Sunday, February 15, 2015

Unknown Herb Trimpe Art

In 1970 Herb Trimpe was artist/co-plotter on The Incredible Hulk, a title he had taken over two years earlier, following in the footsteps of many exceptional talents including Marie Severin, Gil Kane, Bill Everett, Steve Ditko and, of course, co creator Jack Kirby. Trimpe had a coarse, gritty style perfectly suited for the exploits of a rampaging monster; he continues to be associated with the character decades after his tenure on the title ceased. In addition to his duties on The Hulk, Trimpe also worked in the production department at Marvel, assisting John Romita and Marie Severin on various chores, including drawing covers, primarily for the western titles, (Kid Colt Outlaw, Two-Gun Kid, Ringo Kid, Mighty Marvel Western, Rawhide Kid and Western Gunfighters) and making corrections on interior panels and pages. In this post I'll point out a few I've recently discovered.

 Herb Trimpe's uncredited splash page art to "The Beast from the Bog!," Chamber of Darkness # 5, June 1970. 

 While the splash page to "The Beast in the Bog!" is credited to Paul Reinman, a careful examination reveals that it is actually the work of Herb Trimpe. To the best of my knowledge Reinman's original page has never turned up, so I can only speculate as to why it was replaced. One possibility is that Reinman drew the creature on the splash and Stan Lee wanted his image to be a surprise to the reader. 

Editor Stan Lee had a history of being picky about splash pages dating back to the Timely/Atlas era. There are numerous instances of Lee using a different artist to redraw a splash, usually because he felt a more powerful image was needed to pull the reader in. When there was time and the original artist was available they produced the new art (examples include Joe Sinnott and Dick Ayers) but when deadlines were pressing he usually had a staff artist handle the re-do. In the 1950s it was often Joe Maneely, his talented and versatile right hand man, who made the alterations; later Lee usually turned to Jack Kirby, John Romita, Marie Severin or Herb Trimpe. 

Another clue that this is an alternative splash is by observing the lettering. While Jean Izzo was credited, and her style is evident by its stylistic resemblance to her father, Artie Simek, the splash (and any corrections in the story) was lettered by staffer Morrie Kuramoto, who tended to be far less precise and attractive than Marvel's main calligraphers, Sam Rosen and Artie Simek.   

For comparison here is page two of the story, drawn by Paul Reinman. Note the difference in the way Reinman draws trees, using a scratchier line than Trimpe, and how the hand in panel 6 echoes the splash page, likely due to Trimpe copying the image.

Seven months earlier Herb Trimpe drew his own swamp-related monster in the pages of The Incredible Hulk # 121, November 1969. Notice Trimpe's depiction of foliage, overhanging trees and the swamp, particularly the final panel, which has a hand rising from the bog. Both pages point to Trimpe's distinctive style.   

 Uncredited Trimpe splash to the "Gunhawk" feature from Western Gunfighters # 1, August 1970. Note that Jerry Siegel, the co creator of Superman, was the author of this tale.  

Two months after providing the new splash in Chamber of Darkness # 5, Trimpe again does the honors, as seen by the pose and facial expression on Gunhawk, and the wispy, almost coloring book style backgrounds. Western Gunfighters was a oversized, 25 cent title that included mostly new material. The interior story is penciled by Werner Roth and inked by Sal Buscema. Roth's experience on westerns dated back to the 1950s, on titles including The Apache Kid and Matt Slade. Trimpe drew (and probably lettered the title) to Gunhawk's introductory page, a new western hero who was prominently featured on the cover.

                            Gunhawk Pin-Up from Kid Colt Outlaw # 227, December 1978

In this instance I believe I've discovered the original splash page, which found its way into print 8 years later in the back of a western reprint title. While the pencils are incorrectly credited to Al Hartley, they are actually the work of Werner Roth, who drew the original story. Aside from the faces, figures and poses that point to Roth's involvement, other factors are evident. Sal Buscema is credited as inker of this drawing as he was on the original story. Werner Roth had passed away in 1973, which eliminates the possibility that this was a new pin-ups, of which quite a few appeared in this period. Finally, the open space above Gunhawk would have been where the copy and story title originally appeared. In both splashes Gunhawk is posed center stage, holding his guns, but Trimpe's version has Gunhawk as the central figure, eliminating the fleeing townsfolk and buildings that appear in Roth's version. The addition of the Hawk in the foreground and the mountains in the background direct the readers eye directly to lead character.    

                      Herb Trimpe at work. Photograph from the 1970 Marvelmania Portfolio.   

 In a case of serendipity I wound up discovering this photo of Herb Trimpe making art corrections AFTER I noticed his splash in Chamber of Darkness # 5. Since I had been researching Marvel's late 1960s/early 1970s mystery-anthology titles (Chamber of Darkness and Tower of Shadows) I looked closely at the page Trimpe was working on and realized it was one of Barry Smith's stories. Smith was relatively new to comics, his earliest work consisted of pin-ups for the British based company Odhams Press in the mid-1960s, which reprinted Marvel's superheroes on a weekly schedule. You can view some of these on Kid Robson's highly entertaining blog:

A short time later Smith was given the opportunity to contribute to Marvel directly, drawing X-Men # 53 (January, 1969) followed by fill-ins on Daredevil, The Avengers and a host of mystery shorts. His early efforts, which combined Jack Kirby's dynamism with Jim Steranko's contemporary look, had an amateurish appearance, but his enthusiasm and sense of pacing showed real confidence. Smith's first ongoing title was Conan the Barbarian, teamed with writer Roy Thomas, where he had the opportunity to expand his abilities, adding meticulous detail and becoming a recognized fan favorite.

Zooming in on the page I noticed the panel Trimpe was working on and checked through my issues of Tower of Shadows and Chamber of Darkness. I could tell that this story was inked by Vince Colletta, and if I recalled correctly he only inked one of Smith's mystery tales.

 I soon found the story, "The Scream of Things", scripted by Allyn Brodsky, which appeared in Tower of Shadows # 7, September 1970. Looking closely I observed a few lettering corrections (which were likely rendered by Morrie Kuramoto) and also noticed the figure of the woman in panel four was reversed in the published version, presumably because the powers that be thought the panel to panel progression flowed more smoothly. 

Here is a close-up of the final panel. Trimpe's alterations include the addition of a statue on the upper left side, a more decorative style to replace the traditional brick work Smith drew on the terrace and "faces" on the trees, which were originally normal looking. I assume the trees were changed to make the scene look eerie (it only looks silly to me!). What I find fascinating is the production process, and how each comic was closely examined before final publication. It's also wonderful to have evidence of Trimpe working on an actual page of original art.

While the work Herb Trimpe did in a production capacity for Marvel may not be as noteworthy as his overall contribution to as a storyteller, I believe the "little" details give us a better understanding of what it takes to put a comic book together.

I wanted to briefly make note of my 100th post and express my gratitude, not only to family, friends and online colleagues, but in particular those strangers who shared information, corrected an error or took the time to write a comment. I've piqued the interest of more people than I ever expected in my exploration through comics esoterica, and the response has been rewarding. My goal has been to search the back alleys and side streets of the industry, even when discussing the work of giants like Kirby and Ditko. Think of this as the equivalent of an old bookstore that offers a surprise or two on its shelves. I don't know what my next 100 posts will be about (or if I even get that far), but I'll do my best to keep the wheels rolling and hope you come along for the ride.