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Did Infantino run this puppy into the ground? – Nova #18

March 15, 2011

A friend of mine, one who’s about ten years older than me, once expressed his distaste for Carmine Infantino because of his tenure on Marvel’s Nova. I was singing the praises of the man, and my friend — who owns a comic shop that I frequent, so I give his opinion an appropriate amount of weight — listened patiently, and then calmly explained how he loathed what Infantino did to that particular teen hero back in the day. My friend had been a big Nova fan, and then Carmine rolled into town and his favorite title was cancelled not long after. And he thought Infantino’s art at that time blew.

The man can hold a grudge, what can I say?

This talk intrigued me, because I’ve never made any secret of my metaphorical Infantino hard-on. But my love is not unquestioning, and I can perhaps be persuaded to reevaluate my amour. I thought that if any Nova comic could turn me off, this one, with its stereotypically insulting villain, would be the one. It’s even entitled “The Final Showdown,” which is oddly appropriate given the personal stakes it’s taking on for me.

Marv Wolfman wrote this story, while Infantino was inked by “The Tribe,” an umbrella term for Marvel’s stable of embellishers. Incidentally, “The Tribe” was my father’s (unflattering) moniker for my mother’s side of the family, but that’s neither here nor there. If anyone out there has any idea who might actually have inked this one, feel free to chime in.

The story finds Nova battling the Yellow Claw, while the grizzled Nick Fury rassles with a tidal wave that threatens to consume New York City (a scenario that seems much more chilling in light of recent events in Japan). I like how Infantino deployed a “split-screen” on this page to show the two battlefronts:

The Yellow Claw plunges Nova into a delusional state — no one could draw the craziness of the mind like Steve Ditko, but I think Infantino, with his enveloping lines, does a decent job:

Nova manages to wake up, and, meanwhile, Nick Fury defuses the wave:

“YAHOOOO!” doesn’t sound like a Nick Fury line — he looks more like a “FUCK YEAH!” type of guy. And he should also be chomping on a lit cigar, despite his recent submersion. Those are my editorial notes for the day.

Oh, and check out how the New York skyline has been “Infantino-ized.”

The Yellow Claw’s not done with his mind tricks. He makes Nova think that he’s on fire (a kind of box-less “Gom Jabbar”), but when Nova bursts out of YC’s ship to get to water he makes sure to go through some vital systems, thus blowing it up:

Surely the Yellow Claw is gone forever, right? Fury knows better — he’s been around this block a few times:

After this there’s a brief follow-up story entitled “Beginnings.” It’s filled with stuff from Richard Rider’s personal life which all seems pretty boring to me, but one little bit, with Richard and his girlfriend, adds weight to my half-assed thesis that all comics published in 1977 after the release of Star Wars had to mention that film at least once:

Remember Norm MacDonald’s old “Germans love David Hasselhoff” SNL/”Weekend Update” schtick? This is my equivalent.

What’s the verdict, you ask? Was my friend right? I’m afraid that I’m going to be a bit wishy-washy here, as I’m not really sure that I can draw any conclusions on Infantino’s culpability in the demise of Nova. I’ll admit that it’s always jarring seeing him playing in the Marvel titles during his DC exile (and perhaps the inking here is a bit dodgy at times), but that’s about the only flaw I can see. His use of perspective and “camera angles” is, as always, without compare, not to mention his overall story sense. Nova’s a somewhat lame attempt to recapture the Peter Parker/Spider-Man magic, with another symmetrically syllabic, alliteratively named alter-ego teen, but (Get this, kids!) with a zippy flying twist. If anything, seeing Infantino working his magic made me almost (almost, mind you) care about this guy.

Then again, that old amour might have blinded me after all, and I really can’t be objective. The Infantino Nova might really suck. It’s hard to argue with results, and the axe fell while he was pencilling the title. And my bias might have made this brief exercise a complete waste of time.

Oh well.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Edo Bosnar permalink
    March 16, 2011 8:57 am

    Sorry for having to say this, given that you’re a big fan of his, but personally, I think Carmine Infantino and Marvel just don’t mix: there’s nothing he did at Marvel that I liked, not Nova, not Spiderwoman, not occasional guest slots in MTU or Avengers, etc., not even (or perhaps especially?) Star Wars. So I can sympathize with your LCS owner friend.
    Although I guess I can’t be objective here, either, since besides some of his early work on Adam Strange and some of those miscellaneous SF stories from the 50s/60s, I’m not much of Infantino’s work in general. Sorry, guess my comment’s a complete waste of time, too…

    • March 17, 2011 12:09 pm

      To each their own. But the Star Wars material? You didn’t even like that? Ouch.

  2. logan permalink
    March 16, 2011 10:16 pm

    Wow…I share your friend’s love for the character and his feelings on Infantino on the character. Nova was hands-down my favorite character as a kid and Buscema’s art was perfect for the book. Then Infantino got the book and suddenly…the magic was gone.
    As a kid though, I didn’t like Kirby, Ditko and many other Silver Age icons. Now that I’m older…much older, I love those artists because I see detail that I didn’t see when I was a lad. Remember when Frank Robbins took over for Sal B. on Cap? Hated it. Now I look back on it kinda fondly.

    • March 17, 2011 12:10 pm

      Good to hear the Nova love. His debut was a bit before my time, so it’s nice to hear from those who were in the prime age bracket for his early adventures.

