Some respected comic book historians have mentioned three artists as primary innovators in the early Silver Age at DC Comics. These artists were Alex Toth, Joe Kubert and Carmine Infantino. These three were serious about improving their comic book storytelling skills and their work from this period shows just that.
Carmine Infantino became active in comics during the 1940s and his style strongly resembled one of the comic strip giants of the period, Milton Caniff. In the early and mid 1950s Infantino's style began to change. He went back to school and studied under a highly influential art professor. This professor encouraged Infantino to study the French Impressionists like Edgar Degas and others and especially be concerned about the design principles they used. Above all else (even draftsmanship) Infantino became fascinated with design and composition. He used good design to propel his comic book story telling.
This book is a wonderful tour of arguably Infantino's best period as a comic book artist. Starting out with an early Flash story from 1960 that introduced Elongated man we observe Infantino's work and sense of design and composition develop during the course of the 1960s. His last Elongated Man story published in this volume is Detective Comics #367 (September 1967). During this period we see Elongated Man graduate from an occasional guest star in The Flash to receiving his own strip in the back of Detective comics starting with #327 (May 1964). On several different occasions Infantino was allowed to ink runs of his own stories. His delineations were scratchy when compared to the more polished Joe Giella or Murphy Anderson, but we see here what Infantino was truly trying to communicate through his art without the involved of other hands no matter how talented or skilled. When Sid Greene began working on Elongated Man he strove to keep his inking as close to Infantino's original drawing as possible. Later on Greene injected much more of his own personality into the work and some stories appear to be partially penciled by both artists (Greene also did full pencils and inks on several later EM stories). Infantino used elegant vertical and horizontal panels to great effect especially in depicted the grotesque stretching abilities of Elongated Man. Along with his fascination with design he was a frustrated architect. He captured the look of buildings, houses, interior design and the fabulous big finned autos of the period. When he had the chance he also drew some marvelously evocative landscapes. Because of his concentration on design and composition Infantino's work was the height of "cool" in comic book art in the early and mid 1960s.
As a designer myself I can't help but get enveloped into studying the compositions of Infantino's work whether on Elongated man, the Flash, Adam Strange or any of the wonderful science fiction tales he drew during the period. Perhaps this is just my problem, but I get so much into Infantino's design that I tend to forget about the story. I figure that most of the young readers who read these stories when they first appeared (and I was one of them) didn't have that problem. This book contains non-Infantino penciled stories by very capable comic book practitioners such as Greene, Gil Kane, Irv Novick, Murphy Anderson, Neal Adams and Mike Sekowsky and I don't have the same problem with their work. And it is interesting to observe how each artist approached this strip and how they compare with Infantino's work.
In this review I've concentrated on the art of the Elongated Man. The stories are finely crafted, light, humorously good-natured mysteries that editor Julius Schwartz and scripters Gardner Fox and John Broome were capable of producing during this time. However it is the wonderfully innovative artwork that is the star in the book, This volume is truly a showcase for one of the great comic book artists, Carmine Infantino.