I learned this afternoon that Mr. Trimpe has passed away. From all accounts, he was a great human being. I was an admirer of his artwork and I've reworked a piece I wrote on him 7 or 8 years ago.
Herb Trimpe was a real Marvel mainstay for those of us who devoured comics in the Bronze Age. Although mostly associated with the Incredible Hulk, he could draw everything from westerns to monster books. I’ve always admire his clean look which almost seemed to be the Marvel ‘house’ look because he worked on so many titles.
The strange thing is; I still think his best work was his first full length story – the “Phantom Eagle” from Marvel Super-Heroes #16. How many artists hit the ball completely out of the park on their first at-bat in the big leagues? Here are a couple of pages from that issue.
Trimpe also has a real knack for cover design – so many of his Hulk covers played with perspective to make them even more dynamic. Sometimes even just a slight tilting could bring a static image to life. Here’s my favorite of his Hulk covers (also used for a Power Records cover, IIRC) and one of his best western covers. It’s just dazzling – it’s really too bad that westerns went out of fashion because I truly believe that many artists excelled in that genre.
Trimpe definitely became the go-to guy at Marvel when they began licensing everything under the sun (see. Shogun Warriors, Godzilla and G.I. Joe to name but a few). Obviously Jim Shooter had faith in Trimpe, and put him on one high profile assignment after another. His versatility is indeed one of his real strengths as he really could do nice job on just about anything. You want a re-cap of Star Wars in a single page? Herb’s your man.
Like so many skilled Bronze Age artists, Trimpe seemed to fall off the radar screen at Marvel. Tastes change and it’s too bad that so many artists seem to be put out to pasture long before their time. He’s still doing work from time to time (I believe his did a recent BPRD issue for Dark Horse) For those looking to get a taste of Herb Trimpe at this best – I highly recommend tracking down that Phantom Eagle story, his work of the latter issues of Nick Fury and his take on Ant-Man in Marvel Feature. Frugal Hulk fans know that there’s a goldmine of fun Trimpe art in the Essentials volumes.
Rest in Peace, Herb. You will be missed. Thanks for the countless hours of entertainment.