Writer. Creator. Large mammal.

Marvel Layoffs – 1996

JayJay here. Jim is taking care of other business today so I found another old news article for you. I thought it was an interesting aspect of Marvel history in the wake of some of Marvels’ most recent layoffs.



SUPERMAN – First Marvel Issue – Byrne’s Plot


SUPERMAN – First Marvel Issue – Comments on Byrne’s Plot


  1. Anonymous

    I was so moved by that link to Herb Trimpe's diary. I found this article written by him as well – very moving, and a pretty amazing human being. http://911research.wtc7.net/cache/wtc/evidence/recordonline_chaplain.html

  2. Reading this post stirred up a lot for me. I was Herb's editor on FF Unlimited and the decision to draw like Liefeld was his entirely. When I asked him, he wanted to stay relevant-even considering a pen name. I loved working with Herb, a humble genuine person. I never read his journal until today-it horrified me that he was treated so poorly. It doesn't surprise me though. Image Comics, who graciously hired me after Marvel laid me off in the first wave of firings, was the hottest thing around and everyone wanted to be like them. Guys like Herb and many others were left behind like trash. I hope he is doing well…

  3. To Marc Miyake,

    Thanks so much for posting the link to the NYT item regarding Herb Trimpe. His struggle actually heartens me; I am 52 and undergoing a similar recreation of self brought on by the economy. I used to be a full employee at a decent rate of pay with full benefits, and then my company (after seven years) cut me loose and made me a freelancer—doing the same amount of painstaking work, essentially, but if you factor in the amount of money I'm no longer making steady and the benefits I am no longer receiving (they used to send out yearly benefits statements, so I know how much the company spent on me) I am making, essentially, $12K less a year than I used to. And I wasn't exactly wealthy to begin with. The difference between, say, $40K a year with additional full benefits to the tune of about $6K a year (in other words, $46K) and then knocking $12K off that, well, that puts your whole quality of life in a whole different place. And, when you're a freelancer, the company pays when it feels like it. You're nothing more than another vendor to them, regardless of any history you have with the company. You're paid out once a week or every two weeks or in three weeks, if somebody's on vacation.

    And then you have to pay the IRS out of that, and all your bills get paid late. (I've worked freelance in the past. One company paid very well but took six weeks to pay, so you have to borrow from everyone you know just to pay the rent. I had to sell my beautiful guitar and my nice couch, so I could eat back then. Publishing is not an easy industry to work in.) There's nothing left for the IRS, even, once you pay out your rent, food, car insurance, etc.

    So I'm having to find another gig, and it ain't easy. I'm having to go to another way of making a living altogether, working freelance to survive while I get whatever vocational training seems most reasonable. Right now, court reporting looks like a winner…

    I'm tired of starving. I'll be a court reporter if I have to. And like it.

    I used to type for a living, some years back. Typed 100 words a minute. Almost became a typesetter.

    Now I'll use that ability again! Just on different equipment. Hope my hands/eyes hold up.

    I appreciated Herb Trimpe's struggle. You feel so stupid being in your 50s and starting over in a bad economy that wants to send all your copyediting work to India. I'm not angry at the people in India at all; they just want to make a decent living, and they work hard to make that happen.

    It's just such a struggle. I've recreated myself, careerwise, about five times already in my life. I had hoped this last jump to being a technical copyeditor would be my last one!

    No such luck!

    Trouble, thy name is legion.

  4. Herb gets much respect from me also. Makes me wonder what became of all the creators of past eras.

  5. Anonymous

    How can you read Herbs diary and not just love the guy? That had to be an insanely tough few years.


  6. Shooter wrote
    Dear gn6196,

    Interesting (to me, anyway) is the fact that Herb's comic book style is not his "natural" style. He was told to mimic Kirby, and that became his standard approach. Once I talked him into drawing an issue of something — maybe G.I. Joe? — in his illustrative style. It was terrific. He went back to the Kirby style though, because by that point he was used to it and it was easier for him, I think.

    I totally respected Herbs Hulk run which is considered by some as the definitive Hulk. His worse moment was the FF unlimited where he tried to do a Liefeld riff.

  7. Herb's doing covers for the ongoing IDW G.I. Joe series that continues the issue numbering from the Marvel era. Looks like that G.I. Joe job you gave him way back when is still paying dividends, Jim! His Wikipedia entry says he did end up doing Hulk for Marvel again at some point in recent years. Incidentally, this G.I. Joe series seems to represent one of the few times in comics history that continuing the numbering of a classic comic series was considered a better marketing ploy than restarting it at #1. Which fits with my theory that we need more material made to directly appeal to the lapsed comic reader of the 1980s and the storytelling style that they like in order to expand the industry.

  8. Dear gn6196,

    Interesting (to me, anyway) is the fact that Herb's comic book style is not his "natural" style. He was told to mimic Kirby, and that became his standard approach. Once I talked him into drawing an issue of something — maybe G.I. Joe? — in his illustrative style. It was terrific. He went back to the Kirby style though, because by that point he was used to it and it was easier for him, I think.

