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C HA PT E R 0 NE
Origins of Herb Trimpe
Home and Family
In the spirit of the comic book origin story, it seems only fitting to begin at the beginning. In this interview, Trimpe talks about his family and school, shedding light on the origins of the artist. (No gamma radiation involved.) Dewey Cassell: When and where were you born? Herb Trimpe: In Peekskill, New York, May 26th, 1939, on the Hudson River, an hour and a half from New York City.
ABOVE: The guest of honor. Courtesy of Herb Trimpe. RIGHT: Parents Annie and Herb Trimpe with son Herb. Courtesy of Herb Trimpe.
Cassell: So, what does the “W” stand for in Herb W. Trimpe? Trimpe: It is “William.” Actually, they named me “Herbert,” after my dad, even way after the name wasn’t popular any more. And they named me “William” after his brother, my uncle. So it’s all family-related names. I wish they’d been a little more original. I would rather be a “John,” actually, or a “Fred” I think. Cassell: “Herb” is very distinctive, though. Trimpe: Yeah, actually, it works as “Herb,” but it doesn’t work as “Herbert.” Cassell: What did your parents do? Trimpe: My dad did various things. He was primarily a skilled sheet metal worker. That was his job during World War Two, working in shipping yards in New Jersey. When World War Two was ending, we moved back to Peekskill. My dad had to leave New Jersey because we lived in an area below sea level and it was very damp and he wound up in the hospital with pneumonia as a very young man. It nearly did him in, so we moved back to New York State, when I was about five or so. And then he worked at various places. There were a number of companies around that are no longer there. You know, American industry is not what it used to be. You could live in a small town and go to work in a local factory, but it’s not doable any more. Cassell: That’s very true. Trimpe: He actually wound up retiring with a very good pension from the Peekskill Public School System, where he was a—I don’t know what they call it now—maintenance engineer. In those days, they called him a janitor. So that’s where we wound up. I don’t know if he actually retired. I don’t think he had reached 65 yet, but he got sick from working around asbestos for too long and wound up contracting lung cancer and that took about two years to finish dad off. And my mom, who had been a stay-at-home mom when
I was in elementary and junior high school, she worked in a local supermarket in Peekskill at the time, back in the meat packing department. When my dad died, she was kind of on her own. By that time, my brother and I were grownup and out and married. She lived alone for ten years after my dad died and then at 70, she remarried. It was an old friend of hers and my dad’s, actually going way back to elementary school, whose wife had also died of cancer. They just started hanging out and wound up getting married. They were married for 14 years and then he died. She lived up by herself in Peekskill for a while. Then we bought a bigger house in Hurley after renting for three years in Rhinebeck, New York, and she moved in with us. My wife Patricia’s mom is with us, too, so we’ve kind of got a miniold folks home here. The only other thing I can tell you about my mom is she always wanted to play golf, so she’s very hip on all the tournaments that take place and she has her favorites. And she loves to watch Dancing with the Stars and both The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, which she gets very opinionated and steamed up about. So that’s the family history. Cassell: You told me that you had a brother, named Mike, right? Were you the only children? Trimpe: Yeah, we were. And we were seven years apart, so it was quite a gap. It wasn’t a brother you could interact with much in the early years, because of the age discrepancy. But when he got into high school, and I was in my twenties, then we did a lot of stuff together, mostly playing
baseball or just talking about baseball or talking about movies. But we were very close and stayed in contact on a regular basis. Yearly visits, sometimes twice a year, because he was living in Virginia with his family and I was still up here, but we always stayed in touch. We played tabletop gaming, war games. Cassell: Oh, really? Any favorites? Trimpe: Well, he was a Civil War re-enactor. You know, it’s quite a commitment, actually. It’s almost like being in the military because they have meetings and you have uniforms and you have to buy all your own stuff, and you join a unit, just like you would have at the time. If you were from New York, you’d be in a New York unit. If you were from Virginia, you’d be in a Virginia unit. It kind of works the same way, depending on what state you’re in. So he was a member of a Virginia unit and my nephew Mark was too. My nephew’s still doing it. He’s a big Civil War buff. I never saw any of the re-enactments, but I saw plenty of the people, a lot of the friends that were involved in it, and actually got to shoot some of those guns, like a rifle musket and a cap-and-ball pistol. Cassell: Oh, wow. So, what was it like shooting one? Trimpe: A black powder pistol is big, it’s heavy, and it makes a cloud of smoke every time it fires that obscures everything within ten feet. Not to mention the noise. It’s hard to believe. And also, since the barrels of the pistols were unrifled, it was like throwing a knuckleball. There was no direction on the ball when it came out, so it could do anything. It could go up, it could go down. He
ABOVE: Brother Mike Trimpe. Courtesy of Herb Trimpe. LEFT: Herb Trimpe (back row with hat) and cousins. Courtesy of Herb Trimpe. RIGHT: Trimpe’s oldest daughter, Melissa. Courtesy of Herb Trimpe.
Trimpe on Trimpe An Interview with Alex Trimpe Trimpe met and married Linda Fite while working for Marvel Comics and together they had three children—two girls and a boy, Alex, who recalls in this interview what it was like growing up Trimpe.
ABOVE: Alex Trimpe with Dad. Courtesy of Herb Trimpe. BELOW: Commission drawing of the Wrecker by Herb Trimpe.
Dewey Cassell: When I was talking to your dad the other day, he was saying that you were born in the middle of a comic book convention. Alex Trimpe: Yeah. Well, I can’t say that I recall that, obviously. But that’s what I hear. I guess my mom went into labor when they were at a comic book convention. I’ve got a bunch of cards that people made in my baby book. Obviously a lot of people were artists of some kind so they’re
pretty entertaining. But yeah, that’s the story. Like I say, it could be a complete lie since I was not conscious at the time. Cassell: And you are the oldest, right? Trimpe: I’m the oldest of my mom and my dad’s three kids, but I have an older half-sister. Cassell: When were you born? Trimpe: ‘Seventy-three. Amelia was born in ’76, and then Sarah was ’78. Cassell: When you were born, was your mom still working for Marvel or had she already left? Trimpe: I don’t know. I know that when I was growing up, she definitely wasn’t and I don’t think she worked there very long. Cassell: Was your dad working out of the office for Marvel at that time or was he working at home? Trimpe: It was only at home. I mean, I don’t know when I was really little, but I think we lived in the city, in Manhattan, for a year. So probably during that time, he was still going to the office because he was in Manhattan, but then we were in Cornwall, England, for a year. Some of my earliest memories are from then. Obviously from there, he was sending it overseas and that’s also where he learned to fly an airplane. But for my whole conscious life, he was working at home in various parts of the house, but mainly a little, tiny office space on the second floor that was next to my bedroom. He also had a big drawing table downstairs, in the living room. Cassell: Do you have any particular memories of him drawing while you were growing up? Trimpe: No, I’m sure things could probably spark a memory, but nothing that just sort of floats in my mind. Actually, the one memory I have, for some reason, has nothing to do with him drawing, really. My mom’s bedroom is where all of the comic books were kept, because we got free comic books, which was the staff of life for me and my friends when I was little. But they were all on these metal shelves in there and in
fact, they might even have been in the hallway. They were down the hall from where his little office was and I guess at some point I came to him, excited about somebody. There was something I’d seen in one of the comics and he was on the phone and he sort of acknowledged what I said, then I heard him say on the phone, “Yeah, my son has discovered Jack Kirby.” For me, it was like a connection, he was talking to somebody who knew what I was getting excited about before I got excited about it, and it was sort of like a window into the comic book artists’ world. Cassell: Did you ever have a chance to meet Jack? Trimpe: No, not that I can remember. I remember my dad said that Jack Kirby would come in only to drop artwork off and then change things if Stan asked him to. And then my dad said everyone would gather around to watch him change stuff because he’d just blow through it really fast and amaze everybody. Cassell: I have heard Jack was fast. Trimpe: Before the Shogun Warriors [came out] there was some meeting and I was there, I must have been really small, but however it worked out, they settled on a creative team before there was this meeting. And again, I’m small but I was really excited because I think they’d already given me these gigantic plastic toys that were like two feet tall. But then Stan Lee showed up at that meeting. I remember he was late and if you’re 45 minutes late when you’re an adult, it’s kind of a pain in the butt. But when you’re a kid, I just remember thinking, “How is this possible that this person is so late?” It was weird because whenever we’d gone to Marvel before that—I’d go down there with him sometimes—it was a rickety place, but my memory of wherever this meeting took place, it was a much slicker kind of meeting room, but that was my one and only exposure there. I just remember my dad saying, “Yeah, he’s late,” and me being antsy, waiting. But to be able to tag along on stuff like that, obviously, was great. Cassell: I remember your dad saying that he got toys for the Shogun Warriors to use as a model to know how to draw them. Did you get to play with them? Trimpe: Yeah, those are the things—actually, I’m just assuming we got those before that meeting and that’s why I was stoked and all into it. But yeah, those are still at my mom’s house. Cassell: What about the G.I. Joes?
