The Incredible Hulk is a cartoon from the 1980s, an attempt by Marvel and Sunbow to build off the success of Spider-Man & His Amazing Friends by creating a spin-off. Like the former, Stan Lee served as narrator for the series. They attempted a third show with X-Men, but that didn’t go quite as well. You made have heard of “Pryde Of The X-Men” and it’s not very good.
However, our focus for this Showcase is on one particular episode and what it represents: the first post-comic appearance of She-Hulk, and yes I chose it after the news that a She-Hulk series was announced for Disney+. Some commentator suggested that She-Hulk should have her origin changed to separate her from her cousin, which is just dumb. Why is it being assumed now that a superheroine can’t be at her best if her backstory is tied to a man, even when she’s obviously based on a male character? She-Hulk has never lived in her cousin’s shadow, even making her debut in her own title, despite her existence being the result of a blood transfusion from Bruce Banner, the he-Hulk. Jennifer Walters keeps her intelligence when she transforms, which she is in almost total control over. In fact she prefers her big green form because she has body issues. Although I’m sure they’ll spin that so instead it’s about being better than a ban or something and won’t address she has the same loathing of her weaker self that Bruce/Hulk does.
Jennifer’s origin also matches that of Jessica Drew, aka Spider-Woman, in a backstage sense. Both characters were created for trademark rather than trying to build up the lady hero list. See, back in the Golden Age female versions of characters weren’t unusual. The best example I can think of is the jungle man concept, an obvious ripoff of Tarzan after the movies became so popular. (By the way those movies altered how Tarzan is perceived in pop culture as the classic films got so much wrong from the classic books.) When that got old they just made jungle girl heroes like Sheena. Worried someone might take “spider” and “hulk”, two normal words, and make a female version Marvel decided to get to them first. She-Hulk exists to protect a trademark rather than make a good character, yet the writers managed to make one that very much became her own character instead of just “Hulk but a woman”.
“Enter She-Hulk” is Jen’s first appearance outside of the comics, as I said earlier. This was long before her fourth-wall breaking, but still shows her as a lawyer. This time she’s trying to prove Hydra is a criminal organization, a far cry from the comics but this is 80s Saturday morning TV. She’s not even shot by the bad guys when she needs her blood transfusion. However, she may be Bruce’s only chance to gain control of his angry alter-ego in this continuity. Let’s she how her first appearance came out?
So Jen is smart as well as strong, even without her powers. Neat. Even Betty shows her stuff. See what I mean about growing up with great women characters? I’m not sure how anything in Bruce’s experiment works. It’s just a plot device to get Bruce to have control over the Hulk for an episode and they don’t really do a lot with it really. I’m also not sure how their clothes change back from their ripped states. No other Hulk cartoon or live-action incarnation has ever done that. Granted I don’t know how Hydra’s mist makes any sense either. Science doesn’t make sense in this show is what I’m saying. You also rarely see Jennifer’s natural form in her other show appearances because she prefers being her strong and sexy green self. (I think she looks fine as her human self but I can’t say I don’t understand. You do you, Jen! It seems to work for you.)
She-Hulk would return to TV in the 1990s Hulk cartoon from Saban and UPN, where she took a co-star role in the second season. That wouldn’t have been so bad except the show itself takes a bad turn. Tom Tataranowicz would leave the show for whatever reason, and they would opt to quickly tie up loose threads from his ongoing story before going into done-in-one episodes and a slightly lighter tone. They weren’t bad stories, and Jen even gets a good episode or two of focus, but it was such a huge downgrade from season one that she got ripped off frankly. Since then she’s shown up for cameos in other Marvel shows and even featured in the other Hulk cartoon, Disney’s Hulk And The Agents Of SMASH, which I recall just looking so uninteresting that I didn’t even bother watching it.
Now she’ll be making her first live-action appearance. I want to be happy about that and it IS about time, but given that the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be taking cues from the comic universe now I’m afraid she’s about to get ripped off again. She deserves better but hopefully I’m wrong. She doesn’t need to have her origin disconnected from her cousin. She’s not in the shadow of the Hulk. She-Hulk is her own person, but it’s good to have family ties. Otherwise, HOW does a lawyer gain gamma powers in a way that makes sense? Her cousin is a gamma radiation expert. Works for me!