By Scott Tipton
Characters are created for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it's sheer creative inspiration. Other times, it's for plot purposes.
Our story opens with Dr. Bruce Banner arriving in sunny Los Angeles, California (although the narration refers to him as "David, or Bruce, or Bob -- what does it matter?" -- a clear tip of the hat to the viewers of the TV series that Stan was clearly hoping would be reading), looking to visit his cousin, attorney Jennifer Walters, in the hopes of getting some legal advice regarding his emerald-skinned alter ego, the Incredible Hulk.
Bruce confesses his double life to his cousin (the two had grown up as close as brother and sister, we're told), but before she can devise any sort of legal strategy, the two are ambushed by thugs in the employ of mobster Nick Trask, who has framed one of Jen's clients, Lou Monkton, for murder. In one of the less brilliant legal strategies I can think of Jen had spread a rumor that she had secret evidence that Trask himself murdered the man that Monkton is accused of killing. This was apparently supposed to "shake Trask up." Indeed it does, as Trask's goons try and keep Jen quiet with a little 45-caliber persuasion:
Bruce Banner manages to fend off the dangerous gangsters with a garden hose (don't make him get the rolled-up newspaper), and they flee the scene, leaving Banner to care for his critically wounded cousin. Luckily, Bruce spies a doctor's shingle on the front door of a nearby house. He breaks in and performs emergency treatment on Jen, including an apparently necessary blood transfusion, with the only blood available: his own.
With Jen stabilized, Bruce calls the police, who take her to the hospital and hold Banner for questioning. Naturally, Banner becomes overwrought at being captured, and before long "Hulks out," leaving only a smashed-through brick wall behind him. It's interesting -- very deliberately, we never see the Hulk appear in the story, presumably to keep the focus on Jen Walters and her imminent transformation.
She-Hulk tears apart the hospital trying to get her hands on the thugs, finally hucking a telephone pole like a boomerang, shearing the wheels off the mobsters' big ol' '70s sedan. As She-Hulk pulls them from the wreckage, they confess, and as the police arrive she runs back to her hospital room, feeling her rage and strength beginning to subside.
Not a bad debut, right? A satisfying and straightforward, if a little basic, origin story. Taking over with issue #2 were the aforementioned David Anthony Kraft and Mike Vosburg, and while the book still looked pretty good, some of the details would get a bit shaky. It would be Kraft who would introduce She-Hulk's somewhat less-than-stellar supporting cast, beginning with her chief legal rival, the chauvinist Assistant District Attorney Buck Bukowski. The two tangle over a bail hearing for her client Monkton, where Bukowski makes a good impression for the court, wearing his best turtleneck sweater and what looks like a pair of goggles.
Bukowski would continually needle Jen with his chauvinist put-downs, which would irritate and infuriate her so much that she'd be at risk of turning into the She-Hulk. Seems to me she should just file a restraining order against the guy, because he seemed to go out of his way to show up and be a obnoxious ass, such as here when he bursts in uninvited while Jen is recuperating from both her bullet wound and the death of her best friend (a death for which She-Hulk would be blamed, naturally):
"Can’t take the heat"? I guess that's one way to say it. I think another is harassment...
As if She-Hulk's taste in men wasn't bad enough, also introduced was Richard Rory, hard-luck hippie loser and former sidekick to the Man-Thing. After winning a million bucks at a Vegas casino, Rory hits L.A. and in short order runs into both the She-Hulk and Jen Walters, and is getting awfully chummy with Jen pretty damn fast, if you ask me. Even worse, Jen reciprocates.
Jen would continue to string both these two losers along over the course of the series, both as Jen Walters and She-Hulk. One day she'd be on the beach making out with Zapper...
The next Richard Rory would be crashing at her place, with an angry Mustache Man leaving in a huff. Even worse, this Zapper character once sold her out to some evil researchers who ostensibly wanted to study her cells for cancer research, but of course, were really in the "clone-an-army of-super-beings" business. I suspect this may be part of the reason this first series didn't last: male readers were likely appalled not only that Jen was so blatantly playing the field, while any female readers were just appalled at who she was playing it with...
In one of the funnier midstream character shifts I've ever seen, when Bev first appeared, she was something of a frumpy housefrau type, but as the melodrama continued to ratchet up, by the end of the run she had been transmogrified into a glammed-out ex-prostitute and mob moll. Yikes.
Initially, She-Hulk's transformations were triggered by fear, anxiety and rage, just like her cousin's but after a bout with a debilitating blood disease and treatment by none other than the old "Living Vampire" himself, Dr. Michael Morbius, Jen could transform back and forth at will, which was the beginning of a long-running bit of characterization; namely, that Jen preferred being She-Hulk all the time. Which certainly makes a lot of sense to just about anyone when you think about it. One minute you're a kinda mousy short brunette with limp hair and a struggling law practice, the next you're a seven-foot-tall amazon supermodel with a killer bod, a great coiff, and you can bench-press a Buick without breaking a sweat. Why would you ever go back?
My personal favorite is the "knockout snout," by the way...
Anyway, by issue #25, the sales were telling the tale. For whatever reason, readers just weren't clicking with the SAVAGE SHE-HULK, and the book was cancelled. Most of the loose ends were wrapped up, with Sheriff Walters discovering that his daughter was the She-Hulk and accepting her, Zapper forgiven by She-Hulk for selling her out, and best of all, that loser Richard Rory shown the door.
So that should've been it for Shulkie, right? Straight to comic-book limbo.