Carmine Infantino, notable comic book artist, dies

Carmine Infantino's cover to Flash No. 123, "The Flash of Two Worlds."

Carmine Infantino’s cover to Flash No. 123, “The Flash of Two Worlds.”

Carmine Infantino, one of DC Comics’ main artists during the Silver Age, died the other day at the age of 87. He helped popularize a concept that the makers of James Bond movies would use when rebooting the franchise in 2006.

Infantino, as noted in AN OBITUARY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES, was assigned to work in a revamp of the Flash in 1956. Instead of bringing back the original Flash character, DC started over with a different character in a new costume.

Infantino, according to various accounts, would draw potential covers and show them to editor Julius Schwartz (1915-2004) — in effect daring the editor to devise a story line to match the drawing. In 1961, five years after the new Flash debuted, Infantino showed Schwartz a drawing of the new and old Flashes racing to save the same person.

That became the basis of a story embracing the concept of alternate universes. Flash No. 123 wasn’t the origin of the idea but it helped popularize it and DC would soon use the notion to bring back old versions of other characters. As we’ve written before,, Eon Productions adapted the idea when it decided to start the series over with 2006’s Casino Royale while retaining the services of popular actress Judi Dench as M. Dame Judi simply played a different M than the one she portrayed before.

Carmine Infantino's cover to Detective Comics No. 327 in 1964, which introduced the "New Look" Batman

Carmine Infantino’s cover to Detective Comics No. 327 in 1964, which introduced the “New Look” Batman


Also, as noted in the New York Times obituary, Infantino was assigned to draw Batman in 1964 when DC, facing falling sales, decided to revamp the character. Infantino’s Batman was more realistic at least compared with versions published up until that time.

Here’s how it was described in the Times’ obituary:

In 1964, Mr. Infantino and the writer John Broome were asked to work similar magic on Batman. In Mr. Infantino’s hands, Batman took on an urbane, Bondian aspect. This “new look” Batman, as he was known to the trade, inspired the ABC television series starring Adam West and originally broadcast from 1966 to 1968. (emphasis added)

Infantino later became a DC Comics executive before leaving the company while continuing to draw for other publishers.

The M of two worlds

Judi Dench as M -- or one of them.

Judi Dench as M — or one of them.

For the past seven years, there’s been a recurring debate: If the 007 film series started all over with Casino Royale, how can Judi Dench’s M still be around?

One possible answer is this: The Bond movies starting with Casino comprise a separate fictional universe from the other 007 films. The Judi Dench M of 1995-2002 (the Pierce Brosnan films) is different than the Judi Dench M of 2006-2012 (Daniel Craig’s first three films). They just look remarkably alike and are obviously played by the same actress.

Recently, the ComingSoon.net Web site had AN ARTICLE ABOUT SKYFALL’S PROPS. There was this excerpt:

As we looked at the porcelain bulldog M bequeaths Bond, the archive assistant read the inscription on the box it is presented to him in – “Olivia Mansfield bequeaths James Bond.” We’ve searched around, and as far as we can see this is the first and only time anyone’s ever revealed M’s ‘real name.’ It may not have been spoken, but if you were watching on a big enough screen it could have been visible, so we’d argue it’s now canon.

Earlier, during the Brosnan era, the Dench M was incorporated into Raymond Benson’s 007 continuation novels. One of them name gave her the name Barbara Mawdsley. That’s certainly not canon for the film series (which avoids Bond continuation novels like the plague). But it has been adopted by some fans.

What’s more, as many fans have noted, the two Ms seem to have different backgrounds. The Brosnan era M had been promoted from the analysis section and, in GoldenEye, said Bond was a relic of the Cold War. The Craig era M yearns for a return to the simplicity of the Cold War. Also, she’s rather adept at helping Bond prepare booby traps at Skyfall Lodge, skill sets she learned somewhere besides the analysis section. Not conclusive by any means, but all of that can be cited in making the case the characters are different.

The concept of different universes is hardly new and predates the Bond film series. It was a staple of science fiction and comic books.

DC Comics embraced the idea in 1961 with “The Flash of Two Worlds.”

The cover to Flash No. 123, "The Flash of Two Worlds."

The cover to Flash No. 123, “The Flash of Two Worlds.”


Five years earlier, DC had come out with a new version of the Flash, a hero who could move at super-speed. Instead of simply reviving the original Flash, DC came out with a different character with a different costume. The new Flash became popular and DC proceeded to produce new version of other Golden Age characters such as Green Lantern, the Atom and Hawkman.

The 1961 story has the two Flashes meeting when the new Flash manages to cross into the universe of the original character. (CLICK HERE to read more details.) This, too, was a hit with readers and DC further expanded on the alternate universe concept.

Now some fans say this is ridiculous, science fiction concepts have no place in the Bond films. To each their own. You could also argue the 2006 reboot would have been cleaner had M simply been recast at that time. But Judi Dench was popular and, with a new Bond, Eon opted to keep her even as characters such as Miss Moneypenny and Q were absent from Casino.

It was certainly understandable from a marketing perspective, if nothing else. So perhaps it really is, “The M of Two Worlds.”