Trimpe: The G.I. Joes came out at the same time as Transformers and I was more into Transformers. And also, when they were “developing” the G.I. Joe comic, they asked my Dad to do character designs and he did sort of pragmatic designs of things that had a function, most of them, perfect for what the characters are doing. But I think he said later, they’d already settled on the design and they were kind of goofy, more superhero designs for what they used. And so I don’t know if it was my taste intersecting with what he was saying about those designs that they were using, because he wanted it to be more realistic. So I was not really into G.I. Joe. I think I probably played with them, you know, but I was more
Cover of Shogun Warriors #1 by Herb Trimpe. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.
C HA PT E R TW O
Marvel Comics Marvel Comics began in 1939 as Timely Publications, founded by pulp magazine publisher Martin Goodman. The company enjoyed early success with characters that included the Human Torch, the Sub-Mariner, and Captain America, the latter created by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Goodman hired his wife’s cousin, Stanley Lieber, who wrote stories under the pseudonym Stan Lee and took over as editor when Simon left in 1941. When super-heroes fell out of fashion after the war, Timely branched out into multiple genres at a time when copying the competition was the order of the day. After weathering a downturn in the late 1950s by reducing staff, the company now known as Marvel found a new lease on life with the introduction of the Fantastic Four in the fall of 1961. By the time Trimpe joined Marvel, the super-hero revolution was well under way, and he had an opportunity to work with some remarkable people, while making his own mark in the field. Like all the members of the Marvel Bullpen at the time, he was given a nickname by editor Stan Lee: “Happy” Herb Trimpe. After hearing him talk about his various accomplishments during the course of his career in a modest and matter-of-fact way, it seems perhaps that a more appropriate moniker might have been “Humble” Herb Trimpe. In this interview, Trimpe talks about how he got the job at Marvel Comics, the work he did in production and inking westerns, and the unique nature of the company and the people, including Stan Lee. ABOVE: Detail of 1970 Marvelmania self-portrait by Herb Trimpe. BELOW: Cover of Kid Colt Outlaw #134 by Trimpe, which featured his first story for Marvel, “Shoot-Out at Hooker Flat.”
Cassell: How did you get the job at Marvel? Trimpe: A friend of mine from The School of Visual Arts, John Verpoorten, was working at Marvel. I’d known him before—in fact, when I left Tom Gill to enlist, he took over and started working for Tom himself. By the time I got back, he had wound up at Marvel as the production chief. I did take some samples up to DC, but I didn’t have anything current. It was all stuff I’d done in art school or done for fun. So, I got talking to Verpoorten, and he said, “You should bring whatever you’ve got up to the office and let Sol Brodsky take a look at it,” because Sol was screening incoming artists, of which there weren’t very many, I can tell you. It wasn’t like now. Cassell: What was your first assignment at Marvel? Trimpe: When I brought my work up and Sol Brodsky looked at it, I immediately got work inking Westerns freelance—Kid Colt, Rawhide Kid, Two-Gun Kid—and that worked out good. Cassell: Do you think Stan had you ink Westerns as a try-out for penciling work? Trimpe: I don’t think he saw inking as a lesser form of the artwork where you could take an amateur and have them do it, since inking takes quite a bit of expertise in itself. But saying that, I did start out inking Westerns at Marvel over
top of Werner Roth and Larry Lieber and guys like that. I think I inked some of Dick [Ayer]’s stuff and it was quite enjoyable. So I don’t know if that was by design or just because they needed inkers on the work, because the number of Western titles was quite extensive in the mid-’60s. There were probably five, six [Westerns] out of less than 20 overall titles. When you included the romance magazines, they took up quite a percentage of the total output of titles in the mid-’60s. And they were good books to work on, too. Cassell: I heard that at one point you ran the Photostat machine. Trimpe: I got a call from Sol one day and he said, “We’re not going to send galleys out to copy any more. We’re going to do all that stuff in-house and we’re getting this big photographic device that we can shoot text or pictures on.” This was when cut-and-paste was actually cut-and-paste. And it was about eight feet long and it had a bed to put the work on, and a huge adjustable camera, and you could feed the paper right into a developer and then a fixer and then into a dryer. And he said, “We need somebody to operate that—there’s a technician coming in from the company—would you like to take the job?” And I said, “Sure, it sounds good. I’ll do that.” So that’s
when I started working for $130 a week, and I did that for maybe six months. Cassell: Did you continue to do any artwork? Trimpe: During that time I did ink some Westerns on the side, and then I did “The Phantom Eagle” with Gary Friedrich and some other odds and ends. Cassell: Did you enjoy doing the Westerns? Trimpe: Yeah, because I liked Western comics. Actually, I think the first full-length story I did was “Shoot-Out at Hooker Flat.” It was written by Gary Friedrich and it was in a Kid Colt comic. [Kid Colt Outlaw #134, May 1967.] Cassell: Did you have reference for what horses looked like or different styles of guns? Trimpe: I made ‘em up. I made horses up. I draw terrible horses. I didn’t really use photos much. That might have been one of Jack’s influences, because Jack just made everything up out of whole cloth. He just invented it, and I think I was doing the same thing. And we were asked to look at Jack. Not so much “draw like Kirby”—that wasn’t it. A lot of people voluntarily drew like Kirby, like Barry Smith had a strong Kirby [influence] in the beginning, as did Jim Steranko, but they both took it one step further. They both went into their own realm after a while, and they were both unique and unusual because of that. Me? I didn’t know where the hell I was going. Cassell: What other artists were working at Marvel at the time? Trimpe: Most of the guys in place were a generation before me, and they were solid craftsmen. When I came into Marvel, I had to squeeze in between guys like Romita, Colan, Kirby, Buscema, Don Heck, Bill Everett. These guys were excellent artists. They had grace and style. Inkers like Sinnott and Giacoia—nobody can do that today. Nobody knows that kind of brushwork and the kind of things they did with ease, it seemed. It was magnificent-looking art. If you see an original Buscema page, it’s just astounding work. It’s incredible. So when I was coming in, I was the piker of the bunch. I came on around the same time Barry Smith came in and shortly after (or maybe before) Jim Steranko. We were the moreor-less contemporaries in the ’60s. Of course, I couldn’t draw anywhere near any of them. Cassell: That generation of Romita, Colan, Kirby and others were really very humble, though. Trimpe: Yeah, that’s true. At the time, it was, “Okay, it’s another plot, it’s another story. Here’s the character, draw it, make the deadline, get the check.” That’s all there was to it then. Most
of the artists came from commercial art backgrounds, even though to one degree or another, they loved doing comic books. I’ve heard Syd Shores and other artists say, “If things got slow when I was doing commercial work, you could always run over to a comic book company. They’d give you a script and you’d go home and do the artwork, bring it back, and they’d pay you right away.” They’d pay on delivery and that was one of the advantages of working on comics in those days. It helped tide people over. At times, comics were used by commercial illustrators, or people who worked outside the business on a regular basis, to supplement their income. They didn’t tell anybody they drew comic books. That would not be wise as a career move, you know. Cassell: Did you ever hang out with the other artists outside of work? Trimpe: We had a softball team in the publishers’ league. Jim Shooter was the driving force and
Splash page to Marvel Super- Heroes #16 by Trimpe. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.
