In this finale, writer Dan Slott wraps up the Titania story with another fun issue. Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*I miss letters pages. I have no idea if this series was intended from the beginning to be a twelve-issue miniseries or if it was a regular series that Marvel canceled for low sales, then saw the good buzz the series received and decided to reboot it a few months later. If comics had letters pages during this era, I'd probably know this. And, no, I'm not searching ancient Internet message boards to figure this out.
*Though the series isn't metafictional, Slott keeps the John Byrne spirit alive a bit by having She-Hulk seek out answers in a comic book store as to how to beat Titania. Marvel in the Marvel universe publishes officially-licensed comics, you see. I'm pretty sure also that She-Hulk meets Evan Dorkin's The Eltingville Club in the comic shop, though only three of them (maybe the fourth doesn't like comics).
*An ad for Westfield Comics comics mail order service quotes a customer from Somerville, Massachusetts, USA which is puzzling. Is the guy an invalid? There are a zillion (well, maybe not a zillion, but a lot of) good comics shops in the Boston area. Why does he need mail order? When I was in Boston earlier this year, I visited a number of them and those were just the ones in walking distance from downtown (if I had taken the T, Boston's mass transit, I could have hit even more). Admittedly, not everyone will walk from Boston to Somerville and back, but I did. Maybe Westfield gives big discounts or something. I used to get mail order comics when I lived in the boonies. It was like Christmas twelve months a year. I don't get as many comics anymore, so even with the discounted price, it doesn't pay for me since I'd have to pay postage and that would end up costing me more overall.
*The comic also has an ad for a cd-rom collection that had forty years of Spider-Man comics on them. This was a good deal for $50. Unfortunately, Marvel realized that the digital comics market was growing and took the license away from GIT Corp, the company who made the cd-roms. It was nice while it lasted.
*She-Hulk would go on hiatus after this issue, but it would return in eight months with a new number one issue (much to the confusion of future collectors, I'm sure). You only have to wait until tomorrow though to read about it!
You can guess what happens in this issue from the cover, but in addition to She-Hulk getting beat up, she takes a stroll with the gamma-radiated mental health professional Doc Samson and discusses some recent trauma. It's another fun one courtesy of writer Dan Slott and the rest of the crew. Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*The ice cream cones She-Hulk and Doc Samson enjoy are green and purple respectively. Gamma-radiated folks seem to love those colors. I'm not sure what ice cream is purple, but some flavor out there is.
*You would think the Marvel universe version of New York City would have cheap rent since fights between superhumans are always smashing the city up. Who would want to live there unless the rent was very cheap? Don't get too attached to your stuff either; sooner or later a superhuman is going to get thrown through it.
*The issue ends on a cliffhanger, but careful readers will remember that The Scarlet Witch cast a hex on She-Hulk a few issues earlier and it comes in real handy as Titania heads in for the kill.
In this issue, She-Hulk's archfoe Titania takes the spotlight as writer Dan Slott fleshes out her origin from Secret Wars to more fully humanize her and make her more than another strong woman for She-Hulk to fight. Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*The covers have been used in the last few issues to tell little stories of their own. 7-8 featured She-Hulk headed to court while encountering such other Marvel characters as Howard The Duck (Howard did appear inside 9 threatening George Lucas with a lawsuit for stalling Howard's career with the poorly-received movie from 1986). For 9-10, a cover of She-Hulk flexing her newly-increased strength for 9 is defaced and torn open by Titania on 10.
*On another cover note, aren't those UPC codes on the covers awful? I like it much better when they are jettisoned to the back cover. At least in The Sensational She-Hulk series, the codes were only used on newsstand copies and other art appeared in the white space on direct sale copies (i.e., comics sold in comic shops). Best of all though are older comics with no UPC space at all, just a complete cover.
*This is another great issue. It's reminiscent of The Invisibles 12 (the first volume) wherein writer Grant Morrison tells the life story of a henchman mowed down by one of the "heroes" of the story and gets the reader to sympathize with the "villain" (and a very minor villain at that--the guy is basically cannon fodder). Titania is a bit more significant in the She-Hulk saga, but still she's had to wait twenty years to have a decent origin telling. She's still a villain, but, after learning of Titania's bullied upbringing, the reader can understand why she goes powermad with her strength and has such a hatred for She-Hulk.
*The issue isn't entirely devoted to characterization. It sets up a rematch for Titania in the next issue (in 9, She-Hulk took care of her with one punch; now Titania has a counter for She-Hulk's increased power).
This issue is another bit of fun. The story concerns She-Hulk learning to deal with her newly-increased strength and with a supervillain suing Hercules for beating him up during a crime. Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*She-Hulk emulates her cousin and begins leaping across town. One interesting aspect of The Hulk and She-Hulk is that whereas women are stereotypically viewed as overly emotional, it's the male Hulk who can't control his emotions in most stories whereas She-Hulk is not only rational, but she also has a lawyer's mind trained for analytical logic.
*Though the first Dan Slott She-Hulk story portrayed her as a player (a male model dumped her because she was shallow), She-Hulk picks up a regular boyfriend in John Jameson, The Man-Wolf (hey, when you have green skin, you won't complain that your boyfriend turns furry once a month). A fellow lawyer at She-Hulk's firm, Pug, has a crush on her though, setting up a love triangle.
*DC keeps advertising in She-Hulk. This month, it's Superman and Batman underoos. I hope they're in adult sizes because I doubt many young boys were reading She-Hulk in 2005 (maybe they were aiming at the parents buying the children underwear). By the way, when I was in Los Angeles recently, I met the leaf in the Fruit Of The Loom commercials. His name is Gene, and he is from Iowa. He's a nice guy and a good comedian. Check him out at The Hollywood Hotel or wherever he's performing now if you get a chance.
