Friday, April 17, 2015

Discuss: Herb Trimpe

Karen: As I'm sure most of you know, artist Herb Trimpe passed away this last Monday. Please feel free to share your thoughts about him and what his work meant to you. For me, he will always be "THE" Hulk artist, as he was the artist on that title when I first started reading it. He managed to make the Hulk so expressive. The character really seemed alive to me as a child, and it was mainly due to Mr. Trimpe's work.

from Hulk #141, with John Severin

from Hulk #147, also with Severin

from Hulk #172, with Jack Abel

from Hulk #182, Trimpe inking himself

Doug: Just before I was ready to shut things down and head to bed, the following arrived in our BAB email account. It's from a friend of all of yours, formatted in 100 Words:
RIP Herb Trimpe. I still have some issues of his work on assorted titles like the Defenders, Godzilla, the Shogun Warriors and of course Hulk. Like Gil Kane his linework was instantly recognizable no matter what title he drew. One headline said he was the first to draw Wolverine but to me he represented more than that. His style seemed to suit giant robots and monsters perfectly, guess that's why he drew Hulk for 8 years! Thanks for giving me many great childhood memories Mr. Trimpe.  

Yours in comics,
Mike 'never knew Trimpe rhymed with shrimpy' from Trinidad & Tobago.


J.A. Morris said...

The first thing I thought of when I heard about his death was Godzilla. My father took a business trip to Casper, Wyoming back in the 70s. I got a copy of a Godzilla comic to read on the ride home:
Because of that series, Trimpe was the first artist's name I ever memorized. I later discovered back issues and the first I bought were Hulk comics drawn by Trimpe.

Trimpe wasn't the greatest penciler of all time. But he was a great storyteller who was immediately recognizable and a great example of a Marvel "house style" artist. It bothers me when people dismiss Trimpe as nothing but a Kirby Klone.

In case everyone hasn't seen it, Mark Evanier wrote a great tribute to Trimpe the other day:

Anonymous said...

Obviously Herb Trimpe will mostly be associated with the Hulk but he was also the first artist on Marvel UK's short-lived 'Captain Britain' weekly in 1976 and he drew some stories in 'Planet Of The Apes' magazine.

Edo Bosnar said...

He was never my favorite, but he did solid, steady work over a long period in number of titles (not just the Hulk). In fact, it's fair to say that after Sal Buscema, he really was one of the artists who defined Marvel's house style in the '70s.
One thing I've noticed in all of the articles about him I've read (even earlier, and not just the tributes from a few days ago), is that absolutely everyone says he's one of the nicest guys ever.
J.A., thanks for the link to Evanier's piece. He notes something at the end that also struck me when I first saw the news, i.e., that Trimpe was apparently in good health, and not necessarily very old (heck, he's a few years younger than my parents!), which makes his death all the more saddening and shocking.

Humanbelly said...

I have always thought of Herb as "my" artist. He was the sole penciler of my favorite comic book character (by a huge mile) from the time I started reading the book (roughly 8 or 9 years old) until the time he left the book, right before my 15th birthday. Those were some unpleasantly turbulent times in our family, and comics provided a much-appreciated distraction and escape. . . and his Hulk was a foundation stone of comfort and dependability, and a bit of a refuge. Herb's passing feels much more like a personal loss to me than does the normal passing of a notable figure in society. It makes me quite sad.

His flaws as an artist? Sheesh-- I probably recognize them better than anyone. And it doesn't make a bit of difference-- his work was so very fun, and unconventional (I don't buy the Kirby Klone criticism at all), and he had such a facility for capturing a moment that the flaws that come along with his total package become, in fact, idiosyncratic and distinctive and even endearing. His visual style also went through some very dramatic changes over his time on THE HULK. His "forehead crease instead of eyes" phase, circa #111-117, looks nothing at all like his work in the mid-160's or the (rather rougher) work near the end of his run in the late 190's. And rarely has there been a penciler upon whose work any number of inkers could work their own particular magic. Inkers must have loved him-- even though it tended to overshadow his own abilities.

When I catch occasional cell-phone-at-convention interviews with him, it never fails to impress me what a nice, regular, good-natured, wave-across-the-cul-de-sac sort of fellow he seemed to be. And he's certainly an inspiration as a fellow who continued to quietly plod along despite serious professional adversity and upheaval-- fighting back against the Demon of Self-Doubt, in particular. And of course, doing extremely commendable good works in broader society-- this is just a guy that it's a shame to lose so soon. Even at 75, it seems like another 20 years wouldn't have been too much to ask for. . .


Edo Bosnar said...