The Incredible Hulk With the success of The Fantastic Four, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby decided to try to make lightning strike twice with The Incredible Hulk in May 1962. The Hulk was, in some respects, the least novel invention of Lee and Kirby. Marvel had been publishing monster comics for years. At a time when they were re-inventing the super-hero genre with characters that had as many human weaknesses as superhuman strengths, the Hulk seemed a bit out of place. In fact, the initial comic book series was cancelled after only six issues. However, Marvel recognized that there was something different, something special about the jade giant and he did not go gently into that good night. While he lost his own title, the Hulk began to make guest appearances in other comics, beginning with The Fantastic Four. He became a founding member of the Avengers and then began appearing alongside Giant-Man in the split book Tales to Astonish, where he remained until he got his own title back with issue #102. A number of well-respected artists rendered the Hulk over the years, from Kirby to Steve Ditko, Gil Kane, Bill Everett, John Buscema, and Marie Severin, before the reins passed to Herb Trimpe. Trimpe first inked the Hulk in five issues of Tales to Astonish, beginning with #94, and then later took over the penciling with issue #106 of The Incredible Hulk in 1968. After a slow start, the Hulk has proved to have enduring popularity with fans, many of whom consider Trimpe’s rendition to be the definitive one. In this interview, Trimpe talks about how he got involved with the Hulk and some of his favorite things about the green goliath from his eight-year tenure on the book.
ABOVE: From Trimpe Hulk pinup in Hulk magazine. OPPOSITE: Hulk Smash! Courtesy of John Morrow.
Cassell: How did you get involved with the Hulk? Trimpe: I inked a couple of “Hulk” stories in Tales to Astonish that Marie Severin did. And then, for some reason, Marie went on to bigger and better things. Stan had other plans for her. I don’t know if he wanted her to do more coloring or what, but I had been working in the production department for about six months—and doing freelance on the side, which included the infamous “Phantom Eagle”—and he stuck his head in my cubicle one day and said, “Hey, Trimpe. You want to draw The Incredible Hulk?” I said, “Oh, okay.” To me, it was more of a steady gig. Cassell: When you started inking The Incredible Hulk over Marie’s pencils, did you have any inkling that they were going to want you to take over the book? Trimpe: Well, no. I do think that the inking I did on that was really building a foundation for going further, although, at the time, I had no idea how long that would be. We just didn’t think in those terms. It was just, “Oh, it was a job? Okay. What’s next?” Cassell: How was it picking up where Marie left off?
Trimpe: I don’t think I ever had a serious hitch except when I started penciling The Incredible Hulk. There was a little transition period when I was doing layouts, and I was kind of falling into the EC style. I did about four pages and showed them to Stan and he said, “Ehhh, let me get Frank [Giacoia] to lay this out and you follow that. And that’s the way I want you to do it from now on.” So I said okay. I tore up the pages and I threw them in the trash, right in the Bullpen, and Frank laid out the story. I followed Frank’s lead and I tightened it and it was fine. But the first complete issue that I penciled was laid out by Frank Giacoia who, of course, was an inker. That was [The Incredible] Hulk #109. These were the days when inkers were first-rate pencilers. They pretty much are today, too, but he was an excellent penciler, as is Joe Sinnott. And I kind of got it right away.
“Herb was an amazing storyteller. You could give him anything and he knew how to run with it and tell a story that was stunning. And boy was he fun to work with in the bullpen. And all the girls loved him. We had a lot of fun over the years.” - Marie Severin
ABOVE LEFT: Marie Severin rendition of the Hulk from FOOM #2. ABOVE RIGHT: Detail of transformation from page 19 of The Incredible Hulk #109 by Trimpe and John Severin. Courtesy Heritage Auctions. BELOW: Detail from page 2 of Tales to Astonish #96 by Marie Severin and Herb Trimpe. Courtesy of Stephen Moore.
Stan had no complaints and from that point on, never really said anything about any layouts or storytelling again. He asked me a couple of times when I was going to learn to draw, but other than that, there was no real critical discussion as to the content that I was doing. I was trying to follow Marie’s Hulk, and I think I eventually got around to it after a year or so. Stan was absolutely correct, but in retrospect now, I’m looking at that stuff and it has a quaint quality to it that I think a lot of the fans liked, because they still continue to ask for signings and pictures and drawings and the collectors seemed to have maintained an interest. Cassell: When you started working on The Incredible Hulk, were you still doing some production work as well? Trimpe: Yeah, I was on staff. I did production work plus inking, plus I started penciling The Incredible Hulk while I was on staff. I was getting a flat salary, plus extra for the work that I was doing freelance that went over the amount of salary that I was getting. If I exceeded that, anything on the side, I could voucher for it. Say, if I was making $200 a week and I was getting $50 a page, I would only need to do four pages a week to justify the two hundred. But of course that’s not nearly enough to match the schedule, so if you were doing ten pages a week, those other six pages would be freelance and could be vouchered, so it was a
good deal. It’s kind of like overtime. Obviously, the faster you were, the more pages you turned in, the more money you were going to make. I was working that way practically until I left. I got a check every two weeks. And it was very comfortable, and it was fun, and working in the Bullpen was a blast. I couldn’t wait to get to work every day. At that time, I was living in Peekskill and I was commuting. I hated to commute. I didn’t have the patience for it. So I was glad when I got to the office and I stayed late and we hung around, went over to the bar or whatever, and it was a lot of fun. Cassell: If you both penciled and inked a story, did that count towards your quota, as well? Trimpe: Yeah, that worked. I had an inking rate. I could apply the inking to the quota, or once the quota was matched, I could apply it to freelance and voucher it. It was an interesting way to work. Cassell: When did you start working at home? Trimpe: I worked in the office for six months maybe, probably not more than a year, after I started The Incredible Hulk. Actually, if I looked at the issues, I might be able to tell. I was inking Marie in the beginning and it was not unusual that if I were working on that stuff in the office, I would very likely take it home on a weekend or an evening, and work there also, so it was a mix of things that were going on at that time. It was pretty active in the Bullpen. There were a total of
and 2,000 pounds? That means he goes through a teething process that by no comparison does a baby go through, even with their first teeth and as much pain as they go through. They don’t fit in his jaw, or they’re too big for his jaw, or his jaw’s too big for them. His whole physical structure would be totally at odds with each other, as far as the physical growth goes. Truthfully, I never thought of it that way, but I’ve had a lot of dental work done, so I’m kind of tooth-conscious. I’ve had so many root canals, I could actually do one myself. I know the whole procedure. So, yeah, if the guy looks like a brute, then he should have teeth that look like a brute, not like Arnold Schwarzenegger, that goes to some Dentist to the Stars and has everything re-implanted and perfect like some sort of robot or android. That was part of it. The other part was that I always wrestled with his hair. I couldn’t quite ever decide how I wanted the hair to look. I loved Kirby’s hair because it was a little bit of hair on top. I think that was accurate in terms of what the character might look like.
Cassell: I always thought you did a good job with the hair and even with the proportion. One of the things I notice when you see other people drawing the Hulk is that frequently the head is out of proportion to the rest of the body. You always seem to get it right. Trimpe: Yeah, it’s ridiculous. There’s something about early cartooning that if you’re going to show a big, strong guy, the thing to do is give him big thighs, big forearms like Popeye, and definitely a little head, because a little head accentuates the body size. It makes the body look bigger with a smaller head. So they’ve been leaning in that direction and I don’t know why. When Kirby and Lee came up with the character, the Hulk was what he was supposed to be, a distorted human being with an illness, basically, a serious illness that affected growth hormones to the max. So that’s the way I consciously, or subconsciously, always thought of the Hulk, that he was a monster. What people in the 18th Century would have called a monster. But really, a person who was born deformed would have wished like anything to be like everybody else. That’s the way I saw the Hulk, that’s the way Roy saw the Hulk, and I think that’s the way Len saw the Hulk. It was an abomination—no pun intended—for the Hulk to be what he was. That’s the human side that he never lost, and that’s why there was a theme of pathos and humanity that ran through the Hulk’s character. Now I don’t see it that way. I don’t see the humanity in the Hulk, especially now. His thighs got really big and his head got really small. And every time you see somebody doing a commission, he’s always enraged, crazy enraged. In our stories, a good part of the time, he was not enraged. He was stumbling his way through a forest or fishing himself out of the ocean or wondering what the f*** was going on here. It’s not a new theme, the Hulk. It’s the idea of dual personality. It exists in fiction, it exists in real life, and the full forms are schizophrenia and multiple personalities. I think that’s one of the reasons he’s successful. Nobody can identify with Captain America, but you can definitely identify with a character like the Hulk, especially in those days, in every decision you make, because you’re torn. You don’t know which way to go with it. “Should I do this? Should I do that? If I do this, what’s going to happen, and if I do that, is it going to change everything?” Not to even get into the area of people with illnesses they can’t control, which is basically
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Wolverine With Len Wein
Wolverine commission drawing by Trimpe. Courtesy of Sean Rutan.
