April 6th, 2013 at 8:31 am

Goodbye, Carmine Infantino

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I was five years old when someone – probably my grandmother, who never met a reading experience she didn’t like – bought me the comic book pictured above, which contained the first work I ever saw by Carmine Infantino. I would pick up a few more issues, both new and used, of All-Star Western before it folded, enjoying scripts by Robert Kanigher and John Broome at their formulaic best, appreciating the clean-as-advertising artwork of Howard Sherman and being electrified by the contributions of Gil Kane. And in every issue were gorgeous pages by Infantino, who seemed an admirable synthesis of his fellow All-Star artists, his line thinner and more nervous than Sherman’s yet with that same hint of fresh-faced Madison Avenue, his characters – even in repose – somehow every bit as dynamic as Kane’s hyperkinetic cowpokes.

Only a month or two after that, I picked up this comic book

and just like that, I was more than an admirer, I was hooked: a charter member of the Silver Age’s grade school-age readership. The mountain of dimes we threw at his thoroughly modern Flash rejuvenated DC Comics and laid the foundation for what the comics industry would become over the following decades. My own admiration for Infantino would be huge over the next few years – marveling at his lean graceful figures, his grimacing villains with their thin disdainful mouths, his invention of new ways to render human bodies moving at impossible velocity. And his sense of commercial cover design was impeccable.

As kids were expected to do in those days, I eventually moved past the kinds of comics that he’d always done so well…but though I’d stopped tracking him, he was never completely off my radar, either. I didn’t follow his progress up the corporate ladder at DC, but I couldn’t help being aware of some of the landmark projects he’d shepherded into print – particularly the O’Neil-Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow run and the Kirby “Fourth World” stuff.. After he returned to fulltime drawing, I would occasionally run across examples of his work here and there, and the way his style had continued to evolve always caught my eye. His rounded line had developed into a mass of wispy odd angles that were at once a natural growth from the elegance of his early ‘60s work and a summation of the cool and confident modernism of that moment in the Atom Age when he drew The Flash and, for a while, became one of the most important men in American comics. It was lovely, idiosyncratic stuff.

For everyone who’s worked on a comic book over the last 50-plus years…and everyone who’s read one…thank you, Mr. Infantino, for all the good work you did over your long career.

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