Friday, February 8, 2013

Who's the Best...Bronze Age Hulk Artist?

Karen: For your money, which Bronze Age artist drew the best version of old Jade-jaws? Would it be Herb Trimpe? Sal Buscema? John Byrne? Or someone else? And let's not forget the inkers!

As an addendum to this post, we just read this week of rumors that "Phase 3" of the Marvel films might center on the Hulk and replicate some recent storylines (don't click on the link if you don't want to read any spoilers!). Anyone care to comment on that?


Steve Does Comics said...

Sal was fine but probably too conventional for me.

It has to be Happy Herb. He wasn't the slickest of artists but, on a strip like the Hulk, that was a plus. Most of all, he had a gift for monsters, robots, aliens and military hardware, all of which made him perfect for the comic.

I read all of Trimpe's Hulk stories reprinted in the Mighty World of Marvel in the 70s and loved them all. Even now, I think they're among the stories from that era that stand up best when re-read as an adult.

Doug said...

Trimpe was never inked better than by John Severin. That is a classic look for the book. Anyone else over Herb and the art just wasn't quite as good.

Steve, Sal was conventionally steady, yes. There's a comfort in predictability though.


humanbelly said...

Ooh-- what a gift of a post!

Ha! Let's just immediately show Mr.Byrne to the door, eh? His much-anticipated run was, for whatever reasons, almost ridiculously brief, and his Hulk- visually- severely lacked soul or humanity, IMO. Just, indeed, a big monster.

In fact, Mike Mignola should be inserted into the list, as well, for a similar brief stint-- but he wouldn't even make the first cut in this group.

Strictly speaking, I think Sal may have been technically the better artist-- and the Hulk is one of the characters he's hugely- and deservedly- identified with. Not only did he look consistently good with almost any inker, but he made it a point to re-work his style over the years, and try to improve as a penciler. The work he did leading up to, and into, the Dimensional Crossroads Saga (written by Mantlo) may not be well-recognized, but I've always been touched and impressed by how much this dependable and conventional artist pushed himself beyond his comfort zone to rise to what was being asked of him. . . and succeeded. If I were Sal, I'd be looking back at that arc with pride and fondness.

BUT-- the "Best" still has to be Happy Herbie, of course! Yep, he could be inconsistent. Yep, he sometimes had issues w/ perspective, scale, and symmetry. Yep, he sometimes took odd artistic shortcuts. And yep, his look was greatly effected by the caliber of inker over him. (John Severin was indeed the best, Doug. However, I think it was Sal Trapani on board for some of the issues on K'ai- Jarella's world- and he brought out a lush quality that I'm not sure Severin could match.) But Herb simply had a way with terrific camera angles and viewpoints, and an ability to portray staggering moments of the Hulk's immense power. He was also particularly good at nailing Stan's credo about the pictures alone being able to convey the story before the script was added. Off the top of my head, I'd say pull up issues 136 & 137 (for those that have 'em), and look at them sans words. You absolutely get the gist of a fairly involved story. Hmm- or issue #170-- some particularly adept visual sequences in there.

Oh my lord, look at the time! Back to work, everybody!


Edo Bosnar said...

No contest: Sal Buscema - the greatest Hulk artist. Ever.
As for inkers, Sal was always his own best inker, but of the many inkers who embellished his work on Hulk, my favorites are Joe Staton, Ernie Chan, Mike Esposito and Joe Sinnott.

Matt Celis said...

Nwver followed Hulk in his solo
comic, have maybe 3 issues, so I'll vote for Sal Buscema as I really love those Defenders and quite liked that depiction of the Hulk.

Haven't seen enough Trimpe so my vote isn't fair.

Byrne: never been all that impressed, all his faces look alike (especially women), bodies tend to be freakishly
elongated, and he uses the same poses over and
over, but he seems impressed by himself enough for both of us!

Anonymous said...

Bangers and Mash, Jack and Coke, spaghetti and meatballs, Trimpe and Severin.

I think Byrne was after my time, but I loved the annual with Iceman and Angel. If that was representative, then I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Byrne.

If we’re talking about the Bronze Age, I definitely want to put in a bid for Gil Kane, esp. inked by Klaus Janson. I’m thinking of numerous Defenders covers, esp. the giant size ones, a couple of the old TOS covers (Stranger, Abomination, help me out here), GS Hulk 1 and the interior art in GS Defenders 2.

Kane made Hulk huge, enormously muscled and so very very wide. If you look at, for example, Trimpe inked by Jack Abel he’s just a green bloke in knackered trousers. If Kane’s Hulk said he was going to smash, you’d better run for cover.


Matt Celis said...

