So I was going to do a list of “every comic book ever ranked in order of quality” because I figured nerds would totally get into that and there would be fistfights over whether Tomb of Dracula #7 should be ranked one higher than New Teen Titans (vol. 2) #21 and nerds fighting each other in the streets would make for some excellent slapstick comedy before they all collapsed from exhaustion (because your average person who would get into a fistfight over that sort of thing needs it to be a really, really short fistfight). But it’s harder than it looks.
I mean, obviously Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! #14 has to be the number one comic of all time because it is where the Zoo Crew teams up with the Just’a Lotta Animals and there will never, ever again be a comic as important as that one. (It is well-known that Alan Moore stole all of his ideas from unused Zoo Crew plots Scott Shaw! threw out in the trash. Well, either that or Moore rolled them up and smoked them. Both are equally possible.) But after you select the #1, it turns out selecting the #2 comic book of all time is actually much harder because it’s easy to figure out the best of all things, but what’s the second-best? The second-best is harder to decide, is my point.
Like, is Action Comics #1 the second-best comic of all time because it is the first appearance of Superman and sets the stage for essentially all superhero comics over the next 75 years? Or, on the other hand, is the second-best comic of all time Jughead’s Diner #4 because it has Jughead fighting an evil blob monster to save his future-restaurant? These are the questions that you have to grapple with when you are writing a quality listicle. People think it is just slapping numbers on things and they are so wrong because it is, in fact, a process.
You guys make fun of Buzzfeed all the time, but hunting down all those individual GIFs that express how they superficially feel about any given issue is, in fact, an act of curation and that is hard work, just ask anybody who works at a museum. Well, anybody who is not Ben Stiller in that museum where the exhibits come to life, that’s probably not typical of museums. Or is it? I don’t know, I don’t spend my nights in museums where ghosts or whatever make all the thingies come to life.
Anyway, my point is that Jughead’s Diner #4 is probably the second-best comic of all-time, and then Action Comics #1 is third obviously, but then what is fourth? Amazing Fantasy #15, the debut of Spider-Man? Or Cherry #5, where Cherry gets involved in an orgy? (Well she gets in an orgy in most issues really so maybe Spider-Man wins this round.) Man, this is going to take longer than I thought, and that’s before you factor in the time it’s going to take me to go looking for GIFs.
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.
As always, you can also go to the dedicated Al’Rashad site.
This is where we’re going to depart from the main narrative for a moment because Davinder needs time to concentrate on his real-life job. However, starting next week, we are going to have an exciting BONUS STORY set in the world of Al’Rashad, written by me and with art by the talented Adam Prosser. It will be fun! I am sure of this.