Creepy Archives Vol 19

Writers/Art: Various

Reprinting Creepy #89-93 (Jun-Nov 77)

At this point in Creepy history, the magazine was doing a lot of theme issues. Mostly they were "strange sports" issues, with covers showing robot baseball pitchers throwing grenades at the plate, or mummy football players plowing through humans to the goal line.

And, coincidentally, this was when Carmine Infantino was doing a lot of work for Warren Publishing.

For those who don't know, Infantino was the editor behind the "strange sports" stories found in many Silver Age DC comics, where he was often the artist (and writer) as well. As to his presence at Warren, he had recently been fired by DC/National in favor or Jenette Khan.

And, man, he was doing a LOT of stories for Warren at this point. Some of the issues reprinted here were 3/4 Carmine Infantino, nearly always "strange sports."

I say all this without any idea why it was so. I'm just reporting.

See, back in those days, Infantino was put in charge of DC/National, because Marvel was eating National's lunch in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the Powers That Be figured it was Jack Kirby art (or Kirby-style art) that was the reason why. And they even GOT Kirby in 1970, to fix their sales problem. But getting Kirby didn't fix the problem. So they looked further.

They then figured they needed an arty kinda guy at the top, instead of a wordy guy at the top. And they plucked Infantino out of the bullpen to achieve this.

But it didn't work. During Infantino's tenure in the 1970s, DC's sales plunged even further. So they fired him.

Infantino ended up at Warren, not as editor, writer or publisher, but simply as artist. Nevertheless, somehow or other he kept doing the stuff he really loved, which was SF/sports mash-up stories. And he did a LOT of them. And Warren published them ALL.

So there's lots of Infantino stories in this book (and its predecessor, which I didn't review), if you like Infantino.

Which I don't. I never liked Infantino's art on anything except Silver Age Flash, where it seemed to fit. But then, I never saw anybody ELSE draw Flash in those days, so what do I know? Frankly, I think I only liked Infantino on Flash because I grew up with it. Everywhere else I saw Infantino's work, I didn't like it.

And I really, really didn't like Infantino's work post-Flash, where he got more and more eccentric. All the things that bugged me when he was drawing Flash got exaggerated when he was drawing other things, and in his later years especially, when he was deliberately more Infantino-y than previous. The more he was true to himself as an artist, the less I liked him.

Which was the case in these stories. When Infantino was letting his freak flag fly, I hated it. And this despite the best inkers he'd ever had: Dick Giordano, Alfredo Alcala, John Severin, and more! You wouldn't see those guys inking Infantino at DC! These combos were historic!

But, from my perspective, it all stunk, because I don't like Infantino's artwork. Mayber your mileage will differ.

With that out of the way, there are two other points I want to address.

One is that there a couple of Big Names from Marvel and DC in the '80s who got their start here, which I didn't know previously. We all know that Steve Skeates, Bruce Jones and Doug Moench went from Warren to Marvel and DC. But if you read Warren books in this period, you know Roger McKenzie did too.

Because he is ALL OVER this book. He must write 80 percent of these stories!

Of course, they aren't as good as his later stories, like the ones he did with Frank Miller on Daredevil. But this is where he started.

The other thing of import here is a new column by a guy named Joe Brancatelli. I didn't know who he was when I started reading his stuff here back in the '70s, and I don't think he ever did anything after this, so you don't need to know who he was.

Except for on thing. Which I think everyone reading this, and all posters on my board need to read as well. Which is this:

Joe Brancatelli hated everything. EVERYTHING. And he especially hated Marvel and DC management. And "modern" comics. And he made a lot of predictions about how everything Marvel and DC were doing was going to come a cropper, because THEY SUCK.

As a boy, I didn't know who Joe Brancatelli was, or why Warren gave him a column, but clearly he was more tied into the New York publishing world than I was, so perforce I must pay attention.

But, man, it was painful and tedious to read this guy's columns. He hated EVERYTHING. And he was a good enough writer to re-iterate why he hated everything over and over. So he kept re-packaging his venomous dislike of everything I was reading in new and ever-more-awful ways.

Now I mention this for two reasons. One is that reading Brancatelli columns now, 40 years later, you can laugh at how off-base his Very Certain Predictions were. And two, they are instrumental exercises on how NOT to talk about comics. It's boring, it's repetitive, and people tune you out, as I began tuning out Joe Brancatelli decades ago.

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...(1) Is this before Warren's titles started having 8-page color stories ?

  (2) I rather see your point about " The more an artist ' is her-his self'  , the less I like them " , arguments specifically over Infantino aside ~ I think Ramona Fradon may have been an example of that for me , maybe another/s I will recall later.........

I know that I liked the early Gil Kane Green Lantern a lot more than I did when he started "swinging for the fences" in his later work.

Never liked the way Infantino drew mouths, especially on women.

Clearly an attempt to push Warren. "Buy Warren because the other guys SUCK and if you buy their books then you're STUPID!" Stan was a whole lot more subtle with his "Brand Echh" jokes.

Kane didn't always have a thing for noses?

Cap, your history is wrong. Carmine Infantino was made DC's Art Director, that led to his becoming Editorial Director and then Publisher, and it was he who brought Kirby to DC.

In the early Silver Age Infantino's work was less stylised than later, or else his inkers made the finished art less stylised. But I think what really made the difference was The Flash played to his strengths. The expressions he used often made his characters seem composed, but that fitted Barry, who had a scientist's approach to problems, and Iris, who was poised and refined. The Flash didn't fight by smashing things physically, so it didn't matter that Kirby-style violence wasn't Infantino's strong suit. He depicted the Flash's super-speed and speed-tricks creatively - his feature "How I Draw the Flash" from Flash Annual #1 taught me this - so in that respect the strip looked great.

