THE SENSATIONAL SHE-HULK,
or “Green is the colour of my true love’s hair” (with apologies to Nina Simone!)

An appreciation by Bob Reyer

After four solo series (and now one more, with the new Charles Soule/Javier Pulido run beginning this week!) and membership in both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, Jennifer Walters has found her way back home to Manhattan and the Baxter Building in the Matt Fraction/Michael & Laura Allred FF. Her time as The Thing’s replacement during John Byrne’s tenure on Fantastic Four would set the stage for some of the funniest, most off-the-wall comics ever in her next book, The Sensational She-Hulk, and more specifically in this case, issues #1-8 and #31-50 by John Byrne.

We should start at the beginning, but as usual, I’ve gotten ahead of myself again…

(Robert, have you ever considered de-caffeinated coffee? Audrey)

Sorry about the interruption folks; I’ll try to keep these to a minimum as we go along.

The She-Hulk was created by Stan Lee in order to stay ahead of the producers of the Incredible Hulk TV series, when rumours began circulating that they were thinking of introducing a female Hulk character, and one that Marvel would hold no rights on! With typically gorgeous art by “Big” John Buscema, The Savage She-Hulk #1 would tell the story of an on-the-run Bruce Banner seeking refuge with his cousin Jennifer Walters, a Los Angeles-based attorney. When gangsters involved in a murder case try to silence Jen, she is grieviously wounded, and in order to save her life, Bruce would give his cousin a life-saving blood transfusion…with the expected bad results. The book would debut on newstands in late 1979/early 1980 to modest acclaim at best, and slog along for two years before being cancelled with barely anyone noticing.

(Hey, wait a minute there, fella…) [That's odd; Audrey, is there someone else there? rrr]

Again, Gentle Readers, sorry for the disruption.

The She-Hulk would then become a member of the Avengers, as Roger Stern, that book’s scripter, unlocked the potential of the character by the brilliant stroke of writing Jennifer as someone who simply and utterly enjoyed being the She-Hulk 24/7!

(I always liked Ol’ Sterno!!) [This is getting tiresome, Audrey; what's going on over there?]

Moving on, during this Avengers period, the Secret Wars mini-series brought nearly every Marvel hero and villain together to battle on a distant world. At the conclusion, Ben Grimm would stay behind to “find himself”, and Fantastic Four writer/artist John Byrne would “borrow” the She-Hulk to use as his replacement in the group beginning in issue #265, a role she would fill until his return in the 25th Anniversary issue, #296. The friendship between the two that would lead to her current status in FF would blossom in issue #299, where “Shulkie” helped Ben (via a knock-down, drag-out brawl!) work through his feelings about the up-coming Alicia/Johnny nuptuals.

(You had to bring that up! I would have thought that everyone would have forgotten that icky Johnny/Alicia stuff, or that Marvel had ret-conned that story-line by now—at least twice! Jeez, you’re as bad as Byrne with remembering this old crap!)

[Can I get on with this?]

Quoting the aforementioned Mr. Byrne: “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.” (Thanks to Byrne Robotics for that quote!)

(Even after all these years, he can still talk a blue streak, can’t he?) [Oy, gevalt.]

As I was about to say, in Sensational She-Hulk, Jennifer Walters would break the Fourth Wall, sometimes ripping through the pages to move from scene-to-scene, and most often, commenting on the story, the art, and comic book tropes and cliches to the readers and the editorial staff, with particular attention paid to slights visited upon her by Mr. Byrne, which included marrying her off to the Mole Man, and the infamous opening to issue #40, where taking off from a letters page comment about increasing the sales of the book, Jen was depicted jumping rope in the all-together:

sheripxx

O.K., I’ve had it! You don’t need to show any more of that! It was bad enough living through it the first time! Who needs some aging fan-boy to bring it up after all these years?!? Audrey, be a dear and get Bob out of here for a bit while I finish this up. Thanks a lot; you’re a peach, kid!

