TCJ ARCHIVE

The Carmine Infantino Interview

POST -DC

GROTH: I’m not sure what you did immediately after you left DC.

INFANTINO: I worked for Hanna-Barbera.

GROTH: Would that be immediately after you resigned?

INFANTINO: No. That was later. Then I worked for Marvel animation. Then I had a couple of opportunities to go back into the business. I won’t give you their names because I don t think it’s fair to them, but I said I would absolutely not work for anybody again, unless I got a percentage of the ownership. That I was adamant about. Because I wasn’t going to knock myself out again the way I did at DC and not own it. So I just kept turning down opportunities one right after the other.

GROTH: When would that have been?

INFANTINO: A year and a half after I left DC I got a tremendous opportunity with one of the comic book houses. They called, we sat and talked, and the salary was good, but I said, “I want a piece.” They said, ‘Well, we can’t do that.” I said, “That’s it then. Thank you.” I’m not working for someone again. Period. I won’t work for anybody again without owning a piece of the action. When you live at the whim of somebody else it’s a little scary I think. And I won’t do it again. I just refuse, period.

GROTH: When you say you wanted to own the materials is that material that you created entirely yourself?

INFANTINO: Yeah.

GROTH: You actually did go on to do a whole bunch of miscellaneous material for Marvel, like Spider Woman.

INFANTINO: They weren’t mine.

GROTH: But in terms of creating something — ?

INFANTINO: No, no. I wouldn’t create anything for anybody. I refused that.

GROTH: Now, you did a lot of miscellaneous work, like Nova and Spider Woman, you worked on Star Wars, you even did a Hulk…

INFANTINO: Right. While I was doing that, I was still going around getting involved with other things. So that was purely to keep my head busy while I was really busy with other things.

GROTH: Yeah, because it didn’t look like you were focusing on anything —

INFANTINO: Nah, I wasn’t that involved with the stuff I was doing.

GROTH: Was that because your interest was not that acute any more?

INFANTINO: My interest wasn’t there. I would maybe give two days a week to that stuff, and the rest of the time was devoted to everything else.

GROTH: I see. What else were you devoting your time to?

INFANTINO: I told you. I worked for H&B. Then I worked for Marvel animation. Then my mother got very sick and I had to come back home. Some bad times that happened.

GROTH: Can you tell me how you got involved with Hanna-Barbera?

INFANTINO: I knew Joe [Barbera] because I dealt with him when I was at DC. They called me after I left DC and asked me would I like to come out and do some work for them. I said I’d give it a try. I went out for a while and Mom got sick and I had to come back. My mother had a stroke at that time. So that was the end of that. Then later on I did the same for Marvel, and she got much worse and I had nurses around the clock and I just couldn’t leave her alone… I usually don’t talk about these periods. But I had to come back again. I don’t regret what I did, don’t misunderstand me. But circumstances dictate these things. You live with it.

GROTH: Now, the work you did at Hanna-Barbera was that story boards?

INFANTINO: I was designing characters.

GROTH: What characters did you work on?

INFANTINO: All sorts… I’m trying to remember what the hell these stories were… [Pause.] God, I don’t remember any more, Gary. I’d be lying if I told you something. It was such a long time ago. [Infantino subsequently remembered having doing some work on designing the Barbie cartoon —eds.]

GROTH: Did you enjoy doing that as opposed to comics work?

INFANTINO: No, I don’t like [the] animation [field]. I don’t enjoy it. Because whatever you do, after it gets watered down by so many hands, you never recognize your original drawing any more. So I was not comfortable doing it. There was a lot of money to be made. I was just not happy doing it. But then there were people who enjoyed it. But you know what I did enjoy: I enjoyed learning about animation. I know how to do a storyboard now, and how to break it down… I learned the whole business, which is good.

GROTH: Did you live in L.A. at the time?

INFANTINO: Sure.

GROTH: Now, you did a lot of stories for Jim Warren, which I thought was very unusual.

