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

This is precisely what editors are for. As an editor myself, I ask "Where were they?"

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"

That makes sense. But explaining it doesn't make me like it any better -- I wanted Byrne FF (complete with Ben Grimm) and I didn't get it. I got partial Fantastic Four with a sub I didn't care for and Thing with a Ben Grimm NOT interacting with the rest of the team/supporting cast/villains and art by Ron Wilson (whose work I didn't care for).

I continued to buy both books, but the thrill was gone. What can I say? I'm a comics fan, and we want what we want.

ISSUE #33: The Mole Man and Spragg story is concluded; lots of self-depreciating humor; TV's The Simpson's make a guest appearance; Weezi is rejuvenated.

ISSUE #34: Vanity Fair parody cover; Black Talon and four dead C-list mutants; Mahkizmo introduced in sub-plot.

ISSUE #35: The "X-humed"; "Dimension Z" introduced in sub-plot.

ISSUE #36: Wyatt Wingfoot is reintroduced. He is described as the "last surviving heir" of his grandfather, so so much for his hitherto unknown "sister" from Ceremony. She Hulk says: "It wasn't until I saw you again that i realized how much i missed you. Steve Englehart didn't use you at all when he was writing the Fantastic Four, and when Byrnie boy started my new series back in ;89 the powers that be told him it would be too confusing to bring you back as my boyfriend, since you'd been gone a couple of years by then. And my last graphic novel outing got your family history all wrong, so that must have been a dream or something."

Morris Walters (Jen's dad) and Zapper finally make the Christmas appearance foreshadowed back in #8 (althought two Christmases have come and gone since then). In that issue, "Nick St. Christopher" gave She-Hulk a "Christmas wish" which she uses to appear as her human self for Christmas Day as a gift to her dad. Richard Rory also appears, and "Marla and The Donald" are mentioned. Moe Walters hits it off with Weezi and she stays for an extended visit when She-Hulk returns to New York. 

ISSUE #37: The Living Eraser appears as set up in #35. She-Hulk tries to use his device, resulting in several blank pages. 

ISSUE #38: Mahkizmo finally shows up (for the Valentine's Day issue) as foreshadowed in #34. A plot by Eros (the demi-god a.k.a. Cupid, not the Eternal) goes awry and his arrow hits Mahkizmo instead of Wyatt. Hijinks ensue. Metatextually, Byrne begins inking with "duo-tone" paper this issue.

ISSUE #39: the Mahkizmo plot wraps up and U.S. 1 is foreshadowed. 

My recollection is Byrne has said the #32-#33 story, with its twist about how She-Hulk sees herself, was a story he originally had in mind for the Thing.

His account of the decision to leave the Thing on Battleworld is here.

Thanks, Luke. Keep the color commentary coming!

(I notice that Byrne himnself, on the page you linked, misidentifies Walt Wallet of Gasoline Alley as "Skeezix," Walt's adopted son.)

ISSUES #40-46: These issues comprise the "cosmic saga." 

#40 contains the infamous "nude jumping rope scene" mentioned in an earlier post. She-Hulk references the letters page again which, again, is not included in the omnibus. Weezi has gained her weight back but remains a rejuvenated 40-ish year-old. U.S. Archer returns and they go into space to confront Spragg again.

Spragg is defeated in #41, and Xemnu takes over in #42. #43 contains one of my favorite sequences. After years of enduring  Rob Liefeld's swipes of his work, Byrne swipes Liefeld's layouts of the first four pages of X-Force #3 for She-Hulk #43. Then Renee Witterstaeter intervenes and makes Byrne (who referred to it as a "fromage") redraw the sequence in his own style. I must admit, at the time I rather liked it when Byrne and PAD attacked the Image crew (and vice versa) in the pages of their comics. One time Erik Larsen vicariously knocked the stuffing out of PAD by having Doc Ock beat up the Hulk in Spider-Man; PAD later returned the favor when Hulk got the last word in his own mag. PAD took it too far, though, in Hulk #431 when his jab at Larsen (which fell flat, anyway) was told at the expense of Betty, who was made to look like an idiot. 

Razorbacj retruns in #44, as well as the "Asparagus people" (the D'Bari from Avengers #4) whose planet Dark Phoenix destroyed, and the Skrulls. Rocket Raccoon joins in as of #45, as do the Ovoids (from Fantastic Four #10). Byrne takes another swipe at the Image crew by drawing 11 "pin-up" pages, but drawing them (credited) in the style of "good girl" artists of the '40s. #46 folds in the "Carbon Copy Men" from Thor's Journey into Mystery, and the "cosmic" storyline wraps up. There is still a dangling plot thread to be tied off, though, as she-Hulk and Weezi have switched bodies (sort of)... and the change is said to be permanent. She-Hulk announces that next issue is to be a fill-in (not included in the omnibus), so I'll be back next time with #48-50.

I will always call the D'Bari the Asparagus People, because I can't help myself. They were unnamed in Avengers #4 and didn't get a name until, I think, the Claremont/Byrne Dark Phoenix story. That's about 20 years where I called them "the Asparagus People" for lack of a better name. So when they got a name, it was hard to un-learn what I had learned when I was six, and I have kept calling them the Asparagus People. First learned, last forgot.

