The Incredible Herb Trimpe by Dewey Cassell & Aaron Sultan (book review),

The release of ‘The Incredible Herb Trimpe’ by Dewey Cassell & Aaron Sultan is at an unfortunate time, as the comicbook artist died on 13 April 2015 at the age of 76. Considering he had a career largely known for drawing the likes of the Incredible Hulk, Trimpe confessed that he wasn’t keen on super-heroes and would gravitate towards westerns, war material and ultimately merchandised orientated comicbooks. Hardly surprising that in the USA, to avoid the draft, he preferred to enlist in the Air Force and becoming a weatherman, where they were parachuted into war zones where they radioed in to advise pilots of weather conditions. Seeing his penned sketches of that period shows a good use of texture with depth, hardly surprising as prior to enlistment he was doing background inking for his tutor Tom Gill for Gold Key comics. Several other comicbook artists also had a similar education from Tom Gill, declaring it was the best education they had to getting started. Interestingly, Trimpe was a fan of the EC Comics art so it was hardly surprising that he enjoyed John Severin being his inker at Marvel.


Speaking of inking, seeing the variety of inkers and samples shown in this book, it does show how much the inker makes the comicbook artist. Trimpe also has done his own share of inking so it’s rather interesting see both sides of the coin. Joe Sinnott and Herb Trimpe explain separately here that inkers in the old days were also good pencillers and were expected to correct errors as much as delineate compared to what is done today.

Just in case you don’t know, Trimpe also drew the first Wolverine story in Incredible Hulk # 181-182 (there’s only a couple panels in the second issue and the final panel in “ 180). From all those involved, Roy Thomas came up with the name, John Romita the costume design, Len Wein the Canadian accent and dialogue (instigated by Thomas to see if he could do it) and finally Herb Trimpe bringing him to life. An interesting composite and all involved have never claimed differently. That isn’t to say Trimpe never designed any characters and there is a long list of them and details that you can read in this book.

What is more significant is how much Trimpe was later called to fill-in on a various number of titles because he was reliable and met deadlines before progressing, for want of a better word, to the merchandising comicbooks, including ‘G.I. Joe’.. With these, it was mostly because other artists didn’t want to do them and gave him an opportunity not to do super-heroes. I suspect also that his love of aeroplanes contributed to this as well. As writer Larry Hama explains, he only needed to tell Trimpe the name of a plane and knew the artist would know what to draw.

In many respects, Herb Trimpe was an artist akin to Don Heck (whose book I reviewed earlier in the year) in that people took for granted as always being there. What this book shows is his abilities as a storyteller and even to change his art style as he did in the early 1990s to look more like Rob Liefeld’s but ‘with correct anatomy’. The various inkers also shows how much his work can be varied by their delineation. Looking at his American comic conventions, which he only really attended after Marvel effectively fired him, was probably the time when he realised how much people appreciated his work.

If you want insight into the 60s-70s Marvel Bullpen as well as being a journeyman comicbook artist taking on everything you were asked to, then you will really learn a lot here. If you want to see samples of Trimpe’s work from across the decades, then you’ll be happy, too. If you want to learn lessons, I suspect you will as well and learn your anatomy. It’ll always get you through any figurework.

GF Willmetts

August 2015

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 159 page illustrated softcover. Price: $34.95 (US). ISBN: 978-1-60549-062-5. Direct from them, you can get it for $29.71 (US))

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