Everyone knows who Hulk is. The big green guy has captured the hearts and minds of comic book fans, as well as journeyman TV shows, for generations. From his early days as a modern day Jekyll and Hyde, to the more famous mindless brute of destruction, the exploits of Bruce Banner are well known to the world. And now that he’s become a movie star, chances are Hulk’s celebrity standing won’t be fading anytime soon.
But what about his cousin?
Outside of comics, not many people know about Jennifer Walters and her adventures over the last thirty-seven years. Created by Stan Lee and John Buscema, the origin of She-Hulk is less about a good idea and more about making sure that Marvel had a copyright before a television producer could get their hands on it (more on that in a bit) but, all the same, the character has become a fan favorite who helped set the stage for the comedy styling of characters like Deadpool.
So it is now that we, the true fans of Shulkie (that’s what her friends call her), wanted to take a little time to help you learn about why Jennifer Walters doesn’t just deserve your respect, she deserves your love too. From her solo adventures to her time as a member of the Fantastic Four, Jennifer Walters has blazed a path across comics history that can’t be ignored.
Sit back, grab your favorite drink, and get ready to learn some fun facts about everyone’s favorite green lawyer and what makes her so different from her more famous cousin!
15. She-Hulk Was Created To Save A Copyright
We’ll jump right in at the start of She-Hulk’s behind the scenes origin that we’ve already hinted at…
In 1977, TV audiences sat down to watch the live action adventures of “David” Bruce Banner – a genius scientist who became a horrible monster whenever he got angry. The Incredible Hulk was a smash hit, shooting up Marvel’s green tough guy to the A-list of superheroes.
Stan Lee, who above all else understood how the business of these things work, watched as his character (who he created with Jack Kirby) became more and more popular, and he thought about another massive TV success – The Six Million Dollar Man.
The Six Million Dollar Man was a ratings machine based on the book Cyborg by Martin Caidin. When producers decided to create a spin-off, they didn’t look at Caidin’s work, choosing to instead create a new character – a character they would have the rights to. That creation became the iconic series The Bionic Woman.
Stan Lee feared that the producers of The Incredible Hulk would do the same thing and create a female version of Hulk themselves, cutting Marvel out of any royalties, so he quickly created a new character with a very simple name – She-Hulk.
14. It’s In The Blood
While Bruce Banner received his Hulk powers when he absorbed a massive amount of gamma radiation from a bomb, Jennifer Walters got hers in a much more humane fashion.
Jennifer was a shy girl, a real wallflower if you will, who spent her days living a normal life in Los Angeles right up until a crime boss had her shot as revenge against Jennifer’s sheriff father.
It was a serious wound, and Jennifer lost a lot of blood – too much blood. She would have died if not for her cousin Bruce being there. Having the same blood type, Bruce quickly offered up his vein juice, but what he didn’t count on was that the gamma radiation that mutated his DNA would travel over and do the same to his little cousin.
13. Feminist Icon
While there was no intention to make her one, She-Hulk became something of a feminist icon. The basic concept – that inside this small woman was the heart of a warrior – quickly connected with women.
Adding to the power of the character was where writer David Anthony Kraft took Jennifer’s story. In the pages of The Savage She-Hulk, Kraft had Jennifer learn to control her power, becoming She-Hulk when she chose. Eventually, Jennifer decided to always be in the form of She-Hulk, finding that it gave her a boost of confidence.
Kraft also placed extra attention on Jennifer’s non-superhero work as a criminal defense lawyer, setting She-Hulk up as the main lawyer for superheroes who ran into legal trouble (sorry Daredevil, but it’s true – she’s a better lawyer than you are). In one case, she even cleared a vampire who had been arrested for a series of murders he didn’t commit.
12. Her First Series Lasted Longer Than Her Cousin’s
She-Hulk’s first solo series – The Savage She-Hulk – lasted twenty-five issues, which really isn’t that impressive, but it is nineteen more than Hulk pulled off.
Hulk’s book was axed with issue 6, and it would be five years before he got another solo series. She-Hulk had to wait seven years between solo series – Savage She-Hulk was canceled in 1982, and Sensational She-Hulk started in 1989 – but, during those years, she was a member of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, where she replaced Thing when he took time off to have his own solo series.
She-Hulk’s next series, Sensational She-Hulk, made it sixty issues before being canceled and it would be a decade before Shulkie got another shot at a solo series, simply titled She-Hulk. Not having her own book didn’t keep Jennifer from being a regular in the Marvel universe; she rejoined the Avengers and would play an important role in the classic crossover series JLA/Avengers.
