Who doesn’t know who the Hulk is? The guy is a household name. Thanks to his numerous appearances in the MCU’s popular Avengers movies, everything from lunch boxes to iPhone cases showcase the big green guy. The Hulk is a huge part of superhero pop culture. But, what about She-Hulk?

Bruce Banner’s cousin, Jennifer Walters, doesn’t get half as much hype as the other Hulk gets. This is a little strange since she’s definitely one of the most intriguing female superheroes ever created. While the Hulk was also an unconventional character at his creation, a big strong girl is (unfortunately) a lot more unorthodox than a big strong guy. She may not be headlining any MCU films in the near future, but She-Hulk is still a complex character who defies numerous gender roles. For that, and for a lot of other reasons, she deserves a second look.   

Introducing: TRUE BELIEVERS: SHE-HULK!

Saving Lives…One Gamma-Ray at a Time

Jennifer Walters came from a normal family, went to UCLA, and became a lawyer. Her life was a little lackluster — partly because of her problems with self-confidence. She was unassuming, a little anti-social, and not very happy. Sounds a little like a normal life…but that’s the exact opposite of the kind of lives we imagine superheroes having.  

As it usually does in comics, everything changed in a random accident. A revenge-seeking crime boss seriously injures Jennifer in SAVAGE SHE-HULK #1. Thankfully, her cousin Bruce is with her and he is able to save her by giving her an immediate blood transfusion. Little does he know (or maybe he did?) that the radiation that made him into the Hulk tainted his blood. When the crime boss comes back for a second round to finish Jennifer off, her gamma radiation particles react to her fear, causing her to transform. Her attackers remark that she looks like some sort of She-Hulk. After that, the name just stuck.

SHE-HULK
SHE-HULK (2018) #159 / Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Seeing Green

Jennifer’s transformation into She-Hulk is really positive for her. Unlike a lot of superheroes who struggle with their identity after receiving powers, Jen quickly learns to thrive in her new green skin. The different body brings with it a foreign self-confidence. Even though she doesn’t exactly fit stereotypical American beauty standards as She-Hulk, Jen is really happy as her transformed self. Although she can change from She-Hulk to Jen easily, she prefers to stay in her She-Hulk form. Something that could be viewed as a shameful transformation is a new beloved self for Jen.

Hulk #4 Review: Law and ‘She-Hulk’ Order

I think this says a lot about Jen’s character and her presence in comics. Before she became She-Hulk, Jen, like a lot of women, struggled with self-confidence. Instead of trying to fulfill stereotypes in order to gain confidence, Jen used a seemingly horrible event to find self-confidence. By accepting who she is, and even learning to really love her new self, Jen is encouraging readers to also embrace the things that make them different. Changes that seem horrible can actually lead to really great things (like joining the Fantastic Four and getting to drive a Fantasticar).

Strong Girls Forever

Women in comics don’t have it easy. Back in the early years of comics, women were either used as sex symbols or as the thing that needs to be rescued by bigger, better, and stronger male superheroes. Since then, some things have changed but both of those things are still prevalent in modern comics. She-Hulk and her numerous solo series have frequently fallen victim these same trappings. Still, one thing has continued to defy the normal female superhero stereotypes: She-Hulk is strong. And we’re not talking about Captain America on a good day strong. We’re talking really, really strong. In the 2014 series SHE-HULK, she broke a huge wooden table in half by poking it.

SHE-HULK
SHE-HULK (2014) #1 / Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Sometimes I think people forget just how strong Jen is because she’s so different than the Hulk. Unlike Bruce, Jen (usually) has fantastic self-control and can stay as She-Hulk while living her normal life. However, that doesn’t make her less strong. She can easily lift over one hundred tons. She purposefully threw an arm wrestling competition with Hercules because she didn’t want to injure his pride. You can bet that she doesn’t need rescuing very often.

Perhaps the best part about She-Hulk’s strength is her self-awareness. As already mentioned, she’s confident and isn’t afraid to show it. It’s refreshing to see a woman like this in any sort of media since it’s rather rare. Women who are strong, both physically and mentally, are called out as bitches all the time. According to a lot of people, women aren’t supposed to lift weights and be proud of it. But honestly, I’d like to see the haters say that to She-Hulk’s face…they might not be so eager then.