*The Fantastic Four gueststar, and writer Dan Slott makes fun of how many times Mr. Fantastic has told The Thing that he can never turn back into plain old Ben Grimm and been proven wrong. Marvel must have liked how he handled the characters because, a few months later, Slott would write a Thing solo series.
This issue finishes the cosmic storyline from the previous issue. She-Hulk uses her brain to overcome The Champion (as well as beating the snot out of him with her brawn). It's another fun issue. Here are some random thoughts on the issue:
*The comic has another great cover, presumably continuing the scene from the previous cover. Now She-Hulk is in the courthouse and taking the elevator to the eighth floor (it is issue eight after all). Her old buddy Howard The Duck is in the bottom right corner while She-Hulk's fellow legal superhero Daredevil is in his Matt Murdock alter ego behind Howard. Unfortunately, neither gueststar in this issue. However, The Silver Surfer does; he doesn't do much though (he, like the gueststars from last issue, got beaten up by The Champion).
*The Champion at first refuses to fight She-Hulk since she's a female, so their eventual showdown also becomes thematically a battle of the sexes. Like the famous 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobbie Riggs, the woman wins.
Writer Dan Slott starts another two-part story here. This one takes place literally across the Marvel universe as She-Hulk gets drafted to work for The Living Tribunal judging cosmic court cases. The result is a hoot! Here are some other random thoughts on the issue:
*The cover scene with She-Hulk heading to court doesn't really appear in the issue but it works well thematically. I'm not quite sure why she's wearing glasses, but maybe she had to change quickly from Jen Walters. Longtime She-Hulk fans will enjoy seeing Razorback in the lower left corner. Unfortunately, he doesn't appear in the issue.
*Gueststars in this issue include Beta Ray Bill, Adam Warlock, Pip The Troll, The Watcher, and Gladiator. Most are facing off against The Champion in a boxing match to save the life of a planet. Slott obviously read a lot of comics while growing up.
*A Teen Titans DVD ad runs inside. Once again, Time-Warner makes some strange advertising buys. Not many companies would pay money to their major competitor.
This issue finishes the story started last month concerning the miniature supervillains' prison break. It's the payoff for last issue's setup, and it does indeed pay off for the reader, making for a fun story. Here are some other random thoughts on this issue:
*She-Hulk is smashing her logo on the cover. Apparently, she was upset at her low sales. Fortunately, the book was getting noticed by the critics. Wizard Magazine had named it book of the month. Though Wizard often had a bad reputation for their encouragement of spectator excesses, the magazine's writers often did champion underappreciated but well-done comics as well.
*The best part of the story concerns The Mad Thinker's android, now called Awesome Andy and working at She-Hulk's law firm. A big gray bulky fellow with a stone block for a head and forced to communicate with some sort of chalkboard thingy hung around his neck, A.A. has quite a personality, and he shines here as he is forced to decide whether or not he wants to rejoin his creator in a life of crime or keep working at the law firm.
*Actor/musician Jack Black makes a cameo on the first page.
*Writer Dan Slott has fun with the longtime conceit of the Marvel Universe that Marvel Comics publishes officially licensed adventures of the Marvel heroes. Apparently, they're admissible in court too! I doubt that works in our universe, but next time you get in trouble with the law maybe you can give the police a copy of one of the Spider-Man comics with the clone storyline and claim your clone did it instead!
After demonstrating that he could write great single issue stories, writer Dan Slott stretches out a bit in this issue with the first part of a two issue story involving a very unique prison break. In the Marvel continuity of the time, supervillains were being shrunk down and held in a miniature prison. This story concerns how some of those villains devise a way to use She-Hulk to break out. It's clever stuff even if it doesn't have the snap of the previous single issue stories, though perhaps that lost snap is explained by the absence of regular artist Juan Bobillo. Here are some other random thoughts on this issue:
*What is She-Hulk smashing on the cover? Concrete? A gallon of milk? Whatever it is, she doesn't like it. I like her weightlifter gloves though.
*This issue has a cameo from The New Warriors. As a writer, Slott clearly delights in playing with all the toys in the Marvel toybox.
*There's an ad for a Justice League cartoon movie inside. Apparently, Time-Warner, owner of DC Comics, was so desperate that they actually advertise their products in comics by their major competitor, Marvel. Actually, this probably isn't a bad idea (someone reading She-Hulk probably likes Superman and the gang as well), but it's still a bit weird.
This issue was great fun! She-Hulk helps Spider-Man sue J. Jonah Jameson for libel. It's little wonder that writer Dan Slott would go on to write Spider-Man on a regular basis as he has a good feel for the character. Here are some other random thoughts on this issue:
*She-Hulk has settled down to a regular costume, but it's a swimsuit type deal that probably always gives her a wedgie when she lifts something. Pity the poor heroines! They always end up with the worst costumes usually for sexist reasons. Previous She-Hulk writer John Byrne would always argue that Namor The Sub-Mariner walked around in a tiny swimsuit so all superhero costumes were ridiculous and She-Hulk being underclad wasn't due to sexism. However, just compare the amount of skin the average heroine displays (say, Wonder Woman) with the amount of skin the average hero displays (say, Superman), and you'll find more cheesecake than beefcake on display.
*She-Hulk was only selling about 25,000 copies a month, but in 2004 that was considered enough of a success that she would get another ongoing series after the first 12 issues of the 2004 series (Marvel apparently hoped the reboot would increase sales). Her previous series had folded in 1994 and it had been selling twice the amount of the 2004 series likely, a sign of how much the comics industry had changed in a decade.
*Slott excels at single issue stories, somewhat of a lost art in comics today. This one was his best She-Hulk yet. Funny stuff!
