Welcome back to Longbox Junk, the place to find comic reviews you never asked for!
Lately I've been going outside my usual Longbox Junk bargain bin finds to shine the spotlight on some of the older and/or more "valuable" comics sitting unread in my collection. It's been a lot of fun for me, and I've been able to learn a little here and there in the process. Case in point: the comic at hand.
I know next to nothing about She-Hulk beyond the obvious. . .she's a female version of The Hulk. I've never read any of her ongoing series, and have only come across her occasionally in other comics she pops up in. In other words, I know She-Hulk as more of a guest star than as a main character.
I bought this comic at a flea market for ten bucks because (despite my lack of knowledge about the character) I knew just from hanging around comic sites that I had a good find on my hands that was definitely "worth" more than a ten-spot. That and it has a pretty sweet cover. But I didn't have much interest in actually READING the comic, so it got bagged, boarded, and forgotten.
When I was digging through my collection for some "Before 1986, please" (nods to the fine people over at Old Guys Who Like Old Comics) comics to review for this batch of Longbox Junk retro reviews, this was a natural choice for me. . . A popular character that I had little actual knowledge of with a bangin' Bronze Age cover.
So I did a bit of research before writing this and found that there's an interesting story BEHIND the story to be found. Maybe more interesting than the actual comic itself (to ME, anyway). Bear with me just a minute. YOU might already know the story behind She-Hulk, but maybe others reading this might not.
SO. . .
Just to sketch it out a little, what we have here is a character that was created for a very specific purpose. It seems that the Powers That Be running Marvel in the late 70's were looking closely at the runaway success of the Incredible Hulk T.V. show. But what they were ALSO looking at was the successful spinoff of another show. . .The Bionic Woman, which came out of the wildly popular Six Million Dollar Man series.
The Marvel Executives came to the conclusion that if one show could just spin off a female version of a character, another show could do the same. And so they tasked Stan Lee with coming up with a female version of The Hulk so that if CBS DID decide to throw out a female Hulk, Marvel would own the rights.
This would be Stan Lee's last major character created for Marvel, and because of the urgency of the job, the issue was written in an extremely short period of time (sources vary, but agree it was just a few weeks).
ANYWAY. . .
Enough of that. Let's get into this comic!
THE SAVAGE SHE-HULK #1
THE SHE-HULK LIVES
SCRIPT: Stan Lee
PENCILS: John Buscema
INKS: Chic Stone
COVER: John Buscema
It's just a great Bronze Age comic rack eye catcher! I'm a sucker for monochromatic backgrounds like this one, and I like the way it's split between the stark white and the cityscape below. I really like the contrasting colors between the title and She-Hulk as well. They both pop very nicely against the plain white background. The thing I like best about this cover is the figure of non-hulked Jen Walters. John Buscema drew some of the best female figures out there, and he doesn't disappoint here. It's kind of funny that he drew her wearing purple pants. All around, a great cover! Let's get inside and see what's going on. . .
Our tale begins as Doctor David/Bruce Banner begins to feel the isolation and loneliness of being a wanted man and decides to visit his cousin Jen, a Los Angeles lawyer who Banner hasn't seen since she was young. . .
After a joyful reunion between the two, Banner tells her the real reason he's come to her. . .to confess he's the Hulk and to tell his side of the story. This leads into an abbreviated recap of The Incredible Hulk's origin. . .
Jen sympathizes with her cousin and is determined to help him if she can. On the way to her house, she confides that she's working on a case defending a hoodlum being framed for murder. She know his boss committed the murder and has planted a rumor that she has evidence of his crime. Banner is concerned for her safety, playing such a dangerous game, but Jen isn't worried.
But maybe she should have been. As they arrive at her house, gunmen attack Jen, shooting her down in her driveway! Banner fights off the gunmen as they close in to finish the job.
Banner desperately seeks help for his badly-wounded cousin. . .trying to keep his emotions in check so he doesn't turn into the Hulk. He eventually finds a doctor office, but nobody is there. He decides extreme danger calls for extreme measures, so he breaks into the office and gives her a transfusion of his own blood. . .
