A Tribute to the of

Carmine Infantino has been on my mind lately. Perhaps it’s because I recently read a biography on him, and learned some things I didn’t know, though for my money, David Spurlock’s “Amazing World of Carmine Infantino” is still the gold standard.

He did have quite the career and while it will be debated for ages about whether his true legacy is his art (I’m in that camp) or his movement up the ladder at DC to art director and ultimately top banana, his is a name inextricably linked to the Silver Age for his many, many contributions, going right back to that first Silver Age Flash story in Showcase #4 [Sage #3] and leave us not forget his work on The Flash of Two Worlds from Flash #123 [Sage #33] and Adam Strange and Black Canary and the revamped Batman and countless covers and…you get the idea. Carmine is immortal to those of us who love the Silver Age of DC Comics.

He may even hold something of a record. I got to thinking the other day that I don’t know of anyone who had been portrayed more often in the pages of comic book stories (at least in the DC books) than Carmine. For exhibit “A” I present a listing for your viewing pleasure:

Inferior Five #6, rendered by Mike Sekowsky and Mike Esposito. DC Special #1, [Sage #312] the Carmine issue, where he is depicted by himself on the cover and on the splash page, both walking away from his drawing board and in profile at the bottom. The Amazing World of DC Comics #8 where he again draws himself for the cover and on the inside cover the reader gets to see his pencil roughs. House of Mystery #180 [Sage #223] in the story titled “His Name is Kane!” By Gil Kane and Wally Wood, though you have to be kind of sharp-eyed to catch the multiple little caricatures of Carmine as little imps on the drawing board of Gil Kane with a DC logo on their backs. And finally, Wonder Woman #203 by Dick Giordano [Sage #178] where he is portrayed as a heavy named Grandee.

So, I hereby dedicate this final edition of the Silver Age Sage for 2020 to Mr. Carmine Infantino, a man whose work I’ve long admired and who gave a mighty fine interview [Sage #172] to a guy who was just learning about the joys of conducting them.

I delved back to try and find something fresh and I think I succeeded. It’s a rather obscure character, but thanks to the work of reprint editor and savant E. Nelson Bridwell, he was not completely forgotten when tapped to make an appearance in a 100-page Super Spectacular issue of Superman #245 back in 1971. I refer to Super-Chief!

Super-Chief made his debut in All-Star Western #117 from February/March of 1961. You may recall that this title took over for All-Star Comics during the dark days of Fredric Wertham and Estes Kefauver when superheroes fell out of favor and the Justice Society was suddenly evicted.

This issue has a cover by Gil Kane and Joe Giella with Ira Schnapp lettering and is, of course, an anthology edited by Julius Schwartz.

The final story in the book is titled, “The Crowning of Super-Chief!” by Gardner Fox with Carmine doing one of his all too rare pencil and ink work jobs on the story with letters by Gaspar Saladino. Let’s see what Super-Chief is all about in this origin story.

Perhaps I’ll let Gardner Fox take the wheel for a moment with the captions from the splash page (original and reprint) where a native village is being threatened by an avalanche in what appears to be the American Southwest. The figure in the foreground sports a buffalo head, magic amulet and dark trousers with a belt and pouch. “In the years before white man set foot on this continent, he was the greatest warrior and mightiest hunter of the Wolf Clan of the nations! His name, Flying Stag, was honored and revered by his people! And then…Manitou—the Great Spirit—selected him to combat evil and lawlessness among the Indian tribes! He would have super-physical powers—beyond those of any other man! But—to secure these powers he had to give up his name—his personal glory—and the girl he loved!

Things begin when a messenger arrives at the encampment of the Wolf Clan bearing a communication on a piece of peeled bark. Flying Stag receives it and learns that the Royaneh of the Nations (Iroquois word for supreme chief) has died and a successor is to be chosen. An accompanying wooden token gives a member of the clan the right to compete for the title.

The Wolf Clan’s medicine man, Grey Eagle tells Flying Stag that as the clan’s greatest warriror and mightiest hunter, he is the logical choice. The tribe is overjoyed at the opportunity, but White Fawn is not so sure. Her thoughts reveal that her father has agreed to allow her to marry Flying Stag, so what will happen now? Will she be the wife of the Royaneh?

Preparations are made and Grey Eagle calls on Manitou to make their clan chief ready for the competition, but elsewhere, others have less altruistic plans for Flying Stag. A pit trap is prepared by these rivals from other tribes as they know they cannot compete with him and they are already in agreement that they will ally no matter who is chosen and go on the warpath.

The next day, Flying Stag begins his journey in the Moon of the Black Calf, or September to you non-Natives and soon falls into the trap. He is helplessly trapped as his ankle is caught in a stone deadfall. He notes a broken porcupine quill and a leather thong that has been torn from a medicine bag and figures out that this is no accident. Thought balloons reveal that, “Only a Turtle Clan Chief uses a purple porcupine quill as a decoration—just as the Beaver Clan Chief alone uses red medicine bag thongs…it was rival clan chiefs who set the trap and the stone deadfall at its bottom—to keep me from becoming Royaneh! They would lead the tribe upon the warpath! I would keep it in the ways of peace!

