I WAS ON MY WAY to a comic book convention in Kansas City when I received a text message telling me that Carmine Infantino had died. I reasonably assumed that this would be a major topic of discussion at the convention, but it wasn’t until I’d returned to my hotel room that first evening that I realized no one — neither fans nor professionals — had mentioned his passing. The death of one of the seminal figures of American comics — a man whose career began during the Second World War, continued through the so-called Silver Age, and lasted until the turn of the 21st century — seemed to go functionally unnoticed by a roomful of several thousand comic book enthusiasts.
This lack of interest or awareness — a symptom, I believe, of the general cultural amnesia afflicting the generations born after the baby boom — is disheartening at best. Though he began drawing comics in the early 1940s, it was in the ’50s that Infantino emerged from the pack of his colleagues with a singular style. Ten years earlier, one would have been hard pressed to tell the difference between Carmine Infantino, Joe Kubert, Frank Giacoia, Alex Toth, and the other teenaged boys exploited by the league of larcenous shitweasels who published comics, all of them indebted to Milton Caniff. By the 1950s, however, these men, now in their 20s, were working in the styles and approaches that would sustain them for the rest of their respective lives and careers. For me and my fellow preteen comics enthusiasts, the artists who mattered were Kubert (who worked on Hawkman and the Viking Prince stories in The Brave and the Bold), Kane (Green Lantern and The Atom), and Infantino (The Flash). Toth, perhaps the best of the bunch, and certainly the most personally difficult, never attached himself to a title that we cared about — but we all knew he was a special case.
Carmine’s ran on April 5, 2013).
The last time I saw Carmine was at an event in Texas, I believe. He shot me an index finger pistol greeting and a wink, which amused and bemused me to no end. I’d like to think he didn’t recognize me, but figured he knew me from somewhere, and took me for somebody else. So, better safe than sorry.