Are you read to go green? I’ve completely overhauled my Guide to She-Hulk to mark this week’s debut of the new Marvel Cinematic Universe series, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, on Disney +.
She-Hulk stars the mega-talented Tatiana Maslany as Marvel’s Jennifer Walters, a mild-mannered attorney pulled into the heroic life of her Avenger cousin Bruce Banner … or, at least, that’s the story we know from the comics. And if you don’t know the story yet, don’t worry – I’ve got you covered with a guide that includes every She-Hulk series, every appearance, and links to find collected editions, buy digital versions, and read online with Marvel Unlimited.
My Guide to She-Hulk will always hold a special place in my heart and memory, because it is one of the first two guides I completed after leaving my tech start-up job in 2016 to be a stay-at-home parent.
At the time, the kid didn’t spend a single second of time looking at screens, so my only downtime from wake-up to goodnight were her mid-day naps. In overhauling this guide, I saw so many places in it where I remembered, “yep, that’s when she woke up,” or other such toddler-motivated interruptions from my guide-making.
As weird and as confusing as a time as that was in my life, it was also a time where I value every single second and every memory. I have so many photos and videos of our adventures, and my She-Hulk Guide is like the negative space of that – one of the few things I was doing in the time I had to myself.
While the guide has always been complete and completely definitive, there were many half-finished thoughts throughout, and I never had the time to refine the the structure and table-of-contents to my typical level of perfectionist completion.
That’s no longer the case. I’ve completely changed my approach to presenting Jennifer Walters’ many series and guest-starring turns, plus added a “Where To Start Reading” section and highlighted the quickest ways to build a She-Hulk shelf in oversize hardcover or paperback.
Some Marvel characters find a niche early on and stick to it. Others grow through a single, continuous arc.
She-Hulk’s progression has been more about evolving with the idea of what being a “powerful woman” means to the broader pop culture in any given publishing era.
She began her life as a straight-forward female copy of the Hulk, the last character Stan Lee launched in the Bronze Age purely to retain Marvel’s copyright on the gender-swapped version of Hulk. While it sounds like a distinctly utilitarian approach to creativity, it also speaks to what a “strong female character” was at the time – essentially, just a version of a strong male character, but with breasts.
In the 80s, She-Hulk became a staple of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, in part under the pen of John Byrne. He extended that run by launching her 1989 solo series. Byrne gave her the power of being able to comment on her own situation by breaking the fourth wall to address the readers. This extremely meta power let her make light of all of the sexy situations she was thrust into for marketing purposes. It’s a self-awareness that was mirrored many acerbic female comedy leads of the day on TV and in movies.
(Unsurprisingly, She-Hulk disappeared in the back half of the 90s, where almost every comic women suddenly had her proportions if not her strength. Sometimes the greatest power is to make yourself scarce to let your imitators speak for themselves.)
Even if Byrne was the creator to create an indelible personality for Jennifer Walters, the 00s were her decade to cement her place closer to the center of the Marvel Universe.
In a pair of series from Dan Slott and Peter David, She-Hulk changed again – to be more of a dauntless professional who also happened to be a rage-filled badass who could launch you into space with the power of her punch. It also found her drawn into Bruce Banner’s continuity as Hulk for the first time ever, playing a pragmatic and often exasperated perspective on his world-breaking endeavors.
In the 10s, we saw yet another shade of She-Hulk. First, in 2014 she was written by comics superstar and actual-life lawyer Charles Soule, who gave us our smallest and most-grounded take on her law practice ever in a way that felt closer to TV’s Shondaverse than the MCU at the time. She reflected our ability to see power in women working in the same jobs as men, but outshining their male counterparts exactly because they aren’t the same as them at all.
Finally, in 2017 She-Hulk was written on an ongoing basis by a woman for the first time. Eisner Award winner Mariko Tamaki. Tamaki penned a decompressed 2017 run all about the quality of grief, rage, and fear. She humanized She-Hulk, making it clear that Jennifer Walters deals with all the same emotions as any women – she just turns into a monster when she has gone beyond her limit.
Now, in the 20s, we have a new She-Hulk series launched by Rainbow Rowell, who just completed a flawless run on Marvel’s teen Runaways. I can’t wait to read how Rowell alters Jen’s powerful persona for a new decade!
Ready to start reading? Visit my Guide to She-Hulk and jump into the world of Jennifer Walters in any decade you choose.