The Character Spotlight – Special Edition: Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk)

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To the ignorant onlooker, She-Hulk might appear to be a rip-off of the original Hulk. Even her name simply adds She to the word Hulk. But Jennifer Walters is so much more than that. She’s a great and unique character in the Marvel Universe, able to stand on her own and inspire fans of all sorts. So who exactly is this Rule 63 Hulk?

The first thing that makes She-Hulk so special is that she’s actually the last major character Stan Lee created for Marvel. Released in February of 1980, Savage She-Hulk #1 introduced Jennifer Walters as Bruce Banner’s lawyer cousin. While talking in her driveway, a group of criminals attacked and shot Jennifer. With Jennifer bleeding out too fast for the ambulance to save her, Bruce gave her an emergency blood transfer which bestowed upon Jennifer his Hulk powers. Come to think of it, that might be the most down to earth superhero origin story Stan Lee ever wrote.

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While the popular rumour regarding the Benny Hill comedy sketch isn’t true, she was rushed to print partly to protect the Hulk’s copyright. Despite this, Savage She-Hulk lasted 25 issues. The series itself isn’t that special and I’d only recommend it to hardcore She-Hulk fans, but there are some good storytelling beats. By the end of the series, she gains full control over her transformations, has an interesting conflict with her sheriff father and ends up tying pretty much every major loose end. It establishes her She-Hulk persona as a fun-loving creature who much prefers to stay green.

Jennifer’s fun-loving side was greatly expanded on after John Byrne replaced the Thing with her in his legendary Fantastic Four run. She-Hulk brought a fresh sense of fun to the series, and remains the Fantastic Four’s most prominent replacement member to date. She took on this role in Matt Fraction’s Fantastic Four run, and brought many of his FF run’s most entertaining moments and lines. Around the time of her first Fantastic Four run, she also became a member of the Avengers and starred in an original graphic novel. The graphic novel, Sensational She-Hulk (aka Marvel Graphic Novel #18) features what is quite possibly the greatest helicarrier crash ever written. Because she retains her full intelligence, she’s a much more reliable Avenger than the Incredible Hulk is, since not only is she much less likely to lose control, but she contributes tactically instead of just through muscle.

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John Byrne later expanded on her fun-loving side with his comedic Sensational She-Hulk series, which lasted a full 60 issues. Few female-led solo titles by Marvel have lasted longer. While other writers took over the series between issues 9-29 and after issue 50 (when John Byrne permanently left Marvel), the series retained its comedic tone. John Byrne’s issues in particular gave Jennifer the extra power of fourth wall breaking. Yes, she spoke to the audience long before Deadpool, and that side of her is still referenced from time to time. Sensational She-Hulk is a very entertaining series, at least from issue 1-50, and I would recommend it for anyone looking for a laugh. I can’t comment on issue 51 or 53-60 because I haven’t tracked them down yet, but I’m trying.

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Dan Slott later wrote two solo titles, along with Peter David taking over with issue 22 in the second volume. Together these two volumes lasted 50 issues. While Sensational She-Hulk often ignored Jennifer’s lawyer life, Slott fully embraced it and balanced it with her superhero life. This series also explored the duality between Jennifer and her She-Hulk form, exploring the differences between the two. He explored the idea that while in Hulk form, Jennifer’s inhibitions were reduced, making her more confident while at the same time she had a few different opinions. While her human and Hulk forms disagreed on the superhero Civil War, she still preferred to be in her Hulk form whenever possible. Dan Slott’s run is fantastic and is the reason I became a She-Hulk fan in the first place.

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Peter David’s run is jarring at first, with the series kicking off with Jennifer acting as a bounty hunter after being disbarred. It’s a run that is rarely referenced these days and isn’t all that popular, but it still has its moments. The reasons Jennifer was disbarred are dramatically heavy and would break anyone emotionally weaker than Jennifer. It also leads to one of the better Secret Wars tie-ins and a fantastic final arc involving the Lady Liberators. David’s run isn’t as good as Slott’s, but it’s still at least worth reading if you’re a fan of the character.

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She also became a regular member of the Incredible Hulks series by Greg Pak and co-starred in several mini-series with the All New Savage She-Hulk (Lyra), who is a good character in her own right. Besides those appearances, Jennifer came and went and had no regular roles until the previously mentioned FF run by Matt Fraction.