Hulk like Sword-Girl, Bird-Nose, Fish-Man, and
Dumb Magician! Everyone else Hulk Smash!

Lee said...

Logically, I say it's gotta be Trimpe! His run is what got me into the Hulk.

But, the start of Sal's run, with Joe Staton on finished art is where my heart is. That run from late 190's thru early 200's was outstanding.

J.A. Morris said...

I'm going with Sal on this one. He was the artist for most of the Bronze Age on the character, plus I've said before "when I think of what comic book art is "supposed to look like", I think of Sal's work."
But I but I do love the Trimpe era too. I'll always treasure my Treasury-Sized reprint that features the Trimpe drawn Xeron/Klaatu/Abomination story. Great stuff!
In my book, Byrne didn't draw enough Hulk during the Bronze Age to be in the discussion

Inkstained Wretch said...

I never really collected Incredible Hulk, but I did read Defenders when Sal Buscema was the main artist, so it is pretty much his pencils I think of when I think of the Hulk. And with him the Hulk just looked... right, you know? Like something named the Hulk should look.

Having said that, I'll second Richard on Gil Kane, who seemed to have a knack for making things look even bolder and more dynamic.

I'd also like to throw in a mention of (drum roll)...Steve Ditko. It is sort of forgotten that he was one of the early Hulk artists. You don't think of his style translating well to the Big Zucchini, but looking at some of those Tales to Astonish reprints I think he caught the nervousness, the tension and the Jeckel/Hyde quality of Bruce Banner and the Hulk quite well.

humanbelly said...

Holy Cats, J.A.-- that Xeron story is the very one I refered to first (Hulk 136/137)-! The story that they SWORE wasn't inspired by Moby Dick-!

There probably is a good point to be made in that an awful lot of Herb's best work was actually in the Silver Age. O'course, the references to Ditko and Kane really fall firmly in that era as well. Personally, I didn't care for Kane's short time in Tales to Astonish that much. But to be fair, there was never any single artist during the TtA run that was around long enough to become deeply associated w/ old Greenskin. It was a veritable who's-who of rotating artists and inkers. Of the top of my head: Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Steve Ditko, Mike Esposito, Marie Severin, Bill Everett, John Buscema (I think)-- they and MANY others ALL contributed to the art chores over those three or so years.

Let me submit that maybe. . .maybe we're making a false choice, here? Sort of like which do I like better, my own chicken parmesian or my own spaghetti and meat sauce? I can't really decide fairly, 'cause I love them both. (Whooo- and can consume either until I collapse, believe you me. . . )

Herb and Sal both "got" the Hulk, and as corny as it sounds, they both clearly had a respect and fondness for the character that far outweighed the simple appeal of drawing a big, strong guy that can smash stuff in a visually cool way. They both drew him from the heart, y'know?


Matthew said...

My first exposure to the Hulk was similar to Lee's. The first issue I bought was #215 (Jack of Hearts), but I had an older copy of #118 and #179. Herb and Sal -- I love them both. TIE!!!

Re-read #182 and #223 -- classics all. I like Rubinstein on Buscema's pencils (#223-228) -- favorite Hulk story ever!

david_b said...

I'd go with Steve, Doug and a few others with Trimpe with Severin.. It was my first entry into his mag, and while not a avid fan, I love the intensity Trimpe gave the Hulk.., great panel work.

Sal was great with Hulkie in the team book (or MTU's), but I don't see the 'conventional' drawing of Hulk as a plus.. It's a bit mundane and Hulk was meant to be a monster of enormous unpredictability in bizarre situations as Steve alluded to. You lose that with Sal's level of convention. It's easy on the eyes, as is most of Sal's work, but like with Spidey, it doesn't come across as 'the definitive Hulk'

I go for Steranko as a great runner-up. As for Byrne, he falls into Sal's limitations as mentioned above, Matt's explanation pretty much sums it up for me for Byrne in general. Easy on the eyes, but that's not everything.

Bruce said...

I never read The Incredible Hulk as a kid - I only discovered these stories in recent years through the Essentials collection. But to answer the question, I'll go with Herb Trimpe, even though I prefer Sal Buscema in general (I loved his Spectacular Spider-Man work).

Trimpe just is the quinessential Hulk artist, in my mind. But you can't go wrong with either Herb or Sal - both were great Hulk artists.

Comicsfan said...

Doug, I'm with you every step of the way about Severin's inks on Trimpe. That's the Hulk.

Garett said...

You posted a story drawn by Sal and inked by Chan a while back--very nice combo, by two artists who are not normally my favorites.

But the best Hulk artist has to be...Garcia Lopez! Great rendition of the Hulk in Batman vs Hulk: Hulk's musculature, action, facial expressions. Even has Hulk dressed as a clown with Hulk-size boxing gloves, courtesy of the Joker.