Even though writer Dan Slott isn't as flippant about mocking comic book tropes as previous She-Hulk writer John Byrne was, he still occasionally pokes fun at the silliness of superhero comics. In this issue, it's making fun of the way comic books characters always come back from the dead. In the story, She-Hulk is trying to get the judge to allow a ghost to testify in court about who murdered him. She does this by having The Thing testify that he's come back from the dead. Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*The cover inspired actress Angie Harmon to pose punching a hole in the sidewalk so she could demonstrate why she should play She-Hulk in the movies. Slott approved. Of course, She-Hulk has been portrayed before on screen, but only in fan fiction videos and The Avengers porn parody (former WWE wrestler Chyna portrayed her there).
*Slott uses the tension between She-Hulk and her alter ego Jen Walters well. Previous writers often underutilized this motif, possibly because it had been so overused with The Hulk and Bruce Banner. In the storyline, the law firm prefers Jen Walters, so She-Hulk is forced to change into her other self occasionally (she would prefer to be big and green always).
*Marvel seems to have been more successful in selling advertising than DC during this period. DC often ran house ads for other comics, while Marvel is selling such oddities as superhero haircut sets ("Haircuts For Heroes"!).
Writer Dan Slott revived She-Hulk in a solo series in 2004, and it's definitely her best outing. Though Stan Lee created her and John Byrne developed her further with his metafictional approach, Slott builds on the previous work on the character to deliver the best version yet. He keeps the humor aspect from Byrne, but eliminates the metafiction, which allows the stories to become emotionally deeper and fulfilling for the reader (one problem with a postmodern approach is that it usually falls apart eventually when the freshness of the storytelling is worn off, leaving readers with characters who no longer inhabit an internally-believable imaginary world). Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*We start with issue 2 because I don't have issue 1. I looked for it in the back issue bins, but decided that spending $10 on it was a bit foolish when I could just spend $10 for a month in Marvel's Digital Comics Unlimited and read it and a bunch of other comics as well. So, I've read it; it's great, but I won't be discussing it here. Boy, between trade paperbacks and digital comics, it's no wonder comic stores don't carry many back issues any more. Oddly enough though, as digital reading (that's digital as electronic and not digital as in we use fingers to turn the pages) becomes more common, I suspect that a lot of comic book stores will close. Ironically, the ones that survive will probably be the ones with lots of back issues since collectors of print comics will keep them in business.
*The motif behind Slott's run is basically ripping off Supernatural Law and making it superhuman law. This is a great concept and one which John Byrne used a couple of times in his run on the character. So She-Hulk's legal work involves cases with superheroes and supervillains. In this issue, she represents Danger-Man, who is attempting to sue his employers for turning him into a superhuman.
*The title of the story "Class Action Comics" riffs on the law and Action Comics, the comic that launched Superman and the entire superhero genre.
*Slott is ably assisted by artists Juan Bobilla and Marcella Sosa, whose slightly cartoony style fits the story well.
*The law firm She-Hulk works at is Goodman, Lieber, Kurtzberg & Holliway. Holliway's a character in the story, but the other names are better known as comic book industry, and specifically Marvel, legends Martin Goodman, Stan Lee, and Jack Kirby. The law firm is located in Timely Plaza, a reference to Timely Comics, which is what Marvel was known as during the Golden Age, and She-Hulk resides in the Excelsior apartment building, excelsior being the word Stan Lee loved to sign off his Bullpen Bulletins with.
*It's a delight to read a good single issue, especially from this era when comics were often written with the trade paperback in mind. After Byrne's three or four panel pages at the end of his run, it's also nice to see six-panel pages again. The result is a satisfying read.
*I didn't read many Marvels during the 1990s, so I lost track of She-Hulk during the time, but it doesn't appear much was done with her during the time between the end of The Sensational She-Hulk and the beginning of the new series. I bought some of the Slott issues as they came out, but others I picked up in the dollar bin (66% off, just like She-Hulk's usual amount of clothing!). Obviously, these issues come after when I started rereading my collection in 2002, but it took me a while to reach the Ss, so I threw them in the pile as I picked them up. I was still looking for a couple recently, which is why She-Hulk is the next to last series to be reread.
*I could go on and on about how much I like Slott's She-Hulk here, but since we have thirty or so issues ahead, I'll sign off here. Excelsior!
This doublesized issue is creator John Byrne's finale, and he goes out in grand style by inviting other notable comics artists such as Frank Miller to join in. The storyline basically concerns She-Hulk picking a new creative team since Byrne is departing. Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*The cover is one of those fancy covers from this period of comics. It's cardstock and shiny on the green bit. It was also a pain to get a good scan or photo of. I finally had to resort to not using a flash during daylight hours, and it still isn't a very good photo. Nevertheless, it's a nifty cover with She-Hulk's cleavage vaguely resembling the S on Byrne's iconic Superman Man Of Steel cover. However, a feminist critic might find it a tasteless bit of treating women like an object since it basically is a bust of She-Hulk in more ways than one. I think Byrne was going for a lady justice bit (She-Hulk is a lawyer after all) with her logo being the blindfold. In any case, it's striking.
*The story is Byrne's best She-Hulk story. It's lots of fun. In addition to Miller, other guest artists submitting proposals to be the new artist on She-Hulk include Wendy Pini, Dave Gibbons, Walt Simonson, and Howard Chaykin. I hope they didn't mind Byrne, through She-Hulk's comments, making fun of their work.
*The story also features the first work by the actual new creative team of Michael Eury and Todd Britton. Unfortunately, it's the worst part of the story, so I doubt many readers were convinced to stay on the title after Byrne's departure. Indeed, the title folded after a few more issues. Poor She-Hulk wouldn't appear again in her own title until 2004.
*In the letters page, Byrne basically admits that his last few issues sucked and that's why he's leaving (see, I wasn't the only one who thought they were bad). Fortunately, he seems to have given his all this time and ended his run with his best issue.
*Byrne arguably remains She-Hulk's best artist. Fortunately for She-Hulk, her best writer was still to come in Dan Slott. The result was her best series yet.
