With midterms ending, I made time to read through a few comics I’d been meaning to get to for awhile (even though finals are around the corner): She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Red Son, all of which people should check out. There’s been a lot of hype with Ms. Marvel because not only is she a female Marvel character, she’s also Muslim. Which is great if we think about how America generally portrays different races in their media. Certain races are generally picked for certain roles and rarely will you find a woman of color leading a romantic comedy, unless it’s Jennifer Lopez or Paula Patton. Right now I’m writing a thesis on Latin American portrayals in Hollywood from the beginning of film until recently. Check that shit out because it is absolutely mind-boggling.
Anyways, I want to focus on She-Hulk because my general perception of Marvel women is big breasts, minimal clothing, second to their male counterparts, etc.—but for the first time I wasn’t offended by Jennifer Walters’ (She-Hulk) sexuality. I generally stay away from Marvel because I find it boring, and they’ve taken over the film industry, and Spiderman really just needs to take a seat back and give another superhero the chance to be a hero. But that’s a different argument.
She-Hulk. Let’s state the obvious. She’s “hot,” which sounds weird because she’s a drawing. But she is comic-book, stereotypical “hot.” This apparently offended folks like David S. Goyer (screenwriter for Batman, “Man of Steel,” the “Blade” trilogy). To be clear, She-Hulk was created in the 1980s, is part of the Avengers and represents a time in comics where fair, realistic female representation was essentially non-existent. To understand her character and appearance, we have to look at her creation as a whole. We should also keep in mind that men, too, are represented unfairly in the sense that they are WWE-muscular and hyper-macho. Essentially, Marvel is a distortion of human anatomy through artistic drawings.
Moving on, we’ve established She-Hulk is “hot,” AND she’s also intelligent, independent, and driven. The woman started her own law firm by the end of the second issue. She’s like the anti-stereotypical corporate woman that men have made up so they can call us driven ladies “bitches.” She-Hulk, despite her gender equality drive, is in no way a bitch. After being fired because white corporate men felt her services were unnecessary after all of the extra, and excellent, work she had been doing as a lawyer, she breaks their table, with one finger, all Hulk-like and strong. Is that being a bitch? I think not. She’s merely hit that beautiful glass ceiling that so many women have encountered in their careers (my aunt recently got demoted for simply having twins and going on maternity leave, but because they’re still paying her the same, they’re legally allowed to exclude her from the managerial positions she held before), YAY WOMEN. She-Hulk is doing what every woman wants to do when they hit the glass ceiling. Tell their boss to fuck off and start their own business.
She-Hulk, after being fired, is nice enough to help another lady out for free to attain justice (what Marvel is all about) and call Tony Stark (Iron Man) out on stealing another man’s scientific formula. Seems like a nice woman to me, and she just so happens to be drawn like any other Marvel woman. The story is great, and the fact that she has large boobs, again, like all of the other Marvel characters, shouldn’t take away from that, especially considering the character was made in the 1980s. Granted, this past year Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, and Captain Marvel have lightened up on stereotypical female body figures, AND, going beyond that, Marvel just created the new Ms. Marvel, who does not embody typical sexuality that we see with female superheroes. I like the story, and as a feminist I was not offended by her sexuality. I did second-glance the portion in the first issue when she goes full-blown Hulk and gets bigger, therefore ripping some of her clothes. But at the same time, the bits stay covered. And if we look at images of the Hulk, his clothes are ripped off just as much, if not more. Does a part of her butt show? Yes. Is there a little bit of bra showing? Yes. But it looks like it’s covering more than a bathing suit (and thank god it’s not some body suit. I hate the body suits).
SIDENOTE: Look at difference between The Sensational She-Hulk drawing, and the She-Hulk drawings today, it is a HUGE, positive difference. One of the issues in the 1980s is She-Hulk trying to cover her body up with the page of a newspaper. Hello, sexuality. We have yet to see that representation of She-Hulk.
If you’re offended by her appearance, don’t read it, but hopefully the story will entice you and can overshadow the fact that she’s drawn like a Marvel woman in the 1980s. I think it says something that Marvel was able to create something that I would want to pick up, because I’m generally uninterested in Marvel (as well as DC), and think Vertigo and other creator-owned comics generate more original stories. This comic and Ms. Marvel are bringing in non-traditional Marvel readers while at the same time continuing their legacy of creating superheroes. Also, it’s a lot cheaper than other comics, and by cheaper I mean like fifty cents, or a dollar. But still cheaper. So pick one up, give it a shot, tell me what you think.