Herb Trimpe remembered: ‘Incredible Hulk’ artist saluted by Axel Alonso, Dan Slott and others

April 15, 2015 | 12:01 p.m.

Herb Trimpe, a veteran comic book artist who helped shape Marvel’s Silver Age of comics, died Monday at 75.

Trimpe is perhaps best known for his work as the artist on “The Incredible Hulk” from 1968 to 1975. It was during this run that Trimpe became the first artist to draw Wolverine for publication when the mutant debuted in “Incredible Hulk” No. 180 in 1974 (Wolverine’s first full appearance was in the following issue, also drawn by Trimpe).

While Wolverine, co-created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein and John Romita Sr., is a notable exception, Trimpe was a co-creator for nearly all of the characters introduced during his “Hulk” tenure, including Jim Wilson and Doc Samson, whom he co-created with Thomas. Trimpe was also the mind behind the Hulkbusters military unit, led by Gen. Thunderbolt Ross (who was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby), whose mission was to contain (or destroy) the Hulk.

“To me, no artist is as synonymous with the Incredible Hulk as Herb Trimpe, who gave the Jade Giant a sense of pathos and scale that set the bar for every artist that followed him,” said Axel Alonso, Marvel’s editor in chief, in a statement Tuesday. “Like a Hulk-punch, Trimpe’s art truly exploded off the page. Comics lost a giant.”

Other Marvel characters credited to Trimpe include the Shroud, co-created with writer Steve Englehart, as well as Captain Britain and Psylocke, co-created with writer Chris Claremont.

Trimpe also had a prolific résumé with Marvel’s licensed titles. He launched their “Godzilla” title in 1977, contributing art for all but two of the series’ 24 issues, and was the artist for all but one issue of the toy-based “Shogun Warriors'” 20-issue run from 1979 to 1980. He helped launch the “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” comic series in 1982 and served as the primary artist during the run of the “G.I Joe: Special Missions” spinoff series that launched in 1986.

While Trimpe was a Marvel mainstay during the Silver Age, he was fired in 1996 and eventually became a seventh-grade art teacher.

In more recent years, Trimpe drew for issues of IDW’s “G.I. Joe” titles, as well as an issue of Dark Horse’s “BPRD: The War on Frogs.” He also returned to Hulk for a story in Marvel’s “King-Size Hulk” No. 1 in 2008 as well as contributing various variant cover art.

In 2000, he documented his experience being pushed out of Marvel and becoming a teacher in a guest article in the New York Times through a series of excerpts from his journal.

“No matter what I say or who I call or write at Marvel, I can’t get assigned to another book,” Trimpe wrote in a Dec. 15, 1996, entry. “I’ve tried reason, outrage, guilt trips and begging. Nada. I haven’t been able to scrounge together enough work to meet my monthly quota. The place is a shambles. When I press, they admit sales are down and so is morale. The scuttlebutt is that more layoffs are coming.” (Marvel would file for bankruptcy later that month.)

The journal chronicles his education through the Center for Distance Learning at State University of New York’s Empire State College, his time student-teaching and his eventual hiring at Eldred Central School in Eldred, N.Y.

“Teaching is like flying a plane,” he wrote a month into the job. “You leave school one day feeling like you’re spiraling down toward the trees, expecting that the next day the crash will come. You brace yourself for the impact, only to find that things have leveled out at treetop height, and you climb and enjoy the remainder of the flight.”

Trimpe’s family, friends and fans took to social media to honor his memory.

– Tracy Brown | @tracycbrown |@LATHeroComplex

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