A Tribute to the of






Where do I begin? It's early the next morning the day after I learned that we've lost the great Carmine Infantino. April 4, 2013 was the day Carmine left, just a few weeks shy of his 88th birthday.

My personal history with Carmine has two phases. First and foremost, I loved his artwork, even before I could identify it. I couldn't tell you precisely when I first saw that famous sequence "How I Draw the Flash," but that was possibly when I put a name with the art. As a long time science fiction fan his Adam Strange was right up my alley. The scores of Batman covers he drew are certainly a massive backdrop to hours and hours of enjoyable reading. As time went on and I learned ever more about Carmine's massive body of work, it seemed he was everywhere, from the first Animal Man story to the Elongated Man work to the first Deadman story to the first cover (+ color version) of The Amazing World of DC Comics, to drawing the first Barbara Gordon Batgirl to Super Chief to Black Canary to being the feature in issue #8 of The Amazing World of DC Comics and also the feature of issue #1 of DC Special and I could go on and on and on and on…

The second phase was the incredible opportunity I had to make his acquaintance, at least in a long distance sense. Those of you who have been with me during the life of this feature know that thanks to some truly serendipitous events, I was able to begin doing interviews with the Silver Age creators we so revere here at the Silver Lantern. It started with master letterer Gaspar Saladino. It was painfully obvious from re-reading that one that I had no earthly clue what I was doing, but it was such a ball that I wanted to do more. That first interview was in January of 2007. When May of that year rolled around I began to pick up a good head of steam and managed four more in quick succession. I spoke to Carmine on the 8th of May. He was interviewee #4 [Sage #172] and only the third I'd spoken to by telephone, a mere 5 days after my delightful conversation with Joe Giella.

I'd read someplace that he didn't do interviews, so I'd more or less dismissed the notion. Unfortunately I can't tell you for certain what caused me to pursue it, but it was likely via the encouragement of my friend Clem Robins, who in a very real way was the catalyst behind the interviews from the get go. I do know that he provided the phone number. At any rate, to say I was intimidated would be a terribly gross understatement. When I got Carmine's number, I stared at it like an idiot and wondered how I'd ever muster the courage to use it. I actually rehearsed with my wife before picking up the phone.

Then, into the breach. As it turned out, he didn't breathe fire at all and while he was very businesslike, informing me at the outset that he had about an hour to spare (I kept it to 45 minutes) and often ending his answers with, "Next," I had a purely wonderful time speaking with him, though at times that Brooklyn accent was difficult to sort out. I bravely asked if he minded if I called again. "Not like this?" "Oh, no, sir. Just to chat or if I have other questions." "Sure you can." And just like that, I had a friend.

As a matter of fact, it was only 20 days later that, at Carmine's suggestion, I enjoyed an interview with Neal Adams. He simply asked, "Have you talked to Neal?" It hadn't so much as occurred to me. I decided that probably the best calling card I could use was right before me, so I titled that initial e-mail, "Carmine sent me." It worked.

So today I struggle just a bit between being sad at the loss of my friend and wanting to pay a proper tribute here. I mean after all, while his career had a solid beginning in the Golden Age, he certainly epitomizes all that was the Silver Age. His work on Showcase #4 alone gives him an immortal standing. Let's not neglect to mention how many books bear his name in the fine print at the bottom of countless splash pages.

Ultimately I thought I'd find something worthwhile in DC Special #1, the All-Infantino Issue. My copy sports an inscription, "To Bryan, Carmine Infantino" right over the DC in DC Special. The cover, of course, sports many of his most famous character depictions all looking down on one of his self-portraits, laboring over his his drawing board. Speaking of such, I seem to recall that when he moved into the executive suite at DC Comics that Joe Kubert purchased his drawing board.

I think I selected the right issue, especially since it contains a sampling of some of his best and/or favorite work. There's a Batman story, a Flash story, a Detective Chimp tale, an Adam Strange adventure and finally, after much internal debate, the one I settled on, a Strange Sports Story from the Brave and the Bold #45 titled "Challenge of the Headless Baseball Team!" It was the December 1962/January 1963 edition (coincidentally the publication date lines up with my birth month and year) and was done by one of my personal all-star teams with writing by Gardner Fox, pencils by Carmine and inks by Joe Giella with editing by Julie Schwartz. Good night. As I type that I realize Joe is the last man standing…

With each story selection in this collection, Carmine opens with a hand-written "paper-clipped" introductory note: "I attempted here a new technique in comics—by using illustrated captions to accompany the picture-panels, the reader gets the impression of a motion picture film!

Carmine…"

The setting is a ballpark, possibly modeled on Yankee Stadium, where the New York Jets baseball team has just won the World Series. They don't have long to savor their victory, however, as the bizarre unfolds. A disembodied voice issues congratulations and a challenge to a Worlds' Series between Earth's baseball champions and their world's team. A force field/bubble is activated over the stadium and spaceship appears in center field. They claim that all they desire if they win is the championship flag. Seeing little alternative, the Jets' manager approaches the craft and agrees to the contest.