Comics fandom would be forever changed in the fall of 1974. The introduction of Wolverine in the pages of The Incredible Hulk #s 180, 181, and 182 would catapult the character into comic book immortality and be the defining moment of the Bronze Age, as Spider-Man was to the Silver Age. 35 year old Herb Trimpe, now seven years into his incomparable run on The Incredible Hulk, was asked to bring to life a Canadian mutant by the name of Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine. Equipped with the uncanny ability to rapidly recover from injuries, Wolverine also has the ability to be a vicious fighter, complete with retractable claws that spring forward from the back of his hands. His body’s skeleton is reinforced by a fictitious metal known as adamantium, making him virtually indestructible. When asked about sharing how the Wolverine came
about, writer Len Wein responds: “You’re kidding, right? I think there are people in Ethiopia who know how Wolverine originated. There are very few people who don’t know. Maybe an Eskimo somewhere. “ So for the outsider Ethiopians and Eskimos, and anyone else unfamiliar with how the idea for the Wolverine materialized, Len proceeded to share the story once again, “Wolverine came out of Brother Voodoo, weirdly enough. I was doing Brother Voodoo and the book was set in the Caribbean. The characters had Caribbean, Jamaican, and Haitian accents. Roy Thomas called me in one day and said, ‘I hate you because you do great accents and I can’t, and I’d love to hear what you’d do with a Canadian accent. And so I have a name, Wolverine.’ And I went and researched wolverines to find out that they are short, hairy, ferocious animals with razorsharp claws and no fear, who would take on creatures ten times their size . It’s as easy a character as I’ve ever created. And the funny thing is, I thought I did a terrible Canadian accent. I decided to use him in the Hulk simply because it seemed like a good place to use him. I made him a mutant because I knew there was talk of eventually reviving the XMen as an international group of mutants, and I figured it would give whoever ended up writing the book a Canadian
character if they wanted one. I never knew I’d be the guy who ended up writing the book. It’s really all as simple as that. I did a number of characters with John Romita: Brother Voodoo himself, Wolverine, the Constrictor, a couple of others, where we’d just sit down and work out the design together. And I did the same thing with Dave Cockrum. Dave had already done some design work on some of those characters. We did a little adjusting on some of the pieces here and there.” So with the design in hand by Marvel art director John Romita and the idea and definition under the supervision of Roy Thomas and Len Wein, Herb Trimpe brought the character to life, first as a cameo at the end of Hulk #180, and then as full story material in Hulk #s 181 and 182. “The way I see it, Romita and Len Wein sewed the monster together and I shocked it to life! It was just one of those secondary or tertiary characters, actually, that we were using in that particular book with no particular notion of it going anywhere. We did characters in The Incredible Hulk all the time that were in particular issues and that was the end of them,” Trimpe remembers. Little did anyone realize that the Wolverine would become the signature character of Marvel’s best selling book for decades to come— the X-Men.
Trimpe’s Hulk Rogue’s Rogues Gallery Over the years of drawing The Incredible Hulk, Trimpe put his mark on a number of classic villains and created some new characters as well. Here is a “rogues gallery” of some of the friends and foes of the Hulk as rendered by Trimpe.
LEFT: Cover of The Incredible Hulk #115 by Trimpe and Dan Adkins featuring the Leader. RIGHT: Cover of The Incredible Hulk #168 by Trimpe featuring the Harpy (a.k.a. Betty Ross.) BELOW: Detail from page 4 of The Incredible Hulk #108 by Trimpe and John Severin featuring the Mandarin. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.
TOP LEFT: Cover of The Incredible Hulk #167 with MODOK by Trimpe. Courtesy Heritage Auctions. TOP RIGHT: Xeron the Star Slayer from The Incredible Hulk #136 by Trimpe and Sal Buscema. Courtesy Heritage Auctions. LEFT: Splash page from The Incredible Hulk #166 by Trimpe and Sal Trapani featuring Zzzax. Courtesy of Stephen Moore. RIGHT: Maximus the Mad on the cover of The Incredible Hulk #119 by Trimpe and John Romita. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.
Inking Trimpe Gallery Even with fully rendered pencils, the inker can have a tremendous impact on the appearance of a finished comic book page. Trimpe had the opportunity to work with a variety of inkers, among them Jack Abel. In an 1983 interview by David Anthony Kraft in issue #7 of Comics Interview magazine, Abel comments, “I enjoyed doing The [Incredible] Hulk with Herb Trimpe a lot. Trimpe is of the Jack Kirby school, which, believe it or not, I’m not one of the great admirers of, although I can see why it was successful. But Trimpe did a completely professional job, and anyone who does that is easy to ink. He put down in pencil what was supposed to be there—no scribbles, everything sharply defined, easy to ink.” Able goes on to remark, “I always did think that Severin’s inks over Trimpe’s Hulk pencils were really incredible. Of course, as I know from working with him, Trimpe is a stickler for authenticity himself, and really knows equipment and weaponry. I am thinking particularly of one Hulk story where the Hulk was in a parallel dimension where World War II was going on. I thought that it was about as good artwork as I have ever seen.” What follows are examples from the various artists, including Abel, who inked Trimpe’s pencils over the years.
ABOVE: Detail from The Incredible Hulk #193 page 16 by Trimpe and Joe Staton. INSET: Hulk sketch by Jack Abel. LEFT: From the splash page to The Incredible Hulk #171 by Trimpe with Jack Abel inks. Courtesy of Stephen Moore.
Thomas on Trimpe An Interview with Roy Thomas
Roy Thomas was editor and writer at Marvel Comics for many years, taking over the reins from Stan Lee. In this interview, Roy talks about Marvel Comics and working with Trimpe on The Incredible Hulk. Dewey Cassell: How did you first meet Herb? Roy Thomas: I don’t recall except that he came to work there in the office. He was a buddy of [John] Verpoorten, but I can’t remember which of them came first. I think he started out working in the stat room, and then he was doing corrections and different things. He was probably in a different room than I was, but of course there were only two or three rooms at that time. He was about my age, so I got to know him somewhat, but we were always busy at the office, so I think we just exchanged a few words here and there. We got along well, but we didn’t socialize, really. Cassell: You wrote quite a few of the Hulk stories that he drew. Were you using the Marvel Method at that time? Thomas: Yes. We would just talk it over. Some books I wrote a plot for, two or three pages, especially if it was somebody not in the office, like Buscema. With Herb I doubt if I ever did, and certainly not often. With Herb or Marie, we just sat down and talked for a while and got the general direction, some of the plot, and then he’d start drawing. And if he needed to talk to me about anything else, if he hit a snag, or he wanted to clarify something, or something wasn’t working, all he had to do was say so, and then we’d talk and work it out. Although I don’t think that happened often. Cassell: Do you know what prompted Harlan Ellison’s Hulk story about “The Brute that Shouted Love at the Heart of the Atom”? Thomas: Of course, it was Harlan’s idea to do that particular story. I don’t know if Stan had talked to Harlan, but I did know Harlan slightly. I’d met him a few times here and there, at conventions in New York. I was in touch with him, and he submitted his idea, and I thought it was great. Harlan had submitted the Jarella story as a single issue, but I decided we should stretch it over two issues, because it seemed a bit much to force into one story of 20 or so pages. So we
made it both an Avengers and a Hulk. I was very enthusiastic about it, and I was quite happy with the outcome. Cassell: Wasn’t it somewhat unusual at the time to use an author from outside of comics? Thomas: Well, sometimes I went after a particular person because I wanted to. For example, getting John Jakes to do a couple of plots for Conan and Kull. That was my idea, because he was writing sword and sorcery, and I thought it would be good to bring him in. Cassell: Why do you think Herb lasted so long on The Incredible Hulk?
ABOVE: Roy Thomas from the 2004 Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. BELOW: Cover art to The Incredible Hulk #129 by Trimpe featuring the Glob, a favorite of Roy Thomas. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.
