For the first half of the 1970's, Marvel's Incredible Hulk title featured covers and interior artwork by a guy named Herb Trimpe (rhymes with "shrimpie"). Like many comic book artists of that era, Trimpe had a very distinct style that made his stuff easy to identify, even to an eight year-old comic book rookie like me.
However, even to my young, untrained eyes, there always seemed to be something a bit...off...about Trimpe's Hulk work. Much like Jack Kirby, Trimpe took great liberties with human anatomy, proportion, and facial expressions. Yet, lacking Kirby's years of experience and experimentation, Trimpe's 70's stuff had little of Kirby's frenetic energy and power, and often came across as awkward and stiff.
To be sure, Trimpe was certainly capable of turning out a great cover design. These are three of my favorites (click to enlarge):
Unfortunately, many more of Trimpe's covers fell flat. Although I can't narrow them down to a single Worst Cover Ever, I've selected three that come close.
HULK #160 (1973) gets points for an ambitious camera angle, but fails in its execution. Foreshortening (giving an object the illusion of receding depth) is a tricky thing to pull off convincingly, and when it's not right...it can look as goofy as Trimpe's drawing of Tiger Shark and his tiny, stunted legs. As for the Hulk, the screwy perspective makes his face look like nothing more than a gaping mouth with no eyes or nose.
Next up is the cover of HULK #170 (1973)....a good example of very bad layout planning. Jam-packed with overlapping and awkwardly-drawn figures, the spacial relationships are confusing and give no sense of space or depth. For example, look at the apparent space between the blue monster's feet, the woman's feet, and the hole in the foreground. Now, with both sets of feet appearing to be a matter of inches away from the lip of the hole...how does the falling yellow guy manage to fit in between the blue guy and the woman? What's going on with spotted-guy in the background? With the blue guy's shadow appearing to fall on the rock wall behind him, there doesn't seem to be any space left for Spot to occupy. Add to that the stubby, poorly-designed, and dimensionally flat look of the monsters, and you've got yourself an official "back to the drawing board" design. A pity that decision was never made by an editor...or Trimpe himself.
Finally, HULK #185 (1975) repeats many of the same depth and perspective mistakes as the first two covers. Undoubtedly intended to look imposing, the HS-1000 contraption (besides having no mass or dimension) is comically unthreatening...in a Six Million Dollar ManVenus Probe kind of way. Despite a cursory attempt at background depth (the tiny running figures), the similarity of color between the ground and sky further flatten-out the scene to the point where all elements seem to be occupying the same space.
In some cases, Marvel wasn't shy about sending in John Romita Sr. to ink and sometimes even alter Trimpe's covers, as he did here with Hulk #179. Note the very obvious Romita Hulk face (click to enlarge) perched atop the Trimpe Hulk body (with its telltale stiff legs and swollen feet).
By late 1975, Trimpe's long run as the HULK's primary artist came to an end, as artists like Gil Kane, Rich Buckler, and Ernie Chan took over as cover artists and Sal Buscema began his amazing ten year stint as interior penciller.