Creator John Byrne's penultimate issue on the title continues to, likely unknowingly, portray She-Hulk's father as a major creep. This time he gets drunk and breaks in on his girlfriend Weezi's television talk show taping to tell her that she's a freak and he liked her better when she was dumpy looking (presumably because he can't push around a woman who could beat him up). The shock forces Weezi to give up She-Hulk's powers just in time for her to kick the shite out of Titania who up until that point had been taking advantage of She-Hulk's loss of powers to kick the shite out of her. Here are some more random thoughts on this issue:
*The credits are given as a poem, which is clever. Byrne continues his streak of ending on some strong issues. Many of his previous runs on comics (even his fabled Fantastic Four run--how's that for alliteration, Stan Lee?) tended to either peter out or just end abruptly, presumably because he fought with the editor or got a better offer, so it's nice to see him end a run gracefully. Admittedly, he's still drawing pages with only three or four panels on them, but at least this issue is much better than many of the ones that preceded it.
*So Weezi and She-Hulk's dad (he does have a name, but honestly does it matter?) haven't seen one another for almost a year's worth of stories (our time, but since She-Hulk and Weezi have been up in space, I suspect it's been awhile in Marvel time too), and they still live on opposite coasts of the U.S., but they're somehow still madly in love. Wow, characters that one can just push around for the sake of the plot certainly are easier to deal with then those ones who are more fully-characterized, aren't they?
*The tv show Weezi appears on is a parody of the Oprah Winfrey show. With She-Hulk's dad being drunk and busting in on the tv taping though, it really should be a parody of the Jerry Springer show, but it only started in 1991 and wasn't as widely known then.
*Twice in two issues, whoever wrote the letter column (Byrne probably) can't remember which issue the Christmas story appeared in. Last issue it was 38 and this issue it was 8 (it was 36, guys). Maybe She-Hulk's drunk dad pretended to be his daughter--that might explain it--but otherwise how can Byrne or whoever not remember an issue from only a year ago?
*The postal service statement reveals that She-Hulk sales went up about by about 10,000 copies a month since Byrne's return. The series was selling about 60,000 copies a month, slightly pathetic for the time, but today it would be a top twenty seller. It's no wonder that comics are getting more accepted in the academy. That's their future. Despite the hype and the films coming out of comics and whatnot, the actual comics medium isn't popular anymore. I still love it though and so do enough other people that it will always be around, but it's going to more of a fine art than a popular one.
In this issue, She-Hulk suffers an existential crisis as her sidekick, Weezi, unconsciously refuses to relinquish She-Hulk's powers. The issue is most notable for creator John Byrne's funny use of a fill in the blank villain wherein he asks the reader to imagine Weezi fighting the reader's favorite villain. After some lackluster issues, Byrne seems to be ending his run on the series with some stronger efforts (no pun intended). Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*The Fantastic Four gueststar. It's always a treat to see Byrne handle those characters. Though I haven't read every run of the FF, my two favorite ones are the original by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and the one by Byrne where he both wrote and drew the series.
*Byrne wastes about three pages recapping how Weezi and She-Hulk exchanged body forms. He's still padding the stories a bit. He also gets pretty minimal with his backgrounds. Early Byrne art had a lot of detailed and well-executed settings; it was partly what fueled his popularity. Later Byrne art gets more expressionistic and focuses on the characters. Sometimes the backgrounds are just a solid color outlining the characters. These could be seen as a natural evolution of his art, a way to crank out more pages, or an emulation of the popular comics artists of the time, many of whom barely detailed the characters.
*Marvel started putting out the Bullpen Bulletins interior hype page weekly instead of monthly. It looks like they were producing 25 products a week. With that frenzy of activity, it's not surprising that the quality dropped. A couple of years later the comics market would crash when speculators realized that many of the comics that they were buying multiple copies of were worthless and readers realized that many of the comics they were reading were crappy. To some extent, the industry has never recovered from this last boom time. Comics might be more critically acclaimed these days, but they probably don't make as much cash as they did then.
This issue is a fill-in issue while creator John Byrne recharges his batteries. It must have been commissioned earlier since it ties in with a lot of the Steve Gerber stories (The Phantom Blonde, The Critic, and so forth). It was written by Simon Furman, a British writer, and concerns She-Hulk meeting puppets who bear a remarkable similarity to those from the British tv show The Thunderbirds (here they're called The Thunderhawks). It's not bad, but nothing great. It was refreshing to read something actually coherent after Byrne's last issue though. That's about as much as can be said about it. Obviously, I thought it was a Byrne issue when I bought it or I would have skipped it (upon rereading some of the Byrne issues, I wish I would have skipped a few of them as well). I have no random thoughts on this issue other than if you're collecting the Byrne She-Hulk comics, then you can skip this one. I do kind of miss fill-in issues (sometimes they were actually good), but today comics publishers usually delay the next issue when the creators can't make the deadline; back in 1992, comics were still enough of a newsstand business that one couldn't miss a deadline (which makes this issue odd since She-Hulk was a direct only title--sold only in comics shops and not returnable--at this point; perhaps the editor had this issue lying around and wanted to finally use it).