After the worst danger has passed and Jen is stable, Banner calls the police so that she can be taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, the police are suspicious of Banner and take him in for questioning. He turns into the Hulk and makes his escape. . .once again becoming a fugitive.
In the meantime, as Jen recovers in the hospital, the mobsters who put her there return disguised as doctors to finish the job by poisoning her! Jen tries to fight, but they are too strong. She feels rage begin to build inside!
A strange transformation comes over Jen! She turns into a giant, green-skinned monstrosity! To the horror of her attackers, Jen Walters has become some sort of. . .SHE-HULK!
The newly-born She-Hulk fights off her attackers, who flee in panic. She-Hulk pursues them through the hospital, wreaking havoc with her new strength!
The chase ends in the parking lot as She-Hulk wrecks the mobster's getaway car. As the police arrive on the scene, She-Hulk forces a confession out of the gunmen that they were behind the attack on Jen. Seeing that the police have witnessed the confession, She-Hulk flees the scene!
As She-Hulk feels her anger and strength fade, she makes her way back into the hospital before changing back into Jennifer Walters. She realizes that her cousin's blood transfusion was behind the change. . .but instead of seeing it as a bad thing, Jen decides to embrace her new abilities as She-Hulk and put them to good use!
The End. . .To be continued.
All righty then. . .there it is. The origin of She-Hulk. Let's break it on down!
When I was doing my little series of "First Issue Fun" Longbox Junk entries just a little while ago, I laid down the TWO basic requirements that make me consider a first issue a success. First, it has to introduce characters in a new reader-friendly way. Second, it has to make me want to read more.
This comic does a great job in introducing She-Hulk to new readers. Stan Lee delivers a quick and concise origin story that makes sense in the context of fitting in with the existing Incredible Hulk stories. It's a well-written, fast-paced, and extremely simple story that's over with before you know it. . .but it gets the job done it's supposed to do very well. Stan Lee was tasked with quickly creating and introducing a female version of the Hulk and that's exactly what you get here. Nothing more, nothing less.
But does it make me want to read more? Well. . .not really.
This is a pretty good little "One and done" origin story written for a specific purpose, and it succeeds at that purpose. But it's just missing something. I'm not sure exactly what, but there's just not enough here to hook me into the next issue. I guess I can't help but think that any story with She-Hulk could probably be done just as well with the original Hulk. Maybe it's because I'm looking back from 40 years down the road and know the blatantly commercial origin of this character.
In itself, this isn't a bad story at all. . .it just doesn't really have much reason to exist beyond its reason to exist. Does that even make sense? Maybe I would have a different opinion if I hadn't done any research into the character before reading this.
On the art side of things, I have to admit I was a little disappointed.
I'm a fan of John Buscema. As far as I'm concerned (and I think maybe a lot of others as well), he's a superstar who very much deserves the pedestal he stands on in the hall of comic book history. I can confidently describe his work on Conan as "definitive", and not worry about much disagreement on the point.
BUT. . .
His outstanding cover aside, Buscema's work here looks as obviously rushed as it was. As I mentioned above, this comic was done in what was probably record time. . .available sources vary but agree on it being just a few weeks. . .and you can definitely tell. The art isn't BAD at all, it's just not quite up to what I would expect from John Buscema. A bit of a shame. Given a little more time, I'm sure the art would have been a lot better. As it stands, I'll just say it's not the best example of John Buscema's art, and I'll leave it at that.
What we have here is a comic book that was written for a specific purpose. . .introduce a female version of the Hulk in order to protect Marvel's rights to the character. . .that was done in a very short period of time.
Stan Lee does a great job of introducing She-Hulk with a quick reading and well-written origin story, but he falls flat in making her interesting enough to make me want to read more. John Buscema's art disappoints, looking rushed and pretty rough in spots. I'm pretty sure a bit more time would have smoothed that out, though.
Good taken with bad, this is a pretty good comic book. It could have been better with a little more time to cook, but it's not bad at all for what it is. I see that there's going to be a She-Hulk live action series on Disney+ soon, so that will probably bump up the "value" of this comic a bit. But it's been collected several times and is available on ComiXology, so if you want to check out She-Hulk's origin for yourself you don't have to hit the wallet too hard if you don't want to.
Up Next. . .
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Be there or be square!