Logo Study: THE HULK Part 1

All images © Marvel Characters, Inc.

Stan Lee, the co-creator of THE HULK in 1962 with Jack Kirby, describes him as a combination of two previous literary monsters: Mr. Hyde from Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and Frankenstein’s monster from Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” It’s a clever idea: an ordinary man who, due to a radiation accident, transforms into a huge, muscular, raging brute whenever he’s under emotional strain, and often against his own will. Perhaps the most original part of the idea is that The Hulk gets stronger as he gets madder, leading to lots of destructive mayhem in most Hulk stories. I have to admit I never warmed to the character personally, but as one of the seminal heroes of the Lee/Kirby Marvel revolution, he’s important, so I thought it was time to have a look at his logos.

As I’ve said in other Marvel logo studies, I’ve learned that the early Marvel logos were designed by Sol Brodsky and finished, or inked (reports are vague) by letterer Artie Simek. This would be one of those. The selling point of the logo is the large word HULK, and it’s a great word for a logo: short and descriptive. Here it’s in large, open block letters with a slightly roughened edge. The strokes are not uniform; for instance the lower right leg of the K is the widest, but that just adds to it’s rough-hewn charm. A telescoped drop-shadow recedes from the letters in one-point perspective vanishing behind the cover blurb. Above, THE INCREDIBLE is in similar open block letters, but without the rough edges, and very much in the early Marvel style of Simek. Breaking up the blocky style a little are the angled ends of the lower right strokes on the R in INCREDIBLE and K in HULK. I think the logo works well, with the colors on this one giving it maximum impact. Early Marvel covers tended to be colored rather darkly, as this one is, and the red and yellow really pop.

For the second issue the telescoping has been trimmed back dramatically, but still follows the one-point perspective plan. the logo is otherwise the same, and again that red color really draws the eye. The drop-shadow is either a very dark color or black, I can’t tell which, helping to pop the logo off the surface of the art.

For the third issue a new telescoping drop shadow has been drawn with a hypothetical vanishing point somewhere far away on the lower right. In essence there is no vanishing point, the drop shadow just adds an even amount of thickness to all the letterforms. I think this works best of all, and it’s still full of impact. And that’s how the logo stayed for the remaining three issues of the character’s original 6-issue solo series. Apparently THE HULK didn’t sell well enough to keep the title going, but the character remained a mainstay of the early Marvel Universe, appearing often in other titles, including FANTASTIC FOUR and AVENGERS.

In 1964 The Hulk found a new home as a co-feature in TALES TO ASTONISH, beginning with issue 60. For this first appearance, he and co-star Giant-Man have large cover blurbs rather than real logos, with the one for Hulk featuring some very attractive rough block letters on the word HULK, and less appropriate rounded ones for INCREDIBLE.

With issue 61 a pair of new logos for the co-stars began, and the one for The Hulk would last nearly all the way through his TALES TO ASTONISH run of 40-plus issues. There’s a good chance these were again by the team of Sol Brodsky and Artie Simek, though I detect a different style in the cover lettering of this and the previous cover, and I suspect whoever was doing that (Sam Rosen, perhaps?) might also have created these logos. That’s just a guess, though. The new logos are well-crafted open block letters designed to each fill a rectangular area of the same size on the cover. The designer has cleverly put AND THE INCREDIBLE in small letters after GIANT-MAN, allowing the entire shape for HULK to fill his allotted space. This required tall letters that I think work quite well. The strokes are even, not roughened, but attractive, and the open drop shadow falling to the lower left helps the logo float nicely. The spaces between the letters could have been closed in a bit to remove those thin openings, but otherwise it looks fine.

For the last few issues of this co-starring arrangement the characters (now Sub-Mariner instead of Giant-Man) took turns having a dominant logo, with the other one as a subtitle. This Hulk logo follows the same plan as the previous one except for the squared angles on the U, and of course it’s a lot thicker and wider. THE INCREDIBLE is larger and also much wider, but still subservient to the main word, using thinner and more rounded letters with squared ends. Again, it looks quite good to me.

With issue 102, April 1968, Hulk took over the entire title, and would remain the solo star of it for decades. At last the green monster had gained enough popularity to carry his own book. The logo has again been redrawn, but follows the same plan as the previous version. You can’t see it on this cover, but the angled corners on the U are retained, and the block letters have achieved a happy medium between the tall version on the co-star books and the stocky, wide one. The letterforms have no visual connection to the character per se, but they are well-designed and attractive, almost presciently modern. This logo would work fine on a current comic with a bit of Photoshop distressing and dirt!

While I don’t usually cover one-shots or annuals in these studies, I’m making an exception for this cool and important 1968 cover by the great Jim Steranko, who clearly also designed and inked this Hulk logo variant. I believe it’s the first time a smashed logo appeared on a Marvel book, and possibly only the second one ever (the first I know of being on BATMAN #194 in 1967). It seems quite appropriate that The Hulk would be the first Marvel character to smash his own logo! The design of the logo itself is also interesting, as Steranko has saved space and kept the letters close together by putting the bottom leg of the L below the first part of the K. This idea, and indeed the entire cover design, was reused several times on later Marvel comics, inspired by this cover from Jim Steranko. I also love the way Hulk is crushing the bottom letters with his feet, too.

Next time I’ll continue with a new logo that appeared at the end of 1968, perhaps the best-known Hulk logo of all.

Other chapters and more logo studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.

2 thoughts on “Logo Study: THE HULK Part 1

  1. Nathan Aaron

    “I believe it’s the first time a smashed logo appeared on a Marvel book, and possibly only the second one ever (the first I know of being on BATMAN #194 in 1967).” – John Romita Jr. did this with Uncanny X-Men #176.

    http://media.comicvine.com/uploads/0/4/21301-3092-23743-1-uncanny-x-men-the_super.jpg

    In fact, there is a write-up in the back of the issue via Jim Shooter, who was suggesting they NOT “destroy” the logo on the cover. Obviously, they didn’t listen (and reprinted his letter for all to read.)

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