Logo Study: THE HULK Part 2

Images © Marvel Characters, Inc.

1968 was a time of change for THE INCREDIBLE HULK and its logo. As the title, which had been TALES TO ASTONISH, settled into a new role as a solo Hulk comic, the new logo covered last time was used in a different way on this cover: carved in perspective into a rocky cliff, as The Hulk visited the hidden, primitive realm of Ka-Zar. I’m sure it was created as part of the cover art by penciller Herb Trimpe and inked by John Severin, as the credits indicate.

Perhaps that gave someone the idea for this logo, I thought, again using a weathered rock look, but this time having the letters seem to be built of stone blocks of varied sizes. Was it the work of penciller Herb Trimpe?

I managed to contact Trimpe by email, and he confirmed it was, saying: “That logo is one of the few original things I did at Marvel. My idea and design completely.” Thanks so much for confirming it, Herb, and putting a designer’s name to what has become the logo most associated with the character, and one of the few from the early Marvel days I have direct attribution for! Now let’s look at the logo in detail.

The letterforms of HULK follow the general plan of the previous logo, but are somewhat thicker, and the lower corners of the U are now nearly square. THE INCREDIBLE has a similar blocky style, but with rounded forms on the C, R, D and B. A deep three-dimensional extension of the blocks in one-point perspective continues the rocky style with the cracks and joints reversed gray on black on the bottom surfaces, and the sides filled gray and black for contrast. The entire logo is well drawn, with lots of great detail, yet remains very readable. While the stone blocks don’t relate to the character exactly, the weight and mass of the logo seems appropriate, and it’s one of the most artful Marvel logos of the period. Design-wise my only quibble is with the open space left between the U and L of HULK. It’s correct perspective, but I would have moved the focal point left a little so that area could also have some gray receding side blocks to fill the gap. A minor point, this is a terrific logo in every other way, and it would go on to many later uses on comics and licensed products, but initially it only appeared on 19 issues.

In 1970 a new logo began a very long run on the title, one that seems to use the carved logo by Trimpe from issue 109, above, as a model, but consisting of free-floating block letters in implied three-point perspective with a narrow telescoped drop-shadow. The U has again become rounded at the bottom, more than ever before, in fact, though it’s a little hard to tell on this cover. About the perspective: one vanishing point is to the left and down, located by the top and bottom edges of HULK, another is to the right and down, located by the side angles of the drop-shadow (though these were probably just guessed at and not really in perspective) and a third vanishing point is suggested, though infinitely far away above, by the fact that we’re looking up at the letters and can see the bottoms of the telescoping. This is not a terrible design, though it does leave a triangular dead space at the upper left, and it extends pretty far into the art area. I’m also not crazy about having so much of the K cut off at the top margin, though it still reads fine.

A few issues later the triangle was filled with THE INCREDIBLE in small open block letters, and I’m guessing it was planned to go there all along, or it certainly looks that way, so it may have been left off issues 129-131 by mistake. As I said, this logo stayed on the title for a long time. It’s very readable, though not stylistically related to the character, other than being big and bold.

With issue 145 in 1971, the company began running their name in a horizontal banner in front of the logo, following a set style for all their books, but one that I think looks particularly bad on this title. It creates a distracting interruption of the word HULK, reducing its readability and impact. Despite what I think, the logo and banner stayed this way for many years. I also dislike the way the cover art is reduced to a square shape framed by black, but that’s a separate issue. The frame does at least help the logo’s readability.

In 1976 the word HULK was redrawn less tall, leaving more room for cover art, but doing nothing to help the placement behind the top banner. At least the art in a box idea had departed by this time. The 1970s were generally not a good design period at Marvel, and this logo and trade dress are a good example of that.

Here’s another. In 1977 Marvel decided to expand the character’s presence with this magazine-size comic with black and white interior art. The entire design seems to be trying to shed any association with comics, from the all-typeset captions to the painted art, and it looks much more like the cover of some men’s action magazines then still on the newsstands, though beginning to die out, I think. The logo is type-based, using a standard sans-serif font like Univers Bold and adding a solid telescoped drop-shadow. Not only is it dull and inappropriate for the character, the logo sits over Hulk’s right hand in a way that’s disturbing to me. Didn’t that look odd to anyone?

For a few issues, beginning with #5, above, this much better logo was used, as pointed out to me by Erik Larsen, who told me it was based on one in a story by Walter Simonson in the first issue. I can’t believe I missed it, it’s a wonderful logo that makes great use of two-point perspective, with the upper edge seeming to burst out at the viewer. I checked with Walt, and he found the original art for the page:

Clearly this was the source of the logo. Walt told me that this job was inked and gray-toned by Alfredo Alcala, and that he would have drawn in the logo, but that Alfredo gave it this attractive finish. In any case, I think we can safely credit Simonson with the logo concept. What an exciting element it is on this action-filled panel! The final logo, with THE RAMPAGING above in matching style is probably by Gaspar Saladino. I can tell this from the way the R in Rampaging is constructed: like a P with the right leg added below the curve on the right center edge, making the indent seem oddly low. It’s something Gaspar often did on block lettering with the letter R. The open telescoping, with many of the inner connecting lines not drawn in, is also something Gaspar liked to do at the time. While it loses some of the energy and the exclamation point of Simonson and Alcala’s original, it’s a great logo, much better than most on the Hulk books!

