Sep 30, 2019

First Appearance Flashback: She-Hulk

It’s always interesting to look at a character’s first appearance and see what aspects of that character were in place from the very beginning.  Batman was famously machine-gunning vampires and executing criminals in his early appearances, while Spider-Man debuted basically as the same character we know and love today.

With that in mind, this ongoing series will be taking a look at the first appearances of notable comic book characters, to see how they hold up with the modern day depictions.  Next is the future star of a Disney Plus television show, She-Hulk.

First Appearance Flashback: She-Hulk
Ben Smith

She-Hulk was created by the legendary team of Stan Lee and John Buscema, and was the last significant character created by Stan for Marvel. The genesis of the character actually came from the television show The Bionic WomanThe Incredible Hulk was having a successful run as a television show at the same time as The Six Million Dollar Man, and Marvel was worried the network would create a female version of the Hulk the same way they did The Bionic Woman.  Marvel wanted to create the She-Hulk so they would own the rights. And so The Savage She-Hulk #1 was published in February of 1980, written by Lee with art by Buscema.

The story begins with Bruce Banner tired of being on the run.  He decides to visit his cousin Jennifer Walters, an attorney in Los Angeles.

Bruce reveals to Jen that he is the Hulk, retelling his origin in the process. Jen convinces Bruce to come home with her.  Unfortunately, the client she’s currently representing has a powerful enemy, and he sends two of his goons to kill her.

She’s shot in the back, but Bruce is able to fend them off before they can do any worse.  Bruce is desperately trying to remain calm, but Jen has lost too much blood. So Bruce finds a residential doctor’s office, and performs a blood transfusion, using himself as the donor.

Bruce disappears after calling the police, feeling it’s safe enough for him to leave town after reading that Jen will be okay in the newspaper. But when Jen is recovering in bed, Trask’s goons arrive to try and finish the job again.

It was a bad idea, as Jennifer Walters becomes the She-Hulk for the first time.

She chases the goons out of the building and into the streets.

She finally catches one, and he subsequently confesses to Trask paying them to murder Jennifer Walters, as well as swearing knowledge of Trask’s original murder, all in front of some nearby policemen.

She-Hulk runs backs to the hospital, returning to her bed just in time for her to revert back into Jennifer Walters.  The nurse comes by to check on her, and she comes up with an excuse for why she changed rooms, keeping her new identity intact.

What’s aged the best?

Jennifer Walters is a lawyer who gets Hulk-like powers after her cousin Bruce gives her a blood transfusion.  Those facts never change in later incarnations.  Her general appearance would remain consistent with Buscema’s original design as depicted here.  She’s more intelligent and self-aware than her male counterpart traditionally is as well.  Overall, considering this comic only exists for copyright purposes, it was much better than it had any right to be.

What’s aged the worst?

It’s later changed so that Jennifer can fully control her transformations into She-Hulk. They aren’t solely triggered by anger or stress like they were in this story.  She also prefers to stay She-Hulk, as she feels much more confident and comfortable as such (especially sexually).  Many of her later comics would give her more of a humorous tone, in contrast to her tortured cousin.  John Byrne’s beloved run on the character had her repeatedly break the fourth wall, a trick Deadpool would steal years later.

Not all characters get to debut in their own series with a fully formed origin story, but it would take a little while longer before She-Hulk became more than a clone of her famous cousin.  Her preference for being green and her sense of humor are what make her so interesting.  Combine that with the story opportunities that being an attorney provide, and frankly you get a far more interesting character than the male Hulk.

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