It's odd how you can feel fondness for people you've never met and know nothing about. And yet that's the effect the people who drew the comics I read as a child have on me.
Ross Andru, Jim Aparo, John Buscema, John Romita, Jim Starlin and a whole load of other comicbook creators somehow wormed their way into my affections as a child even though I often couldn't even work out how to pronounce their names and, for all I knew, they could have been the very reincarnation of Satan on Earth.
And so it is that every time one of my favourite childhood comics creators dies, that small part of my psyche that loved their work feels a little diminished by their passing as human beings.
That's especially true in the case of Herb Trimpe who was one of my favourite artists as a child. He took a strip, in the Hulk, that had barely been worth reading up until that point and, along with a number of writers, turned it into one of Marvel's best books. Even now, as an adult, I enjoy his Hulk tales far more than virtually any other comics from that era.
Why was this? Trying to get to the heart of it, he gave the Hulk a sense of humanity, he brought out the inherent pathos of a simple brute who mostly wanted nothing but to be left alone but was also capable of massive acts of destruction.
His was a Hulk who wanted nothing but to sit in the woods and commune with nature but was also a nigh-unstoppable force of nature - one you really could believe was capable of lifting mountains. Trimpe put the Hulk in a strange world of monsters, robots, military bases, secret organisations, swamps, lost lands, European dictators, ghettos and almost poetic menaces from outer space.
Over a period of seven years on the strip, Trimpe produced story-telling that was rarely flashy but was often beautiful, displaying a remarkable consistency from the start of his run to the end of it, and his mastery of drawing monsters, military equipment, robots and spaceships made him perfect for the strip in a way few other artists could ever have been.
Of course, the Hulk wasn't his only claim to fame. He was co-creator of Marvel UK's first British hero Captain Britain (that is if you don't count Apeslayer who Trimpe could bizarrely claim to have been the definitive artist for, his work on Killraven having been heavily recycled to give us that strip each week). And he also had stints on, among other things, Ant-Man and Godzilla.
While it could be argued that the world wasn't exactly crying out for a Godzilla strip, his previously mentioned strengths as an artist made him just as much the ideal man for that job as he had been for the Hulk.
But probably my favourite Trimpe artwork is in the pages of Marvel Spotlight #12 & 13 in which his Son of Satan strip creates a sense of tortured delirium that's perfect for such a strip and contrasts noticeably to his more controlled work on the Hulk.
By all accounts he was also a nice man in real life.
It wasn't necessary for him to be a nice man in real life.
It wasn't necessary for him to be anything in real life.
As I alluded to at the start of this post, if he'd had no existence outside of drawing the Hulk for seven years, that alone would have been enough for me to feel saddened by his passing. But it's always pleasing to find out that those who brought you pleasure in your more innocent years were not in the habit of dissipating that pleasure when you met them in the real world.
If Stan Lee was right that within each of us ofttimes there dwells a mighty and raging fury, it's also true that even more ofttimes within each of us there dwells a ten year old. And, through his artwork, Herb Trimpe knew better than most how to appeal to that ten year old.
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