INTERVIEW: DiDio & Lee on "Dark Knight 3," Vertigo's Future & DC's Evolving Readership
Welcome to the two-hundred and twenty-seventh in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and twenty-six.
Comic Book Legends Revealed is now part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this Magazine Legends Revealed, which takes a look at the claim that Time Magazine was intentionally designing their covers to make it look like subjects on the cover had devil’s horns.
This is a theme week! All the legends today involve, in one way or another, legendary comic book artist Carmine Infantino!!
COMIC LEGEND: Carmine Infantino tried to fire Nick Cardy because Cardy ignored a cover instruction from Infantino.
STATUS: I’m Going With False
Besides being an excellent artist period, Nick Cardy was a particularly prominent cover artist for DC Comics in the late 1960s and early 1970s (after working for the company on various comics since the 1950s).
Here is a quick sampling of some of his work…
As good as Cardy was, he was not without his detractors among DC’s editorial staff (heck, Neal Adams, one of the most quintessential cover artists of all time was not without his detractors among DC’s editorial staff).
Perhaps riffing on that fact, in John Coates’ 2001 book The Art of Nick Cardy, longtime DC editor Julius Schwartz had this to say:
At the time Carmine used to lay out many of the covers for the artists. Well, one day Nick comes into the office to turn in a cover. Carmine looks at it and says, “This is not what I gave you.” Nick says, “Yeah, I know – but it’s better.” Carmine says, “You’re fired!” Nick calmly replies, “Okay” and walks out. I then go into Carmine’s office and the cover really is beautiful. I say, “Carmine, this is great!” He says, “Yeah, I know. Go get Nick!”
It IS true that Infantino would lay out a lot of the covers for DC. It is also true that Infantino has been been extremely vocal over the years in how much he loves Nick Cardy’s work.
So what of the gist of the anecdote?
When the book came out, Cardy was surprised to hear the story from Schwartz, as he did not recall the event and he thought it didn’t sound like Infantino. So at a comic book convention a couple of years later, he went up to Infantino and asked him about it. Infantino denied it ever happen. So both men went to Schwartz, who replied simply “Well, it’s a good story, anyway.”
Cardy and Infantino took this as an admission that he had made it up, and I think that’s fair enough, which is why I’m going with a false here (especially since Schwartz passed away soon afterward, so it’s not like we can check with him to clarify).
Thanks to The Art of Nick Cardy for the original quote and thanks to the great magazine Back Issue for the story of Cardy and Infantino confronting Schwartz about the incident.
COMIC LEGEND: The cover for the first Superman/Flash race has an error on it.
Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson’s cover for Superman #199 is one of the most famous covers in comic book history.
Here are a couple of homages to this classic cover…
As famous as the cover is, one thing that has always been a bit of a mystery over the years is why, exactly, Batman, who was good pals with Superman at the time, was cheering on the Flash to “show up” Superman.
Well, as it turned out, that was because there was a mistake with the word balloon placement!
A couple of issues later, in response to a letter bringing up that very point asking “How to you explain this?”, Superman editor Mort Weisinger (well, almost certainly his assistant editor E. Nelson Bridwell) admitted:
With a very red face. The balloon was meant for Green Lantern, who is standing beside Batman, but the tail got pointed to the wrong hero!
Mystery solved (granted, the mystery was technically solved a couple of months after it came up, but, well, it still counts if most everyone forgets about it over the forty-two years since that issue came out)!!
Thanks to Rob Schmidt for being one of those who DIDN’t forget, as he recalled the editors admitting their mistake.
COMIC LEGEND: Mike Ploog had a rather embarrassing introduction to Carmine Infantino.
STATUS: I’m Going With True
Mike Ploog had an interesting path to the world of comic books.
Born in 1942 in Minnesota, Ploog grew up on a farm in Minnesota before moving to Burbank. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps at the age of 17 and stayed there for 10 years. After leaving the Marine Corps in the late 1960s, he got work at Filmation and then Hanna-Barbera before becoming Will Eisner’s assistant at P*S Magazine.
After working with Eisner for a couple of years, other Eisner associates recommended he try his luck drawing comic books.
Ploog was not a follower of comics, as he got into drawing only while in the Marine Corps. He got a few gigs at Warren Publishing, and soon he parlayed his work at Warren into work for Marvel Comics, where Marvel embraced him fully, giving him a number of projects to work on right away, including launching a number of characters like Werewolf By Night, Frankenstein and, most famously, Ghost Rider.
After working for Marvel for a number of years, Ploog left comics all together for decades to work in the film industry.
He returned in 2004 to do a few really good series with J.M. DeMatteis…
Most recently, he has been doing some fine work writing and drawing the Spirit for DC Comics…
To sort of bring things back full circle, here’s a recent issue of the Spirit written and drawn by Ploog (with inks by Dan Green)…with a Nick Cardy cover!
Ploog’s working at DC Comics now, but he never did in the 1970s, and Ploog has a great story (courtesy of a great interview by Jon B. Cooke from the awesome comic book history magazine Comic Book Artist) that may or may not explain why (it most likely does not explain why, but it’s still a darn funny story):
Cooke: Once you got into comics, did you become a fan of others’ art yourself? Did you hang out with the guys?
Ploog: I did in a sense. I respected their talents but I knew nothing about comics. I remember sitting in a cafe called Friar Tuck’s, across from DC Comics, with a group of artists. Sitting next to me was a total stranger. He had been introduced to me as a big wig at DC Comics. His name was Carmine Infantino. Everybody was chatting and drawing on the table cloth. Suddenly this executive next to me picks up a ball point pen and begins to draw on the table cloth. I was impressed; imagine an executive that can draw! I attempted to pay him a compliment, and said, “I’ll be a son of a gun! You can draw too!” [laughter] He glared at me, and you could have fried eggs on his cheeks. I don’t think he said a word, just glared at me as if to say, “What do you mean, I can draw??” I looked around the table at a lot of blank, wide-eyed faces. And, with a further display of ignorance, I added, “Yeah, now if worst comes to worst, you could do that for a living.” My memory is a bit vague about what happened next but I never worked for DC Comics.
Because of his history, I can believe Ploog honestly did not know who Infantino was, which is why I’m going with a true here.
Pretty funny stuff.
Thanks to Ploog and Cooke for the great story!
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is email@example.com.
As you likely know by now, at the end of April, my book finally came out!
Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…
If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…
See you next week!
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