Thursday, April 4, 2013

Good bye, Mr. Infantino

I thought the only bad news we'd get today was the passing of Roger Ebert, that tremendously gifted film reviewer, personality and, in recent years, prolific blogger.  But now comes word Carmine Infantino has also died.  Infantino had as great an influence on my sensibilities as Ebert did on the way I express my thoughts about them.  Which is to say, quite a lot, even though it rarely shows because I'm a stinky writer and artist.  Those two guys were gigantic in their respective fields.

Infantino is partially responsible for one of my all-time favorite titles, Kamandi by Jack Kirby.  That's a book I intend to celebrate all this month for no other reason than I love it.  Infantino tried to land the comic book rights to the Planet of the Apes film series and when he couldn't, he smartly asked Kirby to do something similar.  It turned out not all that similar, and Kamandi #20 (which does feature talking apes) introduced me to Kirby and ignited a life-long love of the man's work.  At the time, I knew nothing of Infantino.  Flash foward a few years and I'd become a total nut about Star Wars.  Marvel had Infantino pencilling their Star Wars monthly and that was my introduction to both his name and artwork.

Because of Marvel's Star Wars, I'll always associate Infantino with sharp, jutting chins.  Some artists just have a certain defining, instantly recognizable tic.  Curt Swan's endlessly similar faces, Gil Kane's forehead lines and clutching hands,  John Buscema's glower (and Joe Kubert's), Neal Adams's Batman or whoever shouting and pointing directly at the reader, John Byrne's crosshatched cheekbones.

Jutting chins were Infantino's thing, at least at that late stage in his drawing career.  When I finally saw some of his earlier Flash and Batman work in some DC reprint digest, I was shocked.  Where are the chins?

Oh, and he co-created the Barbara Gordon Batgirl.  See what I mean about his influence?  Without that character, I wouldn't have another of my comics faves, the Cassandra Cain Batgirl.


Richard Bensam said...

I've never known if Carmine Infantino was aware of Kirby's 1957 story "The Last Enemy" when he asked for a take on Planet of the Apes but he sure knew the right person to ask. For all that Infantino could be hard to get along with, his time as editorial director then publisher at DC was an explosion of innovation and creativity. Apart from his own greatness as an artist, he also deserves note for the work he allowed others to make...even if he sometimes capriciously took that opportunity away from them as well.

("The Last Enemy" can be read here -- and that link goes straight to a famous comic artist's blog so you know it's legit!)

Joel Bryan said...

Very well said. Awesome link as well. Thanks!