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Hulk No. 1 (1962)
The very first cover of the Hulk's very first appearance is a classic of dramatic exposition and icon creation. Jack Kirby's cover tells the story of Banner's transformation and dazzles us with that chunky, iconic title logo. It also spells out the character's enduring theme in a singe phrase: ''Is he man or monster or ... is he both?'' Replace ''man'' with ''hero'' and you get the premise of my entire Hulk run from Planet Hulk onward. There?s been many homages to the cover, notably with Hulk No. 393 and No. 474 and She-Hulk No. 1 in 1979.
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Tales to Astonish No. 93 (1967)
Marie Severin beautifully teases out the subtleties of the Hulk's relationship with the Silver Surfer in this gorgeous cover for the first meeting of two lonely titans. Clearly, the Hulk and the Surfer are in the middle of a fight — the Hulk's actually trying to steal the Surfer's board. But they're also riding together on that board and the Surfer's calm demeanor indicates a deeper understanding. The actual story, written by Roy Thomas, remains one of my favorite.
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Hulk Annual No. 1 (1968)
Jim Steranko's classic cover remains one of the best depictions of the Hulk's sheer physicality. We're used to seeing the Hulk smash things a thousand times heavier than the stone logos he's wrangling here, but everything about Steranko's composition and anatomy makes us feel the incredible pressure and power of the scene. The cover was beautifully redone for dramatic effect by Kaare Andrews for a 2002 cover for comic effect by Arthur Adams in 2008.
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Captain America No. 110 (1969)
Hey, look, it's Jim Steranko again, with more crumbling stone! Everything about this cover is gorgeous, but that partial shadow over the Hulk's face is what chills me. Man or Monster, indeed.
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Incredible Hulk No. 140 (1971)
As a kid, I was a massive Harlan Ellison fan, and when I heard he'd written a few Marvel book, I biked down to the comics shop and ponied up an unheard of five dollars for my own copy of this vintage issue. Years later, I referenced this classic story of Hulk's exile to the world of the green-skinned princess Jarella multiple times in my own Hulk run. Herb Trimpe does great work here, as always. I've always loved his chunky Hulk and clean lines. Also: More crumbling stone!
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Incredible Hulk No. 142 (1971)
Great composition — and awesome histrionics. I love the corny dialogue combined with the fact that Trimpe's Valkyrie looks fantastically powerful here. The huge phallic tower is an added bonus. And the ''They Shoot Horses, Don't They'' reference at the bottom? Icing on the cake.
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Incredible Hulk No. 168 (1973)
Herb Trimpe strikes again with a beautifully designed depiction of the Hulk facing off against his love Betty Ross, now transformed into the terrifying Harpy. The composition here is just spectacular, with the cityscape far below in the background and the Harpy's massive wings framing the page.
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Incredible Hulk No. 181 (1974)
Herb Trimpe once again and this time with the monstrous Wendigo. Oh, yeah, and this was the first appearance of some character called Wolverine. The flying chains kind of crack me up — not sure exactly what they're doing there, but they look awesome.
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Incredible Hulk No. 201 (1976)
I didn't discover this issue until after we were well underway with Planet Hulk, but clearly we weren't the first to realize how gloriously the Hulk translates to a swords-and-sorcery world. Cover artists Rich Buckler and John Romita bring out their inner Frank Frazetta.
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Iron Man No. 131 (1980)
Head-on shots of an enraged Hulk can be hugely powerful. I love that cover artist Bob Layton doesn't make that awkward attempt to turn Iron Man's head so we can see his face. We don't need to see his face — our emotional response depends upon him looking straight at that incoming Hulk from our POV. Just great stuff. There's a scene in this comic that shows a kid playing with Micronaut toys, which the 12-year-old me thought was awesome — although if I remember correctly, they made Karza the same size as an Acroyer.
