This handy paperback has most recently proven useful in settling questions about Hulk history. Often these stories get forgotten in the vast expanses of Hulk lore, with his origin retold so many times that any two people probably have a different version in their heads. Here, Hulk remains more a man than a monster — a sullen and irritable man with a limited vocabulary, but far from the dim-witted “Hulk Smash” of the 1970s. In these stories, Banner hulks out at night, not simply from rage.
Stan Lee provides a brief but entertaining introduction as he did with all the Pocket Books we’ve seen from the 1970s. These books were great fun to own then, and we read these stories until we had them memorized. Ditko’s artwork — featured in one story here and in the similar Spider-man paperback — and Kirby’s artwork entertained us to no end.
These days, they seem a bit dated. Hulk is always fighting Commies, the art is far more simplistic than Kirby’s later style, and the plots seem kind of goofy. Stan and Jack probably hit the nail right on the head for their audience: boys and young men who enjoy action stories full of conflict and gadgets, at a particular time in history. Today they are curious beasts, an odd lot from a simpler time of comics where pulp horror and science fiction met in the mainstream to create superheroes.
Stan and Jack had no idea how big this thing would blow up, and readers fifty years later would seek out these stories for reference and entertainment. The charm in these first six Hulk tales lies in that very lack of self-consciousness, innocently dashed out in a few days or weeks. Just look at the utter disregard for backgrounds and ornamentation on these pages: direct, economical, focused entirely on figures and dialogue.
This little volume from Pocket Books in 1978 held up remarkably well. Even as a mass-market paperback, it enjoys very solid production: durable pages with clear art and color, a firm binding more than thirty-five years later, and a tight, glossy cover.
It even comes with a bonus two-page spread of “Hulk’s life in a single image” by Herb Trimpe. Trimpe had put his unmistakable stamp on the Hulk by the time this reprint book arrived in 1978, visually defining the Hulk for a generation of fans.