Comic Book Legends Revealed #195

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.


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!

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