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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Jeff of Earth-J said:

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.

My dim recollection from discussion at the time is that was a recent development in Avengers.

Awesome Andy was probably modelled after Benny from LA Law.

I flipped through v7 of the collection of Kurt Busiek stories (which reprints #41-56) in hope of sparking my memory, but She-Hulk was barely in it. I did continue to read Avengers post Busiek through "Avengers Disassembled" but I'm not motivated enough to dig through longboxes to find the answer. I considered covering She-Hulk non-solo series stories here, but ultimately decided against it.

ISSUE #3: This issue's plot involves a ghost who wishes to testify at his own murder trial. It is actually a "fair use" mystery; if I had known that going in, I might have tried to figure it out myself. She-Hulk begins to feel that she is being taken advantage of by her firm in general, and Mallory Book in particular. She moves into the Excelsior, a building owned by her employers (whose offices are located in Timely Plaza, BTW). Also living in the building is another co-worker, Augustus "Pug" Pugliese, who has a crush on her. The Thing guest-stars, and artist Juan Bobillo draws him in his original "lumpy" form for some reason, bit it works.

ISSUE #4: Spider-Man once saved Pug's life, and he wants to return the favor by suing J. Jonah Jameson on  Spider-Man's behalf. The Scorpion gets involved (I thought that issue was settled back in Spider-Man Annual #18, but I'm not going to kick about it) as does Smythe and his Spider-Slayer robots. GLK&H also employs a shapeshifter, Ditto, as a process server. He serves JJJ as Clint Eastwood and Peter Parker as MJ. (Ironically, Peter Parker is also named in Spider-Man's lawsuit against JJJ.) Again, Bobillo has his own stylistic way of drawing Spider-man's costume, but it works.

Wasn't Ben back in his "lumpy" form around then?   I remember him being back i that form for a while in those daays.

Was he? This is circa 2004. I liked the three Lobdell/Davis issues (1998) but interest in the FF took a severe hit during the Claremont/Larroca days. 

Luke Blanchard said:

My dim recollection from discussion at the time is that was a recent development in Avengers.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

I flipped through v7 of the collection of Kurt Busiek stories (which reprints #41-56) in hope of sparking my memory, but She-Hulk was barely in it.

I've been looking into it. There was a storyline during Geoff Johns's run on Avengers (1998 series) in which she was changed back to Jen and then into a raging version of She-Hulk by interaction with Jack of Hearts (#67-#68). She disappeared, and when the Avengers tracked her down she now changed Banner-style, but her changes were triggered by fear rather than anger (#72).

Earlier, there was stuff about other She-Hulk modes in Sensational She-Hulk after Byrne's second run, and a very brief return to her Jen form, but the period ended with a reset to her standard mode of the time (together when She-Hulk, doesn't change).

Re the Bobillo/Sosa handling of the Thing, I think it's meant as the look of a rocky body with a cracked surface, as with Paul Chadwick's Concrete. Ben is drawn with the heavy brow of the later Thing.

There was a shift in the era to more linear drawing. My supposition is it was linked to how colouring was changing. The Kirby/Sinnott Thing always had some of his plates in heavy shadow, but that approach had become unusual, and there'd been a movement away from depicting Ben as having chasm-like gaps between his plates.

"Geoff Johns's run on Avengers..."

As much as I admire Johns' DC work, I hated his Avengers. I am at a loss as to explain how it could have been so bad.

"...there'd been a movement away from depicting Ben as having chasm-like gaps between his plates."

Have you ever seen Kevin Maguire's Thing? It's the polar opposite of Juan Bobillo's.

ISSUES #5-6: Throwaway client/character of the month: Bobo, a man evolved by the High Evolutionary from a chimp. John Jameson is a recurring supporting character. The main client is Southpaw, who happens to be the senior partner's granddaughter. She is being held in the Pym Experimental Penetentiary, a.k.a. "The Big House" in which all the inmates have been shrunk to doll-size. Despite having hired Jen on the condition she never appear as She-Hulk in court or at the office, Holliway insists she represent Soputhpaw as She-Hulk. Jen later finds out he has arranged for his granddaughter to be remanded to She-Hulk's custody. But Southpaw has fallen in with the Mad Thinker and helps him to pull off a jailbreak. the Mad Thinker later comes face-to-face with his android creation, now known as "Awesome Andy." 

"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."

Actually, scratch that; that's just the table of contents. The stories themselves are presented in publication order. 

ISSUE #7-8: Beta ray Bill, Tryco Slatterus (the Elder of the Universe a.k.a. "Champion"), Adam Warlock, Gamora, Pip the Troll, Gladiator, the introduction of the Magistrati (representatives of the Living Tribunal), the Living Tribunal, a Rigellian Recorder, and three Watchers. 

"Beta Ray Bill, Tryco Slatterus (the Elder of the Universe a.k.a. "Champion"), Adam Warlock, Gamora, Pip the Troll, Gladiator, the introduction of the Magistrati (representatives of the Living Tribunal), the Living Tribunal, a Rigellian Recorder, and three Watchers..." 

"...all walk into a bar.".

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