Buscema on Trimpe An Interview with Sal Buscema
When Trimpe left The Incredible Hulk, it was Sal Buscema who assumed the artistic mantle. In this interview with Aaron Sultan, Buscema talks about his experience with the jade giant and his predecessor Herb Trimpe. Aaron Sultan: Just to kick this off, can you give some background on when you got started in comics? Sal Buscema: Sure. I had been in commercial art for about 13 or 14 years and always wanted to do comic books. The industry was pretty much dead, and when I found out from John, my brother, that he was getting back into it, I thought, “Here’s the opportunity.” So, to make a long story short, I had to work for about a whole year at night after work and after dinner. My regular job at the time was working in a studio in Washington, DC. I had to learn how to do comics, because, except for the short stints that I had working with John in a rather limited capacity, I really did not know how to do them. Especially super-heroes. So we worked for about a year. That culminated in a six-page Hulk story that was very simple, just to show what I could do, whatever dynamics I could put into it, and so on. Stan Lee saw them, and, as the saying goes, the rest is history. Sultan: So that brings us to Herb Trimpe. I noticed that you and Herb, the two of you, your lives intersected fairly early on, when you arrived at Marvel. There were a couple of very early Hulk issues where Herb penciled and you inked with the Rhino and a few others. You mentioned to me you didn’t meet Herb until years later, but I know Herb was doing The Incredible Hulk right before you did. When you got the opportunity to ink him, what were some of the impressions of inking over his pencils? Buscema: Well, Herb was a master storyteller, and if I could just digress for a minute, I will give you this little anecdote. When I went up for my interview with Stan in order to acquire a steady amount of work, one of the first things that Stan showed me what he was looking for was from Herb Trimpe, and it happened to be a Hulk story that he did at the time. And Stan wanted me
to see how beautifully graphic and simple, yet dynamic his storytelling was. And that made an impression on me, and I said, “Certainly I will do my best to emulate him in that respect.” So I thought that was fascinating. That of all the people that Stan had working for him at the time, he showed me Herb Trimpe’s work. And I was always a fan of Herb’s. I understood at the time that he was probably one of the nicest people in the industry, a real gentleman, as well as being a consummate professional. As a side note, I didn’t meet Herb until a couple of years ago at a convention in Baltimore, Maryland. And that was the first time that he and I actually met faceto-face, and I have no problem saying that we embraced each other because we had talked on the phone several times, and it was just a real kick meeting him for the first time.
ABOVE: Sal and Joan Buscema from 2003 Heroes Con in Charlotte, NC. BELOW: Detail of the Leader from page 4 of The Incredible Hulk #124 by Trimpe and Sal Buscema. Courtesy of Stephen Moore.
The Other Heroes While he may be best known for his work on the Hulk, Trimpe drew a lot of other characters for Marvel Comics, from the tiniest of heroes to Marvel’s flagship character. His tenure varied from a few months to several years, but in each case, he brought the character to life with his remarkable storytelling ability. Among the Marvel characters most influenced by Trimpe are Ant-Man, Captain Britain, Iron Man, the Defenders, and Spider-Man. He talks here about some of these Marvel characters (and some not from Marvel) that received the Trimpe touch.
ABOVE: Ant-Man from splash page in Marvel Feature #4 by Trimpe. Courtesy of Nick Katradis. BELOW: Close-up of Ghost Rider from issue #60 by Trimpe and Don Perlin.
Cassell: While you were working on The Incredible Hulk, you picked up some other artwork assignments as well, like Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD. Trimpe: Well, at one point, the office was very close to our apartment in the city. I delivered the work by hand and sometimes came into the office to work since I was nearby. So, especially if you were close at hand, you could always pick up extra things to do. There was always something that had to be done or somebody who had missed a deadline or corrections to be made. It was pretty straightforward. Cassell: How did you get involved with Iron Man? Trimpe: I was living in England at the time and I was talking to John [Verpoorten] on the phone. I said, “Look, I don’t want to do The Incredible Hulk any more. I want to do something else.” He said, “Well, we don’t have anything else right now, but I can get somebody else to do the next Hulk.” And I was so tired of doing it that I said, “Okay.” So in the meantime, while I was waiting for something to come through, I did an inventory Iron Man [story] on my own and sent in the 20 penciled pages with notes in the columns, because I plotted and almost wrote the story in the columns. And John got kind of annoyed and pissed off. He said, “Don’t do that any more.” Luckily, it happened to fall right in the place where they needed an inventory in Iron Man. I think that was the reason, but the fact is they printed it in the run almost immediately. Cassell: You drew Iron Man a dozen times over the years. Did you enjoy drawing the Armored Avenger? Trimpe: I drew Iron Man a dozen times? Time flies when you’re having fun, I guess. “Enjoy” is probably not the word, as those jobs were probably in a rush. I can remember in particular one story I
did in two or three days, penciled, if you could call it that, and inked. Including the cover, and it looks it. Nice thing about Iron Man is that the armor was fairly simple, something that I’m sure was a break for me considering some of the other more complicated stuff I was involved in. Cassell: Did living in England lead to drawing Captain Britain? Trimpe: I was in the UK, in Cornwall, actually, and I met up with Chris Claremont at some point, on the beach, walking and talking, and whether we had discussed Captain Britain, or that discussion only came later after we were back in the states, I can’t really say. Cassell: What was your next assignment? Trimpe: The next thing I got might have been the beginning of doing Defenders, Godzilla, and Shogun Warriors, all at once. I was doing three books at the same time—for two years in a row, I think. Cassell: Did you get involved with the Defenders because of your association with the Hulk? Trimpe: I don’t think the Hulk had anything to do with me drawing The Defenders. [It was] just another hole in the dike that somebody had to put their finger in. Cassell: What was your impression of them as a super-hero team? Trimpe: Back when I was doing The Defenders, which I enjoyed quite a bit, if someone had asked me what team I would choose for success between the X-Men and the Defenders, I would have said the Defenders, hands down. I’ve made many choices like that over time. Maybe it wasn’t the X-Men characters at all. Maybe it was in the name. Picture it. If the X-Men had been called the Defenders, and the Defenders called the X-Men, I believe things would have turned out differently. The Defenders were more varied and fun.
SPOTL I GH T ON
Ant-Man With Roy Thomas
Marvel Feature debuted in 1971 as a bi-monthly forum for trying out new characters (or more accurately new combinations of characters and variations on existing characters) before giving them their own book. It was in concept, if not in format, similar to DC Comics’ Showcase, which was first published in 1956. Former Marvel Comics editor and writer Roy Thomas explains the motivation behind a try-out book, “Stan wanted to do a bunch of them. Marvel Premiere, Marvel Feature, Marvel Spotlight. They were all his ideas, and his titles. In the early ’70s we were just trying to get an increased place on the [news]stand. That’s the period when we began to actually outsell DC in terms of number of books.” The first characters to appear in Marvel Feature were not new, but the notion of them working together was. The first issue of the title featured the debut of The Defenders, starring the Hulk, Doctor Strange, and the Sub-Mariner. Fan reaction to the team was positive, so after three issues in Marvel Feature, the Defenders got their own title. When the Defenders cleared out of Marvel Feature, Ant Man moved in. Ant-Man had starred in the split-book Tales to Astonish in the mid1960s and was a founding member of the Avengers, but his most recent solo appearance had been in a backup
story in issue #44 of Iron Man, six months previously. Thomas felt it was time to try it again, “I know that I had wanted to do Ant-Man more than most, because I just felt like he was a good character and I thought it’d be good to bring him back. I think at one stage I was actually hoping I could write it, but that proved impossible.” So Thomas tapped Mike Friedrich to write the new Ant-Man stories and artist Herb Trimpe to illustrate them. Thomas edited the series going forward. That Trimpe got the assignment was circumstantial, but he was glad to have it. “It was a matter of availability, [but] I really liked the idea of Ant-Man. I was crazy about The Incredible Shrinking Man, anything that put an individual in a place where everything was so gigantic and it takes half a day to cross the room—or anything to do with insects, for that matter. I loved fantasy writing where people rode the backs of ants. I think it all started with the New York Daily News years ago. They had a half page feature called The Teeny-Weenies. There was always like a cut-out of one of the characters that you could paste on cardboard and then fold back the base and they would stand up, so you could collect them from Sunday to Sunday. I had a whole lot of them and they lived in a microworld. They were big enough to sit in a thimble and they rode
tins cans down the river, which was really just runoff water from a rainstorm. They lived in houses in the woods up in what they considered to be trees, but to us would be considered weeds or bushes. I thought it was great. In fact, when I was doing a lot of writing, I actually came up with a story that was along those same lines. It was about a teenager that wound up getting really small and the battles took place between ant tribes. So when the prospect came up to do Ant-Man, I said, ‘Yeah, it’ll be great.’” Marvel Feature turned out to be a family affair, as Trimpe explains, “I liked working with it. And then my brother Mike, who at the time was a graphic designer, he got a little slow at work so he did the inking of two issues, maybe three, of AntMan. If I asked to ink the work,
ABOVE LEFT: Art from the retelling of Ant-Man’s origin in Marvel Feature #4 by Trimpe. Courtesy of Nick Katradis. ABOVE: Splash page detail from Marvel Feature #6 penciled by Herb Trimpe and inked by brother Mike. BELOW: Tag line from the cover of Marvel Feature #4.
