When I was in elementary school I would buy every first issue I saw... not because I thought it would be "worth something someday" but because I wanted to be in on the beginning of something. (I had grand visions of Skull the Slayer #200, for example, but the series didn't last quite that long.) By the time I was in junior high school, however, my philosophy had changed. By that time, having so many series "cancelled out from under me," I actively avoided first issues, concentrating instead on filling in gaps of established series. (Among the first I completed were Avengers, Captain America, Hulk, Justice League of America and Legion of Super-Heroes.) I would consider new series "safe to ignore" as long as they didn't cross over with a series I was reading. 

She-Hulk was one such series. I have often described the Incredible Hulk as "my first favorite character," but his female counter-part didn't have all that much to do with his regular title. When I did eventually read The Savage She-Hulk #1 some years later, I wasn't impressed. Eventually the character got to a point I could no longer ignore and I bought the whole series as backissues, but barely remember them (beyond the fact that I wasn't all that impressed with them, either), and I eventually culled them from my collection after having read them only once. Now I'm rereading them in a fancy-schmancy HC collection and it's like reading them for the first time.

Despite Bruce Banner's walk-on (or rather, walk-through) appearance in the first issue, She-Hulk's origin was rooted more in television than in comics. No "She-Hulk" spun out of The Incredible Hulk TV show but, concerned about The Bionic Woman (which had spun out of The Six Million Dollar Man), Stan Lee put together a "quickie" origin story lest the TV people introduce such a character, thereby gaining the rights instead of Marvel Comics.

The first issue was a perfunctory nothing of an origin. It introduced the main character (Jen Walters, cousin of Bruce Banner) but no supporting characters. A villain was mentioned but not shown. she gained her powers through a blood transfusion, but beyond that, Stan Lee (with artist John Buscema) provided no further character or plot development whatsoever before the whole thing was turned over to David Anthony Kraft for development. He was given pretty much a free hand to take the title in any direction he saw fit, based on Lee & Buscema's bare-bones origin story.

Kraft (a.k.a. "DAK") is probably best known for his long-running Comics Interview magazine but, as a writer, is also remembered for his own little section of the Marvel Universe including Defenders, Man-Wolf and She-Hulk, among others. He introduced supporting characters, among them Sheriff Morris Walters (Jen Walters' father), "Buck" Bukowski (her rival), Richard Rory (her boyfriend, as Jen) and Daniel "Zapper" Ridge (her boyfriend, as She-Hulk). Kraft brought Richard  Rory in from Man-Thing, Hellcat from Defenders, Man-Wolf from Marvel Premiere, and Morbius from Adventure into Fear.

Actually, Morbius was previously cured of being a "living vampire" in Peter Parker #38, and Man-Wolf would go on to be cured in Peter Parker Annual #3. The super-villains newly-created for the series include Man-Elephant, the Grappler, Shade, Brute, Seeker, Radius, Torque, Kyr and Earth-Lord (not exactly household names). Kraft likes using his initials as a sound effect in comics he writes ("DAK-KOOM" being a favorite). Michael Golden did a series of covers, #8-11.

Kraft's writing style is solid, but a bit too obvious for my taste. For example, in #22 She-Hulk is being attacked by Radius: "Unhh! Some sort of crystals pelting me... sticking... forming a rock-hard shell around me, holding me in place! NO! I can't let it solidify! I have to fight it! But the metaphor doesn't escape me! All my life I've felt this sort of constriction! I felt it freeze up my father, sealing him in a rock-hard exterior! Let this metaphor be my strength! I won't wear such a shell! I will break free--no matter how immobile my limbs feel! No matter how easy it might be to give up! I-- will-- fight!"

The series comes to a close in #25 leaving one plot thread left dangling. Her father's second wife has cheated him out of their family home and now plans to slap him with "an alimony suit that'll ruin [his] reputation forever!" After the series came to a close, he scripted one final She-Hulk story in Marvel Two-In-One #88, which he mentions twice in his introduction to the collection. First he simply implies that She-Hulk and the Thing slept together, then he comes right out and says it: "She also sleeps with the Thing, if you read between the lines." Uh, uh. Didn't happen.

He kind of takes credit for She-Hulk's later success. "Just when I'd gotten her there, totally differentiated from the Hulk, and the real fun was about to start... The Savage She-Hulk was canceled." He later goes on to say, "My final She-Hulk story, light and lively, got the character damn cose to where I was headed with her from the start. It was practically a done deal. Subsequent She-Hulk series and mini-series had the benefit of being able to pick it up and run with it, something I envy them.

