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The Retro Cover Of The Week has a 9 month Cover Gimmick Easter Egg: 1983's Incredible Hulk #297

The Incredible Hulk, Vol 1, #297, 1983, Marvel Comics, Cover by Bill Sienkiewicz.

It’s interesting while researching vintage comic covers for the POP Retro Cover Of The Week features, when I come across items of interest I hadn’t noticed before. I had been wanting to feature Bill Sienkiewicz’s beautifully metaphoric cover to The Incredible Hulk #297 from 1983, but then I noticed what was going on with the corner boxes starting with issue #292, and realized something very fun and unusual was happening.

A subtle Cover Gimmick was under way, leading up to the landmark issue #300. In extremely slow motion, one month/one frame at a time, an animation was happening in that character corner box that Steve Ditko made famous for Marvel in the 1960s.

The in-control-of-Hulk Bruce Banner was losing that control. He drops the beakers of caustic chemicals which dissolve his shoes, as he rips off his shirt and lab coat.

As fun as that Cover Gimmick was, the covers themselves leading up to #300 were part of an amazing string of iconic works of art by some of the best artists in the business: Kevin Nowlan, Brett Blevins, Ken Steacy, Sienkiewicz, and Frank Cirocco.

But the cover in that run that always stood out the most to me was #297. In recent issues, it appeared that Bruce Banner finally had control over the Hulk by creating a gamma cure, but misuse of the cure and the pain from a severe injury had plunged him back into his previously savage nature. While the corner box "animation" was a slo-mo harbinger of that event, Sienkiewicz visually captured the Banner/Hulk classic Jekyll & Hyde/dark & light dual personas in a single cover image through the metaphoric use of a mirror: in this case, the reflective surface of water.

Standing thigh deep in calm water, against a plain black background, an in-control Hulk clenches his fists as he fights with what is reflected in the water. Sienkiewicz’s signature stylized mad face and wild, wiry hair made famous in his depictions of Warlock in The New Mutants comics, represents the savage beast within. While the bright complementary colors of the comic title logo pop off the black background.

A simply brilliant, silent battle for control, and a classic POP Retro Cover Of The Week.

Next week: A cover from the flashy, image-over-substance Nineties!

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