SHE-HULK
SHE-HULK (2004) #11 / Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Lawyer Up

While it might not be as exciting as fighting crazed villains and smashing tables, my favorite part about Jen’s character is her profession. A lot of superheroes have one job: superheroing. Captain America and Black Widow aren’t exactly taking breaks from the Avengers to work in IT. Part of the glamor of comics stems from it being another world, apart from reality. But, sometimes a little dose of reality makes characters more likable and relatable.

Jen is already an incredibly relatable character, as seen in her struggles with self-confidence. The fact that she, like the rest of us, has to go to work every day and make a living makes her comics feel less and less like fiction. Except for the green skin and unbelievable strength, she’s a lot like us.

HULK #1 Review: A Classic Begins

By having Jen’s character be a lawyer, her creators were hinting at something deeper than just accessibility. I think they were also trying to show a woman fully capable of balancing two stressful lives, as both hero and lawyer. More than that, she’s capable of doing both jobs really well. As a woman, societal norms say she isn’t “supposed” to be doing either of those things: saving the world as a hero or as a lawyer. But, just like everything in Jen’s life, she doesn’t really care about what’s expected of her.

The Real World Needs She-Hulk

Jen’s current series, SHE-HULK, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jahnoy Lindsay, saw its final issue on March 7th. Although it was short-lived, the series brought up some serious topics in Jen’s life. In CIVIL WAR II, Jen suffered from both a near-death experience and the loss of her cousin, Bruce. Tamaki uses her series to talk about how those events affect Jen and how her unhealthy responses can affect others. Just like people in real life, Jen struggles with her inner demons. But, by the end of the series, she learns how to deal with trauma in a healthy way.

SHE-HULK
SHE-HULK (2018) #163 / Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Tamaki’s development with Jen really stresses what this entire article is about: Jen’s importance as a comic character comes from her power as a role model. As a strong, self-confident woman who completely ignores female stereotypes, she’s the kind of character more people — especially younger readers — need to see. She happily accepts the things that make her different and she doesn’t try to hide herself just because others disapprove. She struggles with things too, but at the end of the day, she proves that with the right thinking, anything is possible. For male and female comic readers alike, that’s an important message.

I think there are bigger and better things in Jen’s future. Her character has a gift for turning bad situations into good ones. With that kind of gift, she belongs on a team where she can help other characters struggling with similar problems. Thankfully, Marvel is apparently thinking the same thing; She-Hulk will be a member of the new AVENGERS series that’s part of the Fresh Start relaunch. I’m looking forward to seeing how Jen’s powerful character helps to influence both the Marvel universe and the world beyond the page.

3 Comments

  1. Richard Simonsen Jr.

    April 13, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Most recent Hulk series was the worst She-Hulk series ever. Sorry but bad writing, bad pacing, bad storytelling, artwork all over the place. Instead of trying to figure out how a character with a heeling factor should have not been in coma or why transformation went so out of control in way Trauma/PTSD/Death has never before. We got a story that was bland and boring just ignored 30 years of continuity

    Reply

  2. Justin Gilbert Alba

    March 12, 2018 at 12:21 am

    Sales aren’t everything!

    Reply

  3. Paul Berry

    March 11, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Hulk #1 89,810
    Hulk #2 32,585
    Hulk #3 27,968
    Hulk #4 30,304
    Hulk #5 22,644
    Hulk #6 20,482
    Hulk #7 25,089
    Hulk #8 19,143
    Hulk #9 18,093
    Hulk #10 17,520
    Hulk #11 16,970
    She-Hulk 159 36,759
    She-Hulk 160 17,477
    She-Hulk 161 16,206

    There’s a lot of interest in a Well Told, Well Drawn She Hulk series. A la, John Byrne’s “Sensational” series. This incarnation of Jennifer Walters was a fragile, bitter, lonely scold. Sales reflect that desecration of her character.

    It’s a shame no one can write a Smart, Sexy. Snarky She Hulk that entertains anymore.

    Reply

Show ComicsVerse some Love! Leave a Reply!