The last time I discussed a superhero that I thought made for a good role model, I talked about the X-Men’s Colossus. Today, continuing in the same vein of strong guy superhero types I’m considering the solo heroine, She-Hulk.
Before I jump into She-Hulk, I have to talk a little bit about a conundrum that frequently comes up in superhero comics from the big two publishers. Take a moment to think of a female superhero.
Okay, got one?
Is she an original character or is she a distaff counterpart to a better known male hero? If she isn’t based on a male hero, does she typically work as a solo hero, or is she part of a team?
With these two questions, I typically find myself only able to come up with two female heroes that have primarily been solo acts without a male counterpart: Wonder Woman and Dazzler. In case you’re wondering who Dazzler is, she’s better known as a very obscure X-Men team member who most of the time is putting her career as a singer before her career as a superhero. Also, she was originally conceived as a disco-themed superhero who wore roller skates. I’ve read pretty much all of the backlog of X-Men comics going back to Giant-Sized #1, but I skipped Dazzler’s solo series.
Because disco-themed superhero on roller skates.
The point of this tangent is that within the big two publishing houses, female superheroes who have their own identities and enough popular appeal to maintain standalone series are extremely rare. If anyone has any recommendations for superheroines who fit those qualifications, please let me know, because I’d love to see more female characters who can be their own icons (A good place to start would seem to be the recently renamed Captain Marvel, who’s been around as Ms. Marvel for years already).
Back to She-Hulk.
She-Hulk, or Jennifer Walters, started off as a character who was conceived by Marvel only so that they would hold the copyright on her instead of the Incredible Hulk television series of the late ’70s, which they thought might debut a female version of the Hulk first. That’s not a very auspicious start, but a lot of great characters have really humble meta-beginnings.
In-universe, Jennifer became the She-Hulk after she was shot by some gangsters and required a blood transfusion in order to survive. Her cousin, Bruce Banner, was the only available match, so she received some of his gamma irradiated blood, which transformed her into She-Hulk. The moral of this story is to donate blood as often as you can, otherwise people will get radioactive transfusions that turn them into giant green rage monsters.
Initially She-Hulk was portrayed as having a personality similar to that of her cousin; she was irritable, not too bright, and had a penchant for clothes that never failed to stay intact in just the right places when they got ripped to shreds. Eventually her portrayal evolved so that being a Hulk didn’t make Jennifer uncontrollably angry, but simply amplified more assertive aspects of her personality. It was a reflection of the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde dynamic that’s been so thoroughly explored with the male Hulk, but with an important variation: Jennifer preferred being a Hulk to being human, mostly because unlike Bruce, she maintains control of herself when she’s transformed.
In more recent years, Jennifer’s also had to deal with the fact that while she may prefer the empowerment she feels as She-Hulk, she is also a skilled attorney, and she can do a lot of good as Jennifer Walters. She’s had to learn to balance these sides of herself, and she’s come to terms with both so that she is comfortable in her skin no matter what.
This is what makes Jennifer a role model; she is a strong, assertive character who stands up for what she believes in, and who exercises all of her talents to the best of her ability. While it would be easy for her to hide behind her powers, and she’s been prone to do that in the past, she embraces all parts of herself, acknowledging that she is more than just a big green rage monster, though she likes being that too.
Do you guys have a favorite superhero? What is it about them that you find most admirable?
2 thoughts on “Superhero Role Models: She-Hulk”
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