By Michaele Jordan: A friend of mine –who has much more elevated tastes than I do – recently twitted me about She-Hulk, Attorney at Law, which she assumed I was watching. But the funny thing was, I wasn’t. I had been vacillating about whether or not to watch it, since I’d first heard of it.
Why such mixed feelings? On the one hand, I am a huge admirer of Tatiana Maslany. On the other hand, I truly loathe The Hulk.
I’ve never read a Hulk comic. I’ve seen a few covers. I would pass by them in the racks at the drug store, while searching for “Mark Merlin’s House of Mystery”. Inevitably I would pause, transfixed by the image, then shudder and turn away. Why in the world would I want to read about someone/thing so ugly and stupid?
I did give the TV show a try, because I liked Bill Bixby. (I was a big fan of My Favorite Martian – having fallen in love with Ray Walston in Damn Yankees.) But I couldn’t stick with it. I was still completely put off by ugly and stupid.
But apparently I was the only one. The Incredible Hulk lasted five years, from 1977 to 1982, and was followed a few years later by three television movies (still starring Bill Bixby): The Incredible Hulk Returns, 1988; The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, 1989; and The Death of the Incredible Hulk, 1990.
After that, I had thirteen years of peace, in which hideous brutes were bad guys (unless an important moral point was being made), and the heroes (usually) knew which side they were fighting for. And then the real movies began.
In these, The Hulk was even bigger and uglier. First, in 2003, we got Hulk, directed by Ang Lee. (Oh, what a come down from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon!) The movie starred Eric Bana. (Bill Bixby had died in 1993.)
When Planet Hulk appeared in 2006, I tried to tell myself that at least it was only animé. (I’m wincing to hear myself say such a thing. But this was a couple of years before I discovered animé.) It didn’t represent the same market as live action. I didn’t have to take it seriously.
I can almost see you rolling your eyes, muttering, “What has she got against The Hulk? Yeah, he’s ugly and stupid, but so what? That’s what makes it fun!” Some of you may even quip, “What? Does she close her eyes every time he comes on in an Avengers movie?” (Where he is played by Mark Ruffalo.) Well, yes. That’s exactly what I do. And for that very reason, I am not a huge fan of the Avengers. I just hate The Hulk. I can’t offer any apologies or explanations. It’s visceral. Even his name is annoying. (He got it from a comic book character named The Heap who was a large green swamp monster.)
Obviously, I was kidding myself. The Incredible Hulk, now starring Edward Norton, hit the screens in 2008. This movie features some incredible transition sequences. At least, so I hear. I haven’t seen it, but I understand that as much money, time and production skill goes into Bruce Banner’s transformation as into the actual presentation of The Hulk, himself.
I’ve gone on at such length, railing against the Hulk, that you must be wondering if I’m EVER going to get to She-Hulk, Attorney at Law. Thanks for your patience. We’ll get to that now. I just wanted you to understand my qualms. Was turning something I hated into a woman really going to make me feel better about it?
As those of you who are already watching could have told me, I shouldn’t have worried. The show does appear to be based on a comic book. (Wha!?! I didn’t even know there was a She-Hulk comic! – which probably tells you how long it’s been since I followed comics.)
In fact there have been several, starting with The Savage She-Hulk, who – as artist Mike Vosberg remarked – “was never overly attractive” and who ran from 1980 until 1982. (My husband insisted that I needed to clarify this. That done, I’d like to skip past the reboots and variations, please.)
She-Hulk #1 (the current incarnation) came out last January, which suggests to me that they already knew the show was coming, and that the comic and the show will, therefore, stay in synch in terms of tone and general content, if not story line. Or maybe not. The panel I saw in an on-line review seemed to be leading in a different direction. And no, I’m not going to go find out. The review wasn’t hugely positive, and I’ve been out of comics for a long time.
But the show is a delight. It is NOT a superhero action show. It’s a comedy, and it’s a lawyer show, albeit one set in the Marvel universe. And, while She-Hulk is big and green (6 foot 7, not counting the stiletto heels) she is NOT ugly and stupid. She’s beautiful, and buff – but not bulgy – and very smart.
Jennifer spends most of the first episode arguing with her cousin Bruce. She is more than a little displeased to find he has infected her with hulkism. She does not want to be a hulk. She doesn’t know how she’s going to fit this into her career or her life, and she flatly refuses to become a superhero. Indeed, most of those action shots you’ve seen on-line are taken from scenes in which she is merely enjoying a workout or sparring with cousin Bruce.
Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately) she gains a fair amount of control over when she transforms, and does not shed her brains when she does so. Therefore, when her boss wants her to come to work as She-Hulk, she does so, while remaining fully competent to argue a case.
She really does try to duck public attention, but – of course – soon finds that the world is much more interested in She-Hulk than in Jennifer. However hard she tries to focus on a normal life, she finds herself caught up in the image. She lands a prestigious new job, only to be informed she will be in charge of the super-hero litigation department. Autograph hounds pursue her, wannabe’s are constantly trying to copy her, and media vultures try to shove themselves in front of her. There is nothing so ordinary that it is not contaminated. Where can she even find business suits in her size? And like any attractive person/celebrity (whatever their gender) she has a lot of trouble extracting a decent date from the crowd of creeps and losers trying to attach themselves romantically.
In short, She-Hulk, Attorney at Law really is a comedy/lawyer show. And the bottom line in any comedy show is the writing. Is it funny? Yes, it is. There are multiple writers in multiple functions, but I think the credit for the dialogue can go Dana Schwartz, overseen by creator Jessica Gao. Kudos. This really is a hilarious show. I’m now an addict.