Thursday, April 04, 2013

Carmine Infantino - RIP

Just heard that Silver-Age great Carmine Infantino has passed away. Infantino is an artist who made such a significant mark at DC during the Silver-Age, it's easily forgotten that he got his start at the tail end of the Golden-Age and did some 1970s work at Marvel.

He's so associated with revamping the Flash in the 1950s at DC, giving him a modern streamlined look, most probably don't realize that some of his earliest work was on Jay Garrick the golden-age Flash. And, while he did some wonderful science fiction stories for DC, especially Adam Strange, during the 1950s he did some wonderful work on Westerns and characters like the Trigger Twins and Pow-wow Smith as well as the intelligent spy thriller series King Faraday of Danger Trail.

His 1950s and 1960s work shows similarities to Alex Toth and Dan Barry. In his earliest works, his use of shadows and blocks of black to give shape, wrinkles and depth to clothes echoes the works of Caniff, which may be where his more stiff, angular posing of characters came from. Clean and concise art style with an emphasis on natural proportions and physiques and clear storytelling. His style quickly developed an angular and almost mechanical artificial style. The same design sense that gave us cars with hard edges and fins was echoed in his comic style. On the Flash, he gave us some iconic covers as well as some of the more surreal images. Whenever I hear people talking about how the Doom Patrol was about weirdness, I like to point them to a handful of Flash covers that outdo anything that appeared in the DP. His covers were often ones of action, heroes or villains rarely stood still, something was happening or about to happen. As far as I know, he developed the cover of two teams charging/facing off against each other from either side of the cover like opposing football teams. He had a quirk of often setting the action on some plaza with the skyline of a city in the distance. I often wondered where these remote plazas or staging areas were with nothing for yards around other than the distant city a mile or so off. Even the "Flash of Two Worlds" cover has the man about to be crushed by a metal beam with apparently no other structure a mile around other than the brick wall he happens to be kneeling by. Talk about bad luck! I want to credit that it was Infantino that was also ultimately behind the "new look Batman" ala the yellow oval around the bat on the chest.

I tended to like Murphy Anderson as inker over Infantino. Anderson appropriately rounded off some of the edges of his characters, making them more natural without sacrificing the actual power of Infantino's figures

In the 1970s, he'd go to Marvel working on titles such as Nova, Spider-Woman, and Star Wars. By this time, his figures were all hard corners and angles. It was bold but eccentric. He was a strange choice for their John Carter, Warlord of Mars book but buried under Rudy Nebres inks, the combination gave us possibly the best of both artists: clear, powerful layouts and storytelling of Infantino and more organic, lush, detailed line found in the Filipino school. In the 80s, he'd return to the title that made him famous, the Flash. Like Kirby, his style by this time is stiffer, blockier, and more epic in proportions, yet it's compelling in sheer bombastics and storytelling. He also revisited his Danger Trail series, with some excellent art, though the covers had Paul Gulacy, an artist with a completely different and photo-realistic style, almost a complete antithesis of Infantino's. About the only thing the two really shared was their use of stark highlight and shadow, with little sense of grays or gradation.


No comments: