Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur
Part biography and part folio, Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur is an extended interview with the titular artist, exploring his history within the growing world of comic books, from his youth up until the current day. As one of comics’ most prolific pencil artists, his impact on the Silver Age is still being felt and appreciated today. In fact, Infantino penciled the cover of the single comic book that is said to mark the beginning of the Silver Age: DC’s Showcase #4.
While the book begins by exploring Infantino’s youth and the difficult life of his family, it quickly evolves past his early experiences and influences into the vast breadth of his professional works. A significant portion of the book is comprised of Infantino discussing his relationships with different editors and writers, and he takes a no-holds-barred approach to talking about which inkers he thought did a terrible job with his pencils and which editors he hated working with. It’s definitely fun to read a comic book tell-all from the perspective of a senior guy with nothing left to lose and no one left to alienate (since most of his creative compatriots have passed on), and it illuminates some of the unusual creative choices that comic book companies were making at the time. While some decisions were motivated by sales, others were pure internal politics, and Infantino divulges them all.
He doesn’t come across as bitter, and despite being 85, he retains a very clear memory of nearly everything he’s ever contributed to, even if the memories of his collaborators differ. This is the tale of a great artist who did the very best he could in an industry that was constantly in flux and survived to tell the tale. It’s ultimately very inspiring to read. The interviews call upon some relatively obscure knowledge of comics, giving curious readers a lot of points to leap off from.
Every page of the paperback edition is full of Infantino’s art, all presented in greyscale. While purists might not appreciate these monotone reproductions of color comics, it’s important to bear in mind that Infantino was a penciler, rarely even inking his own works, and definitely not coloring them. Seeing his pencils in their purest forms (often scanned from the original pages) is a rare opportunity to see his virtuoso work in its rawest form, before the multiple layers of processing that go into making a published comic have altered it. In this way, it’s also a very smart look into the mechanics of creating classic comic books, intentionally or not. The examples are always relevant and excellent and truly exemplify why Infantino is so respected in this field.
This book is intended for enthusiasts of classic comics, but anyone who is interested in hearing the secrets behind their favorite heroes can appreciate these interviews. Bear in mind that this is not a graphic novel, or a definitive visual collection of Infantino’s work, as a majority of the content is text, but it’s still a very good book. Nothing here can really be viewed as offensive to any audience, so this book is appropriate for all ages, even if the content is geared toward an older audience.
Reviewed by Collin David on July 6, 2012