It ain’t easy being green, but Jennifer Walters certainly pulls it off with considerable style and grace.
A Harvard law graduate and prestigious attorney, Jen in her human form was already an undoubtedly powerful force in the Marvel Universe. However, following a shooting by notorious gangster Nick Trask’s goons, Walters needed an urgent blood-transfusion from her cousin, Bruce Banner. This procedure was not only life-saving, but life-changing. Now infused with gamma-radiated blood, Jennifer Walters became She-Hulk!
Whilst it would be nice to think Jen’s character emerged from the public outcry for a powerful She-Hulk, she was originally created following the success of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ live action television series of the ‘70s. In an ownership-of-rights race between Marvel and CBS, Stan Lee rushed to create a female Hulk character and, in February 1980, The Savage She-Hulk #1 hit the comics’ stands.
Unlike Bruce, Jennifer learned to maintain her personality and control her rage (to a degree), particularly once Morbius the Living Vampire helped her to develop a serum which allowed her a greater sense of control over her hulk transformations. This ultimately turns Jen from the ‘Savage’ She-Hulk into the ‘sassy’, as she finds her confidence in her new lean, green alter-ego; using it to unleash her unruly wild side.
To a female reader, this is perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of She-Hulk comics; Jennifer Walters completely rocks her She-Hulk persona. In a society where so much – perhaps too much – pressure is put on women by magazines, commercials, film, and television to try and achieve that “ideal” look of a perfect, beautiful woman, it’s great to see a character completely embrace their identity. She has no intent of hiding her green skin and unruly mess of hair; what she’s got, she flaunts! Walters also stands out, particularly in recent years, for being depicted with an athletic body form. Yes, there’s the purple-lycra leotard, however, Shulkie definitely looks like she’s clocked in the hours at the gym. It’s such a refreshing take in the comics world, where many of the female characters still look like they have a tiny waist and ballooned chests thanks to the magic of plastic surgery and eating disorders (looking at you, Wonder Girl, Starfire – the list goes on!). Walters has been put through the paces throughout the years regarding her transformation; her initial change understandably caused distress, but whenever her ability to turn into her green alter-ego is taken away from her, she is devastated. It’s apparent that Walters chooses and enjoys spending most of her time in her liberating She-Hulk form. So ladies, next time your hair’s out of place, or your make-up’s run, or you’ve got a spot that ONE day you needed to look great – just think What Would She-Hulk Do? You’re right – she’d own it.
Confidence isn’t the only admirable aspect of Walter’s personality. She’s hugely intelligent, working as a successful lawyer, even being approached by the magistrates of the universe to work on a case. But she’s also compassionate, aiding minorities in their cases, helping to rebuild towns she may have destroyed, as well as specialising in Superhuman Law (let’s face it, the collateral damage has to be fixed somewhere!). Her position as a lawyer has been skilfully examined in Charles Soules’ latest take on She-Hulk in the Marvel Now relaunch. In Issue 4 (out yesterday!), we see Walter’s internal conflict in agreeing to take on a case for Dr Doom: we all know he’s a big bad in the Marvel Universe, but even they need help sometimes. Her conversation with Matt Murdock highlights the moral difficulties superheroes as lawyers face: their heroics need to stretch further than the average vigilante’s.
Shulkie also has a fantastic sense of fun and wit about her. This is particularly evident through her breaking of the fourth wall. She’s very aware that she is a comic character, often approaching the audience, as well as jumping out of panels and across pages of adverts. This tongue-in-cheek style really compliments the other aspects of She-Hulks character. While she can be taken seriously in big story events, her She-Hulk persona is all about embracing the wild side. She-Hulk comics are bright and colourful, and usually one of the most fun ones on offer.
So, there we have it. A character who embraces her flaws, ultimately realising that they are her real strengths. She is potentially one of the most realistic female superhero characters around; okay, the green complexion, superhuman strength, and height probably won’t be achievable for everyone, but with a bit of self-confidence, anyone can channel their inner-Shulkie. She’s also incredibly intelligent and respected in the Marvel universe, proving anything can be done with a bit of hard work. By acknowledging both her human and superhuman personas are a part of her, Walters is able to be the strongest person she can be; herself.