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With Larry Lieber & Len Wein
ABOVE & BELOW: Panels from Iron Man #85 by Trimpe and Marie Severin depicting Stark donning his armor in a method similar to that later used in the movies. OPPOSITE TOP: Detailed pin-up of Iron Man (with nose) by Trimpe. OPPOSITE BOTTOM: Cover of Iron Man #39 by Trimpe. Courtesy Grand Comics Database.
Few Marvel characters have surpassed the popularity of Iron Man in the 21st century. Boosted by three blockbuster movies plus a central role in The Avengers movie, Iron Man has become its own brand and an advertising juggernaut of global proportions. Created in 1963 by Stan Lee, Iron Man made his debut in Tales of Suspense #39, with script by Larry Lieber and the art capably rendered by Don Heck and Jack Kirby. True to the young Marvel Universe at the time, Iron Man’s alter ego was a rich millionaire named Tony Stark. Former Marvel Comics writer and artist Larry Lieber explains the beginnings of the Tony Stark character, “I had
been writing Tales to Astonish, Tales of Suspense, Strange Tales, since 1958. Now, The Amazing Spider-Man came out in ’62, and these came out around that time. So between ’58 and ’64 , I had done a lot of stories, and by that time I had a feel for the names. So something like Tony Stark I probably just made up myself. I thought, I knew he was going to be an industrialist, and I figured he was rich, so I’m not going to call him Joe Cain or something. “Anthony” sounds like a nice name for a rich guy, and I thought “Stark” sounded good. It was short, it went with Anthony, and he has money, and he’s going to be involved in action. Anthony Stark, a rich
man of action, I thought. That’s the way it came to me.“ Over the next 20 years, Iron Man would gain momentum as a core presence in the Marvel Universe. He would become a founding member of the Avengers, branch off into his own series after a successful run in Tales of Suspense, and even have a cartoon series as part of the Marvel Superhero TV show in 1966. During this time, artistic legends Gene Colan followed by George Tuska would bring the character to new heights while collaborating with the likes of Archie Goodwin, Mike Friedrich, Gerry Conway and Len Wein. As fate would have it, the team of Len Wein and Herb Trimpe would again collaborate in 1976—two years after they changed the comic book landscape forever with the introduction of Wolverine. This time, in the pages of Iron Man #82-85, the team would excite Shellhead fans with bombastic battles with apes (a play on the film Planet of the Apes), the Red Ghost, the Walking Bomb, and the Freak. But these stellar tales may be overshadowed in the minds of many fans due to a mixup of epic proportions. Len Wein recounts, “Sweet mother of God, the nose. That’s one of the great “uh-ohs” of all time. Basically, Stan was walking through production one day, and John Romita, God bless him, was doing some punch-ups on some
A Finger in the Dike ABOVE: Son of Satan from page 27 of Marvel TwoIn-One #14 by Trimpe and John Tartaglione. Courtesy of Brian Sagar. BELOW: Cover of War is Hell #5 by Trimpe and Frank Giacoia. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.
It may surprise some people to read the interview with Herb Trimpe and find that while he remembers a lot about working at Marvel and drawing The Incredible Hulk, he does not necessarily remember the details about the four issues of Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD that he drew in 1969. The fact is that for his generation of artists, and the ones that preceded it, drawing comics was fundamentally a job—a fun job, mind you, but first and foremost a way to pay the rent and put food on the table. As Trimpe himself said, “We just didn’t think in those terms. It was just, ‘Oh, it was a job? Okay. What’s next?’” So, asking Trimpe if he remembers creating the villain Bulls-Eye for Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD is a little like asking William Shatner why they beamed down to the planet in episode 26 of Star Trek. In Trimpe’s own words, it was “just another hole in the dike that somebody had to put their finger in.” But the fact is, even on his shorter assignments, Trimpe often made a meaningful contribution to Marvel comic book canon. This, then, is a slightly more detailed examination of some of the comic book titles in this time period, other than The Incredible Hulk, for which Trimpe provided “a finger in the dike”.
N ic k F ury , Ag ent of SHIE LD As mentioned, Trimpe drew four issues (#s 8, 13, 14, and 15) of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, and an equal number of covers (#s 13, 14, 15, and 18) for the book. He had tough shoes to fill, following Jim Steranko, Frank Springer, and Barry Smith on the title. The story layouts by Trimpe reflect a continuation of the dynamic panel designs first put to such effective use by Steranko. And Trimpe co-created the villain Bulls-Eye for issue #15, which proved to be the last original story in the series. While not the same Bullseye that plagued Daredevil, the two villains did share more than a name. Both were assasins, both used a bullseye on their costumes, and both had unerring aim, although the former Bulls-eye owed his accuracy to his weapon. The former Bulls-eye also died in the same issue in which he was introduced. One
other item of note is that Trimpe’s first pencils in Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD, in issue #8, appeared only a few months after he took the reins from Marie Severin on The Incredible Hulk.
S ilver S urfer This is perhaps both the most brief, and most interesting, interlude in Trimpe’s career in comics. John Buscema was responsible for penciling most of the covers and all of the interior artwork for the first 17 issues of the landmark Silver Surfer series. But in 1970, Trimpe drew the covers for issue #s 17 and 18, and the latter bore the interior pencils of Jack Kirby inked by Trimpe. Taking nothing away from the definitive art of Buscema, this final issue of the series was reminiscent of Kirby’s masterful introduction of the iconic character in The Fantastic Four, and it is some of the most prized artwork of the late Silver Age.
War is H ell The comic book War is Hell started out in 1973 as a reprint book, at a time in which the Vietnam War was still fresh on everyone’s minds. With issue #9, a series of new stories began featuring John Kowalski, a dead solider whose spirit could possess the bodies of living people, similar to DC Comics’ Deadman. Chris Claremont was the writer for the series. Trimpe drew covers for the first and last issues of the series, as well as issue #5. He penciled the interior stories for issue #s 13 and 15, the final issue. Although not a long tenure on the book, noteworthy is the fact that Trimpe inked his own pencils. This was a genre Trimpe enjoyed drawing, as is obvious in the artwork.
S on of S atan The character Son of Satan debuted in issue #2 of Ghost Rider, written by Gary Friedrich, before moving to Marvel Spotlight for what would prove to be a fairly long run. So Jim Mooney was actually the first to draw Son of Satan, but Trimpe refined the look and feel of the character in Marvel Spotlight #12, where he drew
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Black & White Magazines vided a format for more adult storylines and more explicit artwork. As demonstrated by Warren Publications with titles such as Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella, this format lent itself to the horror genre and Marvel capitalized on it with titles of their own that included Dracula Lives!, Monsters Unleashed, and Tales of the Zombie. The black and white stories were frequently done in ink and wash, to provide texture and tone where color was lacking. Artists included many of those currently drawing Marvel comics, as well as others who specialized in the magazine format. While certainly not his specialty, Trimpe did contribute to several magazines in the Marvel black and white line—providing another “finger in the dike”— the most notable of which would be:
D eadly H ands of Kung F u Special A lbum Edition #1 Splash page from part 2 of “The UFO Connection” in Marvel Preview #13 by Trimpe and Pablo Marcos. Courtesy of Paul Handler.
Over the years, Marvel branched out into other formats for their comic stories, among them black and white magazines. In the mid-1970s, Marvel had an entire line of black and white magazines, some based on existing comic book characters and others featuring new characters. The black and white magazines were not bound by the Comics Code and therefore pro-
In 1974, Trimpe worked with writer Chris Claremont on a story featuring the Sons of the Tiger in a one-shot Special Album Edition of the black and white magazine Deadly Hands of Kung Fu. This new martial arts story served as the centerpiece of a three-part epic that also included Iron Fist and Shang Chi in an 84 page issue.
