Although it took way, way too long, Wonder Woman has finally become the female-led superhero film that is both a commercial and critical hit. Because of this, most of us are hoping that the floodgates will open, and not only will we see a ton of female directors be given blockbusters, but also a ton of female superheroes too. Even before Wonder Woman came out, both DC Comics and Marvel Studios announced films for Captain Marvel and Batgirl, as well as the Gotham City Sirens. It would be nice if all of these films had women directors too (although it’s kind of impossible to not get excited about Joss Whedon doing a female superhero movie, as he’s directing Batgirl).
As much as Wonder Woman shattered records and expectations though, the truth is, it wasn’t the first comic book movie about a female superhero to be directed by a woman. That honor goes to director Rachel Talalay’s 1995 film Tank Girl. Sadly, the adaptation of the quirky indie comic actually lived up to its name back in the day and tanked pretty hard, making only $6 million at the box office total. Ouch. That has less to do with the film or its qualities, and more to do with the fact that Hollywood didn’t know how to properly adapt comic books in the ’90s, leading to train wrecks like The Phantom, Steel, and the Joel Schumacher Batman movies. Tank Girl is actually more interesting than all of those put together.
While chatting with Vice about the recent success of Wonder Woman, and how things have changed since she made Tank Girl, Talalay dropped a juicy nugget about the female superhero movie she’d most love to direct today, if given the chance. And her heroine of choice is none other than Jennifer Walters, the sensational She-Hulk. About a potential She-Hulk movie, she said the following:
“I have such a strong vision of what She-Hulk should be. The difference between She-Hulk and Hulk is that she loved being She-Hulk. She was the Tank Girl of earlier days in terms of being able to say what she wanted, and when she became She-Hulk, it was like an opening of the door to freedom, to be the person that you wish you could be. That you’re stopped from being as a woman. And that’s the version of She-Hulk that I would love to embrace.”
Of course, this is just Talalay dreaming out loud, but that doesn’t mean it could never happen. Certainly, Marvel Studios has got to be looking at the massive success of Wonder Woman, and is wondering just what other women heroes the company has that could be a major motion picture. And She-Hulk is very much at the top of that list, having been a mainstay of the Marvel Universe for nearly 40 years. In fact, we think she is easily one of the ten most important Marvel heroes to not make it into live-action yet, regardless of gender. Yes, she’s that important.
Who Is She-Hulk, And Why Is She Cool?
When Stan Lee created her back in 1980, She-Hulk was really just the “girl version of Hulk.” She was always Jennifer Walters, a successful lawyer and the cousin of Bruce Banner, AKA the Hulk, who gains his green genes after he gives her a life-saving blood transfusion. Just like her cous’, when she’d get angry, she’d turn into a rampaging (and kinda dumb) giant green monster in ripped clothing. There was honestly not a whole lot to her at first. But she had potential. Before her series run was over, the writers introduced the idea that her transformations could be regulated, so she was big and beautiful and green, but never again the monster her cousin Bruce was.
When her book was cancelled after 25 issues, She-Hulk joined the Avengers, and during a particularly popular run on the Fantastic Four, she replaced the Thing as a member for quite some time. She decided to become She-Hulk permanently, and continued her job as a high-powered lawyer and as a superhero, proving women really can have it all. Her wry sense of humor became a key component to the character, and when she received her own series again in 1989, The Sensational She-Hulk, she became the first Marvel hero to humorously break the fourth wall, years before Deadpool ever did. Although her second series was cancelled five years later, it ran for sixty issues and was Marvel’s longest running book starring a female for many years.
Which Marvel Comics Should A She-Hulk Movie Be Based On?
Having made a comedic female superhero film with Tank Girl, a more comedic take on She-Hulk is definitely the way to go if it were to become a movie. Luckily, there are some very funny She-Hulk adventures from the pages of Marvel Comics that would be perfect material to serve as inspiration if we get our way, and Talalay gets to direct a Shulkie movie in the near future.
Marvel Graphic Novel #18 “The Sensational She-Hulk.” (1985)
Writer/Artist John Byrne, who in the ’80s was the biggest superstar in comics, thanks to his work on Uncanny X-Men, Fantastic Four and Superman, always saw the potential in Jen Walters to be more than her initial conception allowed. His first major contribution to the character was in this graphic novel from 1985, in which She-Hulk goes on an adventure with SHIELD, after they kidnap her to see if she is as much a danger to the world as her cousin is.
In this wacky adventure, SHIELD nearly gets overthrown by a group of weird, otherworldly creatures, and Jen decides to stay in her She-Hulk form permanently. This OGN sets the tone for She-Hulk stories for years to come, and sets up Byrne as one of her preeminent creators.
The Sensational She-Hulk, Ongoing Series (1989)
The cover of issue #1 of Sensational She-Hulk sets the tone for the whole series going forward. On the cover, Jennifer is holding a copy of her original first issue from 1980, and telling fans that this was their second chance, so they better not blow it. “If you don’t buy my book this time, I’m going to go to your house and rip up all your X-Men.”
The second She-Hulk book, which was again written/drawn by Byrne, lasted 60 issues, with most of them being doe by him. Among these wacky adventures, She-Hulk faces off against “Dr. Bong”, who brings Saturday morning cartoons to life. Too wacky for a movie? I don’t know about you, but I’d pay to see these stories come to life.
After John Byrne, the character who has defined She-Hulk the most has been writer Dan Slott (Amazing Spider-Man). He wrote not only her 2004 series, which lasted 12 issues, but also the bulk of her follow up series which last a further 38 issues, and ended in 2009. Slott really amped up the wackiness factor of Jennifer Walters life as a superhero lawyer, trying cases with some of the weirdest villains in the Marvel Universe. More than a movie, Slott