Saturday, April 6, 2013

Carmine Infantino, 1925-2013

Comic book legend Carmine Infantino died this week at 87. The DC artist and editor is credited with saving Batman in the early 1960s--before the campy TV show--by giving the Caped Crusader a "new" look. He replaced Dick Sprang's childish boxy, angular drawings with a fluid, almost avant-garde style. He also co-created the Silver Age Batgirl (in response to ABC's request for a female companion for the Gotham Goliath). There had been a previous Bat-Girl--Betty Kane, niece of heiress Kathy Kane, secretly Batwoman. But the new Batgirl aka Barbara Gordon, daughter of Police Commissioner Gordon, was not a silly teenager with a crush a Robin, like Betty. She was a "dynamic daredoll."

Infantino also created the new Flash and launched the Silver Age of Comics. After World War II, many superheroes titles were scrapped with only the big three--Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman--surviving. Responding to a demand for more caped do-gooders, Infantino re-invented the Golden Age Flash and launched the Silver Age of Comics. More Golden Agers such as Green Lantern, Hawkman, and The Atom, were reborn. He also co-created such heroes as Deadman, Animal Man, and The Elongated Man, an amateur sleuth able to stretch his body like Mr. Fantastic, Plastic Man, and Mr. Gum.

He was magnificent at sci-fi settings. His futuristic cityscapes for the planet Rann in the Adam Strange series always took my breath away. Strange was an archaeologist who travels to distant Rann by means of the zeta-beam to save the Rannians from whatever menace was befalling them that month. Evidently, they needed someone from Earth to solve their problems since they couldn't handle any themselves.

I met Infantino once at a recent Comic Con and got his autograph on The World of Carmine Infantino paperback edition. I was hoping he'd drawn a Batman or Adam Strange, but only got his signature.

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