At the Disney+ Panel last weekend, Kevin Feige announced that Marvel Studios would be producing a She-Hulk series for the streaming service. This has led to a surge in popularity for the character and questions about who she is, what makes her unique and what she can contribute to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
She-Hulk was created by Stan Lee and John Buscema in 1980 in order to reserve the name and character concept. They had encountered similar issues the previous decade over the creation of Power Man. Marvel created Luke Cage as Power Man in 1972, and DC created the similarly named Power Girl in 1976. She-Hulk’s creation also stemmed from the popular Incredible Hulk TV series starring Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno. The studio executives, hoping to cash in on the popularity of the character planned to introduce a female Hulk and give her a spin-off in the same vein as how the Bionic Woman spun off from the Six Million Dollar Man. Lee and Buscema realized if the studio was successful in the creation of a female Hulk Marvel would lose the rights to the character. So, they quickly decided to create a female Hulk of their own, and thus, She-Hulk was born.
Within the Marvel Universe, She-Hulk is Jennifer Walters, a shy, mousey, lawyer working for a law firm that doesn’t appreciate her. One day while working on a case involving the mob she’s shot. In order to survive she receives a blood transfusion from her cousin Bruce Banner. The transfusion saved Jen’s life, but the gamma irradiated blood caused her to develop a Hulk persona of her own.
Initially She-Hulk was noticeably savage but over the course of her initial comic series she gradually returned to her Jennifer Walters personality. This allowed her to become a Hulk with the mind of a human long before Bruce Banner experienced a similar transformation.
One of She-Hulk’s most unique attributes is that she prefers to remain in her Hulk form. Being She-Hulk gave Jen a newfound sense of confidence and allowed her to hold her ground both in supervillain knockdowns and in court. She became the best of both worlds, bringing together her analytical brain and the power of a fighting-mad Hulk.
Another interesting element of the character is the fact that she regularly breaks the fourth wall. While this story element is more regularly associated with Deadpool, She-Hulk’s realization that she’s in a comic book is used to great effect in her stories. In one notable incident she uses Marvel comics as evidence in a court case. Being one of the few Marvel characters who realizes she’s in a comic book adds a sense of levity to her adventures that is always accompanied with a knowing wink and a nudge.
Despite her successful legal career, Jen still finds time to be a prominent member of several of Marvel’s biggest superhero teams. She served on the Avengers for the first time in 1982 shortly after her debut. She was then a member of the Fantastic Four during John Byrne’s run following the original Secret Wars. She replaced Ben Grimm on the team while he continued his adventures on Battleworld.
Jen is also the leader of the all-female Avengers team, A-Force. A team that consisted of several Marvel heavy hitters such as; Captain Marvel, Nico Minoru, Medusa, and Dazzler. Feige has shown an interest in creating an all-female team-up movie and with the introduction of She-Hulk, Marvel Studios moves ever closer to recreating the comic line up.
As of this writing, Jen is currently a member of the all-star Avengers team written by Jason Aaron alongside Captain America, Iron Man, Black Panther, Thor, Captain Marvel, and Ghost Rider. This run, however, has dialed down some of her more unique aspects and returned her to her more “savage” state. She retains some elements of her character, but the new run has completely reexamined the relationship between Jen and She-Hulk.
There are five She-Hulk series and they all explore the character in different ways. For the most part, the story you should read comes down to what elements of the character you find the most compelling.
This is the initial run on the character originally created by the team of Lee and Buscema. This run is a classic read and allows Jen to carve out her own niche in the Marvel Universe. For the most part, however, this run is not required for understanding the character. As mentioned previously, this run explored Jen as a savage character, not unlike Bruce Banner. And as such, it does not show the range of elements central to the character in her more recent incarnations.
This 62-issue run originally written and drawn by John Byrne followed She-Hulk’s stint on the Fantastic Four. It is within these pages that the elements that come to define the character move to the forefront. It has a more light-hearted tone and focuses on the comedic elements. And, as shown by the first issue’s cover, this is where Jen’s Fourth Wall breaking becomes prevalent.
This run by Dan Slott, and later Peter David consists of 86 issues over two volumes. This is the run that will most likely serve as the inspiration for the upcoming Disney+ series. Jen obtains a legal position at Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzbetg, and Holliway where she takes on numerous cases in a light-hearted legal comedy. What makes this run special is that the court cases tie into the rest of the Marvel Universe and uses elements that could only be considered within the Marvel Universe. If you ever wondered how ghost testimonies and time travelers would interact with a court of law this is the run to read!
In my opinion, this is the series to read to understand the character’s eccentricities and what makes her unique. Plus, she develops a supporting cast of fellow lawyers, time travelers, and sentient androids who communicate through signs. It’s a great read that stands as one of my personal favorite comics published by Marvel. When Peter David starts writing, the series changes and focuses more on cosmic adventures than legal antics, but it’s still worth checking out!
This 12-issue series by Charles Soule continues similar themes to Slott’s run on the character. It is a bit more grounded than Slott’s run, however. It includes more of her interactions with other Marvel characters including an elderly Captain America and Jamie Madrox. If you want to read something that is a bit more recent and highlights some of her relationships with other heroes, this is another great entry point!
The most recent run on the character is by Mariko Tamaki and is a much more serious take on the character. Following the events of Civil War 2, Jen becomes a more savage Hulk. This series is a psychological journey into Jen’s mind and the attempts for her to put herself back together again. It downplays the more humorous elements of her character, but gives her a defined character arc.
As mentioned previously, Jennifer has had several major stints with some of Marvel’s biggest super teams. Her run with the Fantastic Four started in issue 264 and continues until Byrne leaves the title. This is the series you should check out if you want to see her interactions with the Fantastic Four and her more scientific based adventures.
Also, she was the team leader of A-Force for 15 issues written by Margureite Bennet, G. Willow Wilson, and Kelly Thompson. The first volume is set in the Battleworld established in Secret Wars (2015) while the second volume brings the team into the main Marvel Universe. This is a unique series that shows Jen’s unique leadership style.
There are several great places to get a grasp of She-Hulk as a character and her comics are almost always worth a read. The Disney+ series is described as focusing on her adventures as a lawyer. Based on this description, it appears to draw more from Slott’s run. Slott’s run is a great place for readers to jump on and to understand what makes the character unique
The upcoming series could quite possibly include Bruce Banner as a recurring character. Mark Ruffalo still has four movies left on his contract and since Banner is such an integral part of the character’s origin, he could easily appear to serve as an introduction to his cousin. The Jade Giantess has been a central character in the Marvel Universe for decades, and with her impending introduction to the Marvel Cinematic Universe she looks to be a major force both on and off screen for years to come!