I’m graduating from NYU’s Creative Writing MFA program in a few days, and as a present for myself, I bought a subscription to Marvel Unlimited with the plan to read Marvel comics and nothing else until my eyes fall out. I’ve been reading great and wonderful literature for two years, and it’s time to have some fun.
So I was reading all the comics I’ve always meant to read, the famous Captain America arcs, Joss Whedon on The Astonishing X-men and I decided I needed fewer dudes, and more lady action (though Joss’s X-men had a nice selection of ladies and I will write about how I love Emma Frost later). Enter She-Hulk. (2004-2009)
All I really knew about her was that she existed, but what I discovered was my favorite super-hero to date. Of course, part of why I love her is that I am a tall muscle-y lady, and she is a tall muscle-y lady, but there’s so much more than that. Jen Walters, She-Hulk…I will just have to list all the things I love about the comic (minor spoilers):
- Look at that picture! Look how she’s drawn! She and all the other women in the comic are usually drawn in power poses, not sexy, ass and boobs poses.
- She is strong and loves to kick ass, and she is also gorgeous and feminine. Not that a big strong woman has to be, but it’s nice that she can be both, that her strength and ass-kicking are never shown as something that makes her less than a woman.
- She’s not a rage monster like Bruce Banner. As She-Hulk, she is less inhibited than in her human form, but she’s not out of control.
- She has sex with a lot of the hot dudes of the Marvel-verse, while being taller than all of them, and complains about the double standard, but it’s never shown to be a bad choice. For a little while she decides not to hop into quite so many beds while she figures out why she’s doing it, but then she bones Hercules, because they like each other and she wants to.
- AND THEN HERCULES CALLS ALL HIS FRIENDS AND WONDERS IF SHE’S GOING TO CALL HIM AND IF HE SHOULD FEEL USED. *FLAIL*
- It’s playfully feminist and wonderfully 4th wall breaking. There’s a whole subplot about the comic-book archive at her law firm. People complain that things are so crazy, “It’s like every time I come in I overhear someone saying, ‘Weren’t you supposed to be dead?'”
- And when She-Hulk is briefly a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., she’s on a team with a Life Model Decoy (lifelike robot), the scantily clad Agent Cheesecake, trained for combat and seduction. Then when She-Hulk leaves the team, she’s replaced by the virile LMD Agent Beefcake, also trained for combat and seduction, who makes the dude leader of the team veddy uncomfortable. Heh heh heh.
- Romance is important in the early arc, and there’s an interesting storyline about how much people should change for the people they love. Then women friendships become very important in the later arcs, which is also wonderful. Both types of relationships can and should be important.
- Jen, She-Hulk, begins as a lawyer, which she loves, and has spent all of the comics grappling with how to be a super hero and a lawyer (or some other things), and what kind of super hero she wants to be. She’s not tortured, she’s frustrated, by the world’s injustice, and by the limitations of what she can do, even as a super strong fighting machine.
- The comics don’t neglect potential real-world conflicts of being a super hero who causes a lot of destruction. There’s a moment when Jen’s in jail and talking to her cellmate, who has had a far worse life than her, and they commiserate, and it’s poignant and wry and wonderful. And then the (female) cellmate grabs her ass as their both leaving, because when is she going to get the chance again? To which Jen says, “Okay, but the next one’s gonna cost you.”
I could go on and on. I love comics. I love the brooding and the world-ending consequences and the bottomless tragedy, but I love even more She-Hulk’s lighter touch. Everything doesn’t have to be doom and gloom all the time. Jen is an optimistic, wonderful, ass-kicking lady, who makes mistakes and grapples with her place in the world, and we should all try to be more like her.