On that link Luke provided, I kept reading for a bit and found Byrne's explanation for why he introduced the idea of She-Hulk breaking the fourth wall. Given our brief discussion of Dave Kraft's comments on creating what She-Hulk would become, I thought we should provide Byrne's remarks, which are the other side of the story:

"She-Hulk has something of a checkered history. When she debuted in her original series, she was THE SAVAGE SHE-HULK -- Marvel had a thing about the word "savage" in those days -- and she ran around in a torn shirt and broke things. Not much of interest there, despite some really neat Michael Golden covers. Her book died, and she drifted in the netherworld reserved for such characters -- until Roger Stern decided to put her in the Avengers, and, more importantly, to show that Jennifer Walters, unlike her cousin Bruce, actually had fun with her emerald alter ego.

"When Mark Gruenwald asked me to create a new She-Hulk series (SENSATIONAL, rather than SAVAGE this time!) he had one editorial demand: "Make it different!" I thought about this for a while, and then decided it might be fun to push Roger's notions as far as they could go, and have Jen be aware (only in her own title, mind you!) that she was in a comic book. And then to play with -- but never mock -- the conceits and foibles of the format. Mark loved the idea, and thus She-Hulk got her second series."

Issues #48-49 deal with why She-Hulk and Weezi haven't reverted to their own bodies (or rather body types). Basically, Weezi didn't want to switch back, but was shocked into doing so when Jen's father admitted he liked her that way. (Plus, her being in his daughter's shape probably didn't help matters, either.) the cover blurb of #48 says: "In this issue: your favorite villain! We guarantee it!" The joke is, supposedly they couldn't make up their minds which villain to use and decided to let the readers decide for themselves by using generic captions and never showing the bad guy on panel. It wouldn't work for every villain (if, for example, your favorite was Galactus), but I always choose "the Rhino" and it works just fine. 

The conceit of #50 is that John Byrne is dead ("He tripped over a dangling sub-plot and broke his neck") and She-Hulk and Rene Witterstaeter are tasked with finding his replacement. They look at samples from seven artists (Dave Gibbons, Frank Miller, Wendy Pini, Walt Simonson, Howard Chaykin, Terry Austin, adam Hughes) and one writer (Howard Mackie) before revealing the actual team, Michael Eury and Todd Britton. They provided a ten-page story, which pretty much convinced me to stop with #50, which was printed with green metallic ink.

I guess this is a hangover from when "artists don't need writers" and "writers can edit themselves" were sentiments in fandom.

Captain Comics said:

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

This is precisely what editors are for. As an editor myself, I ask "Where were they?"

The title of #7, of course, is a very amusing play on Harlan Ellison's "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream".


Dan Slott's She-Hulk was quite popular on this board at the time of its run. Rich Lane, I recall specifically, was a fan. I myself still had no particular interest in the character, and I had little interest in reading a series written by an unknown (to me at the time) writer. At one point, when I was looking for something different to read, I almost started buying buying the Dan Slott She-Hulk tpbs, but ended up opting for the Pak/Van Lente Hercules collections (also popular among this board's readers at the time). I'm kind of glad I waited, though, because now I'm able to read all of Slott's two runs (first series, 12 issues; second series, 21 issues) for the first time in omnibus format with no duplication (from elsewhere in my collection).

The first thing I notice is that the stories are presented out of publication order (#1-4 & #7-8, #5-6 & #9-12 from the first series, #1-2 & 5, and #4 followed by #6-21 of the second). I don't know why they're arranged in that order*, but that's how I'll be reading them. 

*I think I just figured it out; they're arranged by pencillers.

ISSUE #1: This is not your father's She-Hulk... especially if your father is David Anthony Kraft or John Byrne. Dan Slott wastes no time setting up She-Hulk as an irresponsible party girl. She has frequent "overnight guests" at Avengers Mansion, the latest of which (a male underwear model) dumps her for someone with more depth; she loses a big case; she's kicked out of the mansion; she's fired from her job. One thing that has changed in the decade or so since Sensational She-Hulk #50 is that she can once again change back-and-forth between She-Hulk and Jenifer Walters at will. There is a scene (mirrored somewhat in the new TV show) in which she reverts to her human self in her sleep after making it with her boy toy. The firm responsible for her being fired from the D.A.'s office is Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway. (Clever.) Mallory Book, a rival co-worker, will likely become a supporting character. The partner Holliway offers her a job but, unlike the TV show, they want her as Jen Walters, not the She-Hulk. She changes back (after a night of drinking) to accept the offer, and immediately pukes on his shoes. 

ISSUE #2: The lawfirm GLK&H specializes in "super-human law." Their clientele includes Atlanteans, Moloids, Bird-people, time-travelers, Asgardian Gods and "mutant children raised by talking cows," and their slogan is: "When the laws of reality are broken, we shall find solutions through the laws of man." After the Mad Thinker's Awesome Android gained sentience, GLK&H got him American citizenship (por bono) and gave him a job. He is now known as "Awesome Andy." There are more inside jokes this issue than i could even tell you about. Code-approved comic books are considered legal documents because the CCA was a federal agency. Jen reads her own origin story in Savage She-Hulk #1. Her case this issue is to sue Roxxon Energy Corporation on behalf of her client, Danger Man, who obtained unwanted super-powers in an accident at one of their facilities. 

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