INFANTINO: Yeah. What happened was, he was the first one who contacted me. I said, “Well, I’ll do some stuff for you, but nothing full-time because I’m busy with other things.” He says, “OK, whatever you feel like giving me, you give me.” So that’s what happened.

GROTH: Did Warren himself call you?

INFANTINO: Yeah.

GROTH: What was working for him like?

INFANTINO: Uhhh… [Pause.] He’s a strange man! [Laughs.] But he kept away from me, and I left him alone, so it was no problem. Then I moved on after a while.

GROTH: Did you enjoy doing those quasi-horror stories?

INFANTINO: No, not really.

GROTH: Because horror doesn’t quite seem appropriate to your style and approach.

INFANTINO: No, I wasn’t comfortable with it, if that’s what you mean. That’s a whole different genre, you know? I think with that stuff, either you like doing it, or you don’t like doing it. And I just didn’t like it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not quality. A lot of quality guys did that stuff. You know who was marvelous with that was Bernie Wrightson. Oh God, Bernie was brilliant.

GROTH: He also inked at least one of your stories there.

INFANTINO: Yeah, I think that one was stolen, if I’m not mistaken.

GROTH: Is that right?

INFANTINO: Yeah, there were about eight of my stories —that was very funny… When I left there, they were supposed to mail me parts of them because you know, they broke it down — the inker gets some, the penciler gets some. And apparently somebody walked off with some of them. And they just disappeared. There was one job I did the whole thing myself— pencil, ink, and tone. It was a space story. You know who wrote it? It’s very funny. Cary Bates, the guy who did The Flash. I think it was called “The Last Superhero On Earth.” A very interesting part. And I did the pencil, inking, and the wash tones. Then, gee, I did stuff with Bernie that I think was stolen, I did stuff with Alex Nino that was stolen.

GROTH: That was gorgeous stuff.

INFANTINO: You know that stuff I’m talking about?

GROTH: Yeah.

INFANTINO: All kinds of beautiful stuff was just stolen. It’s gone, so what the hell do you do about it? I know the police got involved, the police called me and asked me who did I suspect? I said, “What’s gone is gone! I don’t know! I’m not going to blame anybody.” And ‘that was the end of that. But a lot of wonderful artwork was gone. And if it ever comes out, whoever took it will be in trouble.

Sequence from "The Beast is Yet to Come" in Vampirella #59 (April 1977) written by Nicola Cuti, penciled by Infantino and inked by Alex Nino

GROTH: [Laughs.] Right. What did you think of Nino’s inking?

INFANTINO: Oh I loved it. I love everything Alex does. I think he’s totally genius, you know? He’s one of the guys that I brought over from the Philippines. Him and Redondo — he’s dead now — and there were a couple of others. They were just sensational artists, these boys.

GROTH: One thing I noticed in the Warren material was that some of the material was sexier than anything you’d ever done before.

INFANTINO: I think he wanted that stuff.

GROTH: Were you comfortable doing that?

INFANTINO: Not too.

GROTH: No?

INFANTINO: I wasn’t comfortable with anything I did for Warren.

GROTH: So why did you do it?

INFANTINO: I was keeping busy. I wanted to keep myself busy for a couple of days while I was trying other things. I didn’t want to just sit home and play with myself, you know what I mean?

GROTH: Yeah. We’re talking about the mid-’70s now.

INFANTINO: Sure.

GROTH: I think you worked for Warren in 1977 or so when there weren’t that many options for artists.

INFANTINO: Right, there wasn’t too much to do.

FILED UNDER: , ,

19 Responses to The Carmine Infantino Interview

  1. Wow, there were a lot of comics mentioned there that I hadn’t thought about in years. Infantino and Kanigher supplied an awful lot of my reading back when I was growing up in the 1960s. Every Friday I’d go out and buy the latest comics and sit down and read them at the kitchen table. Happy times!