I'm not sure if creator John Byrne is parodying the badly-written comics of the 1990s here, or if he just figured that if the kids wanted badly-written comics, then that's what he'd give them. Either way this thing is a mess. It does feature some interesting comments on identity, but they're pretty well-buried under She-Hulk learning a mind-switching trick from an alien with a head the shape of an egg (a literal egghead); She-Hulk trying to swap brains with her sidekick Weezi (never mind that she's in outer space and She-Hulk is planetside); Weezi teaming up with Skrulls, more aliens, somehow, but mainly because Byrne made them teamup because he needed that in the plot, what plot there is; Skrulls killing asparagus people who turn out to be Carbon Copy Men, who would have been great stupid villains to make fun of but Byrne just kills them off and then explains who they are afterwards; Weezi getting She-Hulk's powers but not turning green; an alien with a gun that turns people to stone; a space race against a whole planet being turned to stone; and Razorback and Rocket Raccoon turning back from stone but still having little reason to be in the story (Razorback can be justified as a plot device at least, since that's what gets She-Hulk to the planet in the first place--why bring RR in when he won't be used?)--I could go on but you get the idea--what idea I have no idea though. This probably was a one-issue story (it might have worked as that), but by this issue Byrne managed to stretch it out to three by using three or four panels per average on a page. I don't have any random thoughts on this issue, other than I'm glad it's over. This has to have been a parody. I don't think Byrne could write this badly accidentally. Maybe he was challenging himself to write the script in only an hour or something, or maybe he just decided that he didn't need a script. Indeed, he almost dispensed with plot here. It's more like one thing happens and then another and then he explains how they were connected later. This might be the worst She-Hulk comic ever; it's certainly the worst Byrne one.
After finishing his epic Cerebus comic series, creator Dave Sim has engaged in a few other projects. One of them is glamourpuss which mainly gives Sim the excuse to draw beautiful women in pin-up poses and have them say weird things in the word balloons. A couple of decades earlier, Byrne did the same thing in this issue of She-Hulk (he was making fun of how the hot artists of the time mainly just drew characters in cool poses rather than tell stories visually). His is even weirder since he also continues to run the regular space story (perhaps Byrne realized it was awful too) around the pin-ups, all of She-Hulk, of course, until the editor "makes him" stop about halfway through the story. Yes, it's very weird, but it makes for a fun issue of the comic after a few duds. Here are some other random thoughts on this issue:
*When an alien technology goes astray, She-Hulk switches bodies with Weezi, which will become a storyline for the next few issues. The series often explored issues of female body image and gender roles in an interesting way. Riot Grrrl and third wave feminism was breaking out at the time though, so understandably criticism of She-Hulk wasn't a high priority for feminist scholars, and still remains underexplored. In fact, this might be as good as it gets, folks.
*Razorback and Rocket Raccoon remain petrified and unused. Why Byrne left that kind of comedy gold on the shelf is puzzling. He could have had Razorback try to wear a coonskin cap or something equally dumb, but nope, nothing. Gas was running low in Byrne's She-Hulk tank.
The story in this issue is better than in the last few issues, but that's mainly because creator John Byrne recaps classic Marvel stories such as Dark Phoenix and The Avengers' discovery of Captain America. Once, the story returns to She-Hulk, it's just a ho-hum interplanetary rescue of Razorback and his girlfriend. On the bright side, Rocket Raccoon shows up. On the dim side, he's petrified into stone. Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*A Marvel alien race, the Asparagus People or D'Bari (they look like asparagus) return, well, sort of. Though I do half wonder what their urine smells like, let's be thankful this wasn't a scratch and sniff issue (the comics industry of the 1990s loved gimmicks).
*She-Hulk meets some Skrulls, another Marvel alien race. Since they both have green skin, She-Hulk and The Skrulls complain about how difficult it is for other people to tell when they're seasick. No, that doesn't happen. Not much of anything fun happens in this issue, which is shocking since it has She-Hulk, Razorback, and Rocket Raccoon in it. Byrne must have been really burned out at this point. I'm not even sure why he bothers to include Rocket Raccoon. He really doesn't do anything with him even in subsequent issues.
*The last few Byrne issues have been pretty bad. It probably would have been better for him to have left the title a few issues earlier so his run wouldn't be so tarnished. Let's hope he can pull it together in the next few issues. Otherwise, these are going to be some dreadful posts. Normally, when I would hit a bad spot while rereading my collection, I'd just skip ahead, but I'm near the end of this project, Byrne's run is almost done anyway (50 was his last issue), and Dan Slott's run on She-Hulk is ahead and it's even better than the highlights of Byrne's run, so I'll stubbornly plow on one issue at a time. Hey, at least bad Sensational She-Hulk is still better than Savage She-Hulk.
The splash page and first few pages of this issue are terrifying since it looks as if writer/artist Rob Liefeld has taken over the book. Fortunately, it's just creator John Byrne making fun of Liefeld and the regular Byrne art returns in a few pages. Unfortunately, the Rob Liefeld parody is the most interesting part of the book. The rest of the book is a She-Hulk-Xemnu battle averaging 3 panels a page. At this point, it's difficult to tell if Byrne is parodying the dumb superhero comics of the 1990s or if he's decided that if he can't beat them (saleswise) then he'll join them (lazywise). Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*She-Hulk's sidekick Weezi returns from her character strike to resemble one of those short, slightly chubby women with round glasses that Byrne seems to always love to draw.
*The letters page doesn't have enough letters to fill it, another indication of the title's slide in popularity.
*There really isn't much to this issue, so there's not much to say about it.
This is yet another issue of three and four panel pages with a story recycled from earlier plotlines (She-Hulk fights Spragg, The Living Hill!, but this time in space, and Xemnu, another old foe, pops up again). My best guess is that creator John Byrne was devoting his main energy to his creator-owned series Next Men and trying to do the bare minimum on She-Hulk (well, maybe not "bare minimum" as he already ran blank pages in a previous issue). The issue isn't without its charms, but it's work well below what Byrne is capable of. Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*She-Hulk's sidekick Weezi goes on strike until Byrne starts drawing her skinnier. This is an inspired bit, but probably could have been done in a page or two and not the six pages it took up.
*She-Hulk punches more rocks. At first I thought Byrne just reused panels from last issue, but he actually drew a few more pages of She-Hulk punching rocks. It would have been funnier if he just reused the same panels, but I guess he didn't want to make it too obvious that he was padding out what was a thin story to begin with.