R am pa gin g H ul k #8 The Rampaging Hulk magazine
began as a forum to tell stories about the early days of the Hulk encountering adversaries like the original X-Men and the Sub-Mariner, while accompanied by his friend Rick Jones. But the magazine moved away from that premise, even as it switched from a black and white format to full color and changed the name to simply The Hulk! with issue #10. The eighth issue, which was illustrated by Trimpe, featured the Hulk, Jones, and their alien companion Bereet doing battle against a Krylorian Expeditionary Force bent on invading earth. Along the way, the Hulk encounters a Krylorian “transformer” disguised as Iron Man, as well as the original Avengers. Trimpe would have seemed like a natural to contribute to the magazine version of the Hulk on an ongoing basis, but this was the one and only issue he drew.
Marvel P revie w #1 3 UF O Connection Years before the movie E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the depiction of contact with alien life forms was generally pessimistic. In 1977, the same year the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released, Marvel published a one-shot black and white magazine called “UFO Connection!” under the banner of Marvel Preview #13. The two-part story was conceived, written, and edited by David Anthony Kraft, who describes
Licensed Characters ABOVE: Detail from Shogun Warriors #19 by Trimpe. Courtesy Heritage Auctions. BELOW: Splash page art from issue #7 of Godzilla by Trimpe and Fred Kida. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.
Other than The Incredible Hulk, the comics Trimpe was most closely associated with were based on characters licensed by Marvel Comics from toy manufacturers and movie companies, such as G.I. Joe and Godzilla. The advantage in publishing comics based on licensed characters was instant recognition among readers already familiar with the original product. In this interview, Trimpe talks about how he started illustrating the licensed characters, which ones he enjoyed (and which ones he didn’t). Cassell: How did you get involved in drawing the licensed characters? Trimpe: I’ve got a feeling these are going to be the tough questions because they weren’t major long-term bits of business… but let’s see. I wasn’t that interested in super-heroes. I didn’t actually draw many super-heroes. It was mostly the Hulk, which is not a super-hero, due to personality and all, which suited me fine. I did a lot of
licensed work of various toys—like Godzilla and G.I. Joe and Transformers and Shogun Warriors, and I was quite happy about that. And I think that’s probably why I got it. When I was substitute teaching, I was always getting called into the middle school. I knew all the teachers, so I said, “Why am I always in the middle school? I never get calls for the high school. “ They said, “It’s because you’re willing to do it, that’s why. A lot of people don’t want to work in the middle school.” So that’s why I think maybe I wound up with all the licensed stuff, because nobody else wanted to do it. They weren’t cool. Toys, you know? It wasn’t cool stuff. But the laugh is on them, because now, all the licensed stuff I did, they make movies out of. Cassell: Were the licensed characters easier or more difficult to do? Trimpe: The things that were most difficult were when I started to do some of the licensed stuff and you had these multiple characters. To me and just about every artist, that was a nightmare— nothing against the characters themselves on an individual basis, but doing the group stuff, especially if it involves a lot of high tech and a lot of reference like G.I. Joe or Transformers did, then it was just horrible. Cassell: What about Godzilla? Trimpe: Godzilla, I don’t know [how I got it]. It was another licensed character and I probably picked that up because I needed work and/or nobody else wanted to do it. The licensed characters did not appeal [to some artists], especially to a lot of the newer guys. Nobody wanted to rehash Godzilla. So most of the work I wound up with, especially on the secondary characters, had to do with availability. I was there and they needed somebody to do it. There wasn’t a whole lot of thought [to it] and nobody was particularly ear-
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G.I. Joe With Larry Hama
TOP RIGHT: IDW edition of G.I. Joe with Trimpe art. ABOVE: Panels from page 29 of G.I. Joe Special Missions #13 by Trimpe and Andy Mushynsky. Courtesy of Rob Pickel. BELOW: Action panel from page 29 of G.I. Joe Special Missions #11 by Trimpe. Courtesy of Rob Pickel.
Hassenfeld Brothers introduced G.I. Joe in 1964 and “America’s movable fighting man” enjoyed tremendous success until 1978, ultimately succumbing to the high cost of petroleum required to manufacture the 11 ½ inch action figure. But in 1982, spurred by the success of Kenner’s Star Wars line, Hasbro reintroduced G.I. Joe as a 3 ¾ inch action figure, together with a new enemy, Cobra. Key to the advertising strategy of the company was the simultaneous launch of a new G.I. Joe comic book, published by Marvel Comics. The new Marvel comic book, G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero, was written by Larry Hama, beginning an association with the Joes that continues to this day. The relationship between Hasbro and Marvel was somewhat unique in its flexibility, which afforded Hama a tremendous amount of creative license. Hama recalls, “I was left pretty much alone, character and general story wise, on the GI Joe book. I did write all the file card bios on the backs of of the packages, so even if I didn’t design the physical look of the Joes, I created their backgrounds, characterizations, described their skillsets, personalities and figured out their interpersonal connections. I also scripted nearly all of the complete run of G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero, and G.I.
Joe Special Missions.” G.I. Joe Special Missions was a second G.I. Joe comic book series that began in 1986. Hasbro had an ulterior motive for the comic book, as Hama elaborates, “The thing to understand, is that the only reason the comic existed, was so that Hasbro could produce four animated commercials for four specific issues in the first year’s run. The commercials were supposedly for the Marvel Comic, so by dint of the First Amendment, the network could not dictate how many seconds of animation it contained, the way they did with toy commercials. Of course, the comic commercial was really a stealth toy commercial, as it contained all the toys and figures Hasbro wanted to push that month. I designed the four covers that were used in the ads and I had a list of the characters and vehicles that had to be in that issue, so I had to make sure those issues coincided with the commercials. Other than that (which was highly beneficial to the sales, so how could I complain?), I had almost free rein with the stories—much more than anybody else had in working on a licensed property book. The big plus was that the people I worked with from Hasbro totally knew what they were doing and “got” it right away when we explained nuances of the com-
ic end. Bob Prupis, Kirk Bozigian and Ron Rudat where the guys I dealt with, and they were a fine and sterling bunch.” Herb Trimpe was integrally involved with both Marvel G.I. Joe comic series from the beginning. Hama explains, “On Special Missions, I am pretty sure Herb drew every issue and he may have even scripted one. He did script at least two of A Real American Hero issues.” Trimpe drew many of the early A Real American Hero issues as well, interiors and covers. Hama and Trimpe also produced a four-part mini-series in 1986 called The G.I. Joe Order of Battle, which was an exhaustive inventory/catalog of the characters and equipment in the G.I. Joe “universe.” Trimpe also illustrated a G.I. Joe and the Transformers mini-series, which was written by Michael Higgins. More recently, Trimpe has drawn the covers for the new IDW Publishing version of G.I. Joe, A Real American Hero, which is written by Hama. Hama and Trimpe have enjoyed a good relationship, as reflected by Hama’s reply when asked what he thought of Trimpe’s work, “That’s a terrible question to ask! Don’t you know that the comics community is like a close-knit small town where everybody is related? That’s like asking, ‘what do you think of your mother’s cooking?’ or ‘Do you think your
SPOTL I GH T ON
Godzilla With Doug Moench
The origins of Godzilla lie on the island of Japan. In 1954, Ishiro Honda directed the first Godzilla film, which depicted the giant reptilian monster as the fire-breathing by-product of nuclear radiation. Godzilla was a hit, both in Japan and abroad, and Toho Co., Ltd. produced a total of 28 films starring the “King of the Monsters.” Marvel Comics had a long tradition of publishing comic book stories based on monsters. So it is perhaps logical that during the late 1970s, when Marvel Comics was latching onto numerous licensed properties as a way of expanding their readership, they should turn to the infamous monster for inspiration. Doug Moench was the writer Marvel chose to pen the Godzilla series, as he explains, “I was up there [at Marvel] to talk about something else, maybe Moon Knight, but I saw
Stan Lee in John Verpoorten’s office, and Stan turned to me and said, ‘Hey, Doug, do you want to write Godzilla?’ I don’t know what prompted it, but I said, ‘Let me think about it.’ Then I went to Stan’s office and said, ‘Stan, I know I have this reputation of doing more adult-type writing than the typical super-hero thing, but if I were to do Godzilla, I would deliberately try to flip that on its head and do it for a younger audience, more like my son and all of his friends, who are Godzilla-crazy.’ I would try to do it in a way that adults could also enjoy, like the best children’s books, but I would definitely aim towards that age. And Stan hesitated a little bit, and then he said, ‘You know, you’re exactly right. Go for it.’” Rather than depict Godzilla wreaking havoc in his native homeland, Marvel chose to bring the monster to the United States, making his path of destruction more recognizable and relatable for its readers at the time. And unlike many of the other licensed properties, such as G.I. Joe and Indiana Jones, Godzilla was introduced into the Marvel Universe. What that meant was the creature would encounter the likes of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Fantastic Four in its trek from west to east coast. Moench explains the rationale, “One of the main goals was to ‘Marvelize’ it. Be true to Godzilla, but don’t forget this is Marvel Comics. I
think that was worked out as part of the deal with Toho. This was not like Star Wars. When Marvel got the rights to Star Wars, they had to do it just like the Star Wars universe and not have anything to do with the Marvel Universe. But Agents of SHIELD were perfect antagonists for Godzilla, pursuing Godzilla all over the place. And we’ve seen Godzilla stomp Tokyo again and again, but now we could set him loose on America. So much opens up if you did it that way. And why repeat what the movies have already done? We’ve seen him stomp Tokyo. Let’s have him trash Mt. Rushmore. It was very ripe and rich for a Marvelized version.” In fact, Toho gave Marvel a remarkable amount of leeway in adapting the character to comic books. Moench notes, “I assume Toho had final approval, but there was not one time where one change in anything was ever requested. I didn’t have to change anything, ever. All I can assume is they either loved it exactly the way it was, or they took the attitude, ‘Well, maybe these crazy Americans know what they’re doing,’ but, one way or another, they never asked for a change.” The only restriction from Toho was with regard to the villains. Marvel could do with Godzilla as they saw fit, but they could not use the other supporting characters from the Godzilla movies. Moench elaborates, “The deal did not include Mothra or any
ABOVE LEFT: Schematic of Red Ronin from page 7 of Godzilla #6 by Trimpe and Fred Kida.. Courtesy of Gareth Gaudin. ABOVE: Godzilla #1 by Trimpe. BELOW: Cover art to Godzilla #14 by Trimpe and Dan Green. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.
