SILVER AGED WONDER
I grew up in the world of comic books, what today to collectors has come to be known as the Silver Age. Comic books really began in the 1930s (the Golden Age), when such classic titles as Action Comics (featuring Superman) and Detective Comics (featuring Batman) caught the imagination of the public. In the late Fifties and early Sixties, there was a revival of
interest in the comic book realm, and a reconfiguring of older characters as well as an introduction of many new ones. I'm not going to get into the genesis of Marvel Comics during this time. It suffices to say, though, that if I still possessed all my early copies of Spiderman and The Fantastic Four that I would be on the beach in the South of France instead of writing this!
Above: The Golden Age Flash on the top is Jay Garrick. The Silver Age Flash below him is police detective Barry Allen.
Perhaps my favorite of all comic book artists was Carmine Infantino, New York-born and bred, who pencilled the Silver Age Flash and a number of other characters during that period from the 1950s-1960s. His work looked like no one else's, and if you complemented his drawings with a quality inker, you had some pretty solid comic book art.
Infantino began his foray into the art world as a student in what is now called New York's High School of Art and Design. He eventually was coaxed into becoming an apprentice inker for a dollar a day and got his early assignments during the 1940s Golden Age. In 1956, however, when the interest in comic books blossomed again, Infantino was asked to create a new version of The Flash. It was he who came up with the iconic red uniform. It was he that broke ground in trying to convey speed in a two-dimensional sketch. Over the years he also created many characters and strengthened plot points and story arcs. Below is the issue that introduced the new Flash.
It is this issue that historians use to gauge the beginnings of that revival and the inception of the Silver Age. The Flash was a big hit, and that prompted DC Comics to launch new titles and update characters. Not only were Superman and Batman popular, but now fans could read Green Lantern, The Atom, The Justice League of America, The Manhunter from Mars, Wonder
Woman, Green Arrow, and many more.
Of course, Batman was my favorite, as I have discussed before, but I had a special place in my heart for the Mystery in Space series once Carmine Infantino took over the design of that series. Mystery in Space had been an omnibus title originally, with two or three stories set on far off planets. Space exploration was in its infancy and science fiction was
thriving as a genre.
But Mystery in Space's editors soon realized that a story line about Adam Strange, an archaeologist who had been hit by a beam from outer space and transported to the Planet Rann in the star system of Alpha Centauri had generated more than the usual interest. Initially, the tales were drawn by popular artist Mike Sekowsky, a painfully bad penciller even to my untrained eyes. But DC editor Julius Schwartz soon gave the job to Carmine Infantino and teamed him up with inker
Murphy Anderson--a match, as they say, made in heaven (or in this case--the heavens).
The planet Rann looked like a futuristic Earth--just as scientists were in the midst of predicting what our brave new world would be like. No mentions of climate change back then. Lots of talk of flying cars!
Adam Strange (Adam--because he was the first man on a new planet) is out on an archaeological dig and is hit by a Zeta-Beam, a ray projected from Rann, 25,000,000,000 miles from Earth. There, he befriends and falls in love with Alanna, the beautiful daughter of Sardath, a leading scientist on Rann. Invariably, some peril befalls Rann requiring Adam to thwart the threat. Ineluctably, the effects of the Zeta-Beam wear off and Adam is transported back to Earth. Fortunately, he has a schedule telling him where and when on Earth the beam will hit next, so he must find his way to those points if he wants to stay in touch with the fetching Alanna. Each month there was another adventure. Soon, the Adam Strange stories were expanded to fill most of the issue of Mystery in Space.
Below: See how Infantino's pencil art comes to life with a quality colorer.
Above: As you can see, the artists did some innovative work with color palettes. Look carefully to see the cityscapes of a futuristic world. Below: Some interesting work with perspective.
Eventually, of course, Alanna needs to visit Earth, and Adam needs to commit. But as you can see in the last panel below, mystery always awaits. Infantino was soon moved off this title, but his few years with Adam Strange were without parallel at the time of creating a high degree of verisimilitude for the depiction of another world.
Below: A legendary Carmine Infantino cover:
I had a subscription to Detective Comics. Each issue used to come in a brown paper wrapper, folded in half. Imagine my surprise when I opened it to find a completely new-look Batman, with a changed uniform. DC editors had tried to update Batman's image and they brought in Carmine Infantino to effect those changes. It didn't last long. In just a couple of years the Pop Art movement would take over and the popular kitschy Batman TV series would prove profitable, so the Bam! Pow! stylings of Batman transformed the character into a cartoon. That's when Marvel Comics came calling for Carmine. They were no dopes. In the 70s, they had him pencil the new Star Wars series of comics.
Below: The first issue of the Infantino-era Detective and the second of Batman. Infantino's work is idiosyncratic. No one else's pages looked like his.
Carmine Infantino died back in 2013. He had received just about every award a comic-book artist could receive. He was before the time when comic book artists got much recognition though. Sadly, many of their original pages got tossed as refuse. Infantino's awards include:
1958 National Cartoonists Society Award, Best Comic Book
1961 Alley Award, Best Single Issue: The Flash #123 (with Gardner Fox)
1961 Alley Award, Best Story: "Flash of Two Worlds", The Flash #123 (with Gardner Fox)
1961 Alley Award, Best Artist
1962 Alley Award, Best Book-Length Story: "The Planet that Came to a Standstill!", Mystery in Space #75 (with Gardner Fox)
1962 Alley Award, Best Pencil Artist
1963 Alley Award, Best Artist
1964 Alley Award, Best Short Story: "Doorway to the Unknown", The Flash #148 (with John Broome)
1964 Alley Award, Best Pencil Artist
1964 Alley Award, Best Comic Book Cover (Detective Comics #329 with Murphy Anderson)
1967 Alley Award, Best Full-Length Story: "Who's Been Lying in My Grave?", Strange Adventures #205 (with Arnold Drake)
1967 Alley Award, Best New Strip: "Deadman" in Strange Adventures (with Arnold Drake)
1969 special Alley Award for being the person "who exemplifies the spirit of innovation and inventiveness in the field of comic art"
1985: Named as one of the honorees by DC Comics in the company's 50th anniversary publication Fifty Who Made DC Great.
2000: Inkpot Award Credits to Wikipedia
You should check some of them out. It's an honor to pay tribute to him.