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The Savage, Sensational, Sexy, Smart She-Hulk and How She’s Been Portrayed in the Comics

Raise your hand if you’ve read more than a handful of She-Hulk comics. ✋✋✋

Be honest: Are you just curious because you know the She-Hulk Disney+ show is coming? If so, you are in familiar company, because although She-Hulk goes back 40 years and has had several solo titles, she has never been widely read.

Savage: A Brief History of She-Hulk Comics

She-Hulk first appeared in The Savage She-Hulk #1. Published in 1980, the character was created by a complete unknown named Stan Lee. Stan The Man established the origin story for the character before handing the book off.

She-Hulk was portrayed as…well, savage. Just like Hulk before her, the character wrestled with losing control of her violent alter ego. She was also seen as a…er, savage in the eyes of the public, who routinely misinterpreted her acts of heroism for barbaric acts of property damage that threatened the lives of civilians. This persisted until a serum from Morbius gave her the ability to transform at will.

She-Hulk’s civilian alter ego, Jennifer Walters, was portrayed as a competent, but meek, lawyer. Throughout the establishment of her character, she was beleaguered by a male lawyer who was full of hot air and confidence. While Jennifer Walters scored one quiet victory after another, it was this blowhard male lawyer who always seemed to come out on top, much like the Peter Parker / Flash Thompson relationship.

Jennifer Walters was also portrayed as constantly looking for romance while only finding flings or indelicately-written love triangles. Then she went cosmic for a bit, leading to confusing results.

The Savage She-Hulk ran for 25 issues. No one will claim the comic breaks new ground, and it largely doesn’t hold up with a modern audience. While the art was wonderful, the writing was pedestrian after Stan gave away the title. But it makes for a collectible series, particularly because the run is littered with fantastic covers.

I can’t imagine this will be the portrayal of She-Hulk (or Jennifer Walters) we’ll see in the Disney+ show, so let’s look at how She-Hulk was portrayed next.

Fantastic: A Brief History of She-Hulk Comics

She-Hulk joined the Avengers #221, which was published not too long after the end of her solo series, although readers didn’t get much more characterization, other than that Jennifer Walters routinely had car troubles and was still looking for romance.

But following the events of the Secret Wars crossover, She-Hulk replaced the Thing as the 4th member of the Fantastic Four, written by John Byrne. This fully established She-Hulk as central in the Marvel Universe, as only her joining the X-Men could have been a higher-profile event at that time in the 80s.

Alas, She-Hulk didn’t do much on the Fantastic Four other than be unsure of her place as a replacement for the Thing and develop a relationship with Wyatt Wingfoot. But John Byrne clearly had an affinity for the character because he was the big name behind her 2nd solo series, The Sensational She-Hulk.

Sensational: A Brief History of She-Hulk Comics

Sensational She-Hulk ran for 60 issues, most of which were written and illustrated by John Byrne, who followed the character from his Fantastic Four run. Interestingly, Byrne’s She-Hulk stories satirized comic books and introduced She-Hulk breaking the 4th wall, a decade before Deadpool. Further, She-Hulk was sexualized aplenty in Sensational She-Hulk, one issue in particular which tested the limits of the Comics Code.

Sensational She-Hulk was the longest-running solo title of any Marvel superheroine up to that point. It also got silly at points, with She-Hulk encountering Xenmu, Doctor Bong, Spragg, Ringmaster, and Santa Clause.

Also introduced briefly was a grey version of She-Hulk.

While doing legal work for Heroes for Hire, She-Hulk spent some time dating Luke Cage.

But most significant was an exposure to Jack of Hearts during an Avengers appearance resulted in her not being able to control her changes, which resulted in her tearing the Vision in half. If White Vision returns to the MCU, I could see this iconic scene coming to life.

Smart: A Brief History of She-Hulk Comics

A later run by Dan Slott returned the focus to Jennifer Walters and her smarts as a lawyer. My guess is this is where the bulk of the Disney+ inspiration will come from.

I’m not familiar really with her modern appearances as the high cover price, frequent relaunches, and drastically decompressed storytelling of modern comics doesn’t really appeal to me. But I suspect there are some gems there. Take a pitch of that, add a lot of the Jennifer Walters “smart lawyer” stories, and round that out with 4th wall breaking humor, and you have yourself a winning formula for Disney+. I’m excited.

Regardless, She-Hulk has been portrayed a variety of ways over the years – savage, sexy, and smart.

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