Are you all ready for the next great thing on Disney+?
Coming up this week, we have She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. This new series stars Tatiana Maslany as the sensational savage jade giantess. Jameela Jamil comes on board as the She-Hulk’s arch nemesis Titania and Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock—no doubt there to challenge her in the courtroom. Returning to their roles within the MCU is Mark Ruffalo as her jolly green giant cousin, the Hulk, as well as Tim Roth who is reprising his role as the Abomination and Benedict Wong as Wong, the sorcerer supreme of Earth.
I’m excited. Sure, the naysaying basement dwellers (not me, but others) have been poo-pooing the quality of the CGI and have been creative in their bit of whining, but I leave them to their sad devices.
For me, this is the manifestation of the second of three female characters that I’ve been following since 1979. Back then, “Smilin’” Stan announced that the She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers), and Spider-Woman (Jessica Drew) would be getting their own new titles.
Back then, it was a bold and progressive move.
Stan Lee, who never shied away from an exploitive opportunity, saw the success of characters like the Hulk, Captain Marvel, and Spider-Man. With that as an inspiration, he brought three counterparts to these heroes.
It seemed to be the trend of that era as he was inspired by the success of The Bionic Woman after the introduction of The Six Million Dollar Man. As others might view his television project of The Incredible Hulk as an inspiration to others to create an unlicensed female version of the character, Marvel decided to create one before anyone else did.
And here we are today with an upcoming She-Hulk television show only forty-two years later.
So, there is some stuff to unpack. Who is the She-Hulk? What can she do? And how have her powers evolved?
So, let’s get cracking.
Who is the She-Hulk?
Before I go into who the She-Hulk is, let me tell you who she is not. The She-Hulk is not a mutant and is not a trans-version of the Hulk. She got her powers the old-fashioned way—through an indirect radiation accident.
Jen Walters, attorney at law, is the She-Hulk. Bruce Banner is her cousin. Her story starts as Banner was trying to lay low from a police manhunt for the Hulk. While he was in the neighborhood, he dropped in on his cousin at work. After a brief reunion and the obligatory rehash of the Hulk’s origin, Bruce and Jen drove to her home.
One of the drawbacks of being a criminal attorney is that dangerous mobsters find the worst times to come gunning for you. This usually happens when pesky defense attorneys are representing men they are trying to frame.
The big crime boss, Nicholas Trask, put a hit out on Jen. She was shot. Bruce, who usually doesn’t do well under stress, conducts an emergency blood transfusion in Jen’s home to save her life.
After he called an ambulance, he was taken into police custody. Only, the problem was that Banner just could not control himself. He “hulked out” at the station and escaped. However, he did not leave town until he read that Jen was okay in the hospital.
It must have been a slow news day.
While Jen was recovering in the hospital, Trask sent some goons over there to finish the job.
Unknown to them, Jen was packing some primo gamma juice flowing through her system. When she saw that the three mysterious thugs in her room wanted to kill her, the stress transformed her into the She-Hulk for the first time.
And she was not happy.
After the She-Hulk mowed through the hitmen, who were completely unprepared to fight a six-and-a-half-foot angry, muscle-bound, bullet-proof giantess, she tore apart the hospital, found the wheelman of the group, and scared a confession from him about Trask.
With that news, Jen calmed down and made her way back to her hospital bed and began to contemplate her new future as a savage superhuman.
The first twenty-five issues of her title, The Savage She-Hulk, chronicle Jen’s adventures while controlling her wild violent side and balancing it with her legal career. Rounding out the cast were her two friends/love interests, Doctor Daniel “Zapper” Ridge and Rick Rory (formerly from the pages of The Man-Thing and The Defenders), as well as her legal rival, antagonist, and ADA, Dennis “Buck” Bukowski.
During that time, she fought a plethora of forgettable villains including characters like “The Word”, a former editor of the world’s largest unabridged dictionaries who learned to become “super persuasive”. She also teamed up with Michael Morbius, the living vampire. During this run, she began her relationship with John Jameson, the Man-Wolf (aka Stargod). Years later, she and Jameson would briefly marry.
The last issue of the Savage She-Hulk concluded with her decision to remain as the She-Hulk without going back to her Jen Walters form.
After the end of She-Hulk’s monthly series, she appeared regularly in The Avengers, becoming a mainstay within the group. She left the Avengers shortly after the 1982 run of Secret Wars to fill in for Ben Grimm, The Thing with the Fantastic Four when he decided to stay on the Beyonder’s Battleworld.
She remained with Marvel’s first family for a while before her second series began with The Sensational She-Hulk. For the most part, this series was more tongue-in-cheek humor with She-Hulk regularly breaking through the fourth wall to her readers (Yes kids, she was doing this years before Deadpool was doing it). Teaming up with the golden-age heroine, The Blonde Phantom, Louise Mason, as well as becoming romantically involved with the Fantastic Four’s Wyatt Wingfoot, the She-Hulk had plenty of misadventures during this series.
As the series ended, the She-Hulk returned to the Avengers and remained with the team until the Scarlet Witch magically manipulated her to return to a savage version of herself. With that, she had torn the Vision in half before going on a rampage in New York.
Fortunately for her, it was deemed that she was not responsible for her actions and was cleared of any legal prosecution from that. She rejoined the Avengers and has also been a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., lending support as the muscle.
