John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

On Carmine Infantino, eventually

Looking over Wikipedia's list of people born today, one could easily get the impression that the "notable enough to get a Wikipedia article" bar is set a lot lower for people born in my lifetime than for people born earlier than that. I don't suppose that's true; it probably has more to do with information being more readily available about people born recently. It's probably a lot easier to find a reliable source online for the birth of a Namibian cricketer born in 1981 than about one born in, say, 1941. Actually, did Namibia even exist in 1941? Hold on a sec. Hm, technically no. Nor in 1981, for that matter. It gained its independence from South Africa in 1990; prior to that, it was German South-West Africa until 1915, then just South-West Africa after South Africa occupied it during World War I.

The other impression one gets when looking at Wikipedia's list of people born today is, man, who cares? I mean, there are some pretty famous people born on this date — Colin Powell, Booker T. Washington, Bette Davis — and a few lesser-known ones who happen to fall within my peculiar sphere on interest, like Jane Asher, who dated Paul McCartney for several years int he 60s, and Hayley Atwell, whose name I recall from one of those Jane Austen adaptations I've watched so many of lately, but otherwise, this list bores me. Given how easily interested I am, I could probably click through to the article about that Namibian cricketer — Stefan Ludik, if you must know — and find something modestly diverting, but I don't feel like it.

But hey, you know what I do like? Comic books. The DC Universe in particular, and the weirder corners of it even more particularly, so here's a picture of Prez, the first teenage President of the United States of America and star of a self-titled short-lived DC Comics series from the 1970s:


That's Prez on the left, in the turtleneck. I about plotzed when I saw that in the Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated episode "Pawn of Shadows" the other day.

It seems appropriate to mention that Prez was brought to life (by Joe Simon and Jerry Grandenetti) under the executive supervision of a guy named Carmine Infantino, who was DC Comics's publisher at the time. Infantino came to DC Comics in the late 40s, drawing Johnny Thunder, Green Lantern, Justice Society, and, when the superhero craze faded, western, romance, and science fiction comics. When DC decided to try to revive the superhero genre in the late 50s with a new version of The Flash, Infantino was tapped as artist. The costume he designed for the new character is possibly the best superhero costume ever created, and the visual style he created for the depiction of super-speed remained the standard for the next 30 years and still influences it today. He also co-created Black Canary, Batgirl (Barbara Gordon), and the Human Target, all of whom eventually made their way to TV. Once he was brought onto staff, first as art director, then editorial director and ultimately publisher, he lured Jack Kirby away from Marvel and Dick Giordano from Charlton, brought Captain Marvel creator C. C. Beck out of retirement to work on a revival of the character, and brought in new talent like Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, whose work on Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow was revolutionary and remains massively influential even today.

What I'm saying is that the comics industry as it exists today owes a massive debt to Carmine Infantino, which is why it's a shame that his passing yesterday was overshadowed by that of Roger Ebert. Not that Ebert didn't deserve the attention — his influence on film criticism and entertainment journalism in general was enormous, and if you don't believe that check out this AV Club feature, "What did Roger Ebert mean to you?" — but Infantino did too.

Well, that's not what I expected to end up with when I started writing this entry. But it's like Mark Evanier says: sometimes you just have to start writing and see what you come up with.
Tags: obits, reading: comic books, this day in history, tv: other

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