Little behind in blogging about this, but on Sunday, January 29, I visited the California Comic Convention in Yorba Linda, CA. A retailer friend of mine has been telling me about this show for the last couple of years, but I never made it out there. When I found out who the special guests were for this time around, I knew I had to make it.
Comic book artists Herb Trimpe and Val Mayerik were attending, and I had never met either one before. Herb Trimpe was one of the most prolific comic artists whose work I was exposed to during my most formative years as a young reader, from the mid-70s until the mid-80s. His long run on THE HULK was a huge favorite, as well as his work on various Marvel titles that were licensed from other properties, namely GODZILLA, THE SHOGUN WARRIORS and G.I. JOE, to name a few.
But the book I had wanted him to sign was my original 1980 copy of SPIDER-MAN Vs THE HULK AT THE WINTER OLYMPICS! This was a Treasury Size comic book, 10" x 13", that to my young eyes back in the day was a whopper of a slugfest. It was cool seeing Trimpe thumb through the book, as he mentioned that he enjoyed seeing his work printed in that large format.
Herb was also accepting commissions, so I decided on asking him for a Godzilla sketch. His wife, by the way, was a delight to talk to, and I'm sure over the years she's learned to be patient with Herb's many fans!
What I've always liked about Herb's version of Godzilla was that it wasn't an exact recreation of the design from the Toho movies. He said he had no editorial direction from Marvel or Toho regarding the design, and he just came up with a look that he felt worked. Another example of that care-free, loose style that made comics great growing up. Let an artist bring his own ideas to the plate, without a bunch of suits telling him how to do it.
I've been very fortunate over the years to have been able to meet many of my childhood favorites, and meeting Herb Trimpe was in no way a disappointment. He was very engaging and thoughtful, talking about a variety of topics the whole time. I even had the nerve to show him the rough draft of a one-page comic I was working on. He looked through the sheet, following along from panel to panel. He complimented me on the clarity of the storytelling, and even asked if I had the finished page (which I didn't!). As a creator myself, and one who really enjoys meeting the people who buy my work, I always think about the older artists I've met and how well they treat their fans. I've always tried to make each person who visits me feel welcome and appreciated, so I have guys like Herb to thank for setting the example.
My friend Ted Seko, who I traveled with to the convention, counts Herb Trimpe among his top favorite comic book artists. Ted gave Herb a copy of his recent book, SUPER MONSTERAMA, and Herb was very complimentary toward the artwork, taking his time looking through the book. I felt really happy for Ted, as I know he was on cloud nine to hear that from Mr. Trimpe.
The other artists in attendance at the show was Val Mayerik. Val worked with Steve Gerber on a variety of projects beginning in the 70s. Their most famous work has to be the creation of Howard the Duck, something long-time readers of this blog know I'm a big fan of. I asked Val about his working relationship to the late Steve Gerber, and I could tell that the admiration he had for his collaborator was sincere. I got a small Howard the Duck drawing from Val on a sketchcard. Very pleasant person to talk to, so it's nice to have been able to meet him.
Nowadays, I rarely go to a comic book convention if I'm not exhibiting at it. But this show was more of a comic collector's show, with pretty much the entire floor made up of back issue dealers, so it's not really something I would have a table at. Not one unemployed actor in sight! It was nice to be able to spend time looking through back issues of comics, and have some pleasant conversations with Herb and Val. Connecting with these old school artists reminds me why I loved comics so much as a kid, and why I eventually decided to create my own works.