Wednesday, April 15, 2015

In Memoriam :: Happy Trails, Herb.

When I was a kid growing up in the 1970s, my comic book buying was very sporadic. Purchases were usually made every six months or so, basically whenever the whole family was hauled to the barbershop for a mass haircut, which was located right next to the Central News Stand, which had a wall of comics to peruse through. (Also, a huge amount of porn, which brought tri-annual picket lines from the local demagogues. Lines I remember defying and breaking through. Even the Lord Almighty couldn't keep me from my funny books. Anyhoo... ) A virtual 4-color Nirvana it was, and if you behaved in the barber's chair, your reward was a comic book. And whenever, by some miracle, I behaved, I usually blew my reward on a copy of The Incredible Hulk -- because what child can resist the story of a gentle giant that no one understands but his woman with a penchant for city-leveling temper tantrums and the mass of army men charged with capturing him, amIright?

Thus and so, began a decades long love of old Jade Jaws. Sure, my version of the story was severely truncated but at least some effort was made back then to treat each issue as if it was the very first one you read, allowing new readers to get up to speed and others, like myself, to get caught up on what we'd missed. (As usual, my timing sucked enough to miss out on issues #180 and #181, which could've helped pay off my house, but, no. Of COURSE I got #182... ) And if you were really lucky, and good at the con game, you could get your hands on one of those Treasury Editions, which were super-sized reprints featuring whole story arcs of your favorite characters. Hell yeah!

Herb Trimpe was the artist on the Hulk when I got hooked. Trimpe is probably best known for his work on The Incredible Hulk, which, for my money, was the best rendition of the character ever put on paper -- especially if John or Marie Severin were doing the inks. The artist drew the mag for nearly seven years straight, where he famously rendered the first appearance of Wolverine (in those aforementioned missed issues. No. I AM NOT BITTER. AM NOT! AM NOT! AM NOT!)

And while the stories were cool, full of monsters, and kind of a head-trip, it was the art that kept bringing me back. Trimpe's drawings simply exploded off the page, with fists or feet or whole bodies breaking through the panel and plane. His art was fluid and you'd swear you could see it move from panel to panel and feel each landed punch. I loved his splash pages, and would spend hours perusing all the details in his massive double-spreads.  He was also amazing at depicting tech and military equipment. Trimpe was instrumental in the formation of the Hulkbusters, who constantly hounded our hero, even though he usually made short work of their tanks, aircraft and artillery.

After he left the Hulk, Trimpe sort of became Marvel's go-to artists for their licensed properties and toy-lines, including Godzilla and the Shogun Warriors (and he later helped launch G.I. Joe), where his layouts and forced perspective work to give the King of the Monsters and those giant battle-bots size and scale were pretty damned amazing in my book.

In fact, I think Trimpe runs second only to King Kirby, himself, when it came to these kind of nightmare creatures, kit-bashed doodads and cosmic whiz-bangery. And I kind of bristle when Trimpe is tagged as the Poor Man's Kirby or Kirby-Lite. It's funny, but I found out later that the artist actually favored the work of Jack Davis and the boys at EC Comics. So much so, that Stan Lee had some of his first work redone and told him to be more like Kirby in the future. And so, being a good employee, that's what Trimpe did, to great effect.

I could go on rambling, but I think I can bring this tribute down to a succinct point. I grew up with this artist. He was the first artist whose style I recognized. He was formative. He will always be one of my favorites. He was my Kirby. Rest in peace, sir. And thank you.

Herbert W. "Happy Herb" Trimpe

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...