The alien team emerges and is shown to be invisible, with only their uniforms apparent to the naked eye. The game begins and the otherworldly challengers soon score the first run. As each pitcher takes down batters in rapid succession, an anxious audience, both in the stands and across the country looks on, including a nearby Air Force base on alert.

It's now the top of the 9th with no further scoring and the Jets have the field. A scramble for a topped ball in the infield results in a head-on collision between pitcher and catcher and Lefty, the pitcher, lies dazed, but in this state he is privy to the thoughts of an alien mind that reveals this is much more than what appears to be a simple athletic contest.

The invisible team is actually a ruthless band of interplanetary warriors who had recently come off an invasion of the fourth dimensional world of Ilaran. "They were able to enter Ilaran because of a rare 'indestructible' metal called Protana. When Doria beams are played on it, it's properties warp normal space, opening gaps in the space-time continuum."

The invaders have succeeded in pushing back the forces of Ilaran and the native people devise a plan to sabotage their superior Kamma-Ray weapon. Soon Enath of Kalamoor volunteers to infiltrate the invaders' ship and places a magnetic disc on the weapon that will cause it to explode in nuclear fury when it is next fired. Unfortunately the Krann have discovered a weakness in their weapons system and resolve not to fire their deadly weapon again until they've devised a solution. They head back to their home world with Enath as a stowaway.

Much later, when the time is ripe, Enath steals the vulnerable Protana globe along with a small ship and makes his escape. He discovers that the Protana gives off a trackable radiation trail that can only be concealed with gold. As he searches for the precious metal, he comes across a source: the Earth.

Quickly he conceals his ship beneath the waters of a nearby river and then seeks out a hiding place for the Protana globe. Knowing he'll be followed and that his foes have his same ability to read the minds of earth dwellers, he is intent on concealing the globe where no one on Earth will be aware of it. He locates a gold plated knob on a championship flag that will do the trick. As an added security measure, he bathes the display case in Ekko particles, harmless to humans but deadly to the Krann.

Disguised as an Earth man, Enath was as surprised as anyone in the crowd when the Krann appeared in the stadium. Using his mind reading capabilities he learned that they'd tracked his movements and located the Protana globe, but also discovered the deadly Ekko particles. They then devised the plan to get the championship flag via the ruse of playing the baseball game. It would be presented to them outside the display case and they could reclaim it.

This entire story is beamed into the pitcher's mind and then instantly erased by Enath, but he leaves the sub-conscious imprint in hopes that it will help motivate the pitcher to win this most critical game. As he recovers from the collision and insists on continuing, he pitches with renewed vigor, knowing instinctively that they must win the contest. He swiftly puts away the alien batters. Now the Jets take to the bats in the bottom of the 9th.

The first two batters go down, but when "Chopper" is at bat he gets on base. Lefty is now at bat and after two strikes and a ball he sends a homer rocketing over the wall and the two runs wins the game.

As the defeated invisible players head back to their ship a huge celebration takes place on the field. Once the ship is aloft, however, a menacing voice is heard: "Fools! You won the baseball game—but lost your lives! For having defeated us, you will pay the penalty! We shall destroy your planet!" Of course what the Krann could not know was the sabotage performed by Enath and their ship explodes harmlessly in the dark void of space.

As the relieved crown departs, the disguised Enath among them, his thoughts provide the wrap up: "When Lefty Clark came to bat in the last inning I decided to help him "second guess" the alien pitcher by letting him know mentally that the pitch would be a high fast ball! With the Protana destroyed, I can never return to my home planet Ilaran—but I'll always have the knowledge that I saved it from conquest, and saved my adopted planet Earth—from destruction!"

Then, another note from our penciler:

"In conclusion, I wish to acknowledge thanks to all those who put together this "One-man" issue—The writers, inkers, letterers, colorists—my editor and friend, Julie Schwartz—And last, but certainly not least, you fans who made this issue possible! Many thanks… Carmine Infantino

A truly enjoyable and innovative story, particularly with the silhouette effects scattered throughout for that cinematic effect Carmine mentioned at the outset and told by men at the top of their game. This is an easy maximum 10-point rating on the scale. Pure Silver Age magic.

I'd like now to share the splendid tribute Clem Robins posted yesterday on Facebook:

"Sad to note the great Carmine Infantino's passing from the scene. Without one iota of a doubt, the best designer comics has ever had. He made some nasty hard work for his inkers, but he could sure tell a story, and the covers he designed made those who drew them look like geniuses.

I never got to know him, except through his work, including a half dozen times lettering on him, and a couple of worshipful phone calls. Comics were twelve cents each when he was doing his most memorable work. I would guess I spent a grand total of ten dollars on Carmine. He woulda been cheap at twice the price.