Thanks for the history update, Luke -- I was writing off the top of my head. Should've looked it up, but if I look everything up, I'll never get around to reviewing anything. So thanks for doing the legwork.

As to Infantino, I'm glad you enjoyed his work more than I did. As with most things, it's a matter of taste. And I like your analysis, which makes a lot of sense.

Interesting how Infantino tried to change the subject and not discuss the 48 page comics for a quarter. This is the first I heard that Jack Kirby refused to work with Joe Simon.

It might not be that he had an antipathy to Simon, just that he didn't want to be regularly working as his partner. Infantino's comments might also mix up Kirby's attitude to doing the one-shot with his attitude to being assigned to the title when it was an ongoing - Simon only wrote the one-shot - but I can't be certain of that.

In my opinion the Fleisher/Kirby issues of The Sandman were better than the Simon/Kirby one, and the title failed. So I doubt Infantino was right to think that a Simon/Kirby Sandman ongoing would have succeeded. I've seen the sales of the first issue attributed to speculators buying it because it was Simon's and Kirby's reunion, but I don't know if that's true.

The Sandman was Simon's idea; he initially worked on it with Jerry Grandenetti. The idea is a cute one: the Sandman of legend as a superhero. It's a variation on Marvel's Thor.

Ron M. said:

Interesting how Infantino tried to change the subject and not discuss the 48 page comics for a quarter. This is the first I heard that Jack Kirby refused to work with Joe Simon.

Further into the interview there is this exchange:

CBA: Do you remember the books going from 32 to 48 pages? That was a radical move, jumping the price nearly 50 percent.

Carmine: That was Independent News' idea. They made that decision!

CBA: What was their thinking-more for the reader's buck?

Carmine: More for their buck! I didn't find this out until I left the company and it killed me, but they were charging us 12 1/2%for their brokerage fee. Everybody else in the industry was paying ten percent, but we were paying 12 1/2%. That was quite a bite into my profit margin.

CBA: So it was a sweetheart deal-gouging their own company?

Carmine: It went into one pocket. Do you remember those Superman cartoons from the '40s from the Fleischer Studios? Do you remember the '50s Superman TV show? They were bringing in a small fortune and Warner was handling it and my end of that share was becoming minimal.

CBA: So the distributor made a decision to go 48 pages at 25¢, Marvel follows suit for only one month...

Carmine: Then Marvel switches around and goes to 20¢, giving the distributor 50% off. When we went to 25¢, we gave the distributor a 40% discount. Marvel goes in and cuts the price 20% and gives the distributor 50% off. Whoa! They were throwing our books back in our face! They were pushing Marvel's books so it really became a slaughter.

CBA: Were there any controls that held you at 25¢?

Carmine: The price stricture was set up by Wendell, Inglesias, and Chamberlin. Marvel had the 20¢ books and they took the lead in sales. Why they took the lead is he 50% discount so the distributors and wholesalers made more money with Marvel. So the distributors put out Marvel and couldn't have cared less about us.

Eventually we had to give 50% off because we were getting slaughtered. We had to drop to 20¢.

As for Kirby not wanting to work with Simon, I think I remember that Kirby had a falling-out with Simon that predated his falling-out with Lee. Interesting that Infantino says:

Unfortunately, Jack's writing was not up to par. He could plot well-that's why he did so well with Simon and Lee, because he would plot and they would tie it together beautifully; so I guess his dialogue wasn't strong enough, but I really don't know what the answer was.

I think Kirby was a terrific idea man, plotter and artist but that he wasn't the scripter he thought he was.

My take is different. I think after New Gods Kirby often aimed his work at younger readers, and he didn't have a sure touch at reaching them. His stories were often underplotted, either because he was trying to tell simple stories for young readers or he didn't want to put a great effort in to the writing. So he approached the comics as if the art would carry them, and it wasn't enough. He was better when he was doing creations of his own that he really wanted to be doing, like The Eternals and Machine Man. (I may be in a minority in really liking these.) The terrible qualities of his 70s run on Captain America make sense if you assume he didn't want to be doing it.

The year after that Stan said in his Soapbox that Marvel had finally pulled ahead of DC. So the 48 page comics was the reason.

I see he goes on to explain the DC Explosion was to fight Marvel for shelf space. Once Marvel got free of the eight issue deal they really went nuts with tossing out as many series as they could.

In Captain America Jack had 1984 with the "Big Brother" image as the leader that was a combination of different faces and didn't really exist, and some Planet of the Apes stuff with that scene where they were turning people into apemen so they'd have free labor that wouldn't be smart enough to fight back. Kind of like he was tossing everything into the series he could think of. Then came weird stuff like Arnim Zola. I think Kirby intended that guy for Kamandi before he returned to Marvel. He didn't belong in Captain America.

All through the Sixties, according to the Statements of Ownership figures at www.comichron.com, DC's highest-selling reporting titles outsold Marvel's. But it had more titles, and its lowest-selling ones sold far behind its highest-selling ones. DC's editors weren't all equally successful; Mort Weisinger's titles were all strong sellers (in terms of total sales; I don't know how they looked in percentage of issues sold terms), but some other DC editors didn't have titles in the same league, and it may be the Marvel line overtook everything they were doing much earlier.

According to the Newsstand feature at DC Indexes, the size of Marvel's line in terms of titles-per-month overtook DC's in 1972. The line's expansion in that year was dramatic.

Incidentally, titles didn't have to report their average paid circulations for their first couple of years. If Comichron hasn't missed any reports Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man first reported in 1966. But I think we can assume (1) they were Marvel's top-selling titles in the previous few years (2) their sales in 1966 were still on the way up. On those assumptions some some comparison of their sales with those of DC's titles earlier in the decade is possible. (On the other hand, most DC titles didn't report in 1963 and 1964.)

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