  9. Anonymous

    Any news on Herb Trimpe's current circumstances? I read of his travails a while back and felt really bad for the guy!

    Pete Marco

  10. PJ: Seems to be the way of things in every business these days: whiz-kid MBAs with their brilliant schemes to maximize returns by cashing out the inherent value of the product. Never mind the people on the ground who actually understand the fundamentals of the business, and never mind the bad faith generated in the customer base. And never mind the fact that when you cash out the value of a product, the product ceases to be valuable.

  11. Marc, thanks so much for the link to the Trimpe piece, that was amazing. What a terrifying thing for a lifelong commercial artist to have to go through. I found it inspiring how he soldiered through the life transition with a minimum of self-pity and a determination to figure out a new role for himself. His character shone through in the writing. I bet he was great with the kids.

  12. I saw Trimpe at a few cons over the years. He seemed like a very friendly guy. Never was partial to his artwork , though.

  13. Dear Jay C,

    It was a mouse. I threw the sport coat away. Mama mouse was not present when I found her litter. Someone dumped the babies into the toilet and flushed. I don't know the proper protocol, but under the circumstances, we did what seemed practical.

  14. Dear Ian,

    I ran into Herb at NYCC. What a great guy. Super-talented. Class act. Good friend.

  15. I get that Perleman couldn't give a crap less about long-term investment and merely focused on making a quick buck, but really: He put Marvel right where DC was in the early 1980s, relying on merchandising of its I.P. instead of producing generally great comics (which strengthens the long-term viability of said I.P.), which put that company almost in the hands of Marvel, which was top dog in the comics game because Shooter was given executive support to make the quality of Marvel's comics the best possible.

  16. Anonymous

    RANDOM question for Jim Shooter:

    Dear Jim Shooter,

    When that rat in the Valiant offices produced a litter of baby rats in your coat . . .

    What did you do with the coat? What did you do with the rats? What is the protocol there?


    — Jay C

  17. It is sad when creators fall out of vogue. But this is an entertainment field. How many 70's recording artists are getting lots of work? Or actors from that era?

  18. Marc, that Herb Trimpe diary is pretty chilling. It's wild to think that someone who had been a loyal artist at Marvel for so long could be cast aside like it was nothing. Even more shocking to see that he ended up having to go back to school to make himself more employable. I've met him a few times and he was always very kind to me, so it's a shock to see him this way in his writing.

    I guess companies have to change with the times, but it seems like in the entertainment fields that turnover is much more rapid. I recall seeing some of Herb Trimpe's art in the early 90's looking more like he was channeling Jim Lee – Perhaps he was changing with the times, as well?

    It's also interesting to see the article about Marvel's bankruptcy now – I wonder what the people at Marvel 15 years ago would say about the industry now?

  19. I noticed the article doesn't mention the Heroes World disaster when Marvel decided it would self-distribute its books via Heroes World located in, I believe, New Jersey. Yeah, distributing from one location on the East Coast to several thousand comic shops, that's gonna work (rolls eyes). Not to mention the headaches it gave retailers having to deal with both HW AND Capital City, Diamond, etc.. Then there was the time HW's phone banks blew out and no one could contact them for about a week. What a mess!

  20. Dear Marc,

    I'd never read that Herb Trimpe piece before, thanks for posting. Ugh, though! So depressing to think of a veteran like him getting such a shaft / runaround. Not that his is a unique case, but geez. That's awful. I hope he's doing well now _ I found this recent interview:

    His remarks re: the industry/ Marvel echoes Jim's sentiments quite a bit.

    I chuckled at this entry from his journal:

    "March 22: A couple of kids already know which buttons to push. "

    I can relate! I wrote a few journal entries like that in my teaching days.

    Anyway, I'm not sure when Jess Nevins' site first appeared. I only got wind of it much later, probably around 2005 or 2006, even. I was late to the party. Those LXG annotations are indispensable, tho.

  21. Dear JayJay,

    Thanks for posting the article!

    Needless to say, I got a sense of déjà vu. What have Marvel (and DC) learned since 1996? How are their current comics better than they were back then?

    No reference to Marvel during this period can be complete without a link to this article about Herb Trimpe.

    Dear bmcmolo,

    Jess Nevins' name leaped out at me. I wonder how the reporter found him. Were Nevins' annotations already online by January 1996? I don't remember discovering his work online until 1998.

  22. Marvel is hiring. They just aren't paying…

    27 New Jobs At Marvel Comics – As Interns

  23. Anonymous

    I'm glad to see this posted. It's a nice reminder of how, although any layoffs stink for the workers, they could very often be MASSIVE. 15 people being laid off is a legit amount if you ask me. It's what happens often with any company.

    It's really not much for a major corporation, and I'm sure there will be new people hired into the company in the near future (course- I doubt that'll make news).

  24. I wonder if the Jess Nivens quoted in this is the same guy who does the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen annotations?

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