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World of Carmine Infantino
Although it's hard to give an impartial review to a book by and about Carmine Infantino, the guy who co-created most of my favorite characters (Elongated Man, The Flash, Captain Comet and many more) and illustrated so many of those Elongated Man mysteries I love I will make the effort. Even though I got to shake his hand and he not only signed my copy but did a sketch of Elongated Man on the inside the only sketch he did the entire weekend of FallCon, I might add. Yes, despite all that, I think I can be fair.
Namely because I'd have given this book ten out of ten anyway!
The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino (available from his home page at Creative Mix) is a treasure trove of a book. Every page has illustrations! Comic book panels, sketches, protruding figures, photographs (historical and recent) some are examples tucked neatly into the side, others jut out into the text and interfere with the paragraphs. There's a color section (at least, there is in my numbered hardcover edition). And a page of sketch-work with, oh my, Ralph and Sue Dibny's faces over and over again. (Sweet!)
The cover alone is informative! A collage no, that's not the right word, not when they're evenly displayed in a grid well, you know what I mean an array of covers from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Scanning these individual covers, the layouts and designs are the most striking. When comic pontificators like we at Fanzing or "Cheeks the Toy Wonder" talk about the Silver Age covers that practically forced themselves into readers' clutches, 90% of the time we're talking about the covers done by Carmine Infantino. Flash ordering the reader to not pass the comic by or he will die. The JLA members encouraging brotherhood from the children of the world in an endorsement of the U.N. Batman hurtling towards Blockbuster with such force that he sends his own brick logo smashing down atop the villain. A tearful Batman filling out his will. Batgirl leaping from the cover, Batman and Robin unable to catch up to her because they're just so shocked at the arrival of this hot new character. Superman and Flash racing so fast towards the reader that they seem to bust off the cover.
In fact, the more I look at these I notice that the characters are constantly breaking the fourth wall, standing outside of their own comic book and gasping at what is happening to themselves on the miniature cover. You never see characters doing that anymore.
There's another cover, one with a story to tell. I'm not sure if it's in the book, since I've been leaping back and forth through it so much that I'm missing bits here and there. There's a cover where Batman is lying prone on the ground and Batgirl and Catwoman are fighting over who gets his body. They are poised on both sides of Batman, facing off angrily. Catwoman has her cat o'nine tails draped over Batman's foot.
At FallCon's Q&A session with Carmine, a questioner told how his mother refused to buy the book for him because she was shocked by the cover. Carmine said that this cover was an idea by William Moulton Marston (creator of Wonder Woman). It was the only idea of his that they ever used and it sold like crazy. Carmine told us about Marston's ideas, most of which were quite scandalous in nature. In the 1950s, "Seduction of the Innocent" caused a lot of problems for the comics industry by alleging that comic books had hidden sexual messages that they were sending. While most of that was unfounded paranoia, Carmine admitted that, in the case of Marston's Wonder Woman comics, it was pretty much intentional.
Also at the Q&A, Carmine Infantino discussed his use of captions with hands jutting out of the side to point at other captions or details in the picture. This is shown a couple times in the book. When asked why he did this, Carmine responded that it's because comic book captions were often so boring that the only thing prompting people to read them was the arms jutting out of them.
Oh, and there are words. I should probably mention the words in this book, since Carmine and J. David worked so hard to write them.
Carmine Infantino's personal history, from an artist who simply walked into DC's offices during the Golden Age to the whiz kid (okay, whiz man) of the Silver Age and then head honcho at DC in the 1970s, that's all there. He also tells of his development as an artist, stretching his skills at architecture, silhouettes, composition, and inking his own pencils (in which most of the work is done in the inking stage). He demonstrates all of these with reprints of his original pencil/inks, such as the Elongated Man panels at the right.
Stan Lee, Berni Wrightson, Julius Schwartz and a dozen other comic greats weigh in with opinions and anecdotes about Carmine. If that's not enough to warrant picking this up: there's a 15-page portfolio, plus a "raw" comic book called "Baptist" (as far as I can tell; I couldn't find a notation for it) where you can see Carmine's pencils, plus a quite amusing "Cronk" story written by Cary Bates that was never published.
If you still need a reason to check out this book, try this: Carmine tells about his contributions to the first two Superman films and he relates the original plots for the movies. There was an idea for a scene in the first film that I, for one, wish they'd kept.
"The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino" is an amusing bio and an informative work that belongs on the shelf next to your DC Archive editions and "Comics and Sequential Art."
My vote: 10 out of 10
This article is © 2000 by Michael Hutchison
Book cover and artwork are © by Carmine Infantino and Vanguard Productions
TM and © art appear solely as historic examples of Infantino art
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All DC Comics characters, trademarks and images (where used) are DC Comics, Inc.
DC characters are used here in fan art and fiction in accordance with their generous "fair use" policies.
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