In 1980, Marvel introduced a new character to its canon that deviated from its norm. Neither a brawny male hero nor a tiny, big-haired female damsel, She-Hulk was brought in as the cousin of Bruce Banner, gaining his anger-filled transformative powers after a blood transfusion.
She-Hulk’s character is a criminal defense lawyer who’s smart, savvy and levelheaded ― except when she’s not. Bursts of anger turn her into a bulkier, greener version of herself, which she chooses to inhabit permanently in one Marvel storyline. She-Hulk, née Jennifer Walters, eventually becomes part of the Avengers and, in a 2008 comic, forms a group of women fighters called the Lady Liberators that includes Storm and Spider-Woman.
In “Hulk #1,” an installment of Walters’ story released by Marvel at the end of last year, She-Hulk becomes a better-rounded character. She’s taken the place of her cousin, Bruce, who’d recently died in Civil War II ― a major event in the series. Barely surviving herself, she spends much of the issue coping with post-traumatic stress, reconciling her roiling inner feelings with the work she must focus herself to accomplish.
“I think it’s a great topic for a superhero story, because every heroic event has a next day and consequences,” “Hulk #1” writer Mariko Tamaki told The Huffington Post, adding, “I think these consequences dig into the human element of being superhuman.”
Reflecting on the human element of comic book characters is something Tamaki is comfortable doing. Her graphic novels Skim and This One Summer both feature heroines who grapple with young adulthood, body image and general feelings of isolation. The latter is regularly challenged in schools for its incorporation of adult themes in a book for young readers.
“In the big picture, the experiences of women, the social issues relating to women, are important to me. When I write, I try not to reinforce stereotypes about how a woman should be ― in terms of size, in terms of appearance, in terms of what is ‘appropriate’ and so on,” Tamaki said. “I want the characters I write to feel ‘real’ and I want them to mirror the diversity of experiences that make up being a woman in the modern Western world.”
So, her Jennifer Walters isn’t just a one-dimensional “She-Hulk” expected to be always simultaneously strong and appealing. Instead, she’s both, in turns, and she’s dealing with issues unrelated to her gender: trauma and the death of her cousin, an injustice that spurs, yes, more anger.
Asked whether she wanted to confront the stereotype that woman expressing their anger are villainous in her work, Tamaki said simply, “I think anger, fear and pain are interesting things to write about. They are a key element of stories about the human experience. What’s a good story without a little rage?”
Read an excerpt of “Hulk #1” below:
Find the comic on Amazon or at your local bookstore.