Thursday, October 31, 2013

1984: Jade Jaunting Part III: Voyages Into The Fantastic

By Jef Willemsen (

In the third part of our look at She-Hulk in the 1980s, the year is 1984 and the place is the Baxter Building. Shulkie just stepped in to replace the Thing and, in her own inimitable way, became as much of a rock to the FF as her bepebbled predecessor...  Even if she didn't yell "it's clobberin' time" half as much as Ben did.

 "Oh my! Is the world ready for this?"

The Invisible Girl posed a fair question... Back in April of 1984, the addition of She-Hulk to Marvel's first family came as a complete surprise to the readership. As we covered last time, Shulkie joining the FF was part of the fallout caused by the first Secret Wars. While it might not have been as well remembered or controversial like, say, a certain wallcrawler's new, sentient black costume, no one could have predicted this... and yet it felt altogether natural. 

Blame FF creator John Byrne, who had slowly been developing an interest, nay, even a bit of a crush on the character. Still, introducing a new character into so tight and well defined a family unit as the Fantastic Four can be tricky. Crystal worked out because she was the Torch's long term girlfriend, which made her cousin Medusa a bit like family too when she temporarily replaced Sue in the mid 70s. 

By that same logic, Luke Cage didn't work... or maybe that's because he insisted on getting paid to fill in for the Thing. Still, even when characters were not looking for a payday, they found it impossible to truly become one with the team. Tigra, Thundra and the Impossible Man were all valued house guests and helped out the FF on numerous occasions, but at the end of the day they were 'merely' friends of the family.

John Byrne's first attempt at tinkering with the family dynamic was the introduction of Frankie Raye, another of Johnny's girlfriends who turned out to be a human torch as well. Frankie worked, to a degree, but her tenure on the team was cut short when Byrne had her volunteer to become Galactus' latest herald Nova.

And now it was Jennifer Walters' turn at bat... And she couldn't have signed up at a worse time.

"I feel like an intruder. The FF have made me welcome, but I don't belong.
Not here. Not now."

The here and now Shulkie refered to was by Sue Richard's side in the hospital, shortly after she had lost her second child. An intensly emotional and private moment, so it only made sense Jennifer felt awkward about being there. Still, her presence, at arguably the team's darkest moment of the 1980s, served several wonderful functions: it helped create emotional ties between the She-Hulk and her new teammates. Having her there also provided the FF with a welcome distraction, seen in FF # 268 in which the Human Torch takes the time to show the She-Hulk around their headquarters, including the FF's trophy room.

The mask of Doctor Doom!"

Meet She-Hulk's first FF foe... continuing the trend of pitting her against lame villains, Byrne had Shulkie fight the remote controlled mask of Victor von Doom that came back to life to haunt them. After the mask gave Jennifer and Johnny a run for their money, flying and firing eye blasts out of thin air, it was Mr. Fantastic who saved the day by hitting the Baxter Building's 'flight mode' button, effectively ending the threat. 

She-Hulk also joined the FF right in time to meet her new love interest in Fantastic Four # 270. 

"I hope my tenure with the FF will be at least half as interesting as yours"

The military called in Reed Richards when a mysterious forcebeam from outerspace burned a statement of ownership across the American continent. Shortly thereafter, a massive alien ship crashed near the Keewazi reservation, home of Wyatt Wingfoot, Johnny's old Native American roommate from college. Jennifer and Wyatt instantly hit it off and, after surviving the first appearance of Terminus, Wyatt decides to accompany Reed and Shulkie back to New York, hungry for adventure...

One of She-Hulk's most beloved Fantastic Four stories didn't actually involve the team at all. In issue 275, Shulkie was enjoying a leisurely Summer afternoon with Wyatt, sunbathing on top of the Baxter Building in the nude... When this happened.

"I got some beauts! Get us outta here!"

Yup, the She-Hulk fell prey to sleazy girly magazine The Naked Truth. Its even sleazier editor mister Vance planned to run Shulkie as his next centerfold and Jennifer had to use both her strength and her skills as an attorney to prevent the pictures from seeing print. This led to a thoroughly entertaining She-Hulk solo story, which really feels like a pilot of sorts for a new She-Hulk ongoing.