  2. Dan Nordquist says:

    Yeah, going down to the drugstore in Cleveland Ohio to see the new comics was a big high point in my week as a little kid back then. I was a huge fan of Carmine and Murphy, and boy do I remember when the big Batman craze hit.

    It was great to finally find out about what it was actually like to be one of my heroes back in the day. I would open up the magazine then, and see the NYC address for DC as publisher at the bottom of the page, and I’d wonder how one got to know them, and how to start the ball rolling if one were a more accomplished artist.

    Funny to read that Carmine didn’t even enjoy the Flash stories.

    When I would see their recreations ( he and Murphy ) of early Justice Society characters I was so curious about the originals that had been published way before I was born. Then one day I finally got to see some interiors from back then, and I realized that it was the modern versions of those guys ( Captain Midnight etc. ) that I really liked the looks of.

    For me all of that started with the Vandal Savage story and another story called “Double Danger on Earth” that featured the “Earth One” Flash. I enjoyed both villains in that latter story, having early on picked up on the grotesque villains in Dick Tracy etc.

    To see references in DC comics to earlier stories was great, showing a whole history that I could look into, like Lovecraft making up the “tradition” of the Necronomicon, except that here there actually WAS a tradition. Something that had been going on even when my own parents were young. In the early 60’s they even had little miniature versions of the covers of magazines out at the same time that you might not have seen yet. So you could get an old comic and see in it what else was out that same month and be intrigued with it. Lovecraft’s creations were even mentioned once in the Felix Faust origin.

  3. Ed Gauthier says:

    INFANTINO: “…comics are in a terrible downward spiral now.” They’ve indeed been tanking in recent years due to the fact that there are no more great writers like Broome and Kaniger, editors like Schwarz, inkers like Anderson, or artists like Infantino, Boring, Ditko, Kirby, Colan, Kane, Cole, etc. That high quality level just isn’t there anymore. People are much better off just pulling the plug, and buying and saving as many golden and silver age books as possible.

  4. steven samuels says:

    RIP

    “GROTH: I was going to say, the work you did at Warren maybe not all of if, but certainly that strip and the stuff that Nino inked, looked like you put a lot more effort into it than say, the Nova or Spider Woman stuff.”

    100% agree with this. In the original print version of this interview there were a few other panel images from Creepy that were very nice, sadly not included here. Far more palatable than the stuff he was doing from the “Big Two.” Maybe he didn’t see it that way, but it did feel like he was putting more of a personal passion into it. Also it could just come down to his artwork looking much better in black & white. Here’s some stories from his Warren output:

    Running Wild (Infantino & Nino)

    Bloodstone Christmas (Infantino & John Severin!)

    Country Pie (Infantino & Wrightson)

  5. patrick ford says:

    A better example would be Infantino finishing his own pencils at Warren on a story which is ironic in more ways than one.
    http://diversionsofthegroovykind.blogspot.com/2009/05/black-and-white-wednesday-last-super.html

  6. James Van Hise says:

    I read through this to see if I remembered correctly that there were a couple major omissions in the interview. I remembered correctly. First, as I understand it Infantino didn’t exactly quit as publisher but was either fired or forced to resign due to poor management decisions he’d made. And after leaving DC he never worked in a management position again but had to go back to drawing comics for a living. Then there were the firings. When several long time (I mean decades) DC writers, including Gardner Fox and Arnold Drake, banded together and demanded that they get employee benefits (because DC didn’t allow “freelancers” to work for the competition, effectively forcing them to be exclusive with DC) Carmine Infantino rejected their demands and fired them. This action haunted Infantino for the rest of his life (not that he ever expressed any misgivings) and rather than really defend it he’d just get angry whenever anyone brought it up. When Comic Book Artist magazine tried to ask him about this in the 1990s he began a feud with them, with threatening and name-calling.

