Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Savage She-Hulk Sensations
I was at a bookstore a while ago, doing what geeks do… perusing the trade paperback comics for anything new, interesting, and/or affordable when a man about my age brought his, I’m guessing, six year old kid over. This guy seemed pretty respectable i.e. he didn’t have the stereotypical traits of regular comic fans, but he was real keen on showing his kid the Hulk. Luckily his son was into it. Strangely as soon as he found the required Hulk books, he wanted to leave. He was embarrassed to be seen in the comic section, imagine that. Mr. Respectable was telling his kid “let’s go” when his child noticed an odd item on the shelf. “Hey, there’s a She-Hulk,” he said. “Dad did you know there was a She-Hulk” he continued on with a big grin. His Dad was like “Uh, that’s silly. Let’s go.” With a big smile, the kid muttered loudly “She-Hulk” one more time before being hauled away by his dad, with the manly regular Hulk in his hands. I thought to myself: well, She-Hulk is kinda’ amusing to say out loud, and I still remember the “funny” feelings I got as kid staring at her gorgeous green body. So, I guess I could understand the boy’s interest.
Pondering the womanly greenness that is “shulkie” (her sometimes nickname) I realized: “Wow, I’m not reading any other new Marvel Comics but She-Hulk.” How did that happen? I was a real Marvel zombie, a total freak about Spiderman, the X-men, the Avengers, and the Fantastic Four. How was all that passion reduced solely to the jade giantess? I’m still buying collections of old stories occasionally, but what is it about She-Hulk that keeps me reading now?
Well when it comes to Marvel Comics this comment last year by Andrew Wheeler really describes the malaise I have. He’s feeling the same thing I’m feeling. Basically, they’re screwing up their established characters with bad writers and crappy shock value events. The present guys at Marvel are supposed to be stewards of pop mythology but they don’t really understand or respect the superhero characters they’re entrusted with. Spiderman just exposed his secret identity for goodness sake. Lame-ass writing has driven me away. A character should always be fun to read no matter how weird or dorky. If not, it’s the fault of the writers and editors and not the fault of a fictional character. A good analogy is the Hulk film; Ang Lee completely missed the point of the Hulk’s story and spewed some boring crap on the screen. So too has Marvel spewed unto their comics of late. So, I understand why I’m not into Marvel anymore, but why is She-Hulk keeping me involved? Maybe I gotta’ take a quick look at her past.
She-Hulk has a long history at Marvel Comics but not nearly as long you might think. You see, She-Hulk 1st appearance was in her own title The Savage She-Hulk in 1980. Her creation by Stan Lee and John Buscema was the culmination of several things. The first being licensing issues. It seems that Marvel realized that they needed to secure the rights to the female version of the Hulk, much like they did a little earlier with Spider-Woman. But more importantly they realized that Marvel had no strong major female characters, at least not ones exclusively on a team. She-Hulk, Spider-Woman, and Ms. Marvel were attempts to bring some gender balance to the Marvel Universe.
She-Hulk, whose real name is Jennifer Walters, started out as a lawyer but was gunned down by the gangsters for her efforts. Her cousin Bruce Banner, AKA the Hulk, gave her a blood transfusion to save her life. The side effect of this was that Jennifer started transforming into a muscle-bound, green giant during moments of stress just like the Hulk. Strangely, her
torn clothes still managed to barely cover her naughty bits though. After a short while, She-Hulk was able remain in control of herself while in green form and came to see her situation as a blessing rather than a curse. Unlike her cousin Bruce, Jennifer reveled in the increased power and fought the bad guys with a cheery disposition. Wow, now that’s subtext! A messed up guy who transforms into a child-like brute gives some of his body fluids to his female cousin. She catches his “illness” but is able to control it unlike the man that gave it to her. She enjoys the freedom and power it gives her and so she goes off and has a great, well-adjusted life while her male cousin feels guilty about cursing her. Phew! Ok… I feel dirty now.
Her series, The Savage She-Hulk was cancelled after two years but someone had the good sense to have her join the Avengers rather than let her fade into obscurity. She was a good fit for the team and added sexiness, sassiness and female strength to their adventures. Eventually, she switched teams and replaced the Thing on the Fantastic Four for a time during the celebrated run on that title by writer/artist John Byrne. Proving her versatility and spunk as a character She-Hulk fit right in again. Of course Byrne’s curvy drawings of her greatly added to She-Hulk’s appeal. Even more fans took note and She-Hulk became quite popular during her FF stint. I think my fondest memories of her come from this set of adventures, Va-va-voom.
After FF, She-Hulk got her own series again titled The Sensational She-Hulk. Byrne took unusual artistic license with her new comic and had the jade giantess break the fourth wall, possibly because of the goofiness of her name and origin. She was constantly talking to the reader, expressing her concerns and joking about the absurdity of her situation. Basically, she was aware that she was in fact a comic book character. It was because of Sensational She-Hulk, that Jennifer gained notoriety as a comedy character. Her odd adventures included all sorts of weirdoes like , Xemnu the Titan, the Headmen and outer space truckers. Sensational She-Hulk ended up being one of the most successful solo female superhero books at Marvel.
She-Hulk in her latest series, titled simply She-Hulk, works as Lawyer again and continues to have all sorts of zany adventures. The breaking of the forth wall has been toned down but it is still apparent if you look for it. Also, commentary about how stupid the Marvel Universe has become in the last few years creeps in as well. A good example includes bringing back the popular character Hawkeye from the dead via time travel after his pointless death. The current writer, Dan Slott, has really done a bang-up job balancing the comedy, action and emotional drama. In fact She-Hulk had been cancelled but the title was restarted do to his determination and deft plotting. The amazing comic book covers have to be mentioned as well for their outright sexiness and hilarity.
So obviously I’m buying She-Hulk because it is well written and illustrated but I think it’s more than that. You see, looking at her history, I realize that She-Hulk is really the modern super heroine next door. What I mean is, she’s familiar to me, she’s of my generation. She-Hulk acts like gals I know and thinks like somebody who came of age in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. She isn’t a stuffy goddess like Wonder Woman but a modern lady with a job. She’s a post-feminist hero, so her powerfulness appears natural and her story seems fresh. She’s a great foil to all the manly über-jocks comics have put forth. In fact her superheroic trysts are near legendary and her boyfriends can barely keep up with her. I dunno, maybe She-Hulk is a PG “superhero gone wild,” so to speak. To put her in personal terms She-Hulk is my Buffy. She’s strong, smart, funny, athletic and hot. So why wouldn’t I still be reading She-Hulk, she’s the only Marvel superhero left worth reading… But then again maybe I’m full of crap, and its “Shulkie’s” luscious green skin that still gives this fanboy the those “Funny feelings” after all these years.