"To their credit, those who came after me picked up pretty much where I left off. Her character trajectory held true to my defining course--from light, sexy humor to teaming up with super-heroes to an eventual romantic relationship with Man-Wolf's alter ego, John Jameson. And perhaps most important of all, a costume of her own--already hinted at by my sequence spoofing early Marvel romance comics, in which She-Hulk models various 'looks' in lieu of her signature tattered white dress. 'She-Hulk chic' teased the inevitable and long overdue costume still to come."

And DAK concludes: "The stage was set. My job was done."

Me, I don't know. If what came later was really what he had in mind all along, he should have taken fewer than 25 issues to set it up. Kudos to him for what he did do, but honestly? The only issue here worth reading is #1, and that only for curiosity's sake. I've read some She-Hulk beyond this (Avengers, Fantastic Four, the John Byrne series), but I don't recall ever seeing the original supporting cast (Zapper, Rory, Bukowski, her father) again. What She-Hulk needs is someone to do what Alan Moore did to Captain Britain. I'm hoping to see some of those characters again; seems like a no-brainer to me. I haven't yet read the Dan Slott or Peter David stuff, but I will.

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ISSUE #5: This issue confirms what I suspected all along: I haven't read this series since it first came out. this issue's lame villain is Dr. Doom Dr. Bong from Howard the Duck. I did not read HTD in it's entirety until the early 2Ks and I would have had no idea who he was in 1989 and immediately (or soon after) forgot him. When I "first" read Dr. Bong years later, I had completely forgotten about She-Hulk #5 and was surprised to find him in it. the target of Byrne's satire this issue was ACT (Action for Children's Television). 

ISSUE #6: This issue features Marvel's "trucker" heroes, Razorback and US 1. I read US 1... the whole thing (don't ask me why). I couldn't get rid of it quickly enough. It didn't even occur to me at the time that this was a series aimed at children, rather than teenagers or young adults. 

ISSUE #7: The lame villain this issue is Xemnu the Titan, which pleased me because Hulk Annual #5 was one of my earliest comics. By 1989 I had all of his appearances (but don't be too impressed; there weren't that many of them). There's a joke on the splash page which indicates the indicia, but it kind of falls flat in omnibus format. Similarly, there's a reference to an ad page this same issue which likewise isn't in the omnibus. (Also, there's a reference to the letters page which is also not included.) It is in this issue that She-Hulk acquires her signature '59 flying Dodge. (I wonder whatever happened to that?)

ISSUE #8: Jen Walters' father and Zapper are both mentioned (obliquely) this issue; Zapper is married. This issue features "Nick St. Christopher" who is in reality guess who? This is John Byrne's last issue (for a while, anyway), and the next issue is appropriately titled "Burn Out!" I don't know anything about why Jophn Byrne left (or was taken off) the series at this point, but I'm guessing someone reading this does...?

According to Byrne, he left over issues relating to She-Hulk: Ceremony. There is an account by him of this here.

I've not read She-Hulk: Ceremony, and my knowledge of it comes from Supermegamonkey's review. It's partly about the problems of poor Native American communities. Fantastic Four #80 established Wyatt's people were oil-rich and proud. She-Hulk: Ceremony covered the point with a line about the oil's having run out, which I take to have been put in in response to Byrne's criticism. I've not read Sensational She-Hulk so I don't know what the changes to his own work might have been.

Thanks, Luke. I was hoping you would respond. I saw your first post to this thread (now deleted) in which you mentioned Ceremony as the reason for Byrne's leaving. (I assume you removed your post so as not to "get ahead of the discussion.") I had always heard the problem was with the editor, but I didn't know specifically what the problem was. That " Byrne Robotics" page (thanks for the link, BTW) page blames the EiC (who would have been Tom DeFalco, just to name names), but the editor in question (of both Ceremony as well as the ongoing series) was Bobbie Chase, so maybe the heart of the problem was with her after all. (He returned when Chase left, but DeFalco was still in place.) 

ISSUES #9-30: I was buying this series because of John Byrne, not She-Hulk, so when Byrne left so did I. I don't know how many of these issues were written by Steve Gerber, but some of them were. Years later, when I was working my way through "Howard the Duck" for the first time, I picked up #14-17, "The Cosmic Squish Principle" which featured Gerber's return to the character he created. "The Return of the Blonde Phantom" appeared in #21-23, and #22 features the Invaders on the cover, but I honestly don't remember whether or not I bought these three issues at the time I bought #14-17, and I'm not inclined to look.

