She-Hulk: You’ve come a long way, baby
The Hulk’s cousin gets a third shot at stardom
Just as the ’80s dawned some 20-plus years ago, someone at Marvel Comics had a brilliant idea and didn’t even know it.
At the time, “The Incredible Hulk” with Lou Ferrigno was on TV and tearing up the ratings, and the folks at Marvel got a little paranoid.
If the “Hulk” TV show was making them money, they probably thought, who’s to say someone else might try to make a few bucks off of a girl version of the Hulk. So Marvel created the “She-Hulk” to stave off any challenges to the name.
Beginnings: The story of how Jennifer Walters, attorney-at-law, turns into She-Hulk, kicker-of-butts, is about as typical of a comic book origin as you can get.
It starts out when one mousy little attorney gets an emergency blood transfusion. But this isn’t your typical blood transfusion, no sir, she gets blood from her cousin who happens to be … (drum roll please) … Bruce Banner. You know, Bruce Banner, the same fella who turns green. The same guy who gets really, really big muscles when he gets angry. The same one who runs around yelling “HULK, SMASH!!!!”
Now, according to my teacher in Comic-Book Biology 101, if you swap blood with somebody who’s got super powers, chances are you’ll get some, too. That’s just what happened to the our friend Jen. She got her cuz’s powers — super strength, invulnerability and a really bad temper.
ùùGiven the choice of making their new heroine look like her cousin or a 7-foot-tall, green-skinned Farrah Fawcett or her ape-like cousin, Marvel, in a wise marketing move, opted for the Farrah look. And we’re talking about the sexy “Charlie’s Angels” Fawcett, not the freaky skin-and-bones one on David Letterman’s show.
Still, when she first appeared in 1980, the She-Hulk was kind of an unfinished portrait — you could tell what she was supposed to look like, but she still needed some work. Through “Savage She-Hulk,” our heroine-of-the-month learned to control her transformations, but was still pretty rough around the edges.
It wasn’t until 1982 that she really began to develop. At the time, “Avengers” writer David Michelinie was looking to add a few members to the team, so in issue No. 221 he had Earth’s Mightiest Heroes send out a call to the Marvel Universe for new members. She-Hulk was happy to respond, after all, she didn’t have anything to do since her book got the axe.
A new direction: Michelinie, and later Avengers scribe Roger Stern, then took the She-Hulk that most people were familiar with — angry, violent and a little unruly — and transformed her into a new and better character. Instead of angry, she became fun-loving. She was one of the few heroes that preferred the superhero lifestyle to her normal life. She dropped her ripped-clothes look for a sporty and fashionable look that included sneakers, shorts and a tank top.
The She-Hulk stayed with the Avengers for a few years until the “Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars” series. After the “Wars,” she was asked to join the Fantastic Four when the team had to operate without The Thing, the orange-rock-skinned strongman. In issue 265, she signed up as the FF’s new enforcer.
It was under FF writer-artist John Byrne’s hand that the She-Hulk really took off. He presented her as a sassy and sexy heroine. He drew the “jade giantess” with curly green locks and supermodel looks.
After The Thing returned, she rejoined the Avengers until Byrne snatched her up again for his run on “The Sensational She-Hulk” in 1989.
A new direction — part 2: This new title provided the most unique twist on the character yet, the She-Hulk now broke the “fourth wall” and talked directly to her readers, often adding a wry commentary to her adventures. This, coupled with a few other appearances where she faced odd villains and strange situations, cemented her status as a hero with light-hearted adventures.
One of the most memorable issues (No. 40) was when she jump-roped “naked” for several pages. But, being a family-oriented comic, nothing X-rated was shown thanks to some well-placed — or is that poorly placed? — speed lines. What prompted this brazen display? Well, in one of the letters columns, a fan requested it and Byrne delivered.
Lately, She-Hulk has been back with the Avengers where she went “Hulk crazy.” In those issues, she lost her mild She-Hulk personality and started acting like her brutish cousin Bruce. But with the help of the energy-absorbing hero, Jack of Hearts, she has since returned to her normal state.
Even better, Marvel has opted to give her another new series, simply titled “She-Hulk,” that’s due out later this month.
The big question is whether this third series cement her as one of Marvel’s biggest stars. I guess we’ll wait and see.
Best bets: Since the Shulkie is our topic of the month, why not check out these other key issues that you can find with a little searching at a local comic store — “Avengers” No. 235 (A good sample of her personality), “The She-Hulk Graphic Novel” (Jennifer is blasted with radiation and can no longer revert to human form), “Fantastic Four” No. 275 (A member of the paparazzi targets her), “Solo Avengers” No. 14 (She-Hulk the lawyer goes before the U.S. Supreme Court), “Sensational She-Hulk” No. 59 (In court again, Walters encounters a group of super villains suing a weapons maker).