Let’s talk about She-Hulk

May 23, 2014 | Comics

I’d like you to do an experiment.

Go to Google image search, and look for the following in order. Note how many sexualized images you see before you have to scroll down. Here’s my total:

Wonderwoman: 1

Maybe she’s not a good example. Most pictures are of the TV series. I’m also not counting clothing, in this case, because a female superhero who DOESN’T wear skin tight stripper outfits is unusual. So this is all based on the pose and presentation.

Jean Grey: 1

It’s mostly Famke Jansen in the movie. Again, possibly not a good example.

Supergirl: 2

Better example. Most pics were from the comic, as far as I could tell.

Powergirl: 5

Honestly, I was expecting worse, but she’s there in all her booby glory.

She Hulk: 5

And what really bothers me about this is that the third image for She Hulk is a strip tease. For Powergirl, you have to get to the third row to get something similar.

So… let’s talk about She Hulk. Specifically, let’s talk about She Hulk in relation to this particular piece of comics drama, as explained by Time magazine. The five minute recap is as follows:

The dude who’s writing the new Superman-Batman movie made some remarks to the effect that he thought She Hulk was a giant green porn star, designed to be a woman you’d want to fuck if you were the Hulk. Fans are apparently angry about this, and take umbrage at the implication that she’s nothing more than an extension of a male power fantasy. Thus, a minor shitstorm has broken over the fair fields of comic fandom, with many voices raised in dissent that She Hulk is not, in fact, a giant green porn star etc etc.

To this, I must reply:


I heard about this and my first reaction was that it was good to see a male writer being honest for once, because, and this is important, She Hulk is drawn like a giant green porn star. She has ALWAYS been drawn like a giant green porn star, because female comic book characters are almost uniformly drawn that way. The only goddamn thing that distinguishes her from, say, Powergirl, is that she has green skin and hair.

So it’s nice that she’s got some interesting storylines and she’s written well, but frankly, who cares? Everything that Goyer said is true because it’s true for most female comic book characters in general, and it’s especially true in She Hulk’s case, if the prevalence of wank material is anything to go by.

This whole thing is especially grating to me for other reasons, however.

Ask yourself this: what’s interesting about the Hulk?

Answer: he’s both the hero and the villain at the same time. The scientist and the mindless brute. The pacifist and the incarnation of violence. His character is marked by this fundamental struggle, in how he faces it and how he has to run from it, so much so that it defines him.

She Hulk, for all that she’s supposed to be somewhat equivalent to the Hulk, has none of this. In all her various incarnations, she’s overwhelmingly portrayed as a tall, green-skinned woman with super strength. She doesn’t lose her mind. This struggle, that is definitive for the Hulk, is absent in She Hulk. Everything I’ve read about her suggests that she accepts and even prefers the Hulk version of herself.

Why does this annoy me? Because there’s no reason for it. It could have been amazingly interesting to see how a woman would deal with the Hulk struggle. It might have been really interesting to explore the conflicts between the lawyer, ruled by laws and reason, and the brute, ruled by primal instinct. But She Hulk had that potential stripped out, and I think I know why.

Because the Hulk’s violent rage is ugly. The Hulk is ugly.

I don’t know of a single extant example of a named female comic book character who may be categorized as ugly. There are probably some. But the very heavy trend towards conventional attractiveness, stripperific bodies, and bland, uniform sexiness means that female characters are locked out of the kind of visual representation that could support a characterization like that of the Hulk. So they would never have written a convincing She Hulk story if she was actually somewhat like the Hulk. I truly do believe she was written the way she is (and this is not to dismiss that, because at least they’re doing something right) because, long before a She Hulk story ever took form, the background-radiation sexism of comics decreed that she would be drawn like a big, green porn star.

So I’m irritated for what could have been, but what isn’t. And I feel nothing but chagrin for the fans who keep insisting that she’s not like the others, that she’s feminist because she’s allowed to be angry, that she’s one character that broke the mold.

Just… no. Lie to yourself, if you must, but I’m under no obligation to take your word for it when all I see is yet another female comic book character who’s been sexed up in order to sell stuff to a demographic of which I am not a part. She might be an interesting character, in her own way, but comics are a visual medium, and she is not visually interesting to me.

Something that looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and can play the piano is not a concert pianist. It’s simply a more-talented-than-average duck.

(Note: My better half actually bought the first two comics of the new She Hulk, which I duly read to see if the newest series would appeal to me. Long story short: it did not. The artwork is confusing and hard to follow, there is NO consistency with the character features, and there is almost no sense of environment or space. I compare it to, say, the artwork of Gene Ha in Top Ten, and I weep.

That and the plot bored me to tears and then some.

Finally – no comments on this one. I don’t have the time to engage in a debate right now. New job etc etc.)