC/Marvel crossover made. And from there, when DC let him go, he went over to Marvel and did all those ‘Star Wars’ comics you probably read as a kid. (Just so nobody thinks I’m Rand Paul-ing this, by the way, I’ll admit that I had to look a lot of this up. When you’re as important a figure to comic book history as Infantino was, practically nobody remembers every single thing you did off the top of their head, not even you. Carmine Infantino probably forgot about more influential comics than most people will ever create.)
But as great a job he did editing, and as important he was to getting the most iconic and influential runs of DC’s Bronze Age made (and oh yeah, he was also the guy who drew the New Look Batman and made the little yellow oval around the Bat-Symbol work) it’s always going to be his stellar art that stands out for me. An Infantino story always had art that stood out, that popped with life and zest and excitement and made you feel like something was happening. Comics is all about the art of conveying motion through still images, and I would be hard-pressed to find anyone better at that than Carmine Infantino. He passed away this April, but I hope he will be long-remembered by everyone who loves the medium he gave so much to.