ISSUE #31:

This issue sports (what I consider to be) Byrne's funniest cover: him trying to nail a "#9" box atop the actual #31 box and being stopped by his new editor. (Bobbie Chase is out and Renee Witterstaetter is in.) It begins with the She-Hulk awakening in bed and saying, "Oh, wow! What a weird dream!" The splash page also features a shot of She-Hulk peering beyond the edge of the panel to the indicia and remarking, "Jimminy! Is that the time?" (another joke that doesn't land this time through because of omnibus presentation). It is, however, very easy to go from #8 to #31 without missing a beat.

This issue's lame villain is "Spragg the Living Hill" from Journey into Mystery #68.

ISSUE #32: "Jenny to the Center of the Earth" folds the Mole Man into the mix. This story featuring Spragg reminds me of the 1990s. I never did go to too many comic book conventions (with one or more name guests), but throughout the '90s I went to innumerable comic book shows (at which dealers sold comic books). I was still actively collecting backissues at the time, but my want list was steadily tapering off as I filled holes. One thing I could almost always count on was coming home with a stack of old Lee/Kirby/Ditko monster reprints fished out of the dollar box. I remember one particular Thanksgiving day I brought a stack to work. I didn't hold enough seniority at the time to get the holiday off, but that was all right with me. It was slow, and I was getting paid double time and a half to read comics! Once I had acquired all the monster reprints from the '70s I could find, I started buying reading copies of Magnus Robot Fighter, Dr. Solar Man of the Atom, and Lost in Space at shows. These days, I own all that stuff in hardcover collections. *SIGH*

The covers themselves were better than the stories in my opinion.

Although I haven't finished the series yet I found a lot of the stories to be just comedic gags and non-sensical.

Like the team-up with Excalibur, just didn't see the point of that one at all. 

"The covers themselves were better than the stories in my opinion."

That was what I remembered, too, from having read the stories once when they were originally released. This time through, my second, I find that I am enjoying the stories more than I remembered, but I'm not exactly inclined to argue that they are better than (or even as good as) the covers (in most cases). 

Kraft brought Richard Rory in from Man-Thing ...

I remembered Rory from Man-Thing primarily because of his surname. I have never heard the name "Rory" anywhere but comics, where it has been both a first name (Rory "Ragman" Regan) and a last name. Maybe it's a New York thing.

Me, I don't know. If what came later was really what he had in mind all along, he should have taken fewer than 25 issues to set it up.

I agree. I read DAK's She-Hulk contemporaneously and was not impressed. My impression at the time was that he had already hit his status quo, and if he had had another 25 issues, not much would have changed. But Savage She-Hulk didn't last, because it was boring.

(The art didn't help: Mike Vosburg & Chic Stone, Vosburg & Frank Springer, Vosburg & D. Hands.)

The character didn't distinguish herself in my mind until later writers, especially John Byrne, who established the fourth-wall-breaking, comedic undertone of the book. But hey, if Kraft feels the need to take credit for what She-Hulk was to become after he left the character (much like Rob Liefeld taking credit for what Deadpool was to become after he left the character) then it would be churlish of me to say more.

It touches on many women's issues including abortion, but the only thing I ever heard about for more that 30 years is the leg shaving scene. 

I don't remember the leg-shaving scene. But then, I hated the art on Ceremony (Frank Springer again?) and was uncomfortable with some elements of the plot. (Shouldn't the decision to have a baby and/or get married be a little more thoughtful? It all seemed so "What shall I do today? Racquetball? No, I did that yesterday. I know, I'll have a baby with a guy I've casually dated!") I relegated this one to Earth-It-Didn't-Happen a long time ago.

She-Hulk was still with the Avengers at the time of the Secret Wars but, when the heroes returned, she was wearing a Fantastic Four uniform!

I disliked this at the time for a variety of reasons.

One reason was that Byrne was doing the best FF since Lee & Kirby, and paramount among the book's charms was his version of The Thing. The advent of She-Hulk, however, pushed Ben Grimm, my favorite part, out of the book!

Another was that Jen looked objectively terrible in an FF uniform; her forest green skin (she would later become more yellow-green) clashed with the royal blue outfits. Whereas The Thing's orange skin and the blue diapers were complementary colors. She-Hulk's uniform needed to be equally complementary (red? orange? hot pink? yellow-orange? reddish-purple?) just for visual appeal, and it wasn't.

That resulted in the FF becoming a less interesting book, visually. Only the Torch remained to represent any hot colors. My eye went unerringly to wherever Johnny was in that sea of blue/green.