*Enilwen the giant shows up. This time he collects rocks. Since Enilwen is a parody of comics creator Len Wein (you may know his work if you know Wolverine), I would guess this is some strange sort of inside potshot at Wein, but I have no idea what it is. Last time, Byrne was making fun of Wein's teddy bear collection. Maybe Wein collected rock albums?
*A subscription advertisement shows Marvel publishing 72 titles one could subscribe to. No wonder this era of Marvel is relatively not well-regarded. They were likely just publishing too many comics and the talent pool grew thin. When Morbius, a Spider-Man vampire villain, has his own title, then you know that Marvel isn't being too picky about what it's putting out.
It took about three minutes to read this comic, five if you count the letter page. A lot of the pages have three panels on them (eight, in fact; some have even less). Admittedly, it's a story set in outer space and larger panels make for a more cosmic feel, but the story (She-Hulk fights rocks) is so lightweight that it likely would have been over in ten pages with six-panel pages (and Alan Moore could probably have done it in five pages with the Watchmen nine panel grid). As it is, creator John Byrne has to pad out the issue with a final page about the editor calling him up to complain that the story is a page short (at least that page has seven panels on it). I have no random thoughts on this issue. I must have bought the Byrne She-Hulk issues in a bunch after I liked the first couple. If they were all like this, then I would have saved my money. I hope Byrne's later issues have more thought put into them. He's proven time and again that he's capable of much better work than this. Apparently, his other series, Next Men, had priority at this time.
This issue is a bit of a rehash of previous storylines. I suppose today it would be called a mashup. For this mashup, creator John Byrne takes the outer space U.S. 1 story and mixes it with the Spragg, The Living Hill! story. The result isn't particularly amusing. It really does seem that Byrne was phoning it in at this point. Here are some random thoughts on this issue;
*"Shulk" never caught on, but "Shulkie" seems to have as a nickname for She-Hulk.
*The cover and the first few pages are She-Hulk jumping rope in the nude, a joke made on the letters page a few issues earlier. Byrne seems desperate to raise sales. She-Hulk and the Comics Code balk though, so she ends up wearing a white bikini (she never appears nude since speed lines from the rope cover her naughty bits). Byrne actually wastes four pages this way. They're all one panel. That's right, all splash pages. Perhaps this was a parody of the ridiculous Image Comics stories of the time with the one-panel pages, but it's likely Byrne was just padding out the issue. To cap off the one-panel pages, many of the other pages have three or four panels per page. Honestly, this story could have been told in half the pages if it had to be told at all. This is Byrne's worst issue on the title, beating out the Santa Claus hits on She-Hulk issue. A monthly title is a grind though, so he can be forgiven the occasional off issue, but I don't remember the subsequent issues well, a sign that they might not be much better.
This issue was pretty forgettable. It's a continuation of the previous story of She-Hulk fighting Mahkizmo, but the novelty of making fun of mindless comics has worn off and there isn't much else here. On the bright side, The Thing shows up, and he's always fun. Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*Creator John Byrne wrote a Thing spinoff series for a couple of years and has always had a fondness for the character. In fact, The Thing's solo series was how She-Hulk ended up in The Fantastic Four. She replaced him while he was off adventuring in his solo series.
*Mahkizmo is from a future Earth where men and women battle one another for supremacy, but peace is reigning at the beginning of the story. In this issue, the battle breaks out again.
*She-Hulk teaches Mahkizmo about the birds and the bees, but not in the way you probably think. It's unstated what happens to him after that, but one can imagine him joining a drum circle and becoming a sensitive male (to quote songwriter Steve Blunt, "I'm so goshdarned sensitive that I score every time"--or something like that, since Steve sings children's music now, I doubt he breaks out "Sensitive Guy" much anymore, so I couldn't doublecheck the exact line anywhere online).
*At this point, Byrne was wrapping up his Namor series for Marvel and starting to focus on his creator-owned series, Next Men. This issue feels "phoned in". He was probably continuing on She-Hulk until Next Men proved it had legs or not. It did, so She-Hulk was the last ongoing corporate series he did for a couple of years. In the middle of the decade, when the speculator market of the 1990s collapsed, nearly taking the comics industry with it, Byrne returned to another ongoing corporate comic, and it featured another strong, female character: Wonder Woman.
For the February issue (yes, it says April on the cover, but comics are weird that way), creator John Byrne has She-Hulk celebrate Valentine's Day by fighting a sexist pig, in what apparently was Byrne's parody of the really dumb comics popular in 1992 where two musclebound idiots beat the crap out of each other and it's called a story. Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*The silly villain is Mahkizmo, yet another Fantastic Four baddie. Despite such classic antagonists as Galactus and Doctor Doom, the FF seem to have a sizeable number of really bad menaces, which Byrne delights in ridiculing.
*She-Hulk requests duo-shade paper for her art just like Byrne used in his Namor series, and the result is a heavier-inked style of art with plenty of shading (She-Hulk reports that it "feels a little bit like corduroy").
*She-Hulk and Mahkizmo hit one another with a sewer pipe, a bulldozer, and a car, before Mahkizmo falls in love with her (don't ask, it's a really dumb plot device . . . ok, it's Cupid's arrow). She-Hulk doesn't complain how hackneyed a device this is, but she does complain about all the villains hitting on her and the amount of footnotes in text boxes in her book.
*Wyatt Wingfoot takes his shirt off to provide the straight female (and gay male) readers with some beefcake to match the usual serving of green cheesecake for straight male (or lesbian) readers.
*Someone makes a masturbation joke in the letters page, and She-Hulk pretends not to get it. That's probably for the best, since Valentine's Day isn't the biggest celebration of self-love. That's Onan's Day.