That second solo title would eventually happen four years later in 1989. However, a few months down the road Marvel did green light (get it?) The Sensational She-Hulk, a graphic novel which truly set the tone for how Byrne would write She-Hulk a few years down the line: like a giant slice of emerald cheesecake. She-Hulk was naked.

A lot.

"An' get the lady a smock fer chrissake!!"

In a nutshell: She-Hulk found herself kidnapped by SHIELD and forced to fight a colony of sentient, body snatching cockroaches. This caused the Helicarrier to crash and, while trying to secure its exposed powercore, she was exposed to so much hard radiation, she lost the ability to turn human again... a fact Shulkie didn't mind in the least. 

Meanwhile back with the Fantastic Four, She-Hulk realised in #277 just how much her brief time with the team had meant to her in a conversation with Alicia Masters that told her two things: Alicia and Johnny were now dating and Ben Grimm had returned to Earth after travelling the Beyonder's Battleworld for a year.

"Then... then it's over. My time with the Fantastic Four is done!"

Well, not so fast, Jen... Ben's in no mood to return to the FF, not with his ex-girlfriend dating his best friend. So She-Hulk stayed on a while longer. She was there when young Kristoff Vernard used Doctor Doom's memories to turn the Baxter Building into a death trap he launched into orbit, hoping the ensuing explosion would kill his hated foes.

Vernard hadn't considered the Invisible Girl's forcefield, however. Sue kept everyone safe with a giant force bubble she reshaped into a makeshift shuttlecraft that was space worthy thanks to the Torch's flame power. Reed steered the vessel straight towards Castle Doom in Latveria where She-Hulk was free to do what a jade giantess does best: bust heads and take names.

"Let me soothe your tortured brow!"

In those days, She-Hulk loved to pop out from underneath and drag her foes down for a good smashing. A fine strategy, but it doesn't always work. For instance, in Fantastic Four # 280, she attempted to surprise Malice, mistress of hate in the same way. But results may vary...

Malice, a mind controlled Susan Richards, wiped the floor with She-Hulk and her teammates. It wasn't until her husband literally slapped some sense into her that Sue was able to free herself from her Malice persona, only to realise who was responsible for twisting her feelings of security, trust and love into fear, doubt and hate... It was the Hate-Monger, an accomplice of the FF's old foe Psycho-Man. 

In the aftermath, the Invisible Girl felt só violated she forced the team to do something heroes never really did back in 1986: actively look for revenge. But seeing his wife's distress, Reed Richards had very little choice in the matter and he asked the She-Hulk to break out the FF's reducto-craft...

The Fantastic Four journeyed into Sub-Atomica where they faced the Psycho-Man who exposed them to his emotion manipulating device. While he kept the three original FF members in his lab as his personal playthings, the Psycho-Man had little use for She-Hulk. He sent her to the mines of Nuvidia where she was to perform hard labor. Why the usually boisterous, strong headed Shulkie didn't fight back, you ask? Well... Mister Fear-Doubt-Hate knows his stuff.


In the mines, She-Hulk encountered Pearla, the former ruler of the realm Psycho-Man had conquered. She also met the sadistic prison guard Dutta, who mercilessly tortured the slaves under his rule. Dutta was a less than subtle reference to regular reader and letter writer Barry Dutter, who made it his personal quest to vilify the She-Hulk in whatever book she might appear in. Dutter simply wasn't a fan and John Byrne finally decided to use She-Hulk, unwittingly, in a first attempt at breaking the fourth wall by sending the vocal fan a message that was rather hard to ignore...

"Dutta... Shut up!"

The remainder of She-Hulk's stay with the Fantastic Four is relatively uneventful. She journeyed with them to the Negative Zone, watched in horror as Mr. Fantastic seemingly bought the farm in the aftermath of the team's fight against Blastaar and Annihilus... and then, after returning to Earth courtesy of SHIELD, found herself back in 1936 New York, babysitting an unconscious Nick Fury who was intent on killing Germany's leader Adolf Hitler before 'der Fuhrer' could start World War II. 

"Keep out of sight, she says! Easy enough when you're the Invisible Woman! Not so easy when you're six foot seven and green!"

