The GeeksverseLeaving Proof 263 | Remembering Herb Trimpe (1939–2015)

Leaving Proof 263 | Remembering Herb Trimpe (1939–2015)
Published on Wednesday, April 15, 2015 by
Long-time Incredible Hulk, Godzilla, and G.I. Joe comics artist Herb Trimpe passed away on the evening of April 13, 2015, at the age of 75. We pay our respects in this brief tribute to the man whose work in and out of comics touched the lives of so many.

You can always learn from somebody else, no matter how long you’ve been doing a thing.

- Herb Trimpe, on finding inspiration from younger artists

hile Trimpe did draw Wolverine's first comics appearance (Incredible Hulk #180, October 1974), he was always quick to correct people who mistakenly credit him for co-creating Wolverine: “The idea for Wolverine was solely cooked up by [editor] Roy [Thomas], including the name and description of his powers…he worked with John Romita, and John did the costume design and general look of Wolverine. I remember it well, as I was there, working with the plot.”

While Trimpe did draw Wolverine’s first comics appearance (Incredible Hulk #180, October 1974), he was always quick to correct people who mistakenly credit him for co-creating Wolverine: “The idea for Wolverine was solely cooked up by [editor] Roy [Thomas], including the name and description of his powers…he worked with John Romita, and John did the costume design and general look of Wolverine. I remember it well, as I was there, working with the plot.”

They say if you want to make it in the comics industry as an artist, you have to have at least two of the following three qualities:

  • You have to be very, very good.
  • You have to be very, very fast.
  • You have to be very, very easy to work with.

To read all the tributes pouring out across the Internet in the wake of the announcement of his passing Monday night, Herbert “Herb” Trimpe was all three.

Trimpe will probably be best remembered in comics history for his stint as the regular penciler on The Incredible Hulk, a run that stretched from 1968 to 1975 (and included Wolverine’s first appearance) and solidified his status as the definitive Hulk artist of the Bronze Age of Comics, but his contributions to the industry spanned half a century. It was on G.I. Joe and its spinoff, G.I. Joe: Special Missions, however, that I first really noticed his art as a young reader in the 1980s.

A US Air Force veteran and a licensed pilot—Trimpe previously owned and operated a Stearman PT-17 biplane, on which he once took Marvel Editor-in-Chief Jim Shooter’s dad on aerial acrobatics—his work never looked better than when he was drawing aerial-themed action and adventure. Trimpe even appeared as himself in G.I. Joe: Special Missions #12 (“Airshow”), as a stunt pilot named “Bert” who, with the use of his Stearman biplane, helps the G.I. Joe team apprehend the Cobra saboteur Firefly. One of the best examples of Trimpe’s love for comics and aircraft coming together is the four-part Skywarriors serial he wrote and illustrated for Marvel’s second Savage Tales anthology series, sample pages from which are reproduced in the gallery below:

Beyond being an artist and aviator, Herb Trimpe was also a loving husband and a father to three children, a community college instructor, and a deacon—his work as an American Red Cross chaplain at Ground Zero of the September 11 attacks earned him the 2002 Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award.

Trimpe talks to the Times Herald-Record about his experience as an American Red Cross chaplain during the September 11 attacks. [Click image to enlarge]

Trimpe talks to the Times Herald-Record about his experience as an American Red Cross chaplain during the September 11 attacks. [Click image to enlarge]

I never got to see Herb Trimpe in person, but I will admit to the news of his death touching me on a personal level. Earlier this evening, I spoke with my older brother over the phone and we spent the next half hour reminiscing over all the fun we had as kids reading the comics Trimpe illustrated. This, more than anything, is the enduring mental image that I associate with Trimpe’s work: My brother and I sprawled side-by-side on the floor of our family’s old rented house in Baguio, poring over his illustrations of a pitched battle in Afghanistan, a dogfight in the skies over the Gulf of Mexico, a covert operation in New York, a skirmish in Cambodia. Trimpe’s art took us around the globe, and opened our eyes and our minds to a world and a future in art.

NOTE: The Trimpe family has made it known that in lieu of flowers, those wishing to extend their condolences instead make a donation to the Kerhonkson Accord First Aid Squad or the HERO Initiative, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping comics industry veterans in need of medical aid and support for the essentials of life.

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