  7. Eddie Campbell says:

    About ten years ago I got a chance to tell Infantino that his Elongated Man (The back-up series in detective Comics) was the single run of a 1960s comic that I most enjoy looking back over. It had a great summery optimistic quality and the hero was married and that wasn’t a problem but a good thing, and the best of it really did catch something of the atmosphere of the mid 1960s.. He got somewhat excited and started informing me that they let him ink it himself. I said yes, I know, that’s WHY!

  8. R. Fiore says:

    I recall enjoying that angular stuff he was doing for Marvel in the 1970s.

  9. george says:

    A few issues of Daredevil he did in 1977-78, written by Jim Shooter, have held up well.

  10. Charro says:

    I would like to see more of his mature style. Always thought there was potential there that could have been explored more, judging from the bits he did for Iron Man, and Daredevil. Janson worked well with him, seemed like they both were on a similar wavelength, this could have been a good team.

  11. T Guy says:

    What you wrote, Eddie!

    If only Infa had inked all his work…

    I was going to disagree with ‘the single run of a 1960s comic that I most enjoy looking back over’ but I’m not sure that I can think of anything I’d rather look back over from the swingin’ decade.

  12. R. Fiore says:

    He did a number of issues of the Marvel Star Wars comics, and the place to look would be one of the Marvel omnibus books. (I kept remembering the Infantino comics I read in the 70s as being John Carter Warlord of Mars, but some Googling indicated that my memory was faulty.) I imagine the back issues wouldn’t be terribly expensive either.

  13. Your memory isn’t that faulty. Infantino did some Jome Carter comics for Marvel as well, including one issue that was later reworked as a Star Wars story:
    http://www.erbzine.com/mag19/1901.html

  14. Kit says:

    He did a number of issues of the Marvel Star Wars comics, and the place to look would be one of the Marvel omnibus books.

    Do these exist? Surely Marvel lost the rights to the material about twenty years before their Omnibus lines started.

    (Though presumably it’ll come back sometime now they’re both owned by Disney)

  15. R. Fiore says:

    By “Marvel omnibus” I mean omnibus of the Marvel Star Wars comics. Dark Horse publishes them, big 500-page momsers. Infantino is in Volume 2.

  16. george says:

    Get “Essential Nova” for some nice late-’70s Infantino work for Marvel. And I assume his Warren work from the same period will eventually be reprinted.

  17. Paul says:

    My two cents is that Infantino’s work on Nova and Star Wars for Marvel was some of the worst comic art of that often mediocre era (Frank Robbins’ Captain America unfortunately being another low point). Such a shame as I was well aware of his marvelous Flash from when I was younger (I discovered Adam Strange later, long after the fact). Interestingly, at the time, I was also very put off by Kirby’s post-Darkseid comics for DC and Marvel, but now find those Omacs and Kamandis and 2001’s and Machine Mans and Eternals and even Devil Dinosaurs utterly fascinating, and containing some of his best, most interesting and spectacular artworks. Infantino’s late work though doesn’t improve with age.

  18. Joe says:

    I disagree with Paul.
    Some of the most astute and passionate collectors love Carmine’s work from this era. Do not be thrown off by his comments. I knew Carmine as well as anyone, as well as his circle of friends. Carmine to put it mildly, had a great sense of pride. His departure from DC was extremely painful and embarrassing. The scars remained till his death. As a result he would never admit that he did great work after his departure but the fact is that he was brilliant at layout and design and ideally suited for Star Wars in particular. Stan Lee personally sought him out as the ideal choice having grown up with the great DC sci-fi titles. His effort never lacked and his distinctive style was manifested in everything he did.

    Joe

  19. Joe says:

    Let me also add the following quote “According to former Marvel Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter, the strong sales of Star Wars comics “saved” Marvel financially in 1977 and 1978.[2] Marvel’s Star Wars series was one of the industry’s top selling titles in 1979 and 1980″ from the Star Wars Wikipedia page.

    Obviously, the success of the blockbuster franchise had a lot to do with it but it was Carmine’s tenure on the book that shined. Not coincidentally, the same thing happened after Carmine took over Batman (which was going to be cancelled) and launched the silver-age Flash.

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