Changing with the Times There came a time in the early 1990s when Herb deliberately changed his drawing style to more closely align with the popular artists of the time. The result was interesting, but bore virtually no resemblance to the traditional Trimpe drawing style from the 1970s and 1980s. Still, his adaptability likely prolonged his tenure with Marvel and won over new fans. Alex Trimpe recalls the change in his father’s drawing style: “I read things on occasion about the last years at Marvel where his style
changed kind of dramatically. And I’m sure he’d say this himself, but he seemed the most into comic books then that I can remember; he was jazzed. First of all, he got anatomy books and studied anatomy. Because he was looking at art by Rob Liefeld and he was into it. He would say, “This is like Jack Kirby. This is very exciting stuff, but the anatomy is all wrong and what if you did it, but with correct anatomy?” I don’t really love all of that stuff, but it was nice that he was really into it.”
ABOVE: Detail from page 17 of Thor #415 by Trimpe. Courtesy of Jeff Jaworski. BELOW: Double page splash art from Avengers Annual #21 by Trimpe with inks by Charles Barnett and Brad Vancata. Courtesy Heritage Auctions.
Leaving Marvel As the saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” In 1996, Marvel did the unthinkable and let Trimpe go, after more than 29 years in the Bullpen. In this interview, Trimpe talks about the circumstances that led to his leaving Marvel Comics. Cassell: I gather things changed at Marvel in later years. Trimpe: Yes, but Tom DeFalco was particularly supportive in keeping me working even before the sh*t hit the fan. I became a nonentity to most editors, but in their defense, there really wasn’t much work available during the dark days. Cassell: What happened at Marvel? Trimpe: After Cadence, it went downhill. When it got in the hands of Revlon, they just totally bled the company dry. Tom, when he was EditorIn-Chief, told me an interesting story. He was at a board meeting with all the suits from Revlon and they’re doing marketing ideas and so-on and so-forth. They didn’t really know anything about comics, so they were trying to sell it like you sell cereal. If something sells, you just sell more of it. So their idea was to do more spin-offs and more titles with the successful characters and just dump everything else, or at least sideline it or support it with the profits that were made off the books that were selling. And Tom said he was sitting there and he laughed because he thought the guy was kidding. He said, “Two weeks later, I was back as a writer again and I was out as Editor-In-Chief at Marvel Comics.” So that’s the kind of mentality that had started quite a while back and eventually, it led to Marvel’s Chapter 11. I always thought that one of the saving graces had to do with the numbers published and the philosophy that Stan had. Usually, if a book went one or two sales periods, two monthly periods, and it didn’t do well, it was cut. It was dropped or reduced somehow and they didn’t fool around with it. But what these guys were doing, in my understanding, they were supporting some of their lesser successful titles, with the money they were making off Spider-Man and the Hulk and X-Men. Now what that does is it stops the creative turnover. Everything goes stale. It’s like status quo, dead in the water. And I think it’s not
only numbers that sink you, it’s attitude. They had the corporate attitude that’s so prevalent today in so many corporations and that’s minimize. Get the most for the least. And any of the beneficiaries, cut them off as best you can and still keep them going for you. I think that they probably have learned their lessons since then, but I’m not really sure that any of the titles in the Marvel publishing end bailed itself out. I think it was the popularity of the movies that happened to be coming out along through that period that
ABOVE: Detail from page 18 of The Incredible Hulk #136 by Trimpe and Sal Buscema. Courtesy Heritage Auctions. BELOW: Back cover of 1975 Marvel Con program by Trimpe.
Herb Trimpe Gallery The following pages provide a sampling of the varied artwork Trimpe has done over his lengthy career.
ABOVE LEFT: 1972 Silver Surfer pin-up by Trimpe from the first issue of the fanzine Second Foundation. ABOVE RIGHT: Herb Trimpe at work, from the 1970 Marvelmania Bullpen Photo Set. LEFT: Commission drawing of Wolverine and the Hulk by Trimpe. Courtesy of Thomas Suhling.
TOP: Back cover from the 1978 Hulk calendar featuring the friends and foes of the Hulk by Trimpe. BOTTOM LEFT: Instruction booklet illustrated by Trimpe for the 1974 Aurora Comic Scenes model kit featuring the Incredible Hulk. BOTTOM RIGHT: Marvelmania poster of the Incredible Hulk by Trimpe. OPPOSITE PAGE: Son of Satan pin-up model sheet art by Trimpe. Courtesy of Jeff Jaworski.
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THE INCREDIBLE HERB TRIMPE From running the first photostat machine at Marvel Comics to being the first to illustrate Wolverine, no other member of the Marvel Bullpen has had such a varied and remarkable career as Herb Trimpe. He drew licensed characters based on toys such as G.I. Joe, Godzilla, and Transformers, which went on to become blockbuster movies. He drew runs of super-heroes like Iron Man, Defenders, Captain Britain, and even Marvel’s flagship character Spider-Man. But he’s best known for his definitive eight-year stint drawing the Incredible Hulk. This book chronicles the life and art of Trimpe through his own voice, as well as the voices of friends and colleagues like STAN LEE, TOM DEFALCO, ROY THOMAS, JOHN ROMITA, BILL PECKMANN, SAL BUSCEMA, JOE SINNOTT, LARRY HAMA, DOUG MOENCH, ELIOT BROWN, LEN WEIN, RON FRENZ, STEVE ENGLEHART, and his son ALEX TRIMPE. Their testimony to his talent and his legacy of artwork leave no wonder why he has been dubbed “The Incredible Herb Trimpe.” By DEWEY CASSELL and AARON SULTAN.
(160-page FULL-COLOR HARDCOVER) $34.95 • (Digital Edition) $7.95 ISBN: 9781605490625 http://twomorrows.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1196
Published on Mar 2, 2015
From running the first photostat machine at Marvel Comics to being the first to illustrate Wolverine, Herb Trimpe has worked on licensed cha...