Jennifer Walters has been a stalwart in the Marvel Universe since her inception in 1980. She was created as a quick fix solution for Marvel, who were becoming increasingly worried that the team behind the hit TV show The Incredible Hulk might add a female version of their star, just like The Six Million Dollar Man had done a few years earlier. Thus, Jennifer made her first appearance in The Savage She-Hulk #1 and beat CBS to the punch.
Co-created by Stan Lee (who hardly has the best reputation for crafting well rounded and respected female characters), Jennifer has had a hard time gaining sustainable large scale mainstream success–similar to most of the women in big two comics. Despite that, she’s garnered a very dedicated following over the years and become a solid fan favourite.
Years before Deadpool was breaking the fourth wall in his own books, Jen was wisecracking directly to the audience in The Sensational She-Hulk series by John Byrne. While the character plateaued for much of the ’90s, Dan Slott and Juan Bobillo’s solo series in 2004 bought renewed critical acclaim to the character. Struggling to find the right readership, the series was relaunched the following year with the same creative team and another #1 on the cover. This time it stuck, and the adjectiveless She-Hulk series continued for 33 issues (with Slott passing the torch to Peter David after 22 issues).
But it was arguably Charles Soule and Javier Pulido’s 2014 run that really gave fans the Jennifer that we know and love today. Soule and Pulido’s issues introduced us to the character as a lawyer first and superhero second. It was a nuanced and intelligent book that was a dense and intricate read, whilst still managing to be fun. Charles Soule’s experience as a real life lawyer created a detailed and grounded legal backdrop for for Jennifer’s adventures that left you feeling like you were reading something a little different than your average comic book. Whilst Javier Pulido’s art was always bright and diverting enough that the book’s unconventional world of legalese never felt stale.
Monikers mean everything in the world of superheroes. Like so many before and after her, when Jennifer was created she was given the classic SHE prefix treatment. Now in the last few years Marvel has attempted to move away from the gendered idea of superhero titles–Thor is now Jane Foster, Riri Williams will soon be donning a new Iron Man suit as Ironheart, and it has recently been announced that we will finally have our first ever Jennifer Walters HULK title.
This is huge. With the *spoiler alert* death of Bruce Banner in the controversial Civil War II event, the only proper Hulk left is now Amadeus Cho. He took the moniker from Bruce before gaining his own book (and this is where it gets very interesting, semantics fan) Totally Awesome Hulk. The fact that the Amadeus series has the “Totally Awesome” prefix means that once Jennifer’s new book comes out she will become known as Hulk in the main title Hulk book, and thus plain ol’ Hulk in the Marvel Universe.
If this development wasn’t exciting enough, the creative team on this book is truly wonderful. Eisner Award winning writer Mariko Tamaki, who wrote the incredible This One Summer and was recently announced as the writer of Supergirl: Being Super–which is a really big deal as women are all but banned from working in DC’s Superman office due to serial harasser Eddie Berganza–will be on story duties. Whilst Nico Leon, who is currently drawing Spider-Man and recently worked on the unmissable Ms. Marvel, will be illustrating Jennifer’s world.
It’s an incredibly exciting prospect to have a woman writing Jennifer and to have such strong creators, who are both relatively new the big two’s roster, dealing with such a landmark character. Especially when the teasers for this book definitely point towards a darker and more in depth study of Jennifer than we’ve seen before. Obviously the “grim and gritty” trope is a tired and overused one in these days of “realistic” superhero stories, though in Jennifer’s case it could be an exciting break from form.
She-Hulk books are often characterised by their fun and playful tone, regularly dealing with a Jennifer who is at peace with herself and her powers. The idea of a book exploring Jennifer’s life and psyche after losing her cousin and namesake, all the while dealing with the other fallout from Civil War II, is an exhilarating prospect. Especially when you add in a creative team who are so well versed in bringing nuanced, emotional stories to life.
Jennifer has been one of my favourite characters since I was a child. But my love for her was reignited after I read the 2014 She-Hulk run and has been cemented with her roles in wonderful books, like Kate Leth and Brittney William’s Hellcat. I was incredibly worried about the future of Jennifer and her powers after the events of the highly controversial Civil War II. Luckily though, with the announcement of this title, not only will Jennifer’s story hopefully be beautifully told and her emotions fully explored, but we also get our first ever female Hulk title. That’s definitely something to look forward to.