Sorry to sidetrack, but HB, re: "...comics provided a much-appreciated distraction and escape. . . (...) and a bit of a refuge." Oh, man, talk about hitting home, and then some - you might as well have been describing me at a similar age, familial dramas and all.

Back to Trimpe: I've never come across accusations or criticisms of him being a Kirby clone, but if such were made, they're way off base. Trimpe really had a style of his own that was quite distinct and easily recognizable.

Doug said...

Not being a regular Hulk reader as a child, I instead encountered Trimpe's art in Super-Villain Team-Up and the aforementioned Godzilla book. At the time I recall thinking his work was OK, but I'd have preferred Buckler or Perez most likely. Years later I've of course become exposed to his Hulk run and really appreciate it for many of the reasons already stated.

It's funny how our perceptions of various artists' output waxes and wanes over time. I'm sure we could all discuss artists (or writers) with whom we've had a love-hate-love relationship. Trimpe falls somewhere in that inconsistent arc of emotion for me. But in the end, his contributions served the Hulk, and the overall industry, well and we should be grateful for his work.


david_b said...

Nice new avatar, Doug, you're almost as bad as ME...

Ditto's on Mr. Trimpe. His was my first Hulk.., not that I collected that title much.

Huge loss, but what distinguished pillar of our beloved Bronze palace. RIP.

John Pitt said...

Herb was to the Hulk as Romita, snr. was to Spidey, i.e. the second phase in their lives. Whilst Kirby & Ditko were the 2 co-creator, it is possible to love these 2 second phase artists equally. To me, neither have ever beenbettered.
But it was Herb's work on Captain Britain that I love the most. And, as Colin says, he did some nice work on POTA UK as well.
Add to that, that we are hearing what a thoroughly nice man he was, it makes his premature passing so much sadder.

jim kosmicki said...

i believe the Kirby Klone accusation dates primarily from some of his earliest work for Marvel - back when they wanted artists to draw like Kirby.

Trimpe was one of the first artists where I could identify the artist from first glance at the interiors, without looking at the credits.

Anonymous said...

I liked his Hulk stuff, and I loved his work on G.I. Joe...great military artist.

Mike Wilson

Martinex1 said...

I first encountered Herb Trimpe's work on Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. and I liked it. Being on a book following Steranko had to be tough, but Trimpe's work didn't diminish my enjoyment at all. He also did some work on "What If" that I still like today. Of course his Hulk was great in my opinion; I liked how he had a slightly different (more monstrous/brutish?) look than other incarnations, but I liked the quirkiness. He was definitely an artist that I could spot without looking at the credits, yet he upheld a certain standard that felt right.

pfgavigan said...


I wracked my brains trying to come up with something new to say about Herb Trimpe. His work on the Hulk was among the first comics I read, certainly among those that I purchased. How much I enjoyed his work on a variety of books and with an incredible number of collaborators. Then I remembered a quote from Peter David about a story that he did with Mr. Trimpe and how it summed up both the fact that Trimpe was an active participant in the determination of story and a true professional in the execution of his work.

So, from an article harvested from Mr. David's blog site:

"But my working with Herb was a unique experience. Because Herb didn’t want to work off a written plot. He wanted to talk about the story over the phone. “Okay,” I said, game for anything. So I got Herb on the phone, and I described to him what I wanted the story to be about . . . .

So I outlined the story over the phone to Herb, and Herb took copious notes and prepared to draw the story from the notes. “Now this is how we used to do it in Stan’s day!” he said. And he turned in a really terrific story that was exactly what I had wanted and was a snap to dialogue."

This is why I admired Mr. Trimpe so, an incredible body of work where the dialogue and art work together so well. It couldn't have been by accident. It could only be by the joining of talents to create something together that might have been beyond either one working as individuals. One of the marks of a true professional.

We've heard about Mr. Trimpe's troubled last days with Marvel Comics. About how his work was held in disdain by those occupying the editorial positions. I would like to state that I feel that Herb Trimpe should be honored for the fact that he was let go by those who so nearly managed to bring down the "House of Ideas"!

Thank you for your kind attention,


Anonymous said...

Yes when I heard the news that Herb Trimpe had passed away I felt as if I had lost a favourite uncle. I've never met him, never knew him yet I still felt a sense of loss, as if someone in my family had died. I'm glad to see that he was universally hailed as a nice guy by everyone who knew him.

He's mostly known for his long run on the Hulk and for being the first artist to portray Wolverine, but to me his work encompassed a whole range of other titles, such as Godzilla, the Defenders and the Shogun Warriors. Along with Sal Buscema, he truly was the model for the Marvel method for producing comics. I'm not surprised Peter David has such glowing praise for his work ethic; he sounds like someone who truly cared about his craft. Some critics might point out his artistic flaws, but like ol' HB said even these seemed to add something extra to his work.