In the end, it was revealed the 1936 reality was inadvertently created by 'Licorice' Calhoun, a 1930s clarinet player who turned out to be a mutant whose could reshape reality When some mobsters learned of Licorice's abilities, they tried to press the reluctant musician into service. When he failed to deliver, the gangsters ran him over out of spite. Left comatose, Calhoun somehow ended up in SHIELD's care for decades until the now aged man suddenly started to dream about the world he remembered.

The last major FF story She-Hulk was involved in, incidentally turned out to be John Byrne's final tale as well. Starting in Fantastic Four # 293, the appropriately titled 'Black Out', She-Hulk joined the Westcoast Avengers in investigating just why a mysterious, impenetrable black dome had suddenly shut Central City off from the outside world. One wonders if Stephen King read the issue before he came up with the concept of his hit novel and subsequent tv show Under The Dome

Midway through the storyline, John Byrne left the book, leaving Jerry Ordway to finish up the story. By then, the big anniversary was right around the corner. No, not #300, but #296, which was the official 25th anniversary of the FF being in publication. Stan Lee scripted a plot by Jim Shooter that saw the Thing reunite with his former teammates... and leaving the She-Hulk out in the cold.

The Thing kinda-sorta returned to active duty in #297, sharing the strongman position on the team with She-Hulk. But by #300, it became obvious Ben was back for good when he attended the wedding of Alicia and Johnny Storm and didn't go on a jealousy fueled murderous rampage. She-Hulk bowed out gracefully, along with Wyatt Wingfoot who departed for parts unknown. Jen showed up a few weeks later in Avengers # 278.

Roger Stern had just put the Avengers through the wringer with the Mansion Siege, in which baron Helmut Zemo and the Masters of Evil succesfully invaded Avengers Mansion, almost bringing Earth's mightiest to their knees. The Masters managed to beat Hercules into a coma and seriously injured longtime butler Jarvis as well.

Even though the Masters were eventually defeated, they left the Avengers severly demoralised and with a trashed headquarters. With the mansion ashambles, Avengers chairwoman the Wasp hired office space in the FF's headquarters to try and get the team on its feet again. Luckily, She-Hulk showed up to help out.

"I can return to active duty right now!
The Thing is back with the FF and I'm pretty much at loose ends!"

And with that, She-Hulk was a late 80s Avenger again... However, by that time the Avengers was no longer the warm, comforting group of friends she had come to know and love during her initial time with the team. But we'll get to that in part IV of Jade Jaunting. 

Spider-Man vs. The Green Goblin and The Hobgoblin!

Spidey and his hands full with a pair of Goblins! By Ron Frenz.

Happy Halloween!

1987 - Marvel Graphic Novel - Dracula: A Symphony On Moonlight And Nightmares by Jon J. Muth.

Some Great Spooky Halloween Reads From The 1980s

Here's a handful of great horror reads from the 1980s.

Captain America vs. Baron Blood by John Byrne and Roger Stern
Captain America #253-254

Daredevil #208 by Harlan Ellison and David Mazzuchelli

Dracula vs the X-Men
Uncanny X-Men #158 and Annual #8 by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiwicz

Doctor Strange vs Dracula - Montessi Formula
Doctor Strange #58-63 by Roger Stern and Dan Green

Thor vs Dracula
The Mighty Thor #332-333, by Alan Zelenetz, Bob Hall, and Vince Colletta

Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom - Triumph and Torment Graphic Novel
by Roger Stern, Mike Mignola, and Mark Badger

Moon Knight vs The Werewolf By Night
Moon Knight #29-30 by Doug Moench and Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel Classic Comics

Classic 1970s Monsters by John Byrne

From the collection of Clint Ludwick.
Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

1982: Jade Jaunting part II: Secretly Tripping The Light Fantastic

By Jef Willemsen (

Stan Lee might have dreamed her up, but it was Jim Shooter who turned She-Hulk into a real star when he made her an Avenger months after her initial attempt at a solo series tanked. Today's entry focuses on Shulkie's days among Earth's mightiest and how a secret, out of this world adventure led to a most fantastic change.

During the early days of She-Hulk's Avengers tenure, writer Jim Shooter used the jade giantess as a great source of comic relief. Especially her ongoing rivalry with fellow Avenger Hawkeye was played out beautifully. In the opening page of Avengers # 222, we find She-Hulk playing mechanic after Hawkeye's trick arrows short circuited her pink cadillac an issue earlier.