With issue 10 in 1978, the magazine became simply THE HULK!, went full color, and gained another logo with less personality and impact than the previous one, but strong and well-made. It also looks to me like the work of Gaspar Saladino. The way THE floats in front of the H, the shape of the letters in general, and the inclusion of the exclamation point for added excitement all point toward him, though it could possibly be the work of Jim Novak, then a Marvel staff letterer who often followed Gaspar’s style. In any case, this is an attractive, appealing logo design, perhaps a bit too tall for some cover art, but a great job. HULK follows the general style of the comic logo of the time, though the U is more square. I like the joined TH in THE, and the fact that it’s upper and lower case, both typical of Gaspar, and the solid drop-shadow is truly that, not telescoped, though with this red color treatment it hardly matters. Note that the cover refers to the Hulk TV show, which also began in 1978.

As is often the case, that show avoided any sort of real logo, instead using standard bold serif type at the beginning of each episode, with a bit of a white glow the only feature adding interest. A different medium, and a different approach.

In 1980 Marvel began another Hulk spin-off, a female version of the green goliath with a terrific logo that I suspect is again either by Gaspar Saladino or Jim Novak, though I’m pretty sure this one is Saladino. The letterforms of  SHE-HULK have very wide strokes that are artfully notched and roughened on the edges, and have a thick outline. A telescoping open drop shadow has edges that should recede to a single perspective point on the left, but if you look closely you’ll see that the perspective is not true, all the lines above the vanishing point are at one fixed angle, parallel, with the same being true for the lines below. This is what we call in the comics business “faked perspective,” and while I love Gaspar’s work, it’s something he did fairly often, so that’s another reason why I think this is one of his designs. THE SAVAGE, much smaller solid block letters, fills the space above the H nicely. An excellent logo, if you can ignore the perspective thing, which I think most readers would not have noticed anyway.

We’ll continue into the 1980s and beyond next time. Other chapters and more logo studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.

7 thoughts on “Logo Study: THE HULK Part 2

  1. MWGallaher

    I wouldn’t be nearly as kind to the She-Hulk logo as you. That telescoping drop shadow is too problematic for me: the hyphen appears to have much greater depth than the letters do, since its shadow extends all the way down to the “K”. And yet this impression of depth is simultaneously diminished by the drop shadow’s open rendering. Similarly, the shadow of the “H” looks deeper than the shadow of the “S” to me. The open rendering is also a problem: when I see the borders of one letter’s shadow overlapping the shadow of another (like where the telescoping border of the bottom leg of the “L” shows against the yellow left-side shadow of the “K”, my eye wants to see all the edges in the telescoping shadows extended. (MY eye especially wants to see the bottom left edge of the hyphen’s shadow.)
    Interestingly, I found myself overcome with an affectionate nostalgia upon seeing the Rampaging Hulk typeset logo. As interested–and critical–as I was in the art of comic book logos at the time, something about the occasional typeset logos on Marvel’s magazines was very effective on me, making the publication seem more adult and serious.

  2. Christopher Mills

    Excellent overview, as always, and fascinating stuff.

    Minor point: in the first image, surely that’s John Severin’s signature and inking style, not sister Marie?

  3. Alex Jay

    Nora Maclin was a designer, art director and design director, and she was involved with the magazine side of Marvel. It would be a safe bet to attribute the typeset logos to her, whether she personally designed the logos or approved them. Graphic designers don’t get the credit and recognition they deserve.

  4. Jim Kosmicki

    my understanding was that the “box” design in the early 70’s was to aid the distributors with returns. The distributors would only return the top third of the cover as proof that the unsold copies were destroyed. (I can attest to this, as I remember as a kid being able to buy 3-packs of older comics with the top third of each cover cut off at the local discount store – they were obviously sold illegally by the local magazine distributor after claiming them as unsold product). The Marvel “box” was at pretty much the same time as DC having the top third of their covers being solid colored with rather large logos in them. Once you recognize the trend, they’re easy to spot. I am guessing that the cover design was to show the distributors’ warehouse workers where to cut the cover more easily.

  5. Sand Soon

    In my eye, the logo in starting with issue 129 has a “K” with an upper leg that appears to be bent too far down. I feel that this had to be, because if it were at the correct angle, it can’t be read as a K as it already disappears to the top of the cover.

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