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Incredible Hulk No. 279 (1983)
The Hulk was my introduction to the literary concept of tragedy. He always pays for that terrible anger, no matter how much his opponents may have earned their smashing. So a story in which the Hulk actually wins the adoration of the Marvel Universe is a heck of a table-turner, and cover artist Greg LaRocque does a great job packing as many happy Marvel faces onto the page as possible. (SPOILER ALERT: It doesn't last.)
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Secret Wars No. 4 (1984)
In one of the most memorable moments from comics' first massive crossover, the Green Goliath holds up a mountain. Yes, Virginia, the Hulk is the strongest one there is. Cover by Bob Layton. (P.S.: More crumbling rock.)
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Incredible Hulk No. 340 (1988)
Todd McFarlane delivers one of the most beloved Marvel comic book covers of all time. One of the biggest ongoing challenges of comics is to depict opposing figures faces in a single, iconic image. Showing the Hulk's roaring reflection in Wolverine's claws is a brilliant, dramatic masterstroke.
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Sensational She-Hulk No. 1 (1989)
A classic John Byrne cover that epitomizes his take on Bruce Banner's underdog cousin as she sternly breaks the fourth wall, counseling readers to buy her book or risk her wrath. Subsequent teams have riffed on the cover over the decades — most recently with Red She-Hulk, drawn by Ed McGuinness, on the cover of Jeff Parker's Hulk No. 58 (2012).
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Incredible Hulk No. 377 (1991)
A beautiful bit of graphic design from the great Dale Keown. Silhouettes always seem to work for the Hulk — the help make his bulk all the more imposing while bringing out his mystery and menace. The graphic breakthrough here is rendering the Hulk in black-and-white while making the background green. Stylized just enough to command our attention.
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Incredible Hulk No. 390 (1992)
Hulk doesn't need a machine gun, right? He's the strongest one there is. But when Dale Keown draws it, it all makes sense. Because it?s awesome.
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Incredible Hulk No. 462 (1998)
Truly great covers dazzle us with graphic power while telling an emotional story. And if they can make you laugh at the same time, they deserve all Eisner Awards. Adam Kubert tells one of the greatest General Ross stories of all time in a single image, encapsulating the character's tenacity, confidence, and pig-headed fearlessness.
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Incredible Hulk No. 49 (2003)
Then-Hulk editor Axel Alonso commissioned a slew of daring, unexpected Hulk covers during the Bruce Jones run. This is one of my favorite. Kaare Andrews channels Maurice Sendak.
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Incredible Hulk No. 81 (2005)
And now Lee Weeks channels Frank Frazetta. Once again, the Hulk makes a great barbarian.
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Incredible Hulk No. 95 (2006)
At the climactic conclusion of the first act of Planet Hulk, the Green Scar took on the Silver Savage in the Sakaar's Great Arena. And cover artist Jose Ladrönn created one of the most spectacular covers to grace any of the books in my five-year run writing Hulk. I love this cover so much I tried to buy the original from Jose. But he's not selling. Smart guy. (P.S.: Did someone say crumbling rock?)
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Incredible Hulk No. 98 (2006)
I love this Ladrönn cover beyond all reason for making the Hulk a romantic hero. Love stories have always played a huge role in the Hulk books. It was exciting to see this one come to life with this much danger and grace on the cover.
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Incredible Hulk No. 106 (2007)
As World War Hulk erupted, Gary Frank created one of the best depictions of the Hulk's sheer rage that I've ever seen. This time, we're not crumbling rocks, we?re crumbling entire continents.
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World War Hulk: X-Men No. 1 (2007)
I laughed. Ed McGuinness wins.
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Skaar No. 11 (2009)
The Hulk has a half-alien barbarian son named Skaar. And cover artist Travis Charest just gets it, on every level.
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Incredible Hulk No. 635
''Is he man or monster — or is he both?'' Paul Pelletier's beautiful cover for the last issue of my run on Hulk books provides a very scary possible answer with a close up image of the Hulk snapping Banner's glasses. Again, great storytelling in a single, iconic image, with great use of shadows. Although, hmmm, what about adding a little crumbling rock?