Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Sensational She-Hulk 1: Superheroes Go Metafictional

After She-Hulk's first series folded, she bounced around the Marvel universe, joining The Avengers and The Fantastic Four.  Writers such as Jim Shooter, Roger Stern, and John Byrne developed her character further.  Unlike many Marvel characters, She-Hulk enjoyed having her powers and preferred staying as her large, green self more than her normal self (her cousin The Hulk/Bruce Banner was always trying to rid himself of his powers, which he regarded as a curse), which made her appealing to many readers, many of whom likely fantasized about having superpowers themselves.  In the late 1980s, writer/artist John Byrne, one of the most popular creators in comics at the time, returned to Marvel after revamping Superman and rebooted the She-Hulk series.  He changed the adjective from "Savage" to "Sensational" and took a postmodern, metafictional approach to the storytelling in which She-Hulk knows that she's a character in a comic book and often addresses the reader directly.  The result is a lot of fun.

Here are some random thoughts on this issue:

*Byrne makes sure to stress that The Hulk's name is Bruce Banner, as the television series was long off the air (though it returned for a few made for television movies around this time).  He has a tendency to be obsessed with getting even minor continuity details right (whereas Stan Lee created so many characters with alliterative names such as Bruce Banner because otherwise he'd forget what he called the characters).

*Byrne delights in having She-Hulk fight ridiculous villains such as The Ringmaster and The Headmen from past Marvel comics.

*It is much better than the first issue of the original series, provided one didn't mind all the silliness such as She-Hulk working out by lifting circus elephants and fighting a gorilla.

*Female superheroes are often underclad, and She-Hulk is no exception.  She runs around in a swimsuit for most of the issue.  Apparently, they weren't going for a female audience here.

*I didn't buy this when it first came out since I was a poor college student, but She-Hulk didn't rip up all my X-Men comics.  Perhaps she knew I'd pick it up in a quarter bin down the road.

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