Saturday, April 06, 2013

Pre-hero Hero

Saturday Obituary.

This week industry legend Carmine Infantino died. While bloggers and websites everywhere debated if e was a nice man indeed and recalled many of his successes in the forties, sixties and seventies, I saw no mention whatsoever of his work in the fifties, except where it touched on his long tenre at DC, whoch started around 1956/56. And although it is true he is best remembered for is powerful Milt Canif influenced work in the late forties (with similarely inspired artists Alex Toth, Irwin Hasen, Bernie Krigstein, Joe Kubert and Gil Kane), his redesign of the Flash which lead to the start of the Silver Age and his powerful solo work on Marvel's Star Wars titles, I find his work in the early fifties just as compelling. After leaving DC, he worked at several companies, looking for a new style. In my opnion Infantino always was more of a designer than an artist and as such his style was just as much personal as it was a choice. He was quick to hook onto certain stylistic characteristics and use them to present a well told story,but they idn't always seem to come from deep inside. His own characteristics were smaller, certain positions and compositions he seemed to favor, his use of silhouettes, etc.

So here we have a sampling of his work in the early fifties. In the late forties he hooked up with Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, who were then working on several titles for Prize comics. Infantino seems to have worked for several of those, including the western and crime titles. But best known is his work for Simon and Kirby's short run Charlie Chan series. Carmine tried on his best Jack Kirby imitation. Underneath some actual Jack Kirby covers, he seems to have done most of the Charlie Chan stories in the first four issues and most of the incidentals as well. The first few were inked in the studio style (as Simon and Kirby scholar Harry Mendrick called it) and for many years people thought these stries were actully done by Jack Kirby himself. Later on, the stories were inked in a more Milt Caniff influenced style by what seems like a regular Simon and Kirby inker in that period who has not been identified yet (which is hard to do, since so many of the Simon and Kirby produced stories had various hands on them). If you compare these to the stories Carmine Infantino did for Hillman's The Heap with inker Loenard Starr, it seems to me he is a serious candidate. Maybe Charles pelto (who published his complete Mary perkins on Stage and visits here regularely) can ask him sometime.

So, without much further adone (having adone enough), here are three stories from Charlie Chan #2 and a couple fro Hillman's The Heap (which I have shown before). After that, the next step: Infantino working with Stan Lee.

Harry Mendrck notes that the first panel of the next story is by Jack Kirby.

As good as these are, for me personally Carmine did his best work of the period for Stan Lee. Lee was running Martin Goodman's Timely/Atlas companysince the midforties. When the romance boom of the late forties collapsed, he tried out new genres, most notably war and horror. He also tried out something else. Instead of letting his artists work from the studio bullpen, he allowed them to work from home. Either accidentally or on purpose (possibly influenced by a similar move at EC), he allowed each artist to keep and develop his own style. Many artists went searching and came up with some extraordinairy stuff. Gene Colan was one of them, Carmine Infantno was another. He produced his wildest stories here and they often seem to have been inked by himself.

Yesm you are right. Stan Lee later used the same theme of a living tree in the Ditko drawn V-814, about an oak who comes alive after a nuclear bomb test.

For the next one he slicked up, looking like his later DC work in 1952 already.

The next three stories show Carmine Infantino experimenting with a new inking style. They are all by Stan Lee, by the way. Who not only kept the best artists for himself, but also often gave himself the extra page needed to flesh out his stories. I have also included them in my long long list of Stan Lee written stories (to which I will keep adding until I got all of his signed 50's work)

This is actually one of my favorites, the wirey style is just great.

Over at Atlas Tales we have been able to identify about thirty stories he did for Stan Lee in a three year period. This seems to have been the last one, before he left for DC. Since he did at least some of these stories with Gil Kane, is it generally assumed this is one of them.

Carmine Infantino's career at DC is pretty wel documented. As always, I like to put the spotlight on the rareties and oddities. And much rare and odder than Detctive Chimp, you don't get. He did this back-up feature for more than 40 isues of Rex the Wonder Dog and like with the similary interesting Elongated Man he was allowed to ink his own work, with impressive results. I have shown some of the earlier stories, which were no inked by Infantino earlier. Follow the label to find those. Since I have about all of these, I may do the complete run at some point.

Idon't know what happened between these two stories - maybe Infantino started drawing the Elongated Man and decided he liked the look of that? Or had he always drawn him like that and was the snout 'repaired' by the inker? Anyway, after two decidedly weird issies, Infantino decided or was asked to 'pull it back' so to speak.

Last time I showed some of the Detective Chimps, oe of my reguar visitors told me he liked Infantino's Pow Wow Smith from Western Comics best, so I am including some of those as well. Again, ikned by Infantino himself, he did about 42 of those.

Of course, these were not the only westerns he did before he started doing superheroes. Here are some more series, all of which were DC-natized by inkers such as Joe Giella and Sy Barry.

Look: floating heads!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting so many great stories by Carmine. I have been collecting his (and Kane's) DC non-super hero '50s work for several years now. I love his Flash and Adam Strange, but his talent is totally evident in this work as well. Beautiful stuff!