Things are going great...

Finally deciding she had enough, She-Hulk smashes and folds her vehicle into a neat little package she tosses in the nearest garbage can for recycling. When you're green, you might as well embrace the eco-friendly shtick after all. Just then, the Wasp shows up and Shooter starts laying the groundwork for something unique in Avengers history up to that point: an actual friendship between two female Avengers.

Sure, the Scarlet Witch and the Wasp were always friendly, but never close. Ms. Marvel was written as such a bra burning uberfeminist that all she did was lecture the women on the team they ought to roar. Mantis spent her time being either an android stealing hussy or forced to become the mother of a celestial savior by romancing a plant... Hellcat clung more to the Beast, Jocasta felt her robotic nature precluded her from fitting in. Tigra was too much of a jumpy worrywart and as for Moondragon... Well, she wasn't exactly the congenial type either.

But Janet and the She-Hulk hit it off beautifully. The two happened to have the same, fun loving, care free personality. Janet wanted Jennifer to feel welcome and even designed a new, somewhat pirate themed outfit for her. She also offered some sage advice on dealing with Hawkeye: be nice to him.

Shulkie took that particular nugget of wisdom to heart...

But that wasn't all the fun Shooter had with Jennifer in # 222. Egghead's Masters of Evil attacked Avengers Mansion just as the team was finishing up its weekly meeting. The Wasp panicked when she saw She-Hulk getting ready to charge the Masters in her new pirate suit. More concerned with possibly ruining her latest design than, well, effectively fighting a word class threat, the leader of the Avengers insisted its newest member stripped down first...

"You can't be serious?!"

She wasn't kidding.

As far as hazing the new kid goes, having her fight crime in nothing but her color coordinated purple undies was a doozy. Other than that initial mishap, She-Hulk took to the team like a duck to water, helping out against the Fomore, among others, more than holding her own in the process. Shooter made the right call to increase her powers to the point Jen could lift more than hefty fork trucks like back in her solo days.

Shooter's successor Roger Stern continued this trend until Shulkie proved strong enough to smack around Thor's nemesis Radioactive Man during a rematch with the Masters of Evil. Of course, as any writer will tell you: one only builds up his characters so he can break them down. It just makes for good drama... Case in point:

"No! Not this!"

The Radioactive Man turned She-Hulk into plain ol' Jennifer Walters again. Seemingly unable to shift back, Jennifer became instantly depressed about losing the sense of personal security and strength the She-Hulk provided her.

Unlike her cousin Bruce Banner, she didn't consider it a curse to be a Hulk. Quite the opposite: losing that part of herself, maybe forever, caused her to wallow in despair and selfpity. Luckily, her old pal Hawkeye stood ready to give her a little peptalk...

"Is that the best you can do, She-Wimp?"

A daring gambit on Hawkeye's part, but it worked out for the best. With She-Hulk back to full fighting strength, the Avengers took care of the Masters of Evil (or, rather, showed up to find Hank Pym had done it for them).

After this, Stern focused his She-Hulk stories on the fact Jennifer had trouble adjusting to life in New York. After a lifetime in leisurely, sunny California with its many beaches and lovely weather, she found the busy, smoggy and crowded metropolis a bit much. Living in Avengers Mansion also cramped her style a little So for many an issue, she was seen trying to fit in, with New Yorkers attempting to get used to sights like this...

"... I wish they all could be California guuuuuurls!"

During this period, she met new Avengers Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) and the Eternal Eros, who joined the team under the codename Starfox. She-Hulk got along well with the new recruits and even openly romanced Starfox.

She also worked with the Fantastic Four for the first time, after running headfirst into the Null-field erected by Annihilus who had invaded the Baxter Building while the FF was away on an extended excursion of the Negative Zone. This tale was told in Avengers #233 and Fantastic Four # 256, a mini-crossover drawn and (co)plotted by John Byrne which told the story from both teams' unique perspective.

Above all, Stern's She-Hulk was a fun, carefree character who despite her undeniable temper was just out to have a good time. She also was hardly a prude...Here she is hunting for her New York dream appartment in Avengers # 236.