  3. March 17, 2011 9:05 am

    Hi, Jared. You asked who did the inking for this issue. The Tribe was mostly Tony De Zuniga and friends, and De Zuniga’s influence is pretty strong here. I’m afraid I have to admit I prefer his inking on this tale to Infantino’s pencils.

    • March 17, 2011 12:13 pm

      Thanks for the information — I was too lazy to dig deeply and confirm who was or wasn’t the inker. It’s good to have others reading with keener eyes. But to prefer said inks to Carmine’s pencils? Blasphemy! Heresy! And other bad things!

  4. March 17, 2011 9:25 am

    Have to agree that I was never a fan of Infantino’s work. I can take his Silver Age Flash and Batman, but everyone always seemed to have that cartoon-like “skidding to a stop” sort of dynamism. It just looked weird. Coupled with the flat faces, and it was rarely if ever a winner.

    Loved Nova, but as others have said, the demise of the book seems tied to Infantino’s arrival.

    And I’d echo Logan’s comment about being older and now able to appreciate the “masters”. But never Frank Robbins. The Groovy Agent posted a Robbins Batman story yesterday — tough to look at. I don’t understand the Robbins apologists.

    Thanks for the memories! I had this book as a kid, but like most of my collection, it’s been sold off or has mysteriously been misplaced.


    • March 17, 2011 12:20 pm

      Man, Carmine’s taking a goddamn beating here.

      I actually love the “skidding to a stop” effect that Infantino so often used, along with (obviously) many of the other aspects of his style. It’s clear from reading these comments that others loathe those very same things. Are we all talking about the same guy? Different strokes, I guess.

      Thanks for stopping in, and you’re certainly welcome for the memories.

    • Logan permalink
      March 24, 2011 8:33 pm

      Thanks, Doug…but even though I look upon Frank Robbins’ CA&F and maybe Invaders fondly, it’s definitely with nostalgia only. I agree with you…it is painful to look at. Can’t understand the Robbins love either. I should have been more specific.

  5. March 17, 2011 2:21 pm

    If it’s any consolation to you, Jared, I do like what I’ve seen of Infantino’s Adam Strange work.

    • March 18, 2011 12:35 am

      After the drubbing poor Carmine’s received here, he and I’ll take what we can get.

  6. March 23, 2011 7:46 pm

    Infantino DEFINETLY killed that book! I cannot believe I stumbled upon a post on this very topic! I haven’t thought about it in 20 years! But it was the bane of my existence when I was in 7th grade!

    Nova was my absolute favorite comic as a kid; and Sal Besuma’s work in the first issues ( #3–14 1976–77) was fantastic. COMPARE the early issues to Infantino’s! Besuma was simple, clear and energetic… pure comics.

    Infantino was a huge contrast graphically; his look, style and flavor changed the title… for the worse. I lacked the critical abilities of an adult… it just looked weird. His stuff was poison to my eyes and any title that he touched afterward gave me the hives. Although it did not stop me from collecting every Marvel title.

    I’ve always thought his work brought down my beloved title!

    As an adult I can now appreciate some of the values Infantino brought to comic art; many in fact… although his stuff brings back disappointing memories!

    Dude! THANKS for the post!!!!!

  7. Todd Maines permalink
    April 4, 2013 8:25 pm

    Mr. Infantino passed away today, and I tip my hat in respect to his family and loved ones. I also tip my hat to him in terms of his place in comics history, and the fact that I know how difficult it is to consistently illustrate 22 pages on a monthly basis. You have to respect that.

    However…I was having a discussion with a friend of mine today when we learned about his passing. The discussion was ABOUT THIS VERY TOPIC!

    Like many others, I was a huge fan of the original run of Nova. While Marvel was clearly trying to recapture that Peter Parker “teenage agnst superhero vibe”–I bought it hook, line and sinker. The first 14 issues definitely had that Marvel magic. Everything just worked. And John/Sal Buscema’s art was tailor-made for the project.

    I’m a writer by trade, so artwork was never my main concern. It was important, of course, but I’m not an artwork snob by any means. If the script is good, I can overlook a lot.

    But when Infantino took over with issue #15, I was stunned by how much I disliked it. Like an earlier poster on this thread, I wasn’t sophisticated enough to pinpoint the problem–I just knew that all of the magic had left the book for me.

    The first 14 issues had built enough good will that I stuck with it–driving my bike all the way down to store miles away with my handful of quarters to support one of my favorite heroes. And I even stuck it out through the last issue.

    But even at that young age, I was convinced that it was the artwork that had killed the magic, and kept the readers away.

    No disrespect to Mr. Infantino–I know he has fans and he certainly contributed to the history of comics. But we all have the right to like or dislike a particular style of artwork, and I long believed that my favorite comic was killed by the dramatic change in style.

    In any case, thanks for the great (and now ancient in Internet time) blog post–I was so happy to see that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

  8. September 1, 2016 5:03 pm

    Nova was my favorite growing up. I saved up my money to get my first-ever subscription to any comic. Soon after, Infantino took over, and I hated the artwork. So much, that I even wrote a letter to Marvel begging them to take him off the comic. It was soon after they cancelled Nova. I got a letter from Marvel asking me to choose another comic to fulfill my subscription. I sent a letter back asking for a refund, of which they refused.

    The bad taste in my mouth (vomit) still exists to this day.

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