Home Culture Cartoonists Carmine Infantino speaks; Chris Irving responds

Carmine Infantino speaks; Chris Irving responds

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Legendary artist and publisher Carmine Infantino was the subject of an interview on the Graphic NYC website last week, and it seems that he takes issue with some of the handling of the piece. Since we gave the interview a prominent spot, we’re giving his rebuttal equal prominence:

“Some weeks back, I granted an interview to Mr. Christopher Irving, who brought along a few friends, one of whom photographed me. Mr. Irving promised that I could look over the materials before publication. Imagine my surprise when I found out that both the interview, which was turned into an essay, and the photographs, were posted on the internet before I had a chance to review them.
Not only am I displeased with Mr. Irving for not keeping his word to me, but I also object to his describing my physical health in a negative way, as if I was about to die. Irving reinforced this image by labeling the essay as Carmine Infantino’s Final Interview. I was unaware until now that I had died. I may be an 84 year old man with some health issues, but I am not at death’s door. Also, I never stated that this was my final interview, as I have given one since then, and if the opportunity arises, I may do more.
When I complained about the essay title, Mr. Irving promised to change the title, but all he did was add a question mark at the end. If he’s expecting me to die soon, I wish he’d tell that to my sister-in-law, who’s cooking dinner for me next week.
I asked him to remove the bad language from the interview, which he did. However, he has not fixed the historical inaccuracies in the piece, most of which consist of his own lack of research. When discussing my decision to have Murphy Anderson redraw Jack Kirby’s Superman and Jimmy Olsen faces, Irving states, “Carmine now admits this was a mistake.” I never said any such thing, and I still stand by my original decision. I asked Irving to remove this comment, and he has yet to do so.
I had not intended to go public with this, but because Irving has painted an inaccurate portrait of me nor has he kept his promises after our last private conversation, I have no choice but to disassociate myself with this article. I have learned one lesson, though. From now on, I’ll be more careful about granting interviews to disrespectful amateurs.

Carmine Infantino”

Okay, we gave the writer of the original piece a change to respond, and you can read his response in the jump:

Firstly, I would like to apologize to Mr. Infantino for any oversight in reviewing the interview transcript, something that was by no means an intentional slight to this legendary cartoonist.

Secondly, I’m a bit taken aback by his “disrespectful amateurs” label. If he’d even researched Seth Kushner and I, he would see the vast body of work we’ve both done as photographer and historian, respectively.

NYC Graphic Novelists has featured over two dozen subjects, with a fair number of legends. Mr. Infantino is the first to be displeased with his piece. I also want to make a clear delineation between our project and a standard fan magazine or PR fluff piece: while Seth and I are both fans and respectful of our subjects, we are also taking a journalistic approach to our pieces. To shamefully paraphrase the immortal Leonard “Bones” McCoy: “Dammit, Jim. I’m a journalist not a fan writer.”

I think the positive responses to Mr. Infantino on Mr. John Byrne’s Byrne Robotics forum, as well as Comic Bloc and others, is testament to the respect for Mr. Infantino and his work, all of which was gleaned from this piece and the recollections of the forum members.

In terms of the “Final Interview” aspect, Mr. Infantino should more closely read this part of the essay:

Now, back near Lexington Avenue, Carmine lives in retirement. When I first asked him for the interview, he told me I was “the last of the Mohicans”, and it would possibly be the last time he would ever go on record. After all of the twists and turns in his life and career, he seems a mixture of being both resigned and comfortable with his place in comics.

Note the operative word “possibly,” added after my phone conversation with him.

In terms of our “last private conversation”, Mr. Infantino was so negative, venomous, and scathing, that I felt the best way to further communicate would be through letter. I told him I would mail the transcript to him, if he wanted to point out any “historical inaccuracies”. I actually asked him which things were inaccurate, and he only cited that Kirby had prior knowledge of the redrawn Superman heads, which I then added a line:

Due to Kirby’s non-DC style, and apparently with Kirby’s knowledge beforehand, Carmine had inker Murphy Anderson re-ink the Superman and Jimmy Olsen faces to maintain character integrity. Carmine now admits this was a mistake.

He made no mention in that phone call of not thinking it a “mistake”, although I have the audio of our interview to back my claim up (for the record, and as a digression, I completely understand and agree with Mr. Infantino’s decision then. As amazing as Kirby was, his Superman wasn’t on model for the time.).

