By Jim Beard
Herb Trimpe's not just any Hulk artist—he stands as the
Hulk artist for an entire generation.
Trimpe's work graced the pages of INCREDIBLE HULK from 1969 to 1975, an achievement still held in high esteem to this very day by readers and creators alike. On May 28, the legend returns to the misunderstood monster that marked his place in Marvel history forever, in a short tale written by modern master Jeph Loeb in KING-SIZE HULK #1.
For Trimpe, it was an easy assignment to accept.
"The deal was resolved quickly," explains the artist. "I do a moderate amount of commissions, so I thought what the heck. Why not a new comic story for Marvel?"
Trimpe eagerly doles out praise for Loeb, pointing out what's changed in the comics business since the heyday of the Silver Age and how Loeb smoothed out the process.
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"Jeph [is] very easy to work with, which was good, because the last time I worked steady in the business, I worked from a plot line, sometimes a very brief description of the story that I usually had some input in creating," he says. "That's all changed now.
"It took some patience on Jeph's part to get me going on a story primarily visualized by the writer and not the artist."
Through the '60s and '70s, Trimpe cemented a picture of the Green Goliath in Marvelites' minds that has more than endured. Much of that strength in visualization sprang from the artist's personal vision of exactly who and what the Hulk had become—an outlook that also lasts to this day.
"The dichotomy of the character, his changeability from rational to irrational is something we all experience," notes Trimpe. "I think that most of us can identify with the change that happens to Bruce Banner. We all have a little of both inside us. I think this is an important theme in defining the character.
"The Hulk is not basically violent, but only reacts violently when a threat is perceived. He has a certain passion for life. He is drawn towards kids and animals and the downtrodden. This is the Hulk of my reality, and this is encouraged by fans who have told me time and time again over the years, that my Hulk was their definitive Hulk."
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Having first worked at Marvel as part of the production staff in 1967, the artist wrangled a few freelance inking gigs for the company which then spawned a penciling debut in KID COLT, OUTLAW #134-135. The Hulk job bounded along in 1968, with Trimpe executing pencil-finishes over layouts by the famous Marie Severin, a job that grew into a career with the House of Ideas for over three decades. To say Trimpe adapted and rolled with the times would be an understatement.
"When I looked at the other artists when I first started at Marvel, I was surrounded by giants," muses the artist. "It was very intimidating. We had Jack [Kirby] and we had Johnny Romita, [John] Buscema, Severin, [Gene] Colan, [George] Tuska, [Frank] Giacoia, classic guys like Bill Everett, a budding Barry Smith and the revolutionary Jim Steranko. It was like being on Mount Olympus.
"Having been brought up on EC [Comics] and that school of thought, I had trouble adjusting to the Marvel Universe. [Then-Editor-in-Chief] Stan [Lee] was very patient, which I thank him for, but I never seemed to settle on a style. I would be influenced by this artist and that artist almost on a changing daily basis. I think this is reflected in my work right up to the end. The only thing that remained consistent over the years was my ability and enthusiasm to tell the story."
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And tell the stories he did: stories of, among others, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Ka-Zar, Nick Fury, Thor, Spider-Man, and of course the Incredible Hulk. He also co-created a character called Wolverine along the way.
"We didn't take it too seriously," reflects Trimpe of his career. "The aim [was] to have some fun."
Herb Trimpe's latest and greatest Hulk tale appears in KING SIZE HULK #1, smashing down stands on May 28. The classic Greenjeans artist appears alongside fan-favorites Jeph Loeb, Art Adams, and Frank Cho for a chock-a-block of gamma-spawned action and adventure! And scope out classic Hulk stories over at Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited.