Anyone who ever said “it ain’t easy being green” clearly never met Jen Walters. The cousin of Dr. Bruce Banner, aka the Incredible Hulk, Jen is a brilliant attorney with an even more impressive alter-ego: the green-skinned, statuesque superhero known as She-Hulk. But what’s her deal exactly? Read on, true believer, as we explore the origin and dramatic history of the MCU’s next big star…
A woman with “breathtaking anger management issues.”
Before she was a heart-breaking, wall-smashing goddess, Jennifer Walters was a clever but put-upon lawyer, working in what was considered a man’s world. Undeterred by her perceived status, Jen took on a simple case that put her in the crosshairs of the dangerous mobster Nicholas Trask. As fate would have it, Jen’s cousin Bruce showed up for a visit on the same day the mobster’s goons arrived to carry out the hit. Struck by one of the assassin’s bullets, Jen’s life was saved thanks to an impromptu blood-transfusion. Unbeknownst to either of them, this life-saving action meant gamma-irradiated blood was now flowing through her veins, causing her to transform into the savage She-Hulk.
Much like her cousin, anger was the catalyst for Jen’s transformation, however She-Hulk was able to maintain her intelligence, memories, and personality, albeit one that was a bit more ferocious. Despite her new abilities, Jen sustained permanent injuries as a result of the assassin’s bullet, and so she vowed that whatever she couldn’t handle, “the She-Hulk will do!” However even the She-Hulk’s strength was no match for Trask’s cunning – following another attempt on Walters’ life, her friend Jill was killed in a car-crash thanks to a cut brake-line. Jen would eventually see justice served but not long after she was forced to face her own mortality when she nearly succumbs to a lethal blood disease. Jen’s life was once again saved, this time by the living vampire known as Morbius (yes, that one). As a result Jen was able to master much more control over her transformations.
Becoming a team player and gaining a rival.
Preferring the strength and assertiveness granted by her newfound abilities, Jen decided to make her transition to the She-Hulk permanent and became a superhero full-time. Along with the wisecracking sharpshooter Hawkeye, She-Hulk became the newest member of the Avengers, remaining with the team far longer than her cousin had following its inception. She was among the many heroes transported to Battleworld by the Beyonder. It was here that She-Hulk had her first run-in with the equally strong and far angrier Titania. Not unlike Jen Walters, Titania was once timid and week, but became a literal powerhouse thanks to Dr. Doom’s manipulations. During the first of what would be many clashes, our green hero was defeated be her new foe and held captive until her rescue by Spider-Man, among other heroes.
Upon her return to Earth, She-Hulk left the Avengers and ended up taking the vacant spot on the
Fantastic Four, replacing the recently de-powered Thing. Her tenure was brief but memorable and would eventually lead to a crossroads. After being exposed to another form of radiation, She-Hulk found herself no longer able to transform back into Jen Walters, willingly or otherwise. She-Hulk took this opportunity to merge her new life with her old one – she re-joined the Avengers, at least for a time, and opted to resume her law practice, becoming an assistant district attorney. It was around this time that “Shulkie” discovered a new talent: breaking the fourth wall!
A “Sensational’ new beginning and a life less ordinary.
Long before Deadpool started engaging with audiences, She-Hulk displayed a strange ability to break the fourth wall with self-aware comments and silly asides that poked fun at the comic industry, as well as herself. Adding this to her already crazy balance of super-heroics and court-room shenanigans led to a series of madcap adventures involving a range of characters from Man-Wolf to Howard the Duck. Eventually Jen was able to regain her ability to transform back to her smaller self and opted to focus less on super-heroine and start focusing more on her law career. She took a job at a prestigious law firm, taking on cases related to Superhuman affairs, where a period of self-reflection would convince her that both Jen Walters and She-Hulk had plenty to offer the world.
But all was not fun and games. She-Hulk was unknowingly manipulated by the Scarlet Witch to give in to her rage, resulting in the death of the android Vision. Following the dissolution of the Avengers, Jen took a sided with Iron Man during the superhero Civil War, helping to enforce the Superhero Registration Act. This was a decision she came to regret when she discovered her friend’s involvement in launching her cousin Bruce into space, in an attempt to rid the world of the Hulk once and for all. Things brightened up for a bit as Jen joined up with a whole team of Hulks, including the recently-returned Bruce Banner. She would later be recruited to once again act as a replacement for the Fantastic Four, briefly joining the Future Foundation. However tragedy would strike once again when Thanos attacked Earth and nearly killed the powerful heroine. Going into cardiac arrest, Jen slipped into a coma; when she awoke, she was horrified to discover that Banner was dead, killed by an arrow delivered by her own friend and teammate Hawkeye.
Following her release from the hospital, Jen reverted to a more savage, gray version of her more powerful self. As with most things in Jen’s life, this new side would only be temporary and she would soon learn to forgive those who had wronged her, embracing a whole new side to her persona and once again joining a new team of Avengers, while balancing her law career.
Glamming up the Marvel Universe.
Jen Walters, aka the She-Hulk, has the distinction of being one of the last new characters Stan Lee created during his tenure with Marvel Comics. He wrote her debut in the first issue of The Savage She-Hulk along with artist John Buscema in 1980. Her creation, while inspired by the success of the “Incredible Hulk” tv show, was a proactive measure in case such a character were introduced on television so Marvel Comics could retain the rights. It was a tactic that resulted in a superhero that is beloved by die-hard and casual fans alike. After the cancellation of her Savage title, Jen’s next series was The Sensational She-Hulk, which was a much more light-hearted and humorous take on the character. Penned mostly by John Byrne, this title introduced the concept of She-Hulk’s self-awareness of being in a comic book and spent a great deal satirizing the industry, while also exploiting its star’s sex appeal, often in purposely-gratuitous fashion.
Her solo adventures ended in the early 90s but resumed in 2004 with Dan Slott’s influential series, simply titled She-Hulk. This series offered an even more satirical, borderline-meta approach to the character, resulting in a style that was billed as “Abby McBeal” with superheroics. Despite critical acclaim, the series was cancelled, only to be relaunched a few months later (something Marvel does pretty regularly these days). After Slott left, acclaimed writer Peter David came on board, taking Jen in a much different, more traditional run that focused on action and character drama. Ending in 2009, Shulkie spent the next few years navigating from series to series, usually as a supporting player in books like FF until her next solo series in 2014. Under the guidance of writer (and lawyer) Charles Soule and artist Javier Pulido, this run brought her back to her courtroom roots and is considered one of the best storylines for the character.
Despite a number of appearances in various cartoons, this sensational lass has never been depicted in
live-action before now. The closest attempt came in the early 90s with a planned film that would feature Ivan Drago’s girl Brigitte Nielsen in the title role. Thankfully that abomination never came to pass so we can be graced with the latest entry in the ever-growing MCU, “She-Hulk: Attorney-at-Law.” Debuting on Disney+, this series stars Tatiana Maslany as both Jen Walters, and her alter-ego via motion-capture. Early teasers reveal a return of Mark Ruffalo’s “smart” Hulk, last seen in “Avengers: Endgame”, human-gazelle Jameel Jamil as nemesis Titania, and a humorous tone that seems to include Shulkie’s fourth-wall-breaking ability. The jury is still out on whether her debut will be a sensation or simply a dud but I think it’s safe to say there’s a new Hulk in town and she might just steal our hearts.