Years ago on my blog at dimland.com, I had done a comic book review series I modestly titled “Comic Books that have Changed My Life.” I had planned to revisit that series and expand on it for my blog here, so, with the passing of comic book artist Herb Trimpe, I figured this was as good a time as any to get started.
This was the third installment of my series, in which I mainly address the art of those important (to me) comic books. I’m a cartoonist who has been very influenced by comic book artists of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. The issue I will examine this time is The Incredible Hulk #168 (October 1973), which was part of Trimpe’s best work. His style may not have been my favorite, but his abilities were an excellent fit for his run in the Hulk series.
This was back in the day when the page layout was still the basic six-panels a page with full gutters (that’s what the spaces between panels are called). Trimpe’s work in this issue has a soft feel thanks to Jack Abel’s inking. And one can certainly see the influence that Jack Kirby had on his work. That’s hardly unusual, because Kirby influenced just about every comic book artist.
As comic book stories go, I always seemed to prefer the first part of a multi-issue story. I think it’s because the set up for the initial defeat of our hero is more compelling. In this issue, Betty Ross Talbot is transformed by Modok into the Harpy in order to defeat the Hulk; which she, by the end of the issue, does just that. (He gets better in the next issue, don’t worry.)
Issue #168 contains three splash pages! (That’s what they call a full page panel) The first isn’t anything very special. It sets up what’s going on. The Hulk is trying to get into the hospital where an ailing Betty is being treated. Note the flowers in the foreground. They are placed in the scene to set up that the Hulk picks flowers for Betty. How sweet.
The second splash page is the transformation scene of Betty into Harpy. It’s spectacular! Very dramatic. There’s a lot of Jack Kirby in that panel. The black dots are a classic Kirby element. Also, note the shadow of Harpy’s right arm. That’s a great touch. I’m not sure how many other artists would bother to draw in that shadow.
Third is the final page. It was pretty common to do a splash page for the end of the first part of a multi-issue story. It’s meant to wow the reader with its dramatic effect and make sure they don’t miss the next part. Well, this one delivers. It looks as though our hero has had it. (Harpy was only able to get the better of the Hulk by playing the “I’m Betty” card, getting the big dummy to drop his guard.)
There’s some other fun stuff in this issue. Especially, a very dated, but still funny (maybe because it’s so dated) argument between the Hulk’s friend, Jim Wilson, and Jim’s girlfriend, Talia.
I’m also quite fond of a panel depicting the Hulk jumping through the wall of the hospital. It’s very simple and straight forward. Blam!
On Monday April 13, 2015, Herb Trimpe died at age 75. The artist is gone, but the art remains.
Jim ‘Dr. Dim’ Fitzsimons