To say I am excited about She-Hulk: Attorney at Law is an understatement. Actually, it’s probably the understatement of the decade. You might know me better on Fangirlish for my work in Star Trek, Star Wars, or my #WayBackWednesday column. What you may not know about me is that I am a lifelong comics fan. I’ve been reading comics since I could read, which was long before it was cool. My all-time favorite superhero is Jennifer Walters, aka She-Hulk. I love that she takes the power of the Hulk and uses it with finesse, a good sense of humor, and somehow manages to look fabulous doing it.
If you’re unfamiliar with She-Hulk’s comic origin story, I’d like to give you a rundown of her 3 main runs. There are several other shorter series that she’s led, but I think the main inspiration for the show will come from the following series. If you’d like to read these yourself, check out your friendly local comic shop and pick up the trades or back issues. They’re definitely worth your time.
The Savage She-Hulk (1978)
The Savage She-Hulk came about for one reason only–fear of television rights. 1978 marked the premiere of Bill Bixby’s The Incredible Hulk TV series. The series was greenlit after two successful TV films the previous year. The Incredible Hulk was so popular that Marvel feared that the TV studio would want to create a female Hulk spin-off character. This fear was not entirely unfounded. This very thing had happened during the run of The Six Million Dollar Man. They had Lindsay Wagner on for one episode and she was so popular that viewers clamored for more. That’s how we got The Bionic Woman.
Marvel got out in front of it and created The Savage She-Hulk, introducing readers to Bruce Banner’s cousin, Jennifer Walters, a lawyer on a mission to put criminals behind bars. When one of those criminal gangs tries to kill Jennifer in a shoot-out, she was lucky cousin Bruce was there with her to give her an emergency blood transfusion, which saved her life, but also gave her the powers of the Incredible Hulk!
The She-Hulk we see in The Savage She-Hulk is not the finessed, funny She-Hulk we get in later iterations of the character. She’s got to get her powers under control, fight crime, and learn to keep her head. This series ran for 25 issues from 1978 – 1980. This won’t be the last we’ve seen of Shulkie.
The Sensational She-Hulk (1989)
Breathing new life into our girl Jen is The Sensational She-Hulk. The book was originally written by John Byrne, who is one of the most popular, but also occasionally controversial comic book writers and artists. Byrne’s twist on the character made Jen aware that she is both a comic book superhero, but also IN a comic book. Thus begins her now signature fourth-wall-breaking, her snark, and her classic cheesecake poses. She-Hulk is the go-to Marvel pin-up girl and because of the humor written into her character, she just sees it as all part of the job.
The Sensational She-Hulk lasted for 60 issues and is still in the top five for longevity amongst Marvel female superhero solo books. This is my favorite She-Hulk series because I love its absurdity. Jen goes on an interstellar adventure with Howard the Duck, fights The Village of the Darned (which could very well be the inspiration for The Good Place), and has the occasional run-in with big bad Titania who, speaking of The Good Place, will be portrayed by Jameela Jamil. This book has absurdist humor but also takes some deep dives into serious action. I would definitely recommend checking out the 6-part series, “To Live and Die in L. A.” for some of the latter.
She-Hulk (2004 and 2005)
Dan Slott and Peter David deliver the perfect Marvel Alley-Oop when it comes to She-Hulk. Taking the humor from Sensational, adding the action from Savage, and focusing more on her career as a lawyer, the mid-00s run of She-Hulk really allows our gal, Jen, to tell stories that are truly relevant to women today, mainly dealing with the pressures to have and do it all. In this series, she gets to team up with Gamora, practice superhuman law, and deal with things that lots of women deal with, like dating and yelling in frustration at the difficulty of finding clothes in your size. We even get a bit of fourth-wall-breaking in this series. Comic books with a “Comics Code Authority” seal of approval are used as evidence in a court of law. (Look it up–the Comics Code Authority did a lot of censoring back in the day).
What I like about this series is that it gives you the best of both worlds when it comes to She-Hulk. This is a must-read, and I believe, the biggest inspiration for She-Hulk: Attorney at Law.
These three aren’t the only She-Hulk series. There are several shorter runs and there’s even a current run that’s out right now. The current is a lot of fun and definitely worth a trip to your local comic shop. It’s got Titania, Jack of Hearts, and even the ever-lovin’ Thing from The Fantastic Four. Best of all, it’s a She-Hulk series that’s actually written by a woman–Rainbow Rowell. Jen Bartel and Adam Hughes are handling the cover art, Roge Antonio is on pencils, and Rico Renzi is on colors. (I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Rico at a local con and he’s a super cool guy). If you love variant covers, this is definitely the book for you. There are all kinds of variants for this book, which I make a point of picking up every month.
Keep in mind that these aren’t the only She-Hulk comics available. These are simply the longest-running She-Hulk books. She also shows up in The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, and A-Force. She’s in other larger arcs, like Civil War and my personal favorite, 1984’s Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars.
What are you most looking forward to about She-Hulk? I’m going to be tag-teaming with Julia Mercado to bring you the most comprehensive She-Hulk coverage you’ll find on the web, as we’ll be tackling the show from an MCU and a comics perspective. I hope you’ll stay tuned here for all your She-Hulk needs. If you want to hear more of what I have to say, you should also check out Podcast-616, where yours truly will be talking She-Hulk and other MCU goodness.
She-Hulk: Attorney at Law premieres August 18, 2022, on Disney+.