He soon pleads with Manitou but then realizes his prayers won’t find the deity without the smoke to carry it, so he pulls dried hemlock twigs from his Parfleche bag and ignites them with a bow drill. Once the smoke wafts upward, Flying Stag offers a sacrifice to Manitou that he will not compete for Royaneh if only his people will be spared from the threat of war.

Just then, a meteor strikes the earth and sends strange pulsations through the air, bathing the Sachem’s body with them until dawn breaks. Then, a disembodied voice is heard by the warrior: “Flying Stag—Awaken to the voice of Manitou.”

In that realm between consciousness and unconsciousness, Flying Stag hears the words of Manitou, granting his plea and endowing him with special powers so that he can be a formidable servant. “Your strength shall be as a thousand times that of the bear—your speed greater than the swiftest deer—your leaping prowess beyond that of the wolf! Seize the stone which holds you—and free yourself!

Flying Stag does so and is amazed at his newfound abilities. Manitou continues: “From this moment on you shall be called Saganowahna Super-Chief! A chief above all others, even above Royanehs! And yet, so that you may aid your people…you must go to the council house and enter the contest for Royaneh of the nations! Yet because you have sacrificed personal glory you shall not compete as Flying Stag—but as Super-Chief!

He is then instructed to leap from the pit and go to the meteor, where he is to take a piece of it and tie it in a leather thong and wear it always. He is cautioned, however, that while the amulet glows, he will have the promised powers, but they have a limited time span of 20,000 paces or one hour of duration. White Stag follows the further directions, which include his being led to a black buffalo that had been struck by lightning. “From its hide, you shall fashion leggings, moccasins, and horned mask! This shall be your garb as Super-Chief!

Soon a strangely garbed warrior appears at the Council House of the Nations and presents the wooden token, claiming his right to compete for Royaneh. He enters each competition and easily wins them all, despite relying almost exclusively on his own talents and gifts and is soon declared Royaneh.

The three chiefs of the other clans are less than pleased and are soon plotting the downfall of Super-Chief. Crazy Dog of the Beaver Clan starts prying loose a boulder to start an avalanche while Falling Tree of the Turtle Clan stirs up a grassfire and the chief of the Bear Clan stirs up a war party from the enemy Algonkin tribe.

Now the celebration of the new Royaneh is interrupted by what seems to be an earthquake, which is actually the landslide started by Crazy Dog. Super-Chief springs into action, calling upon Manitou to give him the power he needs from the meteor amulet. The piece of extra-terrestrial rock begins to glow and Super-Chief easily deflects the deadly boulders.

No sooner is that threat neutralized then the fires begin to overtake the tribal lands. Seizing a boulder shaped like a wedge, Super-Chief quickly digs a canal from the nearby river to quench the flames. Once this task is complete, the third crisis strikes when the war party is spotted. The amulet has been exhausted, however, so Super-Chief must rely on his wits and leadership to meet this threat. He soon has them fashioning crude catapults and the rain of boulders on the war party scatters them, ensuring the safety of the members of the Nations.

The final acts of Super-Chief are to level a three-moon period of banishment for the conspirators and to pledge his promise to the tribe that if they are ever in danger again, he will know it and respond.

The closing panels of the story find White Stage back at the village of the Wolf Clan and a meeting with a tearful White Fawn. She reveals that her father has withdrawn his consent to marriage as White Stag failed to compete for Royaneh. He explains that he had no choice as he had fallen into a trap and only escaped through the rescue efforts of Super-Chief. White Fawn says that now her father’s will is that she marry Super-Chief, leaving the man with the double life in a familiar pickle. “Great Manitou—help me! I cannot marry her as Flying Stag—nor can I marry her as Super-Chief either—for that would reveal my secret identity!”

Calling Clark Kent, Hal Jordan, Barry Allen…

The final caption offers the invitation to “lift the war axe and smoke the peace pipe” with Super-Chief in every issue of All-Star Western.

Unfortunately, even a mystical amulet couldn’t save All-Star Western from being canceled with issue #119, so Super-Chief appears to have had a total of three published adventures before heading off to wherever nearly-forgotten heroes go, but he did manage to take on Indian Giants and menacing alien Sky People before riding off into that sunset.

Super-Chief puts me a little in mind of Hourman with his time-limited powers and Carmine’s art is a treat in these stories, much like his work on the Elongated Man due in part to the novelty of getting to see his inking on his pencils. A fun little romp and I’m glad I got to get acquainted with this obscure hero from the American West.

Remember to join us again, faithful readers with the new year and a new review. If you’d like a say in what you can see here, don’t be bashful. Just drop a line to me at my handy e-mail and express yourself: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Happy Holidays from the Silver Lantern and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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