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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Last time I wrote about new series I deemed "safe to ignore" as long as they didn't cross over with any titles I did read. Then came Avengers #221, whose cover teased no fewer than four characters I had been "safely ignoring." A few years before this issue came out, I had acquired a stack of about 50 issues of Avengers between #9 and #94, but I didn't start collecting it on a monthly basis until #211 when "the old order changed." Now it was set to change again, and She-Hulk was one of the nominees. She ended up getting the gig (along with returning member Hawkeye, in case you were wondering), but her tenure didn't really begin until the next issue.

#221 also reintroduces her pink Cadillac (which debuted in Marvel Two-In-One #88) but it didn't last long. Although I didn't get it at the time I first read it, the gag is that She-Hulk is very tough on automobiles, beginning with the car crash that killed her best friend and ruined Buck Bukowski's Corvette in the second issue of her own mag. From there it was Bukowski's Porsche in #5, her father's patrol car in #6, Richard Rory's new Rolls-Royce in #7, Zapper's dune buggy in #9, the car that lands on Ultima in #10 and Buck's Triumph TR7 in #11. A cabbie forces her to walk in #15, an armored car gets smashed in #18, she takes a trill ride, runs out of gas and tears the engine out of a car in #20, her own car was smashed in #21 and she smashes a car in #22.

Her tattered clothes don't last beyond #222, either. Janet Van Dyne provides her with a set of clothes she designed for her. When the Masters of Evil attack and She-Hulk makes a move to tear off her clothes, the Wasp flits by and says, "Oh, no!  that outfit is an original! Tear it--and I'll never speak to you again!" which leads to the comic scene of She-Hulk sitting on the sidewalk pulling off her boots. #222 also sets up some sexual tension between She-Hulk and Hawkeye, but it was to go unresolved as Hawkeye soon married Mockingbird in his own limited series.

In #223 She-Hulk is still wearing her tattered shirt while on duty, but in #224 she is wearing a green leotard on in #225-226 a black one. She-Hulk was to stay with the Avengers for a good long time but, although I started collecting Avengers with #211, her tenure with the team wasn't what caused me to stop "ignoring" the character and pick up backissues. That was to happen later. 

Although I was actively collecting Avengers by #221, it wasn't until She-Hulk crossed over into my "first favorite hero's" title that I found her no longer "safe to ignore." Her first Hulk appearances were in the "Amnesty" issue (#278) and the "Acceptance" one (#279), but she was only a background character and did not interact with the Hulk at all. In issue #281, Bruce Banner needed to borrow a quinjet from the Avengers, but still she remained in the background. Then everything changed.

#282 began a three-parter in which the Hulk directly enlisted the aid of the Avengers to defeat the Leader (although in #282 itself, the menace was the robot Arsenal). It is also the issue in which the fact that She-Hulk is Bruce Banner's cousin is confirmed to him (he had suspected before), and they first time they've spoken face-to-face since The Savage She-Hulk #1. For those of you scoring at home, She-Hulk wore white tatters in #278, a black leotard in #279, and an orange leotard in #282-284. 

It was at this point I bought and read She-Hulk #1-25 as backissues. I didn't keep them very long.

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! She-Hulk experienced more character development by Roger Stern in Avengers than she had by DAK in her solo series, and she was to experience more still as a member of the FF. Most notably, She-Hulk became involved romantically with long-time supporting character Wyatt Wingfoot, who was more convincing by far as a romantic partner for She-Hulk than either Richard Rory or Zapper. Although there are several characters who have served as members of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four (including three of the four founding members), She-Hulk is the only character to have served a dual membership on both teams simultaneously. 

During her tenure with the FF, she had only one story which could be considered a solo outing, #275 (the plot of which, incidentally, was inspired by a pin-up by Kevin Nowlan from Marvel Fanfare #18). 

Before delving into the John Byrne era, I would like to take a slightly-out-of-order look at the two-part She-Hulk: Ceremony series by Dwayne McDuffie (co-plot and script), Robin Chaplik (plot) and June Brigmam (art). When this series was released in 1989 I was in "cut-back mode." I didn't buy it until that quarter sale in 1994 I've been talking about recently, but I didn't read it until today. Not only does Ceremony fit my "She-Hulk" discussion, but 4Q22 is all about reading comics I own but have never read. 

