Yesterday afternoon (Thursday, April 5), legendary comic book artist George Peréz posted on his Facebook page, the sad news that comic book legend Carmine Infantino had passed away at the age of 87. Legend hardly describes the man. Icon is probably a better term, in that he was so instrumental in reviving and rejuvenating DC Comics, back when it stood for Detective Comics, published by National Periodicals.
During the late 1940s to early 1950s, there was a witch hunt going on for comic books, as they were being called the biggest influence of juvenile delinquency, due to the graphic nature of some them. Thus the Comics Code was created. The immediate victims of it were the horror comics of EC. DC Comics complied with the pressure, and the only superhero comics left intact were those featuring Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman. The Justice Society of America had been replaced by teen-themed books, seemingly cloned from Archie Comics, evoking such titles as Swing With Scooter, That Wilkin Boy and the ever popular Leave It To Binky. Also rather omnipresent were comedy books, starring Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope and Phil Silvers and ‘Funny Animal’ books like Fox & Crow and Frog & Dodo. I would be remiss if I failed to mention Sugar & Spike, a book starring 2 babies whom the readers could understand, but their parents only heard ‘Babytalk’, ie “Glbbt” and “Bxpttl”. That was the way of the world until a fateful day in mid 1956, when Showcase #4 hit the newstands.
That issue featured the first appearance of a new version of an old favorite character that DC had published from the late 1930s until the ‘Hero Purge” – The Flash – The Fastest Man Alive. But this was a NEW Flash. He was no longer the Helmet-wearing Jay Garrick. He was now police scientist Barry Allen, clad in sleek scarlet and yellow with lightning motifs. This was the dawn of the Silver Age of Comics. Infantino had actually worked on the Golden Age Flash book as well, during which time, he created a character that any reader or fan of BIRDS OF PREY should thank him for – BLACK CANARY. From there, the DC Universe opened wide, with new versions of the Green Lantern, the Atom and Hawkman & Hawkgirl. There even was now an updated version of the JSA, the newly-minted Justice League of America.
Getting back to Mr. Infantino, specifically – he created or co-created so many iconic characters. He designed the looks for all of Flash’s Rogues Gallery, which endured until the New 52 happened, as well as supporting heroes & friends for Flash, including the currently M.I.A. Wally (Kid Flash) West & Ralph (Elongated Man) Dibney. Infantino was also credited in the creation and/or co-creation of Adam Strange, the Phantom Stranger, Deadman, Animal Man, Detective Chimp, The Human Target, Rose & Thorn and Captain Comet. IT was during his tenure on The Flash that when the now legendary issue #123 – The Flash of Two Worlds – introduced the concept of a multiverse with the re-emergence of the Golden Age characters on a parallel world, called Earth 2. Oh yes – there WAS another character that he co-created for comics. Someone who still enjoys a great deal of popularity to this day, even within the New 52. You might have heard of her: BARBARA GORDON aka BATGIRL.
At the time he was the publisher of DC Comics, he was instrumental in getting a cooperative effort working with rival company Marvel Comics, which gave us both the first major comics adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, and the even more groundbreaking SUPERMAN AND THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN treasury edition comic. During this same period of time, he managed to talk an old friend of his into coming to work at DC – Jack Kirby who soon gave us the worlds of Apokalypse and New Genesis – home to the New Gods. Kirby’s villain, Darkseid is now seen as the prevalent villain for all of DC, even being the sparking point for the new52 incarnation of the Justice League.
He even worked at Marvel for a while, where his art graced the pages of Nova, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Woman and even Marvel’s run of STAR WARS. But he will always be best remembered for his groundbreaking work at DC, where many of his covers have truly become iconic, with certain poses used as the base of marketing & licensing illustrations, from stickers, to notebooks to action figure packaging. Some have even transcended into more recent times, by serving as inspirations for current covers and even for statues and sculptures.
Thank you Mr. Infantino. Thank you for making the books which I loved so much in childhood and cherish so much now, as I’m just shy of being on this Earth for a half century. Thank you so much, sir.
Here are some of the iconic covers & poses Mr. Infantino was responsible for.
Mr. Infantino also pioneered the use of incorporating a comic’s title logo in the cover’s art, that is still done today on occasion.