Jennifer here, and now that I’m on this side of the page I can stop yelling. Sorry for the volume levels before, folks, but it’s the only way to make yourself heard around here. Back to my story:

Byrne had obviously watched too many Marx Brothers movies where Groucho talked to the audience, though knowing him, his influence was probably Bugs Bunny cartoons or that “Moonlighting” show that was popular then. (Gee, I wonder whatever became of the guy who starred in that?) Although it was nice to be able to get my two cents in now-and-then, I don’t think it was enough to balance out loser bad-guys like those Toad Men you saw before, not to mention Dr. Bong, Spragg the Living Hill, or that Xemnu clown who covered me in green fur! I still have marks from the super-scientific Laser-olosis (TM) that got rid of it!

I gotta say, it was fun while it lasted though, and when The Byrne-ster left after issue #50–well, promise you won’t tell him–it was never quite the same, even with talented writers like Steve Gerber, Dan Slott and Peter David telling my stories. Maybe in the new FF book, this Fraction guy will let me talk to you folks again? Honestly, I should just ask him myself when he’s on this little dog-and-pony show they run around here; or maybe I should ask his better half, that nice Ms. DeConnick, for a guest spot in an issue of Captain Marvel? Does that sound O.K. to you, Bob? [-Anything you say Ms. Walters, anything you say.-] Hey, we’re friends now, so just call me Jen, big boy!

USELESS INFORMATION:

The Sensational She-Hulk is my #4 Favorite Super-Heroine, and is at #14 on my Top 100 Comics Characters list!

(Bob, that’s very sweet of you. If you had told me that before…)

SOUNDTRACK:

This piece was composed whilst listening to the incredible Nina Simone, and her classic song “Black is the colour of my true love’s hair”, collected on her “Anthology”.

FURTHER READING:

Fantastic Four #265–#300 (1984–1987)

The Sensational She-Hulk (Marvel Graphic Novel #18)(1985)

The Sensational She-Hulk #1–#60 (1989–1994) (John Byrne issues #1–#8; #31–#50)

The Sensational She-Hulk:TPB (Reprints #1-8 plus Marvel Comics Presents #18 “Xmas Tease”)

ADDENDUM:

My new writing partner Jennifer is correct when she cites Groucho Marx as the source for “Fourth Wall Breakiness”; check out this scene from the 1932 film “Horsefeathers”:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kDHD4Bs_EI[/youtube]

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19 Responses

    • Bob Reyer

      Hey, Sarah!!

      Jen here; Bob doesn’t seem to be around…Audrey, have you seen Bob?

      I believe that Robert is out shovelling snow, Jennifer, dear. He wouldn’t listen to reason…I do hope he’s being careful.

      He’s in their pitching, I’ll give him that.
      Well, since it’s International Women’s Day, we’ll just answer for him! Thanks for the compliments directed my way; a gal likes to know that she’s still appreciated after all these years, and it’s great to chat with you directly–I don’t get to do this much anymore! Before I go, I have to ask, as one Amazon to another, how “giant” are you exactly? We might be able to swap clothes or boots or something!

      JENNIFER

      Sarah darling, we’ll tell Robert you called, and pass along your kind words. We’ll see if we can persuade him to take a boyish fling at writing some more of these.
      @udrey

      PS) Does anyone know what the little green doo-hickey is next to Bob’s name? It’s like some Gamma-Ray inkblot test, and it’s really creepy! JW

      • Giant Woman

        I’m a fairly tall lass, and I’m working on the muscles to get fully Amazon-ed up – you’re my role model! One of these days I’ll get to cosplay as you at a convention – with your permission of course! Oh, and I must tell you, I was talking to Hawkeye on twitter the other day, and he admitted to having a BIG crush on you!

        The green doo-hickey is where you put your avatar. I had to log on to an external website to change mine, but I’m sure if Bob asked Steve or Bobby they could help him change it. I have a rather fetching picture of him at NYCC that would look rather distinguished as an avatar!

      • Bob Reyer

        Jen here Sarah, and wow—role model; I’m honored, girl friend!

        Go right ahead and get yourself all “Shulkie” for an afternoon, but let me give you some quick cos-play advice; use green make-up, and stay away from Gamma Rays—they can wreck a girl’s complexion! Look at what just happened to Betty Ross; red is NOT her color!