11. Breaking Through The Fourth Wall
When writer and artist John Byrne took on She-Hulk in Sensational She-Hulk, he decided to try something a little weird – She-Hulk knew that she was a comic book character.
While Jennifer wasn’t the first superhero to learn the truth – back in the 40s the original Flash met the people who did his comic, a tradition continued with the second Flash and many other heroes – she took it to a new level.
Writer and artist John Byrne, who became a fan favorite creator with his work on X-Men and Fantastic Four, took his talents to a new level with Sensational She-Hulk, playing with the comic book medium and having a ton of fun along the way. During his time with She-Hulk, Byrne created some of the kookiest characters around, like Nick St. Christopher – the world’s greatest detective who also happened to have a lot in common with Santa Claus. Byrne also dug into Marvel’s library of forgotten characters to bring back the Golden Age hero Blonde Phantom.
10. Comics For Cases
After a few rough years, She-Hulk returned to her own series. This new series focused less on superhero action and more on superhero law. Working in the Superhuman Law division of Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway, Jennifer used actual comic books to help her superhero pals whenever they ran afoul of the law, as long as the comics had been approved by the comics code authority.
Some of the more important cases She-Hulk took on included Spider-Man v Daily Bugle, in which everyone’s favorite web-slinger sued the New York newspaper for libel and Constrictor v Hercules where the supervillain sued Hercules for nearly two hundred million dollars for damages.
When Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway began defending supervillains, Jennifer found herself in a moral conundrum that made her question if being a lawyer was the best way she could be helping people. After her cousin was shot into space without a trial, She-Hulk left her law life behind to focus more on being a hero.
9. Notches On The Bed Post
She-Hulk is something of a sexual superhero collector. As a young, successful and beautiful woman, Jennifer has taken advantage of her sexuality and collected quite an impressive list of men she’s slept with.
The list includes some of the better-known heroes in the Marvel universe, like Iron Man and Power Man, as well as some b-listers like Hawkeye and Hercules, and even a few c-listers like Star Fox and Man-Wolf.
Shulkie isn’t afraid to mix it up with some baddies too. She’s happily shared her bed with Charles Xavier’s evil brother Juggernaut and, in a story set in the future, even slept with her cousin the Hulk!
Out of all her sexual conquests, She-Hulk’s longest relationship, and possibly one true love, was Wyatt Wingfoot. Like his father “Big” Will Wingfoot, Wyatt has no superpowers – he’s just really awesome at everything, including capturing Jennifer’s heart. The two were engaged for years before Wyatt was forced to end the relationship and take over as chief of the Keewazi after the death of his grandfather.
8. Getting Strong Now
When she was first introduced, She-Hulk wasn’t as powerful as her cousin Bruce when he went all green but, over the years, that has changed. Jennifer learned that if she worked out while in human form, she became stronger as She-Hulk. After spending months in training, Jennifer improved her human form to its peak ability, making She-Hulk one of the strongest heroes in the Marvel universe.
Just how strong is She-Hulk?
She can lift the Thing’s maximum weight with just one hand. She can beat Hercules in an arm wrestling competition. She can stand her own against Hulk, even when Hulk is at his angriest.
Unlike cousin Bruce, Jennifer has also taken the time to learn how to fight. She was trained in hand to hand combat by two of the greatest fighters of all time, Captain America and Gamora. She is also a skilled pilot.
7. She Was The Universe’s Lawyer
Jennifer was a member of the Magistrati, a group of beings from across the galaxy who serve as judges, lawyers, and jurors of the universe, working under the direction of the Living Tribunal. The Magistrati oversee all things that need judging in the universe, even a boxing match between Beta Ray Bill and Champion that was held to decide who would be the ruler of the planet Skardon.
As a Magistrati, She-Hulk presided over a case where an alien race called Recluses demanded that the Watchers stop watching them, claiming that it was an invasion of their privacy. In her final case as a Magistrati, She-Hulk had to argue in favor of the universe. If she had failed, the Living Tribunal would have erased all of reality and replaced it with a newer better universe. Lucky for everyone in the 616 (the designated number for the Marvel universe) Jennifer made a solid argument and reality was saved.
6. Bill Bixby Kind Of Got A She-Hulk Pilot Made
While The Incredible Hulk was canceled in 1982, the show was revived through three made for TV movies in the late 80s. While She-Hulk doesn’t show up in any of the movies, she was originally going to.