Sales had dropped on She-Hulk between creator John Byrne's runs, so he was desperately trying to goose sales with crass covers. This time around, it's three then-red-hot characters on the cover. Of course, as She-Hulk notes at the bottom of the scrunched up cover, the three characters (Wolverine, The Punisher, and Spider-Man) do not appear inside. What does appear inside are blank pages. How did Byrne get away with this stuff? Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*After last issue's new corner illustration of She-Hulk with Santa Claus, Byrne reverts to his old She-Hulk corner illustration (of course, it's scrunched up along with the She-Hulk title logo).
*The silly villain this issue is the Stan Lee and Jack Kirby creation The Living Eraser, which is how Byrne is able to justify storywise having three blank pages in the story. He pulled this trick before in an issue of Alpha Flight which involved a fight in a snowstorm, which She-Hulk references in the issue. Given Byrne's heavy workload (he was usually writing and drawing at least two books a month), it's understandable that he would occasionally fall behind schedule. Perhaps this is one of his clever ways of catching up. The jig is up however when She-Hulk smashes through another blank page and demands he stop before her book gets canceled.
*Byrne finds yet another clever way of running the credits, this time by having She-Hulk break a balloon with confetti inside.
*Sales were bad. From 300,000 or so copies sold monthly during his earlier run, Byrne's latest run was only averaging 50,000 or so. In fact, sales upon Byrne's return had only bumped up by 5,000 copies. Despite being one of the most interesting comics Marvel was publishing at the time, the book was struggling. One bright sign though was the publication of a trade paperback collecting Byrne's earlier She-Hulk run. Trades weren't supercommon then, so the collection was a mark of honor. Alas, it didn't seem to help sales much.
For a holiday issue, She-Hulk and Weezi visit She-Hulk's father in California for Christmas, and, though creator John Byrne provides extra helpings of corn and syrup, it's still a fun issue. Here are some random thoughts on it:
*The cover features a pencil with "JB" on it. I could imagine Byrne getting pencils made with his own initials on them.
*The phone numbers on the cover are real phone numbers. I'm sure that whomever had them back in 1992 appreciated comics fans calling up and asking for She-Hulk.
*Wyatt Wingfoot, a Native American comic book character from The Fantastic Four, who dated She-Hulk when she was in the group, returns to the fold, and She-Hulk's bed (though not explicitly, due to the comics code). Wyatt has no superpowers, so he is a brave man. I'm not sure that most men would risk getting crushed to death just to have sex. Well, maybe, some men wouldn't . . .
*She-Hulk, echoing some readers I'm sure, complains about Byrne starting too many subplots.
*When She-Hulk visits her father (her mother is deceased--hey, at least she has one more parent than Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man), she throws out a bunch of other relatives, claiming that she doesn't want Marvel to turn any more of her cousins into monsters (an occupational hazard for relatives of superheroes).
*The rejuvenated Weezi hits it off with She-Hulk's father, and they start a romance. Even though Weezi is older than She-Hulk, that's still a creepy plotline, though Byrne plays it off as heartwarming. How would you like to bring a pal home for the holidays though and then your divorced/widowed parent starts making out with her or him?
*Two minor characters from She-Hulk's first series, Zapper and Richard Rory, show up for dinner. Byrne gives them both happy endings, by marrying one off and having the other inherit a large amount of money. I'm surprised he didn't beat up on Richard since he is a Steve Gerber-created character and occasionally was a stand-in for Gerber himself. Apparently, Byrne did not bear much ill-will towards Gerber for the Byrne-based company man satire, Booster Cogburn, from Gerber's Destroyer Duck.
*The heartwarming ending, where She-Hulk turns back into plain old Jen Walters (due to a present from Santa Claus way back in issue 8) because her father missed the old Jen is less heartwarming when you realize that Dad is basically ashamed of his daughter the freak. We won't psychoanalyze what this suggests about Byrne family holidays here.
The title of this story is "Hail, Hail The Gang's All Dead." Creator John Byrne certainly knows how to rework a cliche, eh? This zombie-infested issue continues the story from the previous one where Byrne appears to be satirizing the idea of Marvel Zombies, comics fans who buy crap comics just because they're published by Marvel. Keep in mind that Byrne is making fun of the company he works for. Little wonder then that in a couple of years he would leave to work on his own creator-owned material for a smaller company, Dark Horse. As for the story, the plot pretty much goes: She-Hulk fights zombies.
Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*Aside from Garth, Black Talon's personal assistant who would go on to play a similar role for She-Hulk, the zombies whom (that? With zombies, word choice gets tricky) She-Hulk fights are all deceased characters associated with the X-Men ("The X-Humed"). Byrne appears to resent the fact that crappy X-Men comics are outselling his own stuff. Former partner Chris Claremont was selling a million copies of X-Men 1, while Byrne was not. Worse, probably from Byrne's point of view, was that while he could count on 50,000 fans following his work from title to title, younger artists such as Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane would have hundreds of thousands of fans follow them from title to title. Little wonder then that Byrne pretty much detested Image Comics, which would soon be formed by those same younger artists. To Byrne's credit, he was right that many of those early Image comics were pretty bad. Though arguably the younger artists could draw as well as Byrne, none could write as well as him. Unfortunately for Byrne, writers such as Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman made John Byrne's writing look like Todd McFarlane's writing. Poor Byrne. It wasn't the 1980s anymore.
*Byrne has She-Hulk get ticked off about having zombie dragon goop get on her so she complains to the Comics Code. For those not familiar with the Code, it was an industry-regulated organization that made sure the publishers who belonged to it followed certain guidelines, and the Code was formed in response to the hysteria in the 1950s that arose after some people claimed that comics were corrupting the youth of America.
*Byrne leaves a loose end in that the zombies who terrorized The Simpsons in a previous issue appear to still be on the loose. Of course, if one reads the story favoring the Marvel Zombies satirical interpretation, the zombies would still be on the loose, wouldn't they? That's who is buying all those awful comics instead of the fine John Byrne comics they should be buying.