I read his article and his journal when he got fired by Marvel and his struggles afterwards. It seems like a serious injustice when someone like him has to literally run around looking for employment taking into consideration his body of work. To me there really needs to be a well funded, well run organization that caters to the needs of artists, writers and other comics professionals when they run into difficulties like this.

I'd like to conclude by mentioning two quotes from Trimpe himself from his article -

"Hey I can draw rings around your Adobe Illustrator!"

"And it seems so silly to be drawing with a mouse and software when I can do it faster and better by hand."

- Mike 'Trimpe lover' from Trinidad & Tobago.

B Smith said...

My first exposure to Herb Trimpe's art was not in a comic at all, but in a Whitman's Big Little Book. "The Fantastic Four In The House Of Horrors" featured Mr Trimpe doing his best Jack Kirby impression (one suspects under orders from higher up) - come to think of it, it was very likely one of the first times i came across print-based superheroes (having soaked up the FF and others via TV cartoons).

Like most others here, he was my first Hulk artist, and pretty well my only one; good solid craftsmanship with the occasional inspired flash...not a bad legacy!

Humanbelly said...

Ah, edo--

Once again, it seems like we are at least partially the same person, somehow--! (Y'know, my Dad was adopted as an infant in the 30's, and lord knows what his origins were--- could it be. . . ?)

So, looking at the included examples from various Hulk issues again, I keep lingering over the page from issue #147-"Heaven is a Very Small Place". And as I dwell on it a bit, darned if it doesn't choke me up yet again for about the thousandth time. The utter vulnerability of Hulk when he simply can't make an impossible situation right-- and so desperately wants to-- is a masterpiece of heartbreak. It moves me every flipping time I read it. And it's a great example of what PFG talks about-- where the art tells the story so eloquently. In fact, the only flaw in the story is that the writer (Goodwin, I think?) tends to get rather in the way with a heavy hand in the narration-- "talking" to the Hulk, IIRC. Completely unnecessary. Herb gave us a clear and touching visual narrative throughout, and the Hulk's own dialog more than sufficed.
Ah, it's such good stuff. Should be required introductory reading for any new Marvelite before they encounter the Hulk. . .


Rip Jagger said...

Herb Trimpe was a hero of mine. He was the kind of artist I most admire, a storyteller who hit his deadlines month in and month out. What some critics label a "hack", but there was too much character and too much charm in Trimpe's work for it ever to be called that.

I had the pleasure to meet him some years ago at a local convention and he was gracious and charming. He signed my copy of Phantom Eagle's debut, one of the first comics I ever bought for myself, and he drew a picture of the Eagle for me. I cherish it.

Trimpe was a guy who rose above the hardships which hit him later in his career, when corporate Marvel decided it no longer needed that kind of talent. He found another road, but it was a struggle which he's been generous enough to share. His work during 9-11 showed again what made him special, and at the same time one of us.

Herb Trimpe was among the last of a breed of blue-collar working class artists who once upon a time dominated the field. They are replaced by too many folks now who dabble in comics and don't work nearly hard enough to master their craft. When I see lackluster pages and half-finished art, I remember what it was like once upon a time when pros produced comics, not wannabe amateurs.

Herb Trimpe was a pro.

Rip Off

Karen said...

That Crackerjack Jackson story from Hulk 182 was one that really hit me as a kid. The whole situation, with Crackerjack and his son, and Hulk getting caught in the middle (as he so often did), was very affecting, and Trimpe's story-telling skills really came to the fore.

Looking over his art on the Incredible Hulk to select samples to use in this post, I do feel that his work was much 'tighter' early on -and he also had a fantastic partner in inker John Severin -but his ability to convey emotions, to pace and move a story along never wavered.

R.B. Lloyd said...

Herb Trimpe made me a fan of the Hulk from the start. I looked forward to each and every one of his issues. It was sad to see him leave the title in 1975 where he went on to Godzilla, The Defenders, Iron Man and G.I.Joe. The Godzilla and G.I. Joe titles. For me his best work was on the Hulk and I'll never forget looking forward to each issue. It's part of my childhood I'll never forget.

I had the chance to correspond briefly with Herb through his website and he was a class act. I wish every Marvel artist followed his example. He may have not been a "Super Star" artist in Marvel's eyes. However to me he was just as important as any of the other "founding fathers" of Marvel Comics. He refined and defined the Hulk for everything that came after Kirby's debut. To call him a Kirby clone would be an insult. Herb had a style all his own and kept raising the bar each time when he graduated to other titles.

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