Eventually, she joined the Superhuman Law division of the New York firm of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway to take on cases for metahumans.
What are the She-Hulk’s Powers?
When petite Jen Walters got some of her cousin’s gamma-irradiated blood into her system, it caused a radical change within her body to trigger a transformation into a six-foot-seven fully muscled giantess. The She-Hulk’s body possesses a high degree of imperviousness to injury, pain, and disease. Her body also comes with a healing factor that would allow her body to heal from the unlikely event of cuts and lacerations within minutes.
Initially, the transformation was brought on by anger or stress. However, as she received the gamma radiation indirectly, she was not as strong as her cousin, the Hulk. At first, her transformed body could only lift/press approximately fifty tons.
The other difference between her and the Hulk is that because she retains her intellect, She-Hulk was not capable of increasing her strength through rage or anger. The Hulk could do this regularly as his intellect and emotional stability were that of a five-year-old.
Later in her career, as Jen Walters decided to remain in her She-Hulk form most of the time, she would not need an emotional trigger to make her transformation.
The She-Hulk’s powers have evolved through the years. One of her least-known powers showed up when she came into the care of the alien race, the Ovoids. After they gave her the power to telepathically switch minds with another person, the aliens discovered that due to the gamma radiation in her body, had the unexpected effect of exchanging her form with that of another person. When she tried this with her shorter, stouter partner, Louise Mason, the She-Hulk became a shorter, stouter version of herself without powers while granting Mason her taller superhuman body. The exchange requires the full absolute consent of both parties to change back. The She-Hulk has never used this ability again.
One thing that the She-Hulk discovered is that her strength as the She-Hulk is exponentially linked to the strength of her Jennifer Walters form. After her defeat against the elder of the universe known as “The Champion”, the She-Hulk in her Jen Walters form began to rigorously exercise through a strength-building regimen. This effort resulted in a massive upgrade in her power that put her on the “Class 100” strength level and pushed her power level to a limit of over a hundred tons.
In her rematch with the Champion, she beat him easily.
She received another power upgrade after an encounter with the Celestial, Eson. This boost allowed her to nearly kill the Thing and punch through the Invisible Woman’s force field.
One of the things that are rarely discussed is She-Hulk’s personality versus her personality as Jen Walters. Originally, when she was “the savage She-Hulk”, her moods were highly volatile and she was prone to violent outbursts. Her personality nowadays is calmer and more fun-loving. Now, with her transformation into the She-Hulk, Jen Walters became more confident and assertive. In addition to this, she has fewer inhibitions in her She-Hulk form than she did as Jen.
Jennifer Walters, Attorney at Law
Metahumans who need a legal defense in the Marvel Universe would do well to seek the jade giantess as a lawyer. She is one of the best lawyers this side of Matt Murdock and has even beaten him on occasion.
As a graduate of the UCLA School of Law and a member of the Order of the Coif, She-Hulk ranks as one of the best attorneys around. In addition to practicing law within the terrestrial courts, she is a member of the Magistrati who has argued cases to the highest court in existence. The continued existence of the Marvel 616 Universe (as opposed to the Ultimate Universe) is credited to the argumentative skills of the She-Hulk to the Living Tribunal.
When not operating at that high court, she fights for the underdogs and for the underprivileged to get a proper legal defense.
The She-Hulk appearance as a live character has been a long, long time coming.
I began reading The Savage She-Hulk on issue 9 back in 1980. They got me reading it with a huge ad on the cover to win a Toys“R”Us shopping spree.
What fourteen-year-old wouldn’t want that?
When people were watching Bill Bixby warn others that they shouldn’t make him angry and that people wouldn’t like him when he got “white contact lenses” angry, the She-Hulk was merely a legal maneuver to keep Marvel in the superheroine game.
Marvel has done things like this before. The long-forgotten and often mocked Roger Corman Fantastic Four film that never hit the box offices was a similar maneuver.
Sometimes, Stan Lee did things to keep other people from doing them.
With that said, Marvel fans have grown to love this character. The She-Hulk may have started as a gimmick along with Ms. Marvel and Spider-Woman, but her character has grown far beyond that. She is a superhero, an attorney, and an activist. What better figure could there be for women’s empowerment?
Peter David, the former writer for The Incredible Hulk and She-Hulk, said that She-Hulk has the potential to be Marvel’s Wonder Woman.
“She is a powerful female with a strong moral center and a determination to do what’s right,” said David. “She’s also a unique combination of brains and brawn. The ideal She-Hulk story plays on both aspects of her make-up, the intelligence combined with her strength.”
Back in the nineties, there was talk of a Brigitte Nielsen She-Hulk movie. Would we have been ready for something like that? Let’s leave alone the fact that the special effects of making such a film back then would have consisted of more than a little bit of green spray paint and a lot of forced perspective.
Something like that happily died. The character would have been Mystery Science Theatre 3000 fodder.
Characters like the She-Hulk cannot be made with cheese. They must wait for a time where audiences can take her seriously and for screenwriters to make a script without the obligatory sexist lines that permeated movies in the nineties. This cannot be one of those.
I think we’re lucky now.
Given the track record of Disney+, and their success with characters like the Black Widow, Sharon Carter, Scarlet Witch, Gamora, and Captain Marvel, the She-Hulk’s time has come to show a strong female character that kicks ass on the streets and in the courtrooms.