And thirdly, I had no interest in She-Hulk at the time.

I liked Byrne's run on She-Hulk.

I did too ... eventually.

One problem I had was She-Hulk's sexual objectification played for laughs. It's hard enough to ignore female objectification in comics, but impossible when it's being shoved in your face as a joke. I had to ignore the gratuitous undressing scenes and jokes that revolved around She-Hulk's breasts and references to what she might look like jumping rope naked to enjoy the book.

That's just one reader's opinion, so take it for what it's worth.

To be charitable, Byrne might have been making a subtextual joke about the sexualization of the female form in comics. And Byrne's development of She-Hulk as a comedic character, distinguishing her from the Savage run, was a big plus.

I had yet to learn not to buy Marvel Comics Presents as of late 1988.

I learned by issue #12, I think. But I was older and wiser less patient with drek. I had to start buying the title again for Barry Windsor-Smith's "Weapon X" story, and dropped the title again when it was over, as the non-Wolverine stories were so boring and irrelevant to continuity that it confirmed my earlier decision. I think I bought all the issues I was missing when MCP was finally canceled, but did not read them.

There's a joke on the splash page which indicates the indicia, but it kind of falls flat in omnibus format. Similarly, there's a reference to an ad page this same issue which likewise isn't in the omnibus. (Also, there's a reference to the letters page which is also not included.)

Every time I think "Now I'll sell all my floppies and just get collections of the books I enjoyed" something like this happens. You know, when Marvel started doing omnibuses, it included the letters pages. That went away really fast.

The covers themselves were better than the stories in my opinion.

That's how I remember it as well. Maybe Jeff will change that!

The only "Rory" I can think of is "Rory Williams" from Doctor Who.

Captain Comics said:

Kraft brought Richard Rory in from Man-Thing ...

I remembered Rory from Man-Thing primarily because of his surname. I have never heard the name "Rory" anywhere but comics, where it has been both a first name (Rory "Ragman" Regan) and a last name. Maybe it's a New York thing.

Captain Comics said:

There's a joke on the splash page which indicates the indicia, but it kind of falls flat in omnibus format. Similarly, there's a reference to an ad page this same issue which likewise isn't in the omnibus. (Also, there's a reference to the letters page which is also not included.)

Every time I think "Now I'll sell all my floppies and just get collections of the books I enjoyed" something like this happens. You know, when Marvel started doing omnibuses, it included the letters pages. That went away really fast.

I think this is the editors falling down on the job. When I bought the black and white Essential Howard the Duck there was a panel in which a figure was originally printed entirely in color ink. Instead of catching this and making sure the image was in black ink, it was just a white space.

Someone should have caught this and the two She-Hulk examples and included what was missing.

Robert Kanigher said on a Ragman letters page that Rory was of Irish descent. According to Wikipedia Rory is the anglicised form of a traditional Irish given name.

'Before look this up I wrote it might = Rourke, but not so. But I suppose Richard Rory's surname could be an Americanisation of O'Rourke.

"I disliked [She-Hulk in the FF] at the time for a variety of reasons."

I liked it and I'll tell you why. First of all, I think John Byrne liked the Thing, too, and he was writing the Thing's solo series as well, a way of "having his cake and eating it, too" (without having to coordinate continuity between titles). I saw She-Hulk as the Lee/Kirby "substitute" trope, as when Crystal took Sue's place after Franklin was born.

"One problem I had was She-Hulk's sexual objectification played for laughs."

Speaking of the jump-rope scene, back in the graphic novel, when that one SHIELD agent kept subjecting her to strip searches she facetiously made the comment about jumping rope naked. Ironically (?). later in her own title Byrne had her do just that. FWIW, I think Byrne was trying to make that sub-textual joke you suggest, but I don't think he landed it.

"I learned [not to buy Marvel Comics Presents] by issue #12, I think."

I would have dropped it at that time, too, but I really wanted the McGregor/Colan Black Panther. I, too, resumed buying it for Weapon X (anohter serial later reprinted), and I, too, dropped it again immediately after. 

"Every time I think 'Now I'll sell all my floppies...'"

I really hate that term. (Just sayin'.) I myself refer to them as "periodicals."

"You know, when Marvel started doing omnibuses, it included the letters pages."

I think they do that only on series of "historical" significance. For example, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and X-Men omnibus series (all up to their respective fourth volumes) still contain letters pages. One of my letters is preserved in omnibus format, and I feel lucky that it's not one which makes me cringe today.

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