My sister Madeleine Robins, a science fiction writer, posted that Infantino's version of future civilizations defined all future civilizations for her. Lofty praise indeed.

Comic books are one particular way of telling a story. Not the best way and not the worst way, just one way. Infantino explored the possibilities the medium held for telling a story, and pushed back the borders.

He didn't draw all that well; his forté was layout. Inkers had to inject good drawing into his work, and he got the very best inkers the industry had. To my thinking, Joe Giella understood him best, but Carmine's own favorite was Frank Giacoia

At the moment, I am glad I never got to know him, or I'd be sadder than I am. At the moment, I am just grateful for all the pleasure his work has added to my life, and grateful for the few times I was able to letter his work."

You know how they say to give flowers to the living, rather than waiting for their funeral? Once in a great while, I get it right. In 2009 Carmine had granted an interview and it caused kind of a stir. He wasn't happy with how it came out and neither were the majority of his fans. I read it and it seemed condescending. So, as something of a counterpoint, I sent my friend a letter, and I'm so glad I did. Here are some of the key excerpts:

"Anyway, it got me to thinking a little bit and I hope you won't mind if I share some thoughts about you and what you've meant to me for many years, before I ever had the great good fortune of getting acquainted with you.

I was kind of lonely as a kid and discovered comic books at a young age. My best friend had an older brother and there was about a 7 year gap between them, so when the older brother bought his comics and stashed them away, they were the Silver Age ones from the mid-60's and forward. Those are the comics I grew up on and they were a constant source of entertainment and escape and refuge and many, many of them were drawn by you, edited by you, or published by you. I loved them very, very much.

The last few years I've been able to rebuild my collection and get a lot of issues I never had as a kid, so even though I'm a grown man of 46 years, your work is still giving me a great deal of enjoyment. I started reviewing the old comics at my best friend's website and that was enjoyable and then I accidentally got in contact with a letterer who suggested I start interviewing my heroes for the website. I liked the idea, but had no idea where or how to begin, but he knew Gaspar Saladino and Arnold Drake and gave me their contact information and I got started.

Unfortunately Arnold died before he got to my questions, but Gaspar was very nice and I thought that would be that, but then I got Joe Giella's number and Joe's interview was better yet. I figured I'd run out of luck by that point, but then I got your number. I must admit that I was intimidated as well as being very thrilled. This was Carmine Infantino! He'd been the publisher! You don't get any higher. I was halfway scared. I'd heard stories that you didn't like giving interviews and were kind of gruff, but I screwed up my nerve and gave you a call and I caught you too late that first time and you suggested calling again in a couple of days. I was so excited I could barely stand it.

Then on the 8th of May, 2007, we had our first real conversation and you were terrific, though you did caution me that you only had an hour to spare. I was done in 45 minutes and then pushed my luck even further, asking both for an autograph on my Carmine Infantino DC Special book and if you wouldn't mind if I called again sometime, just to chat. You agreed to both andit's been wonderful for me ever since. Every time I call you I get a boost and I consider you my good friend.

I've told you before, and I'll tell you again that your legacy is secure. You mentioned in your autobiography that we always know how to find our idols and you are one of mine and I was lucky indeed to find you. There will always be the Monday morning quarterbacks and the people who think they know better what you could have or should have done, but I believe you took on a tough job at a tough time and did good things, from the talent you hired from Charlton, to the Filipino invasion, to the new characters and the tremendous and inspired artwork and art direction that you provided for so many years. Lord only knows how many covers you designed and as we both know, that's one of the biggest sellers on a newsstand. My hat is off to you and your name will always hold a special place in my heart as a fan and a friend.

You're the best, Carmine, and I'm proud to know you."

When I think of Carmine, a couple of indelible images by him speak to me. One is the back cover of The Amazing World of DC Comics #3. It shows a boy eagerly reading a Flash comic with other DC books scattered around him on the floor. It could have been me. The other, especially now, is the table of contents from DC Special #1. Along with his loosely penciled heads of each feature character alongside the accompanying story, there is a self-portrait profile in the lower left corner with this caption: "Cover penciled and inked by Carmine Infantino"—depicting the artist and a galaxy of DC stars he has illustrated. In the lower right corner is his chair and drawing table, illuminated with the lamp and with a note stating, "Memo to Inf—Final Deadline! J.S." Slightly beyond that is the back of the man himself, walking out the door. It seems very fitting at this time.

When Carmine spoke to me on the phone he always called me "Chum," which delighted me. Farewell, chum. I will miss you.

Thoughts can be shared at: professor_the@hotmail.com.

We'll be back, as always, in approximately two weeks with more material, so do join us and, again as always…

Long live the Silver Age!



© 2000-2013 by B.D.S.


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