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Roger Ebert, 1942-2013. Carmine Infantino, 1925-2013.

April 5, 2013

flash139

There was a hell of a two-fer yesterday. In the afternoon word came down that Roger Ebert, movie reviewer extraordinaire, had finally lost his long, grueling battle with cancer. As a person who reviews comics — and yes, occasionally movies — this hits hard, because Ebert was in many respects the Babe Ruth of his trade — this trade. He brought a perspective that melded both scholarship and fandom, and his writing celebrated even as it scalded. You could see how much he loved the medium that he made his life’s work, especially when he tried to process some misguided bomb that had just screened. His reviews, even when you disagreed with his take, were always must-reads. And, important to people reading this, he was someone who understood and wrote intelligently about the challenges inherent in bringing comic book properties to the big screen. He knew when to praise films that got it. Go read something like his old review for Superman: The Movie. He was a kindred spirit.

I imagine there are any number of people running or writing for newspapers, sites, blogs or whatever, who have Ebert’s voice in the back of their head every time they write or edit an article. Preferably bickering with Gene Siskel, their back and forth like an internal id and ego (maybe they’re at it once more). And his struggles this past decade, which left him mute, disfigured but unbowed, brought him new layers of admiration. In short, he will be missed.

Then the other shoe fell. Then came word that Carmine Infantino had passed away, which, though not a huge surprise, was a personal gut shot to end all gut shots. There’s no artist out there that I connected with more than Infantino. None. My sadness of course pales in comparison to his loved ones, but its real nonetheless, and my thoughts, though I don’t know a single one of them, are going their way right now. Yet Infantino’s place in comic book posterity has been assured for so long, any encomium seems to small, an hors d’oeuvre after the main course has already been served. God knows I’ve gone over my love for his artwork over and over again.

But there’s one more tribute I can share, and it’s this: I was at the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day on Monday, and those first moments of a fresh new baseball season were made even more special by Bryce Harper, the young, budding superstar, crushing home runs in his first two turns at bat. He clobbered those damn things. And one of the small parts of his game, one thing that marks him out from other sluggers, is the way he circles the bases. There’s no slow, meandering trot for Bryce. He tears around the diamond like a racecar. Full-bore. SPEED. And speed, at least for my two eyes, will forever be associated with Carmine Infantino. I was fortunate enough to grow up on the Infantino Flash, in the final run (no pun) that brought the curtain down (for about twenty years) on the Barry Allen version of the character. I will forever — FOREVER — associate the upper echelons of human speed by those wavy lines he put behind the Scarlet Speedster. I did the other day at Nationals Park. It’s always there in the subconscious.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Farewell, Mr. Infantino. And Mr. Ebert.

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