Although DC Comics innovated the superhero in 1938 with Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s creation lifting a car over his head wearing a bright red cape, much of the reason we’re likely still so enamored with superheroes as an idea is because of the Silver Age revitalization of the concept brought about by Marvel Comics. With the creation of characters like the X-Men, Spider-Man, and the Incredible Hulk in the 1960’s, the 70’s really unleashed much of these new characters’ potential, and even their humanity: something that was missing from the relative paragons of Superman and Batman during this time.
One of the characters that would go on to thrive significantly in the late 60’s and early 70’s was the Hulk, first created in 1962 by the team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It was on this title that a young artist named Herb Trimpe would make his biggest mark, not only giving the renderings for the issue, but also being heavily relied upon by his writing collaborators to come up with the plot. Sometimes in those days, with a few writers moving between several titles, Trimpe would have to put the story together and pencil the entire issue from just one production meeting, but the artist recalled in an interview last year in Back Issue magazine that he enjoyed that kind of collaboration.
Trimpe was born in Peekskill, New York, on the east side of the Hudson River, on May 26th, 1939. A fan of everything as a youngster from Disney cartoons and the edgy EC Comics, Trimpe would graduate high school and attend the School of Visual Arts in New York, before leaving in 1962 to serve in the United States Air Force for four years. After his enlistment was up, an art school classmate put him into contact with Marvel Comics, and Trimpe began working there as a freelance penciller and inker at $135 a week — just over $1,000 in today’s dollars.
Not long afterward, Trimpe started his work on the Hulk, providing artwork and covers for issues and annuals. With the publication of The Incredible Hulk #180, Trimpe became the first artist to ever render the character known as Wolverine — who would go on to become a breakout star when he was later associated with the X-Men — from a design by John Romita, Sr. In Incredible Hulk #181, Wolverine had his first full appearance, squaring off against Marvel’s green behemoth.
While writers Roy Thomas and Len Wein and artist John Romita, Sr. are the creators most credited with Wolverine’s creation, Trimpe’s status as the first ongoing artist to put the character on the page shouldn’t be understated. Trimpe himself, though, doesn’t dispute the credited creators, instead having said jovially in a 2009 interview,
The way I see it, [Romita and writer 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 would be continually associated with Marvel Comics until 1996, the same year the company had suffered setbacks and endured a bankruptcy. Afterward, he went back to school, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in 1997 from Empire State College. He’s always been visible in comics, working for Dark Horse in the last few years on Mike Mignola’s BPRD. It was announced earlier today that the artist had passed away. His cousin, Glen Baisley, announced his passing on Facebook:
This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing my cousin, Herb Trimpe, in action doing what he loved – meeting fans and drawing comics. I was there capturing video and interviews about his life and work with Marvel for a documentary that we were planning to work on. Little did I know, this would be the final time I would get to see him. I wanted to share some very sad news with everyone. Monday night, Herb passed away.
He was a legend in the industry, the first artist to draw Wolverine for publication (HULK issue #181) and penciled some of the most iconic characters ever. He will be greatly missed.
Trimpe has a legacy that will endure for decades to come, and GeekNation wishes to express our condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time. He gave joy to millions of fans, and his work will continue to be just as definitive as it is now.
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