        Clint better watch himself, or that Hawk-lady Kate will find some new uses for those trick arrows of his, if he’s not a good boy! I may have to talk some sense into him at the next poker game. He’s a terrible card player by the way, and you can tell him I said so!

        I think we’ll be looking at that green smush for a long time, as Bob’s about as good with computers as he is with shovelling snow. Right now, he’s sitting in front of the TV watching “FF” cartoons with an ice bag on his neck, ’cause he over-did yesterday. If he had waited 5 minutes, I’d have taken care of it. As to his avatar-thingy, when you say you have a fetching photo, was he dressed like a dog? Just what kind of convention did you guys go to. anyway?

        Only kidding folks; I can tell Sarah’s a posh lady by her good taste in super-heroines, and Bob’s a nice old gent–just a bit long-winded!
        JENNIFER

    • Bob Reyer

      Luciano, Thanks a lot!

      I do hope that I’m not coming off as too much of that cranky History teacher whose class you couldn’t wait to get out of!

      Best wishes to your daughter Liliana, the “Little Lady Sif” who is one of Talking Comics’ youngest fans!
      Bob

  1. Bob Reyer

    Jennifer here (I’ve had Audrey take Bob out for brunch!),

    I just want to say, before I get booted off the top of the page by an article about digital comics, another one of Bob’s “history lessons” (“Crisis”, Dracula, Amalgam; I mean really, who cares anymore…BORE-RING!) or the review of a book that sells even less copies than one of mine used to–and I got cancelled 4 different times–that it was a blast talking to you guys again! Thankfully, the editors around here didn’t get their knickers in a twist like Byrne and Renee Witterstaetter used to, so I actually could string some coherent thoughts together!

    See you in the funny papers!
    Jen
    ps) Hey, maybe I can help Shenani-Girl with that column of hers?
    JW

  2. Bob Reyer

    Thanks everyone for checking out (and sticking with) this somewhat disjointed…Hey, wait a min

    Sorry there, Bob, but I need this space of yours one last time. I’m hearing some rumblings that over on Twitter, @hawkguybro is disputing my claim that he’s a capital “L” lousy card player. To show you how bad he is, all he ever does is draw to inside straights ’cause he’s a “rebel”, and tries to act all “cool” with those sunglasses, as if we can’t see the grin on his face when he actually has good cards. Clint, you’d own a real car if you hadn’t lost the title to one to Willie Lumpkin!

    JENNIFER
    ps) I didn’t even charge Clint for my legal fees when he tried to sue Willie to get it back! JW

    • hawkguybro

      Hey! I’m like the best poker playing guy ever, lady. Man? I’m confused. They aren’t sunglasses, they’re x-ray lenses to see through your cards…they only work on clothes though. I think Tony got my order wrong. And I always grin like that, so yea.

      Also, I believe the giant lady is supposed to be sending you a note, you know, if you wanna…just check yea.

      Totally awesome at cards.

      • Bob Reyer

        Clint,

        Ms. G-W sent me that note, but I didn’t check off either of the boxes, because there wasn’t one that said “HELL NO!!”. Wyatt and I are doing just fine, thank you; and anyway, don’t you have enough trouble with that bevy of “exes” and “currents” that keep running into each other? Am I glad that I’m back with the FF where this sort of stuff doesn’t happen!

        (Jennifer dear, both of those books are written by the same fellow, Matt Fraction. @udrey)

        I’m starting to miss The Byrne-ster! I’ll just have to pay Mr. Fraction a little visit, to make sure he keeps things separate! I think I’ll bring Andy, the Mad Thinker’s old android, with me for the “awesome” factor.

        JENNIFER

        ps) We weren’t supposed to tell you, but Stark didn’t make a mistake with your sunglasses order; those are re-configured “X-Ray Spex” from the back of one of my old comics; he wanted to see how long it would take you to figure it out. On top of you not knowing a “Full House” from a “Full Monty”, those glasses let us see YOUR CARDS!
        JW

  3. hawkguybro

    Sooooooo, you didn’t check no yet? ‘Cause that’s all that counts. Wally’s being whoever he is, let him be free.