In terms of sources used, I would like to note that I referred to Vanguard Press’ The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino memoir written by Mr. Infantino with Mr. David Spurlock and Mr. Gerard Jones’ amazing Men of Tomorrow (a volume of which Mr. Infantino admits he had not read), as well as Showcase Presents The Flash, the reprint volume from DC Comics.

I also was going to extend the offer to do a follow-up interview in a Q & A style to clarify his points that he feels require clarification. That offer still stands, despite his disassociation with the piece, and I welcome the opportunity to him. If he can point out any specific inaccuracies, I will be more than happy to vet them with further research.

But, in short: I respectfully stand by my essay and my work as a writer.

In the meantime, however, I will continue to pay attention to the legendary Mr. Infantino through the stack of reprints of The Flash sitting on my bookshelf, and wish him several more dinners with his sister-in-law.

Respectfully,

Christopher Irving

www.nycgraphicnovelists.com

  1. This is just shameful. Basically, Irvin is justifying calling it a “final interview” because Infantino referred to himself as “last of the Mohicans?” And going on to say, essentially, that it was Infantino’s job to point out the inaccuracy of the Kirby redraws as a mistake?

    This is just shameful. It’s not journalism, it’s an op-ed piece where the defense is apparently if you don’t agree, why didn’t you speak up?

    But I agree with Skipper’s sentiments that the Byrne board is such a joke, that by pointing out they agree with something, it actually detracts from the credibility!

  2. The only problem is in the recollection and retelling of what was negotiated by both parties before the interview prior to publication.

    Infantino: Mr. Irving promised that I could look over the materials before publication. Imagine my surprise when I found out that both the interview, which was turned into an essay, and the photographs, were posted on the internet before I had a chance to review them.

    Irving: Firstly, I would like to apologize to Mr. Infantino for any oversight in reviewing the interview transcript, something that was by no means an intentional slight to this legendary cartoonist.

    Believe me, speaking from experience, rules change depending on the temperment and backstory of the interview subject, but both parties still have to honor what was agreed on from the start. And, as a professional writer, if my straight Q&A with Mr. X was becoming an essay, I would’ve let them know that too.

    That said, I’ve liked the work Chris and Seth have done overall on their GN project, and enjoyed reading the interview with Carmine Infantino a lot.

  3. Since Irving insists on being a “proper journalist” rather than a “fan writer,” I’d like to point out that proper journalists don’t agree to submit their articles to their subjects prior to publication. Only amateurs and fan sites do that.

    (I know, I know. But just because everybody does it, including myself, that doesn’t make it “journalism.” Get a grip.)

  4. “… and wish him several more dinners with his sister-in-law. …”.
    Several more? Is Irving getting the message or not? He still, maybe unintentionally, seems to want to put a capper on Infantino’s life span.
    Several more dinners? How about MANY more. Good Lord, il ne faut pas.

  5. I don’t have any problem showing anyone anything they ask for prior to publication, and I get more requests for this outside of comics than I do within comics. It depends on the piece and the subject whether or not this is desirable, and on the publication’s policies whether or not I can say yes or no. Final copy is mine, no matter where I’m getting input. I don’t mind being considered an “improper journalist,” though.

    I found the original description of it being his last interview weird enough I thought I might have missed Carmine’s passing and spent five minutes googling.

  6. This, folks, is an example it’s like rule #1 in journalism to never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever promise to let a source look over your story before publication. Not that you can’t negotiate what the story will be about, what format it will take, review sections to fact check, and be up front and respectful and keep your word with the person giving you their story and their time. But Infantino has every right to be pissed about this, because the editor made promises that, if kept, would have compromised what he ultimately wanted to do (the merit of what he wanted to do honestly being irrelevant when it comes to editorial prospect).

  7. Hey Evie,

    “But Infantino has every right to be pissed about this, because the editor made promises that, if kept, would have compromised what he ultimately wanted to do…”

    Not necessarily. A skilled interviewer can retain the guts of what was said if he/she is able to negotiate those on the fly. Usually, people who told me “off the record” things really wanted to talk about ’em or they wouldn’t mention them. So, I’d stop the tape or interview, and discussed them then and there. More often than not, “off the record” stuff became connective tissue that made the story really interesting.

  8. The title of the piece was misleading. It led one to believe that Mr. Infantino had passed away. I, too, spent some time verifying whether or not he was still alive.
    It’s the kind of wrong headed thing some writers or publications do to grab attention,…and apparently it works. Mr. Infantino’s disappointment and anger are totally justified.

