This week marks the birthday of Herb Trimpe, a veteran comic book artist whose published work spans over four decades. His career started in the 1960s, penciling and inking for various companies until he joined the Marvel Comics bullpen in 1967. He penciled a long list of titles for Marvel but is best known and loved for his long run on The Incredible Hulk and is considered by many to be the definitive artist for that character. He’s also credited for being one of the creators of a later-to-be blockbuster character: Wolverine.

Although his career was long, it wasn’t always smooth. In his earlier years at Marvel, he was a very successful journeyman artist and contributed art every month for some of Marvel’s top titles. Over the years, he watched the industry change. Audiences and their tastes evolved, making way for the new blood who stepped in to replace the old guard. Trimpe’s work assignments slowed and eventually stopped. In 1996, he was let go from the Marvel Comics. The years leading up to his firing and the few years after were achingly detailed in an article Trimpe wrote in January of 2000 for The New York Times called “Old Superheroes Never Die, They Join the Real World.” In it, he shared personal journal entries from that time that illustrate the frustration and depression he experienced leaving the profession that he loved and having to start over at the age of fifty-six. After a few attempts to remain in the comic industry, Trimpe returned to school and reinvented himself as an art teacher.

Herb Trimpe passed away last month on April 13. He was remembered warmly and fondly by everyone who knew him, every editor and publisher he worked for and every writer and artist he collaborated with. His work is being rediscovered and held up as an example of masterful structure and storytelling. Sadly, these accolades come too late to be rightly enjoyed by the artist himself.

Like Trimpe, many of our comic book veterans are being forgotten. Unlike the superstars of today’s comic book field, older creators worked during a time when comics were considered a throw away medium. They didn’t experience the near rock star admiration or benefits from the creator rights that those presently in the field do. The superheroes that we all love and who come to life on movie screens were built on the talented contributions of these experienced artists and writers. Those contributions helped turn both Marvel Comics and DC Comics from meager publishers into billion-dollar corporations that span across all forms of media. Yet, too many of these veterans have been overlooked and have fallen on hard health and financial times only to be revered and honored after their passing. Each year, fewer and fewer of the comic industry’s old guard remain. They are our link to the past of a great art form that so many of us love. That past is rich with beautiful art and vivid stories. The creators behind that timeless work deserve our praise and respect before it’s too late and they are no longer with us.

I had the pleasure of meeting Herb Trimpe at San Diego Comic-Con in 2012. I told him that some of my earliest comics I ever owned as child were ones that he drew and how much I enjoyed his work. I hope that I was just one of all too many convention goers to heap praise upon him and shine the spotlight on him one more time before he had to leave us.

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