Thursday, March 18, 2010


I took a break from reading old Avengers and Hulk comics and caught up on She-Hulk. I skipped the original series except for the first issue and the second series by John Byrne and picked it up with the third series which started in 2004.

She-Hulk's original series was always a B-character. The rumor was that Marvel only created her on advice of its legal team to secure copyright following the popularity of the Hulk TV show. Stan Lee wrote the first issue then moved on. John Buscema was the artist. This was one of very few comics that Stan wrote in the late 1970s and his last new character. On the other hand, Buscema was often assigned to a book for the first few issues to get it off the ground, then reassigned. Lee and Buscema were responsible for the original run of the Silver Surfer so this pairing was meant to give the character a superstar launch.

It was actually a mediocre effort. To capsulize the plot - fugitive Bruce Banner wanted to spend some time with someone friendly so he went to visit his cousin, Jennifer Walters, a lawyer. While the two were talking, some hit men who were upset about one of Jennifer's clients shot her. after taking shelter in an empty doctor's office, Banner managed to slow the bleeding but she had lost too much blood to survive until medical help arrived. Using knowledge from his early days in college when he wanted to be a doctor instead of a physicist, Banner gave Jennifer a blood transfusion then vanished. Later the thugs made another try at killing Jennifer. The excitement caused her to turn into a female version of the Hulk.

The version of Bruce Banner used was much closer to the TV show than the comic book version. There was even an opening panel about the various names he was known by. He was "Bruce" most of the time but Stan slipped in the early 1960s and called him "Bob" a few times. The TV show thought that Bruce was "too gay" and used "David". He also had to explain to his cousin that he was the Hulk, even though this had been common knowledge in the Marvel Universe for years (but not on the TV show).

As a character, She-Hulk was not as strong as her cousin nor as inhuman looking. She looked like any seven-foot tall woman who worked out regularly and had green skin. She was short-tempered but didn't lose her intellect the way that Banner's Hulk usually did.

She-Hulk's original run was unmemorable and only lasted 25 issues. In the last comic she decided that she preferred being the She-Hulk and would stay that way permanently. Not long after that she joined the Avengers. In 1985 she replaced the Thing in the Fantastic Four which was written and drawn by John Byrne. Byrne loved the character and enhanced her looks some - giving her long wavy hair, a thinner build (except when she was pumped up) and larger breasts. After the Thing returned, Byrne did a She-Hulk comic which included a lot of cheesecake. She also resumed her law career and became a party girl.

Which brings us to the series that I have been reading. After too much partying, the Avengers kicked her out of the mansion. She also lost her job with the prosecutor's office and took a job with a law firm specializing in super hero cases. From there the comic became a cross between a regular superhero comic, Aly McBeal, and Boston Law. Supporting characters included Amazing Andy (the Mad Thinker's Amazing Android), and John Jamison aka the Man-Wolf. While the tone was tongue-in-cheek, the comic took on adult questions such as equating Eros's (aka Starfox) ability to affect pleasure centers with date-rape drugs. She also slept around a lot. A running joke was that she had even slept with the Juggernaut (it turned out that an extra-dimensional duplicate had instead).

During John Byrne's run, She-Hulk often broke the fourth wall and talked directly to the reader. During her run as a lawyer she never did this but the legal department used comic books as reference material. It had long been established that, in the Marvel Universe, comic books were based on real-life character under license. The Comic Code seal meant that they were published under an arm of the government and therefore admissible in court. The ignored retconning and only mentioned continuity problems once.

This version of She-Hulk may have been good in court (and, apparently in bed) but she was easily manipulated. She also had a lot of identity problems. Due to various manipulations she often had trouble changing from Jennifer into She-Hulk. She also changed back in her sleep fairly often which was a surprise to whoever she was sleeping with. Her sexual hi-jinks made her a less-than admirable character. The lawyer phase lasted a dozen issues and was brought back for another 22 issues. After that Peter David took it over and gave the character a new direction. In David's version, Jen was fired and dis-barred and was working as a bounty hunter with a Skrull side-kick. This lasted until issue 36 when she was canceled (again).

There were major continuity problems between She-Hulk's own book and the Hulk where she was a frequent guest-star. This was an editorial mistake. The editors didn't bother to coordinate the two. As a result, Jen was working with Tony Stark and SHIELD when the Red Hulk attacked but had had a major falling out with Stark in her own comic.

Of the two approaches in the 2004-2009 comics, Peter David's was the more conventional and the more entertaining. The legal adventures tended to be a little too far-fetched, even for a Marvel comic.

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