  9. Wayne,
    Oh of course, those real-time negotiations happen all the time–what I specifically was talking about was promising to submit your finished piece to a source before publication. If Infantino was told he’d get to look at it, and didn’t, it is understandable that he would be upset. That’s why the writer should never have made that promise. He had an idea that what he was going to do wouldn’t sit awesomely with Infantino, which journalists do all the time and for often good reason, but he promised the preview to secure the interview. Then that sets a precedent, and here we are.

  10. I’m Christopher Irving’s partner and the photographer on the GRAPHIC NYC project and I’d like to add my two cents.
    The whole situation is sad to me. Chris and I were very excited to meet Mr. Infantino and we had a wonderful time with him. Hell, we bought him lunch! During our meeting at a midtown east dinner, I found him to be a sweet, genial and personable guy. I though he was very open during Chris’s interview, speaking freely and honestly. I enjoyed taking his portrait and am happy with the results. I read Chris’s piece before he posted and thought he did his usual great job of describing the man and his work, while sharing his own perspectives. Chris writes interview-based essays, in his own distinctive style and the Infantino piece was to me, on par with the other twenty five or so essays Chris has written for the project thus far.
    We billed the piece as his last interview because he told Chris just that. Perhaps he was being sarcastic or simply kidding, but who were we to judge? This is journalism and he gave us a sensationalistic title, one which any journalist would find difficult to resist.
    As far as the controversy over whether or not Mr. Infantino regrets having Kirby’s faces redrawn, I have no idea how he really feels, except that he told us that he regrets it. Chris’s digital recorder holds the truth.
    Finally, Chris’s process is that he always sends the subjects a written transcript of the interview for them to approve, make changes, etc. It’s professional and courteous. These interviews are eventually going to be collected in a book and we’d like our subjects to be happy with their profiles. I do the same with my photos. At the end of the interview, Chris mentioned that he would send along the transcript, but Mr. Infantino indicated that it wouldn’t be necessary. Case closed.
    Finally, let me just say that Chris and I have spend over a year of our lives on this project because we LOVE comics and we’re trying to create an amazing book. We chose our subjects because we respect them and their work. These are our heroes and while we try to be as objective as possible in our work, we never have any intention of casting anyone in a negative light. I deeply regret that Mr. Infantino feels that we set out to defame him and I hope when he cools down he’ll realize that our hearts were in the right place.

  11. In my experience, it’s more accepted among “proper journalists” to allow interview subjects to see Q&As before publication than to let them see standard narrative stories, for whatever that’s worth.

    Also, in my experience, if a Q&A ends up running as a standard-format story, it’s usually because the interview subject’s direct quotes are unintelligible and have to be paraphrased into making sense, which can also result in the subject claiming (rightly or wrongly) he was misquoted.

    And personally speaking, I’ve only given an interview subject a copy of a story pre-publication once, and in that case, there was a translator and a lot of Engrish involved, so I was as concerned that I might have misheard something as the subject was.

  12. I dunno. I’m not a journalist and have no desire to ever be one. I’m just saying, calling something a “final interview” when the subject is alive and well is ridiculous. Saying the subject admits a mistake, then saying something like – oh, he was supposed to correct that when he saw it – is also ridiculous.

  13. Speaking as a professional journalist, it is very, very, very rare for a subject to either see a profile about them before it hits print or to approve a transcript.

    Sometimes a reporter can use a similar offer – such as reading back a person’s quotes or main points to doublecheck for accuracy – to convince a subject burned in the past to go on the record.

  14. I don’t know… when I read the part about final interview, I didn’t take that literally. I took it to mean, what else needs to be written? Like, the final word. Why is everyone worked up over this? Did you actually read the interview? It is very well done and has some great photos to go along with it. Infantiono has always come across as crotchety and crabby, what else is new? He actually claims, he doesn’t regret having the faces of Superman and Jimmy Olson redrawn? Well, he should, and he should be ashamed that he directed that to happen. It was a great piece of journalism, no apology is necessary.

  15. “Infantino, now 83, needs a walker to travel the block and a half from his Lexington Avenue condo to the busy diner we’re sitting in a corner booth at. Once the cartoonist behind fast-moving superhero The Flash, then art director and then editor, and finally publisher, of DC Comics, Carmine ambles forward slowly, as old age and a hernia have caught up to him.”

    Amateurish garbage. “You see, it’s ironic that he needs a walker because he drew the Flash! Get it? He’s slow…and the Flash is FAST! Haw, haw!”

    Creeps.

