I have been a fan of the Batman mythology all my life. For as long as I can remember, I have thrilled to the adventures of fictional Gotham City. Those memories are as indelible a part of my childhood as my memories of learning to ride a bicycle or my first day in kindergarten.
Of course, I came into Batman fandom at a very strange time. The year was 1971 and I was a wide-eyed four year old just discovering the adventures of Batman and Robin in re-runs of the 1966 campy television series. Naturally, the show didn't seem "campy" or silly to me back then. I just thrilled to the color, and the action derring-do. It certainly puzzled me why my mother spent so much time laughing whenever she watched the show, but it did not dampen my enjoyment.
Now, what made 1971 such a strange time for Batman fandom was the fact that even though the Batman of TV was a campy boy scout, the character in the comics was decidedly different. That other version of the character was called "The Dark Knight Detective"... the "Masked Manhunter"... He came out only at night. He was... spooky. Somehow that made him much more heroic.
But my first exposure to this "darker" Batman was NOT in the pages of those legendary comic books written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Neal Adams. No, my first exposure was actually at Alexander's Department Store in Kings Plaza mall in Brooklyn, NY! You see, my parents brought my brother and I there to meet "Batman and Robin" who were both on hand LIVE to greet kids in the Toy Department. To say that I was disappointed by the live Batman and Robin is an understatement. I hoped for Adam West and Burt Ward. But what I got instead was the overly cheerful store manager and his bored assistant, both wearing cheaply-made costumes and posing for snapshots with kids.
But... there was one redeeming (and most memorable) part of the visit to the Department Store: Each child was handed a souvenir "pin-up" of The Caped Crusaders after meeting them. When I received my copy, I was immediately struck by the power of the image: Batman.. that is The Batman, standing on a grimy Gotham rooftop with his cape caught dramatically in mid air. Crouched next to him, tense and alert, was Robin The Boy Wonder. Both heroes were framed by a huge full moon as they stalked the underworld of the city's nastiest villains.
This night time scene was unlike anything I had ever seen, and that pin-up was something I would NEVER forget throughout the following decades of my Batman fandom. In my mind and heart, that pin-up was the definitive Dynamic Duo image... re-establishing the tone and mood originally intended by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, and Jerry Robinson.
Despite the fact that the pin-up was signed, it would be years before I would learn that the artist was a man by the name of CARMINE INFANTINO (with inks by Murphy Anderson).
As I got older and became more and more immersed in the world of comic book artists and writers, the name Carmine Infantino continued to have a special place in my heart as the artist responsible for permanently re-defining my two favorite heroes with his legendary pin-up.
Mr. Infantino passed away today at the age of 87. I am most inadequately trying to pay tribute to this great man with these few words on the blog of my website.
It is my sincere hope that Mr. Carmine Infantino considered himself to have had a full and rich life. I hope he knew how many of us were great fans of his work, and how many people he inspired to enter the industry. Even though he had been retired from comics for many years, the industry is a slightly less special place tonight with his passing.
The cast and production crew of "Fathers Of The Dark Knight" extend their heartfelt condolences and prayers to Mr. Infantino's family.
-Roberto Williams 4/4/13