What I remember most about this series (from Marvel publicity as well as fan press coverage) at the time was the "infamous leg-shaving scene." It's really kind of embarrassing and doesn't speak well of our hobby that that was what people were talking about. There are very few mainstream comics even today written from a woman's perspective, but back in 1989 there were nil. I'll get to the plot in a moment, but even the artwork is somehow drawn from a woman's POV. I have always appreciated June Brigman's crisp, clear, highly detailed style anyway.

She-Hulk hears her biological clock ticking, and asks Wyatt Wingfoot to be her baby's surrogate father. This request doesn't sit well with him, until he pays a visit to her home and sees the ceremonial basket given to his mother by his father. Impressed by the effort it must have taken her to obtain the basket, he softens his stance. She-Hulk, too, for her own part, sees that the basket has moved him deeply. Neither of them mention it. But she went through no particular effort to acquire the basket. It arrived in the mail that day from an anonymous source.

Immediately after the basket arrived, a man named Carlton Beatrice arrived asking that she give it to him in return for a donation to a charity of her choice. She refuses without finding out how he knew about the delivery in the first place. Beatrice is a corporate executive who also happens to be a shaman. The basket's magical properties, used in the proper ceremony, will grant basically grant him Marvel's version of the Anti-Life Equation. Since the basket loses its magical properties if bought or stolen, he steps back for the time being.

The next day, "Mickey" Souris, Beatrice's apprentice in both business and magic, attempts to acquire the basket but fails. After an impromptu wedding shower, She-Hulk and Wyatt fly to his Keewazi Reservation in Oklahoma so she can meet his grandmother (Roberta Elk Step) and his sister (Rain Falling West), neither of whom we have seen before to the best of my recollection. I turns out that Beatrice has had dealings with the tribe in the past, and Roberta Elk Step sent the basket to She-Hulk for safe-keeping. Jennifer is forced to give the basket to Beatrice for the return of Wyatt's soul, then she has to fight to overcome the results of the ceremony.

Afterwards, Jennifer and Wyatt decide not to get married or have children together after all. I'm surprised (well, no, not really) that this story isn't better remembered today (although it has been reprinted in 2010's Women of Marvel: Celebrating Seven Decades hardcover omnibus). 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. 

By the time of Marvel's 18th graphic novel in 1985, I had long since given up buying every one in favor of buying only those I was particularly interested in, and I had a particular interest in The Sensational She-Hulk by John Byrne. Byrne took full advantage of the larger format to tell the tale of the time She-Hulk's life changed "forever." there's lots of big, bombastic action, but the practical upshot of the story is that She-Hulk is stuck in her green form and can never become Jen Walters again. To me, at the time and now, it wasn't that big of a deal because she almost never used her Jen Walters identity anyhow. she herself even downplays the revelation's significance here. Worth reading, though (I think). 

I did not remember there being a four-year gap between the John Byrne's She-Hulk graphic novel and series. If I had, I might have slotted the graphic novel before Ceremony. Oh, well, no big deal. If, by 1985, I had learned not to buy every Marvel graphic novel, I had yet to learn not to buy Marvel Comics Presents as of late 1988. MCP featured four serialized stories per issue, usually only one of which (two at the most) interested me at any given time. Issue #18 featured a preview of Byrne's upcoming series. At this time I was buying MCP primarily for Don MacGregor and Gene Colan's Black Panther. Had I known at the time that that series (indeed, virtually every good serial) would eventually be collected, I would have dropped the series much sooner than I did.

Byrne's She-Hulk story in #18 served to hype the upcoming series and also introduced the fourth-wall-breaking concept of She-Hulk being aware she's a character in a comic book. I'm currently reading these stories in the John Byrne She-Hulk Omnibus. Speaking of which, whenever I buy an omnibus I almost invariably buy the DM variant cover (featuring a classic cover rather than other artwork, often new), but this time the standard edition was the classic and the DM variant was the other. It is also one I the few times I have opted for the "other."

It has always bugged me that She-Hulk's costume was miscolored on the cover of the first issue and, because this is an omnibus dedicate to the work of John Byrne, I chose the cover which featured his 1984 Marvel Press poster.

"If you don't buy my book this time I'm gonna come to your house and rip up all your X-Men." 

