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.



Selba said...

I never know that there's she-hulk! Interesting!

I used to watch the HULK every week on tv when I was in junior high :)

Swinebread said...

Yeah, she’s one of my all time favorite superheroes. She-Hulk has only been in comics as far as I know and hasn’t yet been in movies or TV shows. I think if the Hulk movie had been more of a success she might have appeared in a sequel, but oh well.

The fourth collection of her new series is coming out soon:

Swinebread said...

I forgot to add that Marvel Comics is currently putting out collections of her time with the Fantastic Four as well! Her 1st appearance is in FANTASTIC FOUR VISIONARIES: JOHN BYRNE VOL. 4

Here is the cover to volume 6:

She-Hulk will be in a several more Fantastic Four collections I think.

Selba said...

Here in Indonesia, Japanese comic (manga) is more popular. Not so sure whether I can find the she-hulk comic here. Too bad.

Unknown said...

I remember seeing a comp poster for a "She-Hulk" movie starring Brigitte Nielsen. It was the real deal but the movie never got made. Maybe that's a good thing.

I like She-Hulk.

Swinebread said...

Selba, Yeah I could understand why Manga would be much easier for you to get than American comics.

I found this store on the Web, but I don’t know if it’s still good:

Comics n Games
Mal Taman Anggrek Lt3 #329A
Jl Let Jen S Parman Kav 21
Slipi-Jakarta 11470 Indonesia, Ph: 021-56963855

Here is the link it includes some information on stores in Banten as well.

Swinebread said...

Hey Joel, thanks for stopping by.

Yeah, if you check out the wikipedia entry on She-Hulk they have one of the Brigitte Nielsen pics on the page.


Dean Wormer said...

It's funny because I actually got into the Civil War stuff Marvel had going this last summer and bought new comic books again for the first time in years.

I didn't like that Spiderman revealed his secret identity but I did like the story machinations involving the government that forced him to make the choice. It's just not in keeping with the character that he would make that choice.

The secret identity thing is what I find most appealing about comics and what really has to work for me in movies about comics. There really should be very few characters like Tony Stark in which the world knows who they are. The drama from the stories comes not from the bad guys knowing who the hero really is but from the hero having to keep their identity secret from friends and family who often have a negative opinion of their alter-ego.

That's where Marvel's Civil Wars ran off the rails for me.

Having said that I'm going to try and pick up the newest She-Hulk stuff per your excellent review.

Dean Wormer said...


Good commentary on Marvel's Civil War with a reccomendation to read DCs version-


Swinebread said...

Dean Yeah I hated the whole concept of Civil War, along with House of M, Avengers Dissembled and so on. She-Hulk was the only one that seemed to weather the storm without too much damage.

As for picking up She-Hulk you might think about the trade paperbacks, as a mentioned in another comment Vol 4 is coming out soon.

Also, Savage She Hulk came out in a essential version recently, meaning all 25 issues were collected and printed in b/w cheaply.

The Fantastic Four John Byrne collections are really good too. So who might want to look into that as well.

I know you have a bookstore nearby so it should be easy for you to scout them out.

I’m reading Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters. I always liked the team. They’re an obscure group of characters that DC acquired years ago. They were originally Quality comic’s heroes in the Golden Age. FF have always been political so it is a natural fit unlike Civil War. Thanks for the link.

Selba said...

Oh... I didn't know that there's a comic book in mall Taman Anggrek, great! It's near my house actually I pass it everyday :D

Will check it out later, probably during the weekend :)

Swinebread said...

Great! I hope they have She-Hulk or can order it for you!

Overdroid said...

She Hulk? Red Sonya? I see a pattern. You like tall girls sporting bright colors that can kick your ass.

Swinebread said...

You' don't?!!

Swinebread said...

I just wanted to post a correction-

I found out that She-Hulk has been in two Hulk cartoons from 1982 and 1996.
The 1982 version is Savage She-Hulk, While the 1996 version is the Sensational.

An upcomming Fantastic Four cartoon is supposed to have her as well.

ladybug said...

While I like She-Hulk alot, I think it's interesting that Swiney noticed she seems to get by w/out all the angst laden theatrics that Spidey and Bat Man have to deal with.

The Girl just wants to have fun! She the Green Smurf of the comics world! Defeat the bad guys, revel in your "magic powers", and Don't Worry, Be Happy! Be Happy Now.

Considering what Marvel has in store for Spidey now, perhaps he should take a cue from She-Hulk!

Don Snabulus said...

I know what I'm going to read next time I visit El Rancho Swinebread.

She-Hulk's Bitch said...

You fortgot the part about She-Hulk being a goddess, Damit!

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Elliott Broidy said...

wonderful illustrations.

Doc Thompson said...

Shulkie’For the record,far as I'm concerned the nickname for the She Hulk stinks.One of John Byrnes major crimes against humanity