She-Hulk's next big break came when Jim Shooter drafted her and the other Avengers to take part in 1984's Secret Wars, Marvel's first company wide crossover/12 issue limited series / unabashed sales hit /shameless toy licensing scheme. 

Finding herself on the newly created composite planet dubbed Battleworld, She-Hulk joined the Avengers, Spider-Man, the X-men and her cousin the Hulk in opposing the likes of Galactus and Doctor Doom's army of villains. 

Secret Wars had a unique hook: most books coverdated April 1984 ended with the hero(es) being drawn towards a massive, mysterious construct that had suddenly appeared in Central Park's Sheep Meadow. The moment the heroes entered it, they were instantly teleported away... only to return the next month (about a week in Marvel time), changed and visibly shaken up by the experience.

Spider-Man was wearing black, professor Xavier walked and sported a horrible costume, Hulk returned with a leg brace and a crutch... and as for She-Hulk...

"You'd think that wearing a Fantastic Four uniform would make it easier to get a cab!"

Just imagine the impact it had on the readership back in 1984. With no internet, messageboards or online advance sollicitations spoiling the story three months in advance, having She-Hulk simply show up in Avengers #243 wearing a FF-uniform caused a lot of ruckus. The answers to all these questions were slowly revealed over a year's time, starting in May 1984's Secret Wars # 1. 

She-Hulk's initial involvement in the Secret Wars was slightly limited, however. When you are on a team with Thor, Thing and the friggin' Hulk it's safe to say Shulkie wasn't exactly essential in the raw strength department. Heck, Hulk saved all the heroes in Secret Wars # 4 by bench pressing a mountain range the size of the rockies, all while Jennifer was lying around unconscious.

But She-Hulk finally got her chance to shine after the Wasp fell prey to the Wrecking Crew in #6. The crew delivered her corpse to the alien village the heroes were using for a base in #7, unceremoniously tossing it out of their ready-for-a-toy-version vehicle.


While the heroes pondered their next move, She-Hulk had only one thing on her mind: avenge her best friend. Not waiting around for the others to reach a decision, she went to Doom's base and smashed her way in. She-Hulk took out the Wrecker and his crew before the other supervillains realised what was going on. One of the first to arrive was was neophyte villainess Titania (Mary 'Skeeter' MacPherran), who would become her chief nemesis in the years to come...

"You...! Doom's muscle-woman!"

Holding her own against Titania, She-Hulk proved no match for the combined might of Titania, Absorbing Man, Doctor Octopus and the recovered Wrecking Crew who proceeded to pound her into emerald paste. By then, the heroes arrived after realising what She-Hulk was up to. After routing the villains, Reed Richards managed to save her... literally with one arm tied behind his back.

"I'M amazed that the She-Hulk survived that beating!"

Thanks to the Beyonder, no one ever really died on Battleworld. By the time the heroes returned to the alien village, they discovered the Wasp had been resurrected. Janet seemed none the worse for wear and was more concerned with her hair and make up than how she returned from beyond the veil. Similarly, She-Hulk recovered from her wounds in record time. She was ready to engage in the final battle against Doctor Doom, who had managed to usurp the power of the Beyonder himself.

While fighting the demonoid horde Doom had called up, Shulkie had a moment with Fantastic Four strongman Thing, who was more than a little moved, intrigued and swayed by the fact that something on the Beyonder's makeshift marble of a world allowed him to control his transformation.

"Just keep clobberin', lady!"

Prophetic words... After Doom was defeated by the Beyonder, Reed Richards mastered the teleportation mechanism that brought them to Battleworld and set it for a return trip. The heroes said their goodbyes and took off, but not everyone was going home...

"I'm not going with you guys, I'm taking Ben's place in the Fantastic Four!"

And so she did. She-Hulk returned home with the Fantastic Four, which we will cover in part III... However, she was officially still part of the Avengers, which caused the team's chairman the Vision to come up with a special membership status in Avengers # 243 that effectively took care of both Shulkie and Thor's flexible presence...

"Therefore, I propose the establishment of a special "detached membership" status"

With that, She-Hulk truly was a free agent who spent most of her time from then on as part of Marvel's first family, the Fantastic Four. But we'll cover those myriad misadventures in part III of Jade Jaunting: Voyages Into The Fantastic... 


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