  16. The Paris Review let authors review their interviews. I seem to remember Philip Roth’s being heavily edited by him. This makes sense in context.

    Carmine Infantino brought life to DC and it was really interesting to read of his evolution from old school cartoonist to designer. I remember Mike Kaluta joking about the sideways layouts, but we all knew they were cool.

  17. My favorite part of the rebuttal is that “journalistic approach” and a paraphrasing of “the immortal Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy” are both used to make the same point in deflecting accusations of amateurism.

    Someone prove to me this isn’t a hoax.

  18. someone sent me the article and I just wanted to add my two cents.I am not a writer or a artist but I am good friends with Carmine, and have been for a few years now.I was not pleased with a lot of things in the article. First off the title, I too thought Carmine had passed and I had talked to him on the phone two days before.Second,describing his health, Carmine does not have a hernia and using a walker should not even been mentioned, his health is no ones bussiness but his.As for the Kirby/Superman item. I have never heard Carmine say anything but that he stood by his decison and being boss he had every right to make that decison no matter what anyone thinks.now I fully admit i never read the interviewer’s other work before this so I don’t know his writing style and as for what blackeye wrote about Carmine being known as crabby( i know you were not being mean just stating a point) I just want it to known that Carmine is one of the kindest and most generous men i have ever met and I get angry when he gets upset over something like this and anyone who truley knows Carmine like I do would be mad also.

  19. Any of us that truly know Carmine know that he’s a passionate person and I can’t blame him for being upset over this. I know other interviewers/writers who let their subjects review content before publication. And, as several others have stated, if you tell your subject that you’re going to do that, you shouldn’t let it just slip your mind. That’s inexcusable and sloppy.

    BTW, Carmine doesn’t live in a condo, he lives in an APARTMENT and he doesn’t live on Lexington, he lives on EAST 48TH. Check yer facts…

  20. BTW, at PW Comics Week we often deal with newish writers, and they are always asking us if they can let their interviewees look at the stories before they run. And this on a topic like an exclusive cover for AMAZING MUCUS MAN.

    We (Calvin and I) always say NO. NO NO NO. NO. Creates more problems than it solves.

    That said, I have NO problem with quote checking and have done it myself on occasion, esp. when a transcript is unclear for any of a variety of reasons. And having interview subjects check a transcript is SOP. (TCJ does it all the time.)

    I think the point is that PR people will always ask to see a story before it runs, and sometimes younger journos will say yes in a weak moment.

  21. I generally don’t have any problems with anyone seeing the pertinent parts of anything I write about them — in comics, out of comics. Sometimes I do, mostly I don’t. That doesn’t mean they get to have control over the piece, which seems assumed in all the descriptions in this thread so far but is really two hugely different things.

    There’s a related thing where someone will tell me something that’s amazing and then tell me it’s off the record. It doesn’t work like that.

    I’m not sure any of that’s the pertinent issue here.

    Also, I thought Carmine had died, too, I have to admit, or was at least jacked up somewhwere, and spent some workday time googling.

  22. Fans of Infantino who haven’t read the 2002 Sequential Tart interview might enjoy it. The Q&A interview, I think, has a lot of personal info on the man. He also seemed confident about his legacy:

    ST: What would you most like to be remembered for — from your fellow artists; how’d you like them to remember you?

    CI: I’d prefer to the days I was an editor, more so than [as] an artist.

    ST: For editing?

    CI: Yes. I think so. ‘Cause I think I helped make some big changes at DC Comics in those days. I think they’re proficient changes � I brought artists in as editors, which was an unknown [thing then].

    ST: You raised the respect level. When you were coming in there full time, the respect level was pretty low, and you helped raise it.

    CI: Right, right.

    JDS: He would leave his office door open and he would wear a coat and tie to work, but he’d take it off, open the shirt at the neck and roll up the sleeves and that was his message to the employees.

    CI: To come in.

    ST: And did they do that?

    CI: Oh yes. I also set up a room on the side, where no editors or myself were allowed, just the artists and writers, where they could give up gripes and look at each other’s work and enjoy each other.

  23. Tom:

    “That doesn’t mean they get to have control over the piece, which seems assumed in all the descriptions in this thread so far but is really two hugely different things.”

    See, I disagree on that, quite strongly. The moment you agree to give up what you’re going to print BEFORE you’re going to print it, I think you’re indeed relinquishing a considerable degree of control over your piece. (And I’m not talking about fact-checking or on/off-the-record concerns here, of course. Those are different considerations altogether.)