I remember thinking Byrne's Hulk in Marvel Fanfare was special, for the full page splashes, but when I went back again in later years it didn't seem like that big a deal.

Edo Bosnar said...

Garett - good call on Garcia Lopez. He really did a bang-up job on that entire Batman/Hulk book. It's too bad he didn't do any more work with Marvel characters.
And I agree with Richard about Gil Kane - I recall really liking those stories he drew in Tales to Astonish that were reprinted in the second volume of those pocketbooks in the late '70s.

Doug said...

Anyone notice the sound effect in each of the three panels Karen posted? Apparently anything destructive perpetrated by the Hulk must end in -OOM!


Fred W. Hill said...

My artistic fovorite on the Bronze Age Hulk was Sal Buscema inked by Ernie Chan, but have a bit of a soft spot for Trimpe's Hulk. Trimpe's art never worked for me on any standard superhero title, but it seemed suited for the Hulk, and, yeah, it looked best when inked by John Severin, although that was from a period just before I started collecting the series.

Rip Jagger said...

I'm going to split hairs and choose more than one.

The "definitve" Hulk of the Bronze Age was by Herb Trimpe. His distinctive version dominated the era, despite that fact that Sal Buscema drew the book for so many issues. I think of Bronze Age Hulk and I think of Trimpe.

The "best" Hulk artist though might well be Walt Simonson. His rendition of the Hulk in Rampaging Hulk caught the fury and power like no one else of the decade.

Sal told great stories. Herb drew memorable pages. Walt drew an awesome Hulk!

Rip Off

Garett said...

Haha--funny Doug! Has there been a topic of "sound effects"? It seems to me that most modern comics don't use them, but I like em!

Matthew said...

Isn't Byrne's work really in the Copper Age? I liked his work just fine, regardless. Although, I didn't like his changes to Samson -- yellow lightning bolt costume all the way! Severn is not my favorite Trimpe inker. I like Jack Abel better or Herb himself.

Anthony said...

My vote is for Sal Buscema. Even though I enjoyed his entire run on the book I love the Buscema Chan period. I don't think that's conventional. I think that screams power.
Herb Trimpe grew on me over the years even though as mentioned here his work was a tad inconsistent.
I loved issue 180 with the Wendigo and Wolverine inked by Jack Abel but when I finally tracked down 181 in the late 70s I was a little disappointed. In some panels Wolverine looks as big as the Hulk. But overall there is much more good than bad. I have to agree with Fred W. Hill that Herb's work was better suited to the Hulk than standard super-hero fare. I also share the love shown for his work with John Severin which ranks as some of his best. As I have stated on the blog before I consider issue 155 to be a Bronze Age masterpiece. It's my favorite Hulk issue overall. Trimpe followed by Buscema was a great time to be a Hulk fan.
I also enjoyed the work done by Gil Kane and John Romita. Richard really nailed how I feel about Kane in his description. Kane and Romita together? Look out ! Amazing Spider-Man 120 is also one of my favorite all time issues.
Since no one here has mentioned the future Hulk movie plans I wouldn't spoil it. All I have to say is as a Hulk fan it would be Hulk heaven.

Anonymous said...

They're gonna make a movie based on the World War Hulk storyline? Wow, can't wait to see how that turns out ....

As for my pick of favourite Bronze Age Hulk artist, I'd go with Herb Trimpe, with Sal Buscema a close second. John Buscema and John & Marie Severin also get an honourable pair of Hulk Fist-sized mentions. Original artist Jack Kirby was good too, even though his name doesn't get mentioned too much these days when talking about great Hulk artists.

Herb and Sal simply drew the Hulk so regularly that theirs are, to my mind at least, the definitive versions of the comics Hulk. They nailed the essence of ol' Greenskin perfectly. Say what you want about Herb's perceived shortcomings as an artist - no one can dispute that he drew a great Hulk. Sal brought his own take on ol' Jade Jaws, giving us a more expressive, tortured looking Hulk.

- Mike 'Mike smash!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Matt Celis said...

"World War Hulk"?

William said...

I meant to comment on this one yesterday, and I got busy and forgot to come back and post it.

Anyway, from strictly a drawing standpoint, I almost always prefer John Byrne no matter what it is he's working on.

However, in the case of the Hulk, Sal Buscema is my sentimental favorite. He was the artist on the Hulk when I first really started getting big into comics, and even though I didn't read a lot of issues of the Hulk back then, the one's I did pick up were usually drawn by my pal Sal. So, his style brings back those warm, fuzzy feeling of nostalgia. You know, like the Hulk always does.

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