Classic. 

I just wish her neckline was colored white instead of yellow.

Back in the '90s I had a roommate who was also a comic book reader. (He was the one I mentioned recently who introduced me to Neil Gaiman's Sandman.) One day, probably a Wednesday, I asked him what he thought about John Byrne's She-Hulk. He refused to read it. Why? It seems a few years earlier he asked Byrne at a con what he thought of Giffen, DeMatteis and Maquire's then-new Justice League (no, I don't know why he asked Byrne that, either), and Byrne  apparently gave a dismissive answer about "humor comics." Then, a couple of years later, John Byrne wrote a humor comic himself. This was reason enough for my friend to boycott the title.

But I didn't buy it for the humor per se; I bought it because I was a fan of John Byrne. At the time, Byrne had an antagonistic relationship with Peter David, at least in the fan press. The difference between Byrne and David (regarding humor, as I see it) is that Byrne tried desperately to be funny, whereas PAD thought he was funny. Consequently, because Byrne's humor revolved more upon breaking the fourth wall and She-Hulk being a self-aware comic book character, Byrne's jokes landed with more regularity than PAD's did. Also, Byrne featured obscure villains and supporting characters and made the fun of them they deserved. For example, the villains in the first issue were Ringmaster & the Circus of crime and the Headmen. 

I liked Byrne's run on She-Hulk.

Jeff of Earth-J said:

Back in the '90s I had a roommate who was also a comic book reader. (He was the one I mentioned recently who introduced me to Neil Gaiman's Sandman.) One day, probably a Wednesday, I asked him what he thought about John Byrne's She-Hulk. He refused to read it. Why? It seems a few years earlier he asked Byrne at a con what he thought of Giffen, DeMatteis and Maquire's then-new Justice League (no, I don't know why he asked Byrne that, either), and Byrne  apparently gave a dismissive answer about "humor comics." Then, a couple of years later, John Byrne wrote a humor comic himself. This was reason enough for my friend to boycott the title.

John Byrne has a history of saying that things other comics creators do are terrible and then doing those things himself a few months or years later. 

It was not my intention to post about each issue individually, although I just might anyway. My original intention had been to read the entire series then post, as I did with The Savage She-Hulk. but if I have something to say, why not? 

One of the first backissues I ever acquired was Marvel Collectors' Item Classics #8. Hulk #2 was serialized in #8-10. Although it took me a while to find the other two parts, I eventually did. I was able to read the second issue in its entirety before I read the first issue, in Stan Lee's Origins of Marvel Comics. A bit after that I got the paperback which reprinted all six issues, but #2 retains a special place in my memory.

The villains of She-Hulk #2 are ostensibly the Toad Men, but it reality it's Mysterio (and behind Mysterio the Headmen). Steve Gerber made a team of the Headmen, but they initially appeared in 1954's Mystery Tales #21 by Paul S. Newman and Bob Powell (Dr. Arthur Nagan), 1958's World of Fantasy #11  by Angelo Torres and an unknown writer (Dr. Jerold Morgan), and 1960's Tales of Suspense #9 by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber and Doug Wildey. All three of these stories were reprinted in 1974's Weird Wonder Tales (along with a story from World of Mystery #13) for the benefit of those reading Steve Gerber's Defenders, but these days those stories would be easier to find in Marvel Masterworks Defenders Vol. 3.

I don't know if I ever thought about the truth behind this cover gag before I saw it, but I have certainly noticed it since. This issue is not to be found in The John Byrne Spider-Man Omnibus. I should have saved my comments about the Headmen for this post because I don't really have anything else to say about #3. 

In this issue, John Byrne codifies the notion that comic book characters don't age as long as they are in the public eye. #4 formally introduces two supporting characters who have been lurking in the background since #2, Blake Towers and Louise Mason. Originally, Louise Grant was the Blonde Phantom back in the '40s and, if anything, she's more adept at breaking the fourth wall than She-Hulk. When he husband died, she applied to be D.A. Towers' assistant in the hope she would become a supporting character and stop aging. Byrne is roughly following the pattern of the FF here, i.e. aliens in #2, GA character reintroduced in #4, etc. The lame villain this issue is Stiltman, but a near-future one is already waiting in the wings. 

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