Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Savage She-Hulk 1: Stan Lee Goes Feminist

During the 1970s, Marvel Comics got caught up in second wave feminism and launched quite a few new female superheroes (or heroines) such as Ms. Marvel.  In the late 1970s after writing his book The Superhero Women, Stan Lee, the co-creator of such characters as The Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and The Hulk, was apparently inspired enough to write a comic again, which he hadn't done for a few years, and create his first female superheroine to star in her own book:  The Savage She-Hulk.

He probably also wanted to cash in on the then television popularity of The Hulk and make sure that no one else would create a female version of The Hulk.  Spider-Woman was likely created for similar reasons.

In any case, the result was 1980's The Savage She-Hulk. It probably represents Lee's last significant contribution to the Marvel universe.  He only stuck around for the first issue before moving on, probably sensing that the character was a bit ridiculous (when Alan Moore wants to make fun of the term "graphic novel" he often uses the example of a She-Hulk graphic novel).

It wouldn't be until later She-Hulk comics that writers embraced the inherent ridiculousness of She-Hulk that the character and her comics really found her potential.

However, there is a bit of misogyny in finding the She-Hulk an inherently ridiculous character.  The Hulk is fairly ridiculous himself, but he never gets the grief She-Hulk gets.  Some people would say that this is because the She-Hulk is a knockoff character of the original, but it probably has more to do with the fact that she's a strong female.  It's similar to how words associated with women such as "douchebaggery" catch on as negative slang terms in the culture where a male equivalent such as "usedcondomery" doesn't.

But back to the comic.  Here are some random thoughts about it:

*It's a "#1 Collectors' Item Issue".  This was before comics came out with new number ones all the time, but clearly Marvel was trying to get people to buy the comic just because it was a first issue by implying that it would be worth money someday.  Apparently, they were right since I've seen a copy of eBay sell for $85.  Then again, one also sold for 99 cents.  Still, with a 40 cent cover price and ignoring inflation, that's like doubling your money!

*Lee skips over the whole is The Hulk's alter ego named "David Banner" (as in the tv show) or Bruce Banner (as in the comics) question by just calling him "Doc".

*Jennifer Walters, the alter ego of The She-Hulk is a lawyer and "Doc" Banner's cousin.  When gangsters shoot her, he gives her a blood transfusion that saves her life but also gives her Hulk powers.  It's amazing that most people live their lives uneventfully, yet in a Marvel comic bank robberies and other horrific life-altering events seem to happen around every corner.

*She-Hulk lives in Los Angeles and not New York.  Lee had apparently decided that New York was too crowded with superheroes, and, unlike Spider-Man, She-Hulk doesn't need tall buildings to swing around on. 

*The comic actually has advertising.  Today, not too many companies advertise in comic books.

*When The She-Hulk hulks up, she rips her clothes, just like her cousin, but her naughty bits somehow remain covered except for a bit of cleavage.

*The story is conventional Stan Lee fare, but probably wasn't as well-received as his 1960s work since comics had advanced a bit during the 1970s and Lee's writing hadn't.  At this stage, She-Hulk is pretty much just a female version of The Hulk.  Fortunately, the character would be developed much further by other writers. 

*I don't remember how I ended up with this comic, but I never bought any other ones of the series, which came to a quiet end a couple of years later.

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