    And I don’t have that many exes! Bobbi’s happy with the half of what I had, Sheila tried to get me killed so I can’t go back to her, Tasha’s got some issues and I not really into the leather in the bedroom kinda thing, Red-Head-Mob-Lady is the wife of Mob-Guy and her family uses bro too much to be serious, Katie’s like 12, and Eden…she. She’s actually still an option.

    Also, um, who, uh, who’s your friend? Audrey, is she available, oorrr…No? Ok.

    ps) I knew that! And I know what a “Full House” is. It’s the adorable show about the little girl being raised by her “dad” and “uncles” and I don’t know what ” “‘s are. Monty is obviously another dude. Who is full. Prob’ly ate too much. But “you” are just jealous of my card game playing skills. Can we play Go Fish next time tho? I’m great at the Fish.

    • Bob Reyer

      If by “Wally”, you mean Wyatt, we’re trying to be a couple again, so consider the boxes on your little grade-school note checked off in the triple negative! By the way, didn’t you forget to mention Jessica Drew in your little “laundry list”? I’m sure you’ll pay for that omission–one of her venom blasts should help you remember her name next time!

      “Go Fish” is just about your speed, “Purple Arrow”; maybe I’ll set up a game for you over here at the Baxter with the Moloids, Artie, and Leech…but don’t let Bentley join the group, he’ll wipe you out!

      JENNIFER
      ps) Sorry to break it to you in this fashion, but I never respond to offers from gentlemen whose manners I dis-approve of, particulary gentlemen who are already spoken for. @udrey

    • Bob Reyer

      When in the Sam Hill did I lose my handle on this column? All I wanted was to

      Bob, don’t blame me for this spiralling out of control! I was just saying my “Good-byes”, and before I knew it, I had fires to put out. Sorry to break in folks, but I may not get another chance…

      Okay you kids, this is your old friend (and creator!) Stan Lee, and I’m telling you to behave, or I’ll turn this column around, right now! This in-fighting is not the Mighty Marvel Manner of doing things! Well, maybe it is…after all, I had the heroes squabbling half the time, but they always got back together in the end, right! So, can’t we all just get along?
      NUFF SAID!
      Stan

  4. hawkguybro

    Can we have another event?! Please, it’s only been 6 days since the first issue of the last one! It can be called: Age of She-Hulk ruins Hawkeye’s Life and Sends Him in a Deep Downward Spiral into the Depths of a Zima Fueled Sadness! War.

    • Bob Reyer

      Zima!?! Were they out of Bartles & Jaymes? Man, what a lightweight.

      Be careful what you wish for Clint, I seem to remember Mr. Bendis killing you off in one of those “events”!

      JENNIFER

      ps) I’ve spoken to some of the boys upstairs, and not only will you get an “event”, but they’re going to put you in that loincloth playsuit that Roy Thomas and Barry Smith had you in back in Avengers #100! Mr. Alonzo said you should start doing sit-ups!

      JW

    • Bob Reyer

      Thanks “M”!

      I thought the only right way to tell Shulkie’s history was in the style of her most iconic run!
      Bob
      ps) I’m not sure why making a Nina Simone reference popped into my head as a thing to do, except that I’m a big fan–glad you dug it! rrr

      Speaking of runs, who’s this Javier Pulido guy that’s drawing me with tattered stockings on the cover of my new series? I mean, really…

      (Jennifer, that cover is by a gentleman named Kevin Wada; you ought to apologize to Mr. Pulido, darling! @udrey)

      I just checked the credits, and as usual, Audrey is right! Sorry about jumping to conclusions there, Javier!

      While I’m yakking about my new book, there’s a rave review of it by that nice Suzanne Nagda that you should check out! And Bob, she actually mentions you by name! Maybe somebody around this taco stand actually does read your stuff!
      JENNIFER
      (Hey, Bob–what’s with the “rrr”; are you growling or something?) JW

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