She-Hulk towers over her alter-ego. Artist: John Buscema.


Medium: Comic books
Published by: Marvel Comics
First Appeared: 1980
Creators: Stan Lee (writer) and John Buscema (artist)
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Like Superboy, Supergirl and Spider-Woman, the She-Hulk character was created mostly so she could …

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… be trademarked. With The Incredible Hulk riding high on TV, Marvel Comics wanted to make sure nobody else tried to market a female version of their cash cow.

"Shulkie" (as she was quickly nicknamed) was the last Marvel star created by legendary writer/editor Stan Lee, who, with artist Jack Kirby, was responsible for X-Men, Thor and most of the other 1960s successes that have sustained the company for the past couple of generations — including, of course, The Hulk himself. Lee's collaborator on this one was John Buscema, the artist most closely associated with The Silver Surfer after that character got his own comic in 1967. The first issue of The Savage She-Hulk — the only one Lee actually wrote — was cover dated February, 1980. With #2, David Anthony Kraft (also known for a lengthy run on The Defenders) became the regular scripter.

The story opened with petite, somewhat mousey (compared with other comic book women) Jennifer Walters, a young lawyer with no real outstanding characteristics unless you count the fact that she had a famous relative — her cousin, Bruce Banner, was The Hulk. Cousin Bruce was visiting when a vengeful mob boss tried to rub her out in a shower of bullets. Being the only source available, Banner gave her some of his blood in an emergency transfusion. It saved her life, but at the cost of giving her Hulk-like characteristics. From then on, she would frequently be transformed into a super-strong, green-skinned giant, replete with primal emotions.

In her case, tho, the primal emotion wasn't rage. It had more to do with the negation of her hitherto prim and proper personality. Large, loud and lusty, she came to revel in her She-Hulk persona, greatly prefering it to the drab little thing she was in everyday life. Later, when she suffered another of those fantastic mishaps that occur so often in comic books, and became unable to change back, she didn't even mind. She eventually gave up lawyering, and became a full-time superhero.

Despite this favorable adjustment to her new circumstances, the title of her comic book remained The Savage She-Hulk throughout its entire run, which was only 25 monthly issues. After that, with her trademark firmly established, she hit the guest star circuit. In 1984, The Thing had an extended adventure in some far-away galaxy, and she took his place in The Fantastic Four. He came back a year later, but she remained loosely associated with that group for several years after. She also, like so many Marvel characters, served a hitch in The Avengers.

In 1989, she got her own series again — only this time, it was more appropriately titled The Sensational She-Hulk. Cartoonist John Byrne (creator of Alpha Flight and The Next Men) approached this one from an unusual angle — breaking down the "Fourth Wall", i.e., the one viewers seem to look through on an indoor scene, but which the characters treat as if it were actually the limit of the room. This concept has been seen on television from time to time, in shows like Burns & Allen and Gary Shandling, but aside from a few plaintive appeals to the reader on the part of Beetle Bailey's General Halftrack, or Superman giving the reader an occasional wink back when Mort Weisinger was editor, had very rarely been used in comics.

In this series, most characters behaved the way comic book characters generally do, but She-Hulk "knew" she was in a comic book. She would address the reader directly, reach across panel borders or tear through to the next page to grab a fleeing villain, and even argue with Byrne himself the way Rocky & Bullwinkle sometimes argued with the narrator. The Blonde Phantom, who had briefly starred in a Marvel comic during the 1940s, became a supporting character. She, too, was "aware" of her status, and had joined the cast because comic book characters age only when they aren't seen for a long time, and she wanted to get back into a regular series, even in a menial position, before it was too late.

Byrne left the series after a few years, in a dispute with Marvel's management. It continued for a time afterward, but ended with its 60th issue (February, 1994). Shulkie had another run starting in 2004, this time with no adjective at all in front of her name, but it lasted only a dozen issues. She remains in popular in specials, guest appearances and suchlike.

Tho she isn't currently appearing regularly in comic books, she does on T-shirts, Slurpee cups, Underoos, and wherever else merchandisable Marvel characters are found.


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Text ©2002-06 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Marvel Comics.