*Byrne has a funny gag where some of his black art gets jostled to the last page of the book and She-Hulk has to climb around it. What a wonderfully weird book!
Thor never has to pose shirtless on his covers, does he? Alas, poor She-Hulk! With sales down, creator John Byrne was breaking out the cheesecake to goose sales. This issue's cover was a parody of the naked and pregnant Demi Moore cover of Vanity Fair. By the way, that's a beachball, not a tumor. The story has little to do with the cover beyond it starting on the beach. It's set in New Orleans and involves zombies, and, uh, hell if I know what's actually going on here. It's John Byrne letting his id bleed out all over the comics page, and that's kind of fun. The story is somewhat reminiscent of Wolff and Byrd: Counselors Of The Macabre, a fun indie comic which features lawyers representing supernatural clients, but it's unlikely Byrne knew of the comic strip, later a comic book, since it was only appearing in a legal newspaper then. He also seems to be riffing on "Marvel Zombie" which had become a pejorative term for comic readers who only bought Marvel Comics, even when a lot of publishers were putting out better comics.
Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*The anniversary UPC corner cover art often featured Byrne's work whether it was Captain America's 50th anniversary or The Fantastic Four's 30th, an indication of his popularity with readers at the time. From what I remember, this art ran on nearly every comic Marvel published at the time.
*The Black Talon is this issue's silly villain. He's an African-America voodoo dude. They call him "Black" just in case you didn't notice he was black. Can you say racial stereotype, boys and girls? I knew you could. Don't blame Byrne though. He's just making fun of this stuff. Notice that white comics characters don't get called white too often. White Wolverine. White Superman. White Tiger does, but he's actually Puerto-Rican. White characters can be other colors though. Check out Green Lantern or Blue Beetle (the original couple of characters, not the Hispanic teenager when DC tried to be multicultural).
*She-Hulk starts answering letters again on the letters page.
*All in all, a fun issue. It's also really hard to find in the quarter or back issue bin. When I realized that I had missed a couple of Byrne She-Hulks, most were easy and cheap to find, but not this one. Presumably, some people collect it because of the parody cover making it scarcer than the other issues. It's readily available on eBay though, but if you have to spend over $5 to get a 20-year-old comic mailed to you . . . well, I guess that's cheaper than therapy. But check out your health care insurance plan or government medical program. Maybe not.
In this issue, She-Hulk almost gets married to The Mole Man, but, fortunately for all the fanboys panting after her in the letters page, she breaks things off at the last minute.
Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*Writer/artist John Byrne appears in person to recap the story early on. Byrne often seemed to enjoy inserting self-portraits into stories. He even did this in The Fantastic Four a couple of times and that wasn't a metafictional title as She-Hulk was. He draws himself well. From his drawings of himself over the years, I recognized him walking around Mid-Ohio Con in 2002 (he had an "off-duty" sign around his neck so I didn't bother him to scrawl his autograph across Spragg The Living Hill). Speaking of Mid-Ohio Con, it looks as if She-Hulk creator Stan Lee and former She-Hulk editor Renee Witterstaetter will be at this year's edition in Columbus, Ohio USA. I won't be though. Paying $40 to get in the door at a convention to pay more money for comic books gives me the hives. Sometimes the bargains can make up for the door price, but I'm trying to unload these things, right? That would be like an alcoholic hanging out in a bar sipping ginger ale. The alcoholic sips the ginger ale, not the bar, by the way, unless the alcoholic is very, very drunk
*Byrne must have watched a lot of television. In this issue, he references Cop Rock and has The Simpsons appear (they're not yellow, so you might not recognize them right away, but look carefully).
*In the last couple of issues, Byrne takes subtle potshots at Todd McFarlane and Jim Lee. He had been usurped by newer, hotter artists. He didn't seem to like the direction comics were heading in either as he makes fun of the grim and gritty antihero storytelling as well.
*Weezi, She-Hulk's sidekick, gets turned into a younger woman, according to the text, because of Byrne's midlife crisis. I kind of enjoyed the senior citizen character, but I suppose Byrne knows that sales will go up with two attractive female characters. The last page, of course, features the two women in swimsuits. Don't worry, next issue gets even more exploitative. As the sales drop, so do the clothes. She-Hulk is kind of full frontal feminism.
In the previous issue's cliffhanger, She-Hulk had fallen into a giant hole while fighting Spragg The Living Hill. I'm surprised that writer/artist John Byrne didn't just have the entire issue being She-Hulk falling, but as She-Hulk put it "Darned continued stories. Feels like I've been falling for a month!" so he has mercy on her, and she splashes down in a couple of pages into an underwater portion of The Mole Man's lair. The Mole Man is an old Fantastic Four foe, and, despite his name, he usually isn't played for laughs so he doesn't fit the usual She-Hulk silly villain pattern. Fortunately, Spragg shows up again, and you haven't seen silly until you've met an angry rock.
Here are some random thoughts on this issue:
*When Byrne returned, he immediately restored his art to the corner logo. This issue he replaces it with a new airbrushed shot of She-Hulk in a red gown. Green and red, she knows how to color coordinate, or maybe she just really likes Christmas. Byrne apparently liked the splash page banner copy added during the Steve Gerber issues since he kept it: "A blood transfusion from her cousin, The Incredible Hulk, transformed petite Jennifer Walters, attorney-at-law, into an emerald Amazon! Now she battles for truth, justice, and her clients' personal injury claims!" Or he had no choice and had to keep it. I think it's clever at least.
*The pun on the cover is fun, as is the story title, which references a 1970s horror film: "The Hills Have Eyes, And Mouths And Ears (And Maybe Noses . . .)"
*This issue is mainly a setup for the wedding issue next issue, but it is still quite fun. Next issue: The She-Hulk marries The Mole Man!
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