In every entry of Comic Confidential, I share my experience in creating and marketing comics. Sometimes I interview fellow indie creators in the business and they share their stories with me. In this installment, I wanted to take time away and concentrate on something more personal. Just days ago, comic legend Carmine Infantino passed away at the age of 87. He was one of the remaining legends still living today. His imprint on the industry created waves that would last for decades and will last for many more now that he is gone. Many people grew up on his comics and looked up to him as a legend, but to me he was something else. He was my teacher, mentor, and the person I strive to be. When I attended the School of Visual Arts, I had Carmine for a number of classes. He was always straight to the point and always said what was on his mind. If he thought your work was crap he didn’t mince words with you. He taught me all the tricks of the trade. I thought I knew how to draw a comic story, but after his class I quickly found out I knew very little. Every character and page layout I create are methods I used from Carmine’s teachings.
Here’s a little backstory on Carmine’s history. When DC was struggling to reboot their characters in the 60’s, Carmine was on the frontlines to basically overhaul Flash in a new streamlined look. (He was the one that designed the iconic red and yellow Flash outfit.) Essentially he was the man responsible for the Silver Age of Comics. He even co-created Barbara Gordon aka Batgirl and helped usher in a new direction of Batman that tried to shy away from the sillier aspects of the character. His most critically acclaimed storyline was the “Flash of Two Worlds” story from issue #123. In this landmark story, DC introduced the idea of Earth 2. Carmine was so influential at DC that they made him editorial director of the company and he helped to bring in new talent like Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and Joe Kubert to DC. He even managed to snag Marvel’s golden boy, Jack Kirby, to sign an exclusive contract to work at DC. In the early 70’s, Carmine was promoted to DC Publisher. It was during this time he helped to co-create The Human Target at DC.
In the late 70’s he was replaced as the Publisher of DC and in a spur of revenge decided to take his talents to the competition, Marvel. He once told me that he did that as a big “F**** You” to the new people in charge at the company. At Marvel he would have legendary runs on Spider-Woman, Nova and Star Wars. In the mid-80’s, Carmine would return to DC for a revival of Dial H for Hero and return to Flash until its cancellation in the mid-80’s. In the 90’s he decided to retire and teach at the School of Visual Arts.
One of the best stories he told me was the time he received the script to the first Superman movie. He was so appalled by the script he thought the movie would destroy the character and the company’s image forever. So in a quick attempt to fix things, he sat down in a hotel in LA and basically rewrote the entire script in one night. It was that script that the producers used at the basis of the movie instead of Mario Puzo’s original version. He also told me about his run-ins with Stan Lee and how the two were always at odds. Stan would try and poach all his best artists, so he made it his mission to take Stan’s best talent in Jack Kirby. Even when he finally started to work with Stan, he never got along with him.
It’s been over 20 years since I last saw the great Carmine. It feels like it was just yesterday. That wise smile and stern demeanor always stood out. You ask any student that had his class and they will all tell you the same thing. “He was one of the best teachers they had.” When I’m long gone and people forget about me, Carmine’s touch on the world will still be felt. If I can get just an ounce of his greatness in life then I will be happy. Right now, I’m just glad I had a chance to know the man, the legend, the icon; Carmine Infantino.