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Comic Book Legends Revealed #195

by  in Comic News Comment

This is the one-hundred and ninety-fifth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous one-hundred and ninety-four.

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: Herb Trimpe was “forced” during the 1990s by Marvel Comics to use an art style reminiscent of Rob Liefeld.

STATUS: False

Herb Trimpe is a very good comic book artist, and as our own Scott has noted in the past, is a quite underappreciated artist.

Trimpe worked for Marvel for many years, but an interesting change in his art took place in 1993.

Here are a few pages of Trimpe art from his classic run on the Incredible Hulk. In this issue, some Canadian mutant makes his debut (click on the pages to enlarge)…






In the early 1990s, Rob Liefeld became a very popular artist for Marvel Comics. Here’s a few pages of Liefeld art from Liefeld’s run on New Mutants, his first ongoing title for Marvel. This issue also features that same Canadian mutant (click on the pages to enlarge)…






That style was clearly a popular one for Marvel Comics at the time (by the way, unlike the other page sets, the above Liefeld one is not completely sequential. I wanted to have as many sequential pages as I could while still featuring a lot of Wolverine, and it really did not work out well, so it’s three pages and then a later solo page. Just so’s you know!)

So while it came as SOME surprise, perhaps it should not have, when Herb Trimpe began drawing comics in the early 90s (most notably a run on Fantastic Four Unlimited) in a style extremely reminiscent of Liefeld.

Here are a few pages from Fantastic Four Unlimited #4 (featuring the Hulk, see, these things all sort of tie together!), with a cover by Claudio Castellini (click on the pages to enlarge)…






Mike Sterling, of the neat-o comic blog, Progresive Ruin, remarked the other day:

I seem to recall that Trimpe drew in that style by editorial mandate. Not that he wanted to imitate Liefeld, but that he was asked to

Mike’s recollection is matched by a number of folks online. I’ve seen the same position echoed on a number of blogs, message boards, etc.

So what was the case with Trimpe?

Did Marvel “force” him to draw this way or was it his idea?

I figured the best person to tell me would be Trimpe himself, so I dropped him a line and he gave me a wonderfully in-depth reply.

I’ve been asked that question before, with some fans going so far as to feel sorry for the way Marvel made me change my style. Unfortunately, these were misdirected sympathies.

Truth was, it was a lark–but a lark with a purpose, all devised by myself. No one at Marvel suggested I change the way I draw or ink. I looked at the new guys’ stuff, and thought, hey, this is great. Very exciting. You can always learn from somebody else, no matter how long you’ve been doing a thing.

I did, however, think the style might lead to new work at a time when Marvel was already in trouble, and it did. FF Unlimited was my last series at Marvel, and contrary to what a lot of fans think, I think it was the best work I’d done–and, I had a whole lot of fun doing it. Very expressive. I think the newer influences in comic book art brought out a better me. Like I said, most of the fans of the earlier stuff would not agree. On one occasion, I inked a whole story with a brush, which is what I was raised on, and the editor objected asking me not to do that anymore. But in general, no one pressured me into a change.

So there you go!

Thanks so much for the clarification, Herb! Be sure to check out Herb’s website, herbtrimpe.com!

Thanks to Mike Sterling for the suggestion and thanks to Herb Trimpe for the helpful information!

COMIC LEGEND: Nightwing and Starfire were originally intended to become happily married in New Titans #100.

STATUS: True

There was a long period in the early 90s when Nightwing was basically just in flux.


After his marriage to Starfire in New Titans #100 in 1993 was interrupted, he was sort of in limbo for a year, with a few guest appearances here and there.


And after he was completely written out of New Titans, he had a storyline filling in for Batman post-Knight’s End and Zero Hour.


And then he was back to limbo for most of 1995 until finally he got a new costume and his first mini-series in late 1995.


It was still another year before he gained his own ongoing series in late 1996.


But that series was such a success that it lasted until just last week (and it was canceled not because it was not selling all right, but rather because Nightwing is most likely going to be taking over as Batman again).

However, a lot of the reasons for why Nightwing was in such a state of limbo state in the beginning of the 90s was because the original plans for the character fell through.

Originally, writer/artist Art Thibert was going to do a Nightwing mini-series that would run in 1992, concurrently with New Titans #93-99.

The series, co-written with Pamela Winesette, was about an alien invasion of Earth that led to Starfire being captured and Nightwing has to save her. The main point of the series was to establish Nightwing as an extremely competent hero, and to do so on the largest of scales – in front of the entire superhero community.

At the end of the series, Dick would have a newfound confidence and would ask Starfire to marry him, she’d accept, and this would all lead into New Titans #100, which would be the marriage of Nightwing and Starfire, which would be handled much like Donna Troy and Terry Long’s marriage in Tales of the New Teen Titans #50.

Of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and in this instance, the editor who was driving the project, Jonathan Peterson, left DC for Image Comics in 1992. Thibert had already put off doing the mini-series for a time because of a commitment to Marvel for a Cable ongoing series, but he ended up dropping both series to ALSO go to Image Comics.

So the new editors instead had New Titans writer Marv Wolfman have a wedding ceremony go awry in New Titans #100 (the minister was murdered by a newly-evil Raven) and the character of Nightwing had a bit of a delay on his road to prominence.

Interestingly enough, Thibert had even done a poster to promote the series (that never happened) and DC published it in 1992’s Titans Sell-Out Special #1. Here it is (click to enlarge)!


The scoop on this comes from Bill Walko’s awesome Titans site, Titans Tower. Bill let the interview he did with Jonathan Peterson be reprinted in Glen Cadigan’s great guide to the history of the Titans, the Titans Companion (click here to purchase a copy of the book from TwoMorrows Publishing).

Thanks to Jonathan Peterson for the information and Bill Walko for collecting the info (and allowing it to be disseminated in the Titans Companion)! Be sure to check out Titans Tower for more Titans information!

COMIC LEGEND: There was no intent by John Byrne to sneak a drawing of a penis into an issue of the Fantastic Four.

STATUS: True

About a year ago, I did a column including a legend about whether John Byrne drew a silhouetted penis in an issue of the Fantastic Four.


At the time, I said “False,” but my position at the time was based solely on my view of the page.

As I said then:

I’ll allow, though, that having ANYthing there can certainly lead to a question of the intent – I just don’t think that there was intent for it to be a penis (nor do I think it looks like it in actuality…).

So if the legend is “John Byrne snuck a drawing of a penis into an issue of Fantastic Four,” my answer would be – False.

I know quite a few folks who have differed with me over the past year, but interestingly enough, the topic was just recently brought up on John Byrne’s web forum.

I had never seen Byrne address the topic before, and his reaction on the boards seemed one of surprise (and a bit of disbelief).

So yeah, he not only denies the existence of the “phantom penis,” but he seems fairly disappointed by the fact that the topic is even being discussed.

So whether you feel you can see a penis in the panel or not, there was no intent by the artist to secretly sneak the drawing of a penis into the panel.

I know this is basically just a variation on the original legend, but I was just so surprised that Byrne actually addressed the subject that I figured I had to post about it!

Thanks to John Byrne for the new information (the thread on the Byrne board was started by Pedro Bouça, so I suppose thanks go out to Pedro Bouça, too!).

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comic Book Database for this week’s covers!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com.

See you next week!