For the first two issues of the series (the second of which is available today, digitally and in print), the “Hulk” in the title represents the monster Jen is trying to keep at bay.
Traumatized by a nearly fatal battle with Marvel super-villain Thanos and mourning the death of her cousin, it is no longer easy or desirable for Jen Walters to be green. She continues her career as a lawyer, but refuses, to the best of her abilities, to transform back into a super-strong superhero. For series writer Mariko Tamaki, writing a Hulk comic book that has no Hulk was intriguing.
“I love [in superhero comic books] when things explode, but I’m definitely someone who is really interested in the complexity of the human experience, so I thought [writing Hulk] would be a great opportunity,” Tamaki told The Post’s Comic Riffs.
Tamaki presents Jen Walters as someone that still has fight in her, but just wants to protect others in different ways. Just because the She-Hulk isn’t there on the outside for all to see doesn’t mean Jen can’t still be a hero.
“I think for Jen, she has this long and incredible history of being this strong woman in the courtroom and in her superhero form,” Tamaki said. “I think it’s equally [difficult] to be traumatized by this part of her life. It’s not something that she’s happily turning away from and moving on. It’s something that’s haunting.”
Since She-Hulk debuted in the pages of Marvel Comics in 1980, the character’s green skin and super-strength have been a source of pride. Unlike many comic-book variations of her cousin Bruce Banner/Hulk, She-Hulk retained her intelligence and personality. She remained green and strong at all times, shunning her non-hulking alter ego. Now, the same green persona serves as a reminder of past pain.
Jen dives into her legal work as a lawyer to keep her mind off of devastating events in her life as a superhero. When the bad memories come back, the green fights from within. Her eyes give off an emerald glow with dark green veins, reminding her that the gamma radiation that makes her who she is, is still there.
The No. 1 tool for keeping her Hulk transformations buried inside are online cooking videos, an idea inspired by Tamaki’s love of the show “The Great British Bake Off.”
“[Jen is] not a baker,” Tamiki says while laughing. “She’s a lawyer. Not to say you can’t be both, but she’s someone who is not really domestic and so I really liked the idea that the thing that she found soothing would be just watching someone baking a cake. Not that it has anything to do with her life. I liked the idea that she tries to disappear into the screen.”
For now, “Hulk” remains somewhat of a mystery series. The current “villain” is the transformation that Jen is trying to prevent from happening. But there are other questions, such as the seemingly otherworldly mysteries that surround Jen’s first, post-She-Hulk, legal client.
But Tamaki is aware that what everyone really wants to know is when Jen is going to hulk out. For now, Tamaki enjoys being the only one that has the answer.
“I love that feeling where you know something is going to happen and you don’t know what [or when],” Tamaki said.
Tamaki says she is grateful to fans who have embraced “Hulk’s” slow start, especially given the action normally associated with such a title.
“I like someone smashing through a concrete wall as much as anyone else. That whole thing is something that will be a part of this arc,” Tamaki promised.
“It’s interesting because I was curious how people would connect to an issue that is setting up an emotional stage. But it’s been really amazing to see that people are down for that. People are down for seeing this character [go through] that. Getting to be with [Jen] for a bit, it’s nice to be able to set up an emotional place before you go into ‘Hulk smash.’”