Friday, April 24, 2015

Judging Herb Trimpe by His Covers

Jim's single lapse in judgment on this blog
has been excluding this cover from his
top ten list.
In remembering Herb Trimpe earlier this week, I neglected to sing the praises of his flawless sense of design.

Browse Jim's gallery of classic Incredible Hulk covers (if you haven't already), and you'll notice right away how dynamic and engaging they are.  Every one has an entry point for your eye and uses lines and composition to guide you through the image.  In the Bronze Age, in particular, Trimpe's covers are fantastic road trips, with little stops along the way at clever new super-villain costumes, exciting blurbs hinting at the story, and intriguing facial expressions on background characters.

If you're not impressed, consider how well these covers work even if you don't care for Trimpe's style.  That's an impressive feat: composition so bulletproof it can catch your eye without the benefit of noodly styling.  If you're still unconvinced, try this mental exercise:  Picture any Trimpe Hulk cover drawn by your least favorite comics artist.  It still works, doesn't it?  Even if you imagine it drawn by that clown you hate!

Heck, even the Hurricane captures my
imagination!  What's with all those cables?
Why does he need headgear under his mask?
Then there's the matter of his costume designs.  One of these days, we'll sit down and have a long talk about what makes a super-suit good.  Then you can all decide I'm a crackpot not worth listening to, since you'll have your own religious convictions on the matter.  In the meantime, I'll note that Trimpe's designs are unfailingly engaging, especially his work on the original Captain Britain costume, which reverse-engineers the mandate of Captain America's look (a man wearing a flag) to great effect.

Trimpe's costumes are largely symmetrical and two-tone, but from that simple palate, he constructs some memorable patterns.  More importantly, Trimpe costumes are easily identifiable at a distance, making his villains easy to pick out from the backgrounds and allowing his heroes to dominate even the most crowded covers.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I'm confident Trimpe's covers and costumes will be homaged, revisited, reimagined, and repurposed for a long time to come.

What are some of your favorites?

— Scott

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