And finally, Charles Soule recently finished his 12-issue solo run. Instead of talking about it, I’ll refer to you to my earlier posts of the 12 days of She-Hulk and my review of issue 12. Long story short, this series fully embraces She-Hulk’s lawyer side and it might actually be my favourite She-Hulk run yet. There’s no reason to despair just because his run ended though – she’s currently appearing in Mighty Avengers and is the most prominent character on the cover of the upcoming all-female team book A-Force.

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Three important factors set Jennifer apart from the original Hulk. 1: She has full control of her transformations under normal circumstances. 2: She retains her full intelligence while in Hulk form. 3: Unlike Bruce Banner, she loves having superpowers. She loves being a superhero to the point of her often showing up in court in her 6’7” muscular form while also being fully public with her identity.

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Jennifer is also unashamed of being a woman. She loves shopping, dressing up and tries to find fun and joy in everything. And yes, she does hook up with a lot of guys, but this is rarely portrayed in a negative light. Dan Slott’s She-Hulk run directly addresses the whole slut vs. player double standard, and how men who sleep around with plenty of women are revered while women are shamed for doing the same. But for Jennifer, it’s about conquests. She’s been with Hercules, Tony Stark, Starwolf and Hawkeye; a fairly impressive feat for one woman. And if anyone questions her pride in being a woman, well … would you really insult a Hulk who can destroy Tony Stark in court? If the Hulk is the ultimate male power fantasy, She-Hulk is the ultimate female power fantasy.

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She Hulk has appeared in more than just the comics. She’s appeared in several animated TV shows, including 1982’s Incredible Hulk, 1994’s Fantastic Four, 2006’s Fantastic Four and the Super Hero Squad. She actually co-starred in the second season of 1996’s Incredible Hulk series, which was renamed as The Incredible Hulk and She-Hulk, and is also a main cast member in the currently running Agents of SMASH.

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Additionally, she’s been playable in a number of video games. She first appeared as a playable character in 1997’s Fantastic Four game for the PlayStation, along with the other Fantastic Four members. She’s a boss in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 and is playable on the DS version. She’s also playable in the Avengers Alliance Facebook game and is going to be playable in Marvel Heroes sometime this year.

Personally, I hope they can find a way to bring Jennifer Walters into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. They already have Mark Ruffalo signed to appear in 6 movies, yet they haven’t shown any plans for another Hulk movie yet. One of the reasons it’s difficult to make a Hulk movie is because Bruce Banner doesn’t like being a superhero and that can make for a depressing movie. The Incredible Hulk isn’t bad, but it’s overly melodramatic when compared to most Marvel Studio movies. An easy way to make a Hulk movie more fun is to bring in the She-Hulk.

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The Incredible Hulks – think about it. You’d have a much more optimistic character to balance Bruce out. Make the story equally about Bruce and Jennifer, bringing conflict between them when Bruce tries to cure her while she simply loves her new superpowers. Maybe she can even help him to emotionally cope with his condition. Besides, a climax where two Hulks must team up against a common, powerful threat would be amazing, like perhaps The Leader and a group of gamma-powered thugs of his own creation.

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While her superhero name isn’t all that impressive, She-Hulk is a unique and fantastic character. She’s fun and is a great role model for girls thanks to her confidence (although some of the content in Dan Slott’s run isn’t appropriate for younger girls). It’s not hard to track down most of her solo material – Marvel recently re-released Slott’s entire run in two giant volumes, and the first 8 issues of Sensational She-Hulk should still be easy to find with the Sensational She-Hulk trade. Soule’s run only just finished, so the first trade should still be readily available and his second trade hasn’t even released yet. Additionally, most of her older TV appearances can be viewed online for free on Marvel’s official website. There are so many ways to discover Jennifer – one of Marvel’s most important female characters.

Written By: healed1337

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4 thoughts on “The Character Spotlight – Special Edition: Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk)

  1. She-Hulk is great – but I detested Byrne’s run only for the simple fact that I hate it when they break the fourth wall. It just is not funny to me and takes away from the story overall. Slott’s and Soule’s run were great though.

    • That’s fair, fourth wall breaking isn’t for everyone. It should be mentioned that She-Hulk didn’t break the fourth wall in Byrne’s Fantastic Four run though.

      • No, and I really liked She-Hulk in that – as well as the whole run itself. Have the first omnibus, want to get the second one – also have almost all of it in single issue form too.

  2. Pingback: Character Spotlight – She Hulk | healed1337

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