Sunday, October 23, 2011

Monster On The Prowl!

A few years ago thanks to the wonderful and cheap Essentials volumes from Marvel, I was able to fulfill a life-long dream of reading the whole of then-Marvel continuity from the beginning with Fantastic Four#1 and forward. As I bounced back and forth month by month from title to title, I learned a bunch about a fictional universe I thought I was well familiar with, and how it had developed.

Just like those lucky fanboys long ago in the halcyon days of Marvel's beginnings, I was privy to the slow and steady unfolding of the stories and such which we know today are all branded "Marvel". But then it was much less a settled thing. At first in classic fashion, the heroes like the FF, Thor, Iron Man, Ant-Man, Doc Strange, and eventually Spidey all operated in their own worlds. That changed slowly, bit by bit.

The Hulk had his own book in Marvel's earliest days and was well established, but famously lost it after six issues. Kirby drew the books and covers for all but the sixth which was done by Steve Ditko. Then the Hulk became itinerant, showing up in the FF before becoming briefly an Avenger in a very stormy but memorable stint. His story then shifted back to the FF and even into Spidey's world before eventually he got his own series again in Tales to Astonish. The saga of the Hulk as woven through those early issues by Stan and Jack (and even Steve) is really the first grand tale of the Marvel Universe, and by the end of it, the nature of how Marvel saw itself was transformed.

Here is a gallery of early Kirby covers featuring the King's early more monsterish take on the Hulk, whose story in those early years was the story of Marvel.

And here are Ditko's covers for the Hulk's earliest career.

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  1. Sometimes I think it would have been cool to have been born a decade earlier, in 1956. Not only would I have gotten in on DC's Silver Age as it was unfolding (I think the Legion would have been so cool off the racks), but to have been 5 or 6 years old when Marvel started to roll... Wow!


  2. I was born in 1957 and I missed most of the early Marvel Silver Age. I didn't really plug into comics until I was nine or ten and by that time Marvel was well into its second wave of creation with Kirby already beginning to pull back. The great thing about being part of that was that much of the stuff from the early days was being reprinted, so getting hold of those stories in some form was reasonably easy. Things like Ant-Man unfortunately didn't get reprinted until relatively recently alas.

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