Steranko's Hulk is the King-Size Special Retro Cover Of The Week (1968)

The Incredible Hulk King-Size Special #1, Marvel Comics, 1968, Art by Jim Steranko.

The POP Retro Cover Of The Week continues its examination and celebration of iconic comic covers from the 1970s through the 2000s, this week expanding our coverage back into the 1960s, when Marvel welcoming new talent to its Bullpen, including a young man who, as legend has it, walked in off the streets of New York and immediately got work from Stan Lee.

Jim Steranko had a different way of storytelling, in his own way as bold and innovative and paradigm-shifting as Jack Kirby. His cover to 1968’s The Incredible Hulk King-Size Special #1 was instantly iconic. Perhaps borrowing a page from Will Eisner’s playbook, the Hulk is interacting with elements of the cover itself, holding the beautifully rendered, crumbling stone comic title masthead, like Atlas bearing the weight of the world. At the same time, the combined weight of the Hulk and his burden is crushing the stone ground he stands on, which reads INHUMANS, as a harbinger of his battle with them inside the comic.

It’s a simple concept, executed brilliantly, with wonderful coloring, as well, especially on the Hulk with the highlights and the variations in tones. My only complaint is that every bit of display lettering is hand-drawn, except for BATTLES THE…which is typeset. Its sharpness and unorganic-ness is a single distraction.

There was one controversy on this cover. The editor didn't like Steranko's original drawing of the Hulk's face, and had it redrawn by another artist. I like them both, but see nothing wrong with Steranko's; the Hulk IS a monster after all. The redraw is too handsome and human-looking.

Steranko's original on the left, perhaps Marie Severin on the right?

As the POP Retro Cover Of The Week cycles through the decades, rest assured, you haven’t seen the last of Steranko when the Sixties come around again!

Next week: Forward to the groovy, innovative 1970s!

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