The Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to get another dose of gamma radiation. At Disney’s D23 convention on Friday, Marvel Studios announced She-Hulk, a new live-action series that’s headed to Disney’s streaming service Disney+.
More than just “girl Hulk,” She-Hulk is a popular character who has carved out her own niche in the Marvel Comics Universe over the last 40 years since her debut. And while we didn’t know it at the time, Avengers: Endgame may have actually set up the introduction of She-Hulk.
For those unfamiliar with Bruce Banner’s cousin, here’s all you need to know about She-Hulk.
Meet the Savage She-Hulk
Introduced in her own series, Savage She-Hulk #1 in 1980, Jennifer Walters is the small, shy younger cousin of Bruce Banner. When she was shot and wounded by a crime boss, Bruce — having just transformed into the Hulk — donated some of his (radiated) blood to save her life.
The transfusion with gamma-radiated blood allowed Jennifer to inherit some of Bruce’s powers, allowing her to transform into an Amazonian-esque “Hulk” upon a fit of rage. But because of the weaker exposure to gamma rays, Jennifer isn’t totally transformed and thus retains her personality in her Hulk form. This is illustrated by her (several) costumes; while cousin Bruce hulks out of ripped clothes and torn pants, illustrating the ongoing struggle between the Hulk’s two egos, Jennifer is far more “put-together” in comfortable athleisure spandex, boots, and kickboxing gloves.
And unlike her cousin, her transformations tend towards semi-permanent. Like Hulk after Avengers: Age of Ultron and leading into Thor: Ragnarok, Jennifer often spends long stretches of time as either She-Hulk or “depowered” Jennifer.
She-Hulk, Attorney At Law
Besides her Hulk powers, the most important thing to know about She-Hulk is that she isn’t another genius like Bruce, but she’s one of the Marvel Universe’s most capable and idealistic lawyers.
Over four decades of comics, Jennifer has defended minorities, the mentally ill, and fought for the protection of civil liberties. She defended a number of clients during the events of Civil War, including Speedball, the teen hero responsible for the tragedy in Connecticut that kicked off the push for the Superhuman Registration Act.
In a 2007 interview with Peter David — at the time writing She-Hulk for a new comic book series — David equated She-Hulk to Wonder Woman, saying:
“She-Hulk has the potential to be our Wonder Woman. A powerful female with a strong moral center and a determination to do what’s right. She’s also a unique combination of brains and brawn. The ideal She-Hulk story is one that plays on both aspects of her make-up, the intelligence combined with her strength.”
She-Hulk’s law career could make for a compelling TV show, a medium famously populated with legal dramas, that juxtaposes nicely next to her superheroics. While the show’s placement at Disney+ means it will likely be a serial narrative, it could just as easily be one of Marvel’s first procedural shows.
The Many Romances of She-Hulk
Another compelling aspect of Jennifer/She-Hulk as a character is her vivid social life, including how she dated a number of heroes throughout the Marvel Universe. Her first relationship was with a childhood friend, Zapper, but they broke up when Jennifer willingly chose to stay in her She-Hulk form; Zapper loved her as Jennifer instead. After Zapper, she got involved with supers like Starfox, Wyatt Wingfoot, Luke Cage, Clay Quarterman, Tony Stark, and Hercules.
For a time, she was married to John Jameson, son of J. Jonah Jameson, but this turned out to be an elaborate manipulation on the part of Jennifer’s ex, Starfox.
What Makes She-Hulk Different From Bruce Banner?
Because showing is better than telling, check out my favorite cover for She-Hulk #2, illustrated by Kevin Wada for Charles Soule’s twelve-issue series. In just a handful of panels, Wada portrays the complex dimensions of She-Hulk: Her femininity, her professionalism, her superheroism, all in one page.
Who Will Play She-Hulk?
Because She-Hulk announcement at D23, it is unknown who will play She-Hulk in her Disney+ series. One can only presume that casting is currently underway.
Marvel often casts semi-obscure or on-the-rise actors for its superhero roles. (Remember the now-viral 2009 Vulture piece about Marvel casting “unknowns” Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston for Thor?) So it’s hard to speculatively cast She-Hulk using Marvel’s playbook. Marvel also has a habit of reusing actors; Mahershala Ali, Alfre Woodard, and Gemma Chan are all major actors who have played multiple roles in the MCU.
That said, actress Eliza Dushku voiced She-Hulk for several seasons of the Disney XD animated series Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. With prosthetics, Dushku can make an equally exciting candidate to play She-Hulk in live-action. Adrianne Palicki, who previously played Mockingbird in the Marvel series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., is another viable choice.
How Avengers: Endgame (May Have) Created She-Hulk
Avengers: Endgame surprised audiences with what fans term “Professor Hulk” when Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner appeared as a blend of Bruce’s brains and Hulk’s brawn in a single body. While fans didn’t see the actual process of how Bruce fused together his two split egos “in the gamma lab,” the fact that he managed to do so is the important thing to remember.
Because of the very nature of who She-Hulk is — a Hulked-out human with the brains and personality of her “real” ego — Avengers: Endgame may have established the entry point for She-Hulk to manifest in the MCU.
She-Hulk has no confirmed release date, but it’s expected to come last in a long lineup of Disney+ MCU series.