    Now, as I’ve said, I’ve done the same. Because it was the way it was at the publication I did it for and it wasn’t a big deal to me, given that we were talking about comics and no big controversies were to be expected.

    Then again, considering the case at hand, maybe I should rethink that.

  24. the term comics “journalist” carries very little weight these days, just like if you appeared in one porn film you’re automatically called a porn “star”. while everyone seems consumed with the topic of professional ethics — whether or not to provide a proof copy before printing and chris’ obvious wrongdoing no matter which side you take on this — but why hasn’t anyone commented on the actual article and it’s completely amateurish writing style? I mean, come on!! just because you were a web copywriter for circuit city does not mean you are a “professional” journalist! and having your photo taking partner chime in about it and boasting that you guys even paid for lunch… lunch of all things when your plans are to publish a book and make a name for yourselves off the backs of legendary artists… reeks of good old fashion leach job. did these guys even work on their school newspapers in high school?!?

  25. Carmine Infantino is an icon, this whole thing stinks in my opinion. Obviously Carmine is still living in the 20th century and is no fault of his. It’s too bad, it’s a give and take in the entertainment business and blogs are part of that now.

    The comparison to his old age to The Flash is sick to read. It’s out there and it’s too late. Both Carmine and Christopher got what they wanted. Both came out as the losers. We are the winners as we once again watch the disgrace of a misunderstanding that led to bitterness for both parties.

    I have always felt that Carmine defined The Flash from the beginning, however, from 1981-85 when he returned to the series, he killed the series with his awful art. It was not the same anymore. Crisis didn’t kill the Flash, Carmine killed the Flash. When George Perez drew the Flash at the same time, it was night and day. Man those were horrible times for the character. I hold no ill to the man, but as said in the interview, history will judge Carmine. He had many brilliant ideas, but this interview was his Bela Lugosi moment before he died. He is a shadow of his former self.

  26. Hi, all,

    I have actually been touching base with the message board while on the road from Virginia, all day, and have had several hours to reflect upon this essay. Only out of respect to Mr. Infantino, I have made a few minor edits – not to any of the historical details researched by me, or my interpretations of his work – but to details that have proven a misinterpretation or matter of sensitivity to Mr. Infantino.

    Now, with this behind me and a new day ahead, it’s back to work!

    Best,
    Christopher Irving

  27. chris, the right thing to do here is take down the entire interview. it’s clear as day you are an amateur looking to make a name for yourself by putting this book/blog project together because circuit city is no longer around and best buy is not hiring. and the only reason it is still up is because it’s probably driving more traffic to your site than ever before…

    if you were a true journalist, you would stick with your guns. regardless of how misleading, misinformed or mistake-ridden your interview article was, or the overwhelming load of negative responses to your position have been. that’s why there’s usually an editor and a publisher (neither of which your project has) to bounce things off and proofread before publishing.

    all of your rebuttals (including the ones from your sidekick robin), appear disingenuous at best. you’re not really concerned about carmine’s legacy. you’re just trying to make a name for yourself. so do it on someone else’s dime.

  28. Hey bubba hump, relax. If you have a gripe with the interview, stick with that, is it really necessary to sling mud in reference to someone’s occupation. Your response is very juvenile and immature. You obviously have other issues. The interview that was done was certainly done with sincerity and was meant to honor the man, there was no malicious intent. It’s ridiculous that people are spinning this in a negative way. Actually read the interview, that might help in the position you take.

    You also need to push the shift key down to create an upper case letter!

  29. has Infantino ever given an interview that he didn’t complain about once it was published? I seem to recall a similar incident when he was interviewed for the first issue of Comic Book Artist magazine. I’m willing to give the interviewers the benefit of the doubt.

    I will agree, though, that the title of the interview was unfortunate and perhaps deliberately misleading.

  30. Bubba – Let’s say your won amatuerism (if not immaturity) is evident in your conjectures and accusations.
    Both Irving and Kushner are established professionals in their fields (Historian and Photographer), who just happen to be fans of comics. They are taking their appreciation of the artform, it’s practitioners and their city (NYC) and putting together an amazingly beautiful project.
    As Christopher Mills implied, Infantino has, seemingly, had a problem with nearly every interview ever done with him, unless it was a puff piece. It’s unfortunate that he is upset, but stuff happens.
    Irving has acted appropriately in the aftermath, by attempting to respect the concerns/complaints of the subject while still maintaining the artistic intent of the project; i.e. to showcase the broad (both aesthetically and generationally) range of cartoonists residing in New York City.

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