The third movie, titled The Death of the Incredible Hulk was initially going to serve as a pilot for a She-Hulk series, but producers decided against it, instead choosing to focus only on Hulk.
Still, a She-Hulk series was too good an idea to let go of, but the studio, New World Pictures, would only go forward if Bill Bixby, who played Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk, agreed to appear in it. Bixby agreed, but only if Jill Sherman Donner was brought in to write it.
Following the format of The Incredible Hulk, She-Hulk would be played by two actors. When she was Jennifer Walters, Mitzi Kapture from Baywatch would take the lead, but when she went big and green, volleyball star Gabrielle Reece would step into the role.
5. Brigitte Nielsen Was Going To Be She-Hulk
With the TV plans dead in the water, Marvel started working on a She-Hulk movie in the 1990s. The movie, which was to be directed by Larry Cohen, had gone so far as to hire Red Sonja herself, Brigitte Nielsen, to play the heroine. Nielsen even did some promo photos as both Jennifer Walters and She-Hulk. Sadly, the movie never actually got around to being made.
Based on the existing images, Nielsen’s version of She-Hulk was less green makeup and more green eyeliner and lipstick. As hard as it is to believe these days, there was a time when movie studios balked at making superheroes look like their comic book counterparts, thinking that audiences would laugh at them.
While the movie was promoted at Cannes in 1991, the funding never came together and the world was spared what would likely have been a pretty bad movie. Still, we can’t help but wonder just how bad it could have been.
4. Iconic Look? What Iconic Look?
A staple of the superhero is the iconic look. Batman has his ears, Superman has his cape, and Hulk has his purple pants.
She-Hulk, on the other hand, has never had a defining costume. Over the decades, Shulkie has gone through more costumes than a fashion model, and none of them have really stood out.
More often than not, She-Hulk wears something akin to an aerobics outfit from the 80s, or a one piece swimsuit. White and purple are the main colors for her, but even those are up for grabs. As a member of the Fantastic Four, Jennifer wore their classic blue and white costume but, when she left the team, she went back to her ever-changing look. Sometimes her costume is little more than a tight tank top and baggy jeans.
Even She-Hulk’s hair keeps changing. Sometimes she has long, curly locks and, at other times, it is straightened out. For whatever reason, Marvel has never been able to lock down a style for the green gal.
3. Even Her Color Changes
Like her cousin, She-Hulk also changes colors from time to time. Where Hulk is a dumb brute when he is green, but smart when he is gray, She-Hulk is the opposite.
Gray She-Hulk first showed up when Jennifer was on an adventure with Howard the Duck (remember how we said Shulkie hung around with kooky people? That includes ducks). In the story, She-Hulk passes through a prism that alters her DNA, seemingly taking away her powers. Soon enough, when Jennifer became angry, she turned into gray She-Hulk. After a few adventures, the effects of the prism wore off and She-Hulk went back to her lovable green self.
2. Hawkeye Better Watch Out
While Hawkeye and She-Hulk may have been close in the past (real close), these days they aren’t on speaking terms. You may think it has something to do with their one night stand, but it doesn’t. Jennifer is pretty pi**ed at Clint because Clint killed her cousin.
Yup, Hulk went and got killed by Hawkeye of all people. This happened while She-Hulk was on the verge of death herself, having been mortally injured by Thanos. When she woke from her coma, She-Hulk learned about her cousin’s death, and that the Avengers decided to let Hawkeye skate with a warning instead of placing him in the super jail known as the Raft for the rest of his life. None of this made for a happy Shulkie.
1. You’ll Like Future She-Hulk When She’s Angry
This is comics, so you knew that, sooner or later, we would have to deal with weird time travel stuff, right?
In the 23rd century, the Earth is called Femizonia and it is ruled by Amazonian women. One of those women, Thundra, uses the DNA of the Hulk to have a child. This child, named Lyra, goes back in time in order to kill man’s greatest hero in an attempt to end a war before it starts. While running around in the present looking for this hero, Lyra, who calls herself She-Hulk, runs into the real deal She-Hulk who is none too happy about this impostor going around looking to mess with the timeline.
As Jennifer Walters learns, this future She-Hulk has a very exploitable weakness: when she gets angry, she becomes weaker. In time, Jennifer learns that Lyra isn’t evil, just misguided, and she helps her future namesake learn what it means to be a hero.