Friday, April 5, 2013

Carmine Infantino: The passing of a giant and the fallacies of geek culture

Yesterday, two men who had both contributed greatly to their respective mediums passed away.  Most have likely heard about the passing of preeminent film critic Roger Ebert, whose eulogizing has been far reaching and at times touching.  The day also saw the passing of legendary comic book artist Carmine Infrantino, whose contributions over the past sixty years of comic book history included the revitalization of the Flash in 1964, the creation of Batgirl and decades of work as an artist and editor.

 Just to put things into perspective, he helped moved mainstream comic art from this:

to this:

In addition to the above linked article by Comic Book Resources, Inantino's death has been reported by IGN, Den of Geek, Comics Alliance, Bleeding Cool and entertainment blog Mania.  

And yet nothing on Comics Worth Reading.  Nothing on I09, Topless Robot, The Mary Sue, Comic Vine, and many other sites.  Huge sections of the supposed geek blogosphere continue to pump out hourly articles on everything from clips of the upcoming iteration of the Iron Man product line to, perhaps ironically, memorials for Roger Ebert, but don't deem the death of a major creator to be post worthy.  Comics Worth Reading even published an article featuring one of Infantino's most iconic illustrations on the day of the man's death.  No mention was made of him, however, as the images use was to promote an upcoming book on the Sliver Age of DC Comics, an explosion of popular creativity that would have been impossible without Infantino.

Roger Ebert was a massively looming figure in the field of film criticism.  He represented a hugely recognizable, almost institutional presence, serving as a public ambassador for film in a way that would be hard to find parallels for in other mediums.  Comic books certainly have their share of ambassadors, but popular voices like Stan Lee and Kevin Smith are more hucksters and entertainers than critics.  It would, therefore, be unrealistic to expect that the passing of a figure like Infantino would attract similar levels of attention.

But ignoring of Infantino's death by the very blogs and websites who owe their existence to artists like him illuminates the illusions that these supposed "fan" communities have about themselves.  If your websites decides to post a publicity puff piece for the next Wolverine movie, and yet omits to mention the passing of a major figure, that tells you something about priorities.  Perhaps Infantino wasn't link baity enough.  Perhaps his recent absence from the field left him too far away from the spotlight to be noticed.  But any community that routinely prioritizes product shilling over the movements of its own history is one that need to be examined.  Then again, anyone who has been to a comic book convention can attest to the tiny sliver of booths known as artist's alley, the obscure engine room of the industry where greying creators sit half forgotten in the shadow of whatever new video game or major motion picture is being advertised this year.  The coverage of Infantiono's death is just one more example of how "geekdom" isn't a culture.  Its a shopping mall.        


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