Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Herb Trimpe. RIP.

Incredible Hulk #139, Herb Trimpe 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.

Marvel Spotlight #12, Herb Trimpe, Son of SatanWhy 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.


Unknown said...

What a nice post Steve on a great artists (and as you note, a really decent man). I can argue with anything you said here is all resounds with me as I also feel a tinge of sadness when I read about an artist from my childhood that has passed away and like you, for some reason Herbs passing resounded more with me than most (not that it can compare of course to the loss felt by his family and friends) simply put I loved his Hulk comic as a kid they gave me a great deal of fun and pleasure and like you they are still amongst only a handful of comics from that (or any other) era that I still read and enjoy. It was a pity he was dealt with so poorly at the end of his career with Marvel (as were many others of course) but what a great legacy he has left iconic covers great stories and the one and only true version of the Incredible Hulk.

PS: I have to say I never really liked Herbs “Son of Satan” that much, but his SHIELD comics were one of my favourites.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a really nice tribute, Steve :)

cerebus660 said...

That's a lovely, heartfelt tribute, Steve. It's strange how we can feel a connection to people we never met, due to the impact their work made on us. RIP Herb...

Kid said...

They're nearly all gone now, aren't they? Kirby, Buscema, Swan, Newton, Ayers, Chau, Wood, Kane - and a whole host of other artists who imbued our childhood and early teenage years with a sense of wonder through the magic of their art. Their work endures of course, but it's sad to think that these 'greats' are no longer around to amaze us with new pages from their magic pencils and pens. One of my favourite Trimpe comics is Doc Samson's first appearance in the Hulk. It just made art look so easy, even 'though we all know it isn't.

Anonymous said...

A good post, Steve, and I understand how you feel.
It was Herb Trimpe's artwork that defined the Hulk for me, but also served as an introduction to a lot of Marvel characters in the '70's, including Doctor Doom and the Sub-Mariner.
I guess we all feel like we lost a pal.
So, I'll raise a bottle of beer to the guy and dig out and reread some old back issues he drew.
Not a bad way to be remembered.
I think he would approve!

Steve W. said...

Thanks to you all for your complimentary comments. As always, they're much appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Herb Trimpe also did some genuine artwork for 'Planet Of The Apes' (other than Apeslayer, I mean) - he was the artist on the second (and final) Derek Zane story in POTA No.85-86 and he was the final artist to draw the long-running Jason & Alexander arc.

John Pitt said...

What a touching tribute, Steve. I only wish that Herb's family and friends could only see all of the heartfelt messages that are being posted.
It came as a sudden unexpected shock to all of us. Because of our ages, we all felt we knew him. For me, I didn't really know anything about the man himself, but everything I have heard of his nature in the last 3 days - I like!
Similarly, I am finding all these lovely tributes very moving .

John Pitt said...

Col, I THINK. Herb also drew the cover to POTA #98?

Steve W. said...

It looks to me like he may have done the cover to issue #96 as well.

Anonymous said...

And #101 and possibly #102 ? For some reason the Herb Trimpe story in POTA #85-86 was reprinted in #99-101 - no explanation was ever given for this as far as I know.

B Smith said...

Had this occurred in the years before the internet, there probably would have been a small yellow box on the Bullpen Bulletins page on Marvel comics some three months after the event, containing a short paragraph outlining what happened.

But in this modern age, we can have folk like Steve elaborate clearly the fan's view mere days later, and pay tribute to someone who, as he noted, seemed like a long-distant friend.

Well written, old chap.

R. Lloyd said...

I remember each and every week I would try to duplicate Herb's Hulk and make my own HUulk comics. Back in 1975 there was a Power Book and Records (actually Peter Pan Records) that adapted one of his Hulk stories. I must have played that same record 100 times hoping there would be more. I can't tell you how many times drew and redrew his panels and tried to ink them to duplicate his style. Marvel lost a great man. It's really awful how they treated this man who brought so much to the field of comics. He will be missed.

Steve W. said...

I remember trying to draw my own Hulk comic too, also inspired by Herb. I managed to do three panels before I lost interest and gave up on it. It made me realise the amount of patience and dedication it took to draw a comic.