Category Archives: Comic Books

Rhymes with Blimpy

Hulk sketch by Herb Trimpe

Hulk sketch by Herb Trimpe

It’s been over a month since Marvel Comics artist Herb Trimpe, the master of groovy teeth*, died suddenly while out jogging, which is probably how I’ll go, eventually. Herb was a top-notch comic book artist, with a distinctive style and as good an ability to design a page and tell a story clearly as any artist. He was noted for his long run on the Hulk, during which he co-created Wolverine, a character that has been very good for Hugh Jackman’s bank account.

After a stint in the Air Force, Herb was a Marvel mainstay for almost 30 years, until 1996, when Marvel stopped giving work to its veteran artists, in favor of younger talent. (Joe Sinnott retired from full-time artistic duties in 1994.) A few years later, Herb wrote an op-ed about his struggles in The New York Times that received a lot of attention. He kept going by teaching, doing commissions, and drawing sketches at conventions, like the one I embedded above. Herb was a great guy to know, and he is missed personally, as well as professionally.

*Inside joke with Denro

American Masters: Bing Crosby Rediscovered

Starting this coming Tuesday, the PBS series American Masters is presenting “Bing Crosby Rediscovered”. Don’t miss it!

I was 22 when Crosby suddenly collapsed after playing golf in Spain on October 14, 1977. Bing sure seemed old to me at the time, but he was only 74. To put that into perspective, Ringo Starr is 74.

The day after Bing died, Denro and I were at the Boston Newcon comic book convention, interviewing the one and only Joe Sinnott, who was, at the time, starting work on inking the Silver Surfer graphic novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, released in 1978. Dennis asked Joe, addressing him as Mr. Sinnott, “What do you for enjoyment? To get away from comics?” Here is what Joe said, as recorded by me on October 15, 1977.

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We knew that Bing had died, so I wasn’t completely clueless and, yet, being the callow youth that I was, stupidly I asked, “So how do you feel about it?” Duh! The next day, October 16, would be Joe’s 51st birthday and, my goodness, how young he sounds in that recording.

I don’t know yet how much the American Masters documentary will ac-cen-tu-ate the positive. Gary Crosby’s memoir damaged Bing’s reputation as a father, but the multi-talented, multi-media Crosby remains an undeniably significant and pioneering figure in entertainment history. As I have pointed out in the past, Crosby was the first to see and exploit the potential of magnetic tape recording. A few months ago, someone working on the American Masters documentary spotted my posts and requested a photo for “Bing Crosby Rediscovered”, which I gladly provided. I can’t say for certain if the picture is in the final edit, but if you see it you’ll know where it came from.

Jack Mullin, Frank Healey, Wayne Johnson, Bing Crosby

Jack Mullin, Frank Healey, Wayne Johnson, Bing Crosby

Get me to the church on time!

For the first time in decades, this non-practicing Lutheran has attended a Catholic Church. Joe Sinnott’s son Mark told me we’d better not be late for Sunday morning Mass or Joe would give me heck. So I made sure we were there on time! Joe and Mark are in the area for the Super MegaFest Comic-Con in Framingham, MA, and I’ll be heading back there shortly.

A contemporary of Joe’s, the artist Ramona Fradon, is traveling with them. Ramona had a long and notable run drawing Aquaman for DC Comics, and I am a big fan of her work on “Super Friends”. Ramona was later hired to draw the comic strip “Brenda Starr”, which she did for fifteen years.

Speaking of Catholicism, if you’re a Silver Age fanboy you know that Joe inked Jack Kirby’s pencil art for Fantastic Four #5, the story that introduced the quartet’s most infamous villain, Doctor Doom. Get out a reprint FF #6 (I assume if you have an original comic it’s sealed) and take a look at page #2. Most of that single page was inked by Joe, but everything else in the book was inked by Dick Ayers. Why? Because Treasure Chest, a publisher of comic books that were distributed to Catholic parochial schools, made Joe an offer he couldn’t refuse, to illustrate the life story of Pope John XXIII.

Sinnott

The story was released in serial form and now, for the first time, all of the installments are being collected in a single volume, scanned from the original art in Joe’s archives. This project, which means so much to Joe, is thanks to the hard work of Mr. James Tournas, otherwise known as Jimmy T., who ran a successful Kickstarter project to get the money together. See that $1500 pledge down on the right? I wonder who contributed that princely sum? 😉 There are 25 paperback artist’s proofs that were printed locally in Boston, and I’m looking at one of them right now. The final print run of 500 10″x15″ hardcover copies should arrive on (literally) a slow boat from China the first week of December.

Joe also has all of his original art to the story of the Beatles, authorized by Brian Epstein’s NEMS Enterprises and published in 1964 by Dell Comics.

dellbeatles

It would have been great if a similar deluxe hardcover edition of the Beatles book were done, but a certain someone, through Apple Records, nixed it. “Saint” Paul said no, and so the decision was made for the Pope John book. A higher power than the Beatles must have been at work!