Tripwire’s contributing writer Scott Braden talks about how Marvel artist Herb Trimpe holds such significance for him as a fan…
When you look closely at legendary comic-booker Herb Trimpe’s work, the Marvel Comics mainstay was quite dramatic without being spectacular. Many Marvel Zombies may take umbrage at that statement, but I follow it up with this: In more than four decades of comics collecting, Trimpe’s work continued to rise to the top of the pile. My comic book pile, that is. And, at the 2019 Ringo Awards – at its home, the Baltimore Comic-Con – I’ve found myself tracking the wild, wily Trimpe even still.
My first experience with Trimpe was when I was green as a collector – and so was the super-hero under his watch. I very clearly remember a nine-year-old’s first encounter with the Incredible Hulk and one of his two massive Marvel Treasury Editions. Inside, the man who followed Jack Kirby – the “King of Comics” – thrilled a young boy’s imagination with images of Hulk smashing, crashing, and trashing all takers. Paraphrasing the fan-favorite TV series, “Don’t make him angry . . . you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.”
You’d love him instead.
Following his work in the more “mature” Rampaging Hulk and The Hulk magazines – they weren’t – Mr. Trimpe took a cue from a certain “Green Goliath” and jumped into the stratosphere and out of my reading path. That is, until we were reacquainted in the early 1980s when I picked up a copy of his and Tom DeFalco’s futuristic Machine Man #1 at my local Geppi’s Comics World at Security Square Mall. Through the eyes of a then-12-year-old, the mini-series – excuse me, “limited series” – was a four-colour miracle. Not only did it depict the far-flung, dystopian future of 2020 (!), but it was drawn by the ever-incredible Trimpe, as well as inked and coloured by legendary illustrator Barry Windsor-Smith. Yes, kids, in 1982, it didn’t get much better than that! (Ed’s note: apparently Windsor-Smith rubbed out and redrew Trimpe’s pencils on Machine Man)
Then, there was my older brother Steve to fill in with all the Trimpe I missed. Trimpe’s Godzilla, his Shogun Warriors, and his soon-to-be X-cellent epic, Incredible Hulk #181 – his and Len Wein’s classic first full appearance of the Uncanny X-Men’s Wolverine. And then, of course, there were more Hulks. Always more Hulks.
Trimpe and his Hulks would follow me into my professional life.
After my formal schooling and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from West Virginia University, I would eventually find my way to Diamond Comic Distributors as a managing editor for its late, lamented trade publication, Diamond Dialogue. It was there that I struck up friendships with many – especially my best friend, pop culture mentor, and Previews editor Marty Grosser. With him and my other brother-in-beer, Mike Smith, I ventured to many comic book conventions and flea markets where I’d find such treasures as the classic ‘71 Rolling Stone magazine with a focus on the House of Ideas and a Hulk cover by you-know-who, as well as, much later, an autographed copy of Mark Evanier’s Kirby: King of Comics, which featured a chapter on the classic Kirby-drawn – and later, alleged Trimpe-copied – Hulk poster offered to True Believers by Marvelmania International. Both have informed me as both a comic book professional and an aficionado that Trimpe – although not a spectacular illustrator – was nothing less than grandiose. He was, as my dear dad would say, a big deal. And little did I know he would become bigger still.
At the 2019 Ringos, where I was fortunate enough to rub elbows with comics’ elite, I sat at my table with my grab bag and saw that inside was The Incredible Hulk: Marvel Artisan Edition by IDW Limited showcasing the late Trimpe’s most “impactful” work on Marvel’s “Jolly Giant.”
I can’t speak for others, but looking back at my life in comic books, this extraordinary artist certainly made an impact on me.