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Friday, October 16, 2009

Grey day

Why is it that most of of my rants and raves seem to center about that most lovable of Green Giants, your friendly neighborhood Hulk. I've already bored you how I completed Hulk #102 - #570 and how I'm very close in completing the Hulk run of Tales to Astonish...but the real mother-lode are of course the first 6 Silver Age Issues.

I bought issue #3 about two months ago from my good friend Andy Nutella at Golden Age Collectibles and that sparked me on to get the other 5. Being early Silver Age they are alas not that easy to find or really affordable, so I had to move some things around. Especially issue #1 was a pain in the neck. It's by far the hardest Silver Age key to track down. I'm in the middle of trading one of my original art pages and soon the deal should be done.
It's not as expensive yet as Amazing Fantasy #15 or Fantastic Four #1 but it's far far rarer. The reason for this is of course that it didn't sell so well when Hulk #1 was released in May 1962.

In the first issue, the Hulk was gray because Stan Lee wanted a color that did not suggest any particular ethnic group. Stan Goldberg the colorist had problems with the grey (or gray) coloring, resulting in different shades of gray, and even green. After seeing the first published issue, Lee chose to change the skin color to green.

The original series was canceled with issue #6 (March 1963) due to low sales.A bit surprising as Marvel had put the top team on the book. Stan Lee had written each story, with Jack Kirby penciling the first five issues and Steve Ditko penciling and inking the sixth. Still the character didn't appeal to kids and the book was no more.

Stan Lee, never one to doubt himself, was convinced the Hulk was a viable character and the character immediately guest-starred in most of the more popular comics and months later became a founding member of the Avengers.

A year and a half after the series was canceled, the Hulk became one of two features in Tales to Astonish in issue #60 (Oct. 1964).Kirby and Lee realized their character had found an audience in college-age readers. Stan has always stated he wrote the Hulk for a more mature reader and not for the kiddies that wanted a monster-mash-up.
In fact the real "star" of the book has more often than not been Bruce Banner and not the Hulk.

Would that the original series had simply continued, for those first six issues represent some of the most amazing comics to come out of the Silver Age. During the initial run, the Hulk played as more of a Mr. Hyde to Bruce Banner's Dr. Jekyll, and Banner's noble struggle to control his darker side drove a powerful tale of regret and redemption, gorgeously illustrated by Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko. As with Mr. Hyde, the Hulk possessed much of his alter ego's intellect, and actively schemed against his better half to ensure his survival.

It was only later that the Hulk was "dumbed down" a sad predicament that took almost 25 years and Peter David to rectify. Peter David also turned the Hulk back to his original grey colour during his 12-year tenure on the book.So there you have it, a nice little grey-to-green and back again history lesson. Only thing that remains now are the scans of the 6 books I just picked up.
If you want more info (and visuals !!) on the Hulk books and Tales to Astonish in particular then feel free to visit my Youtube channel as I have a new video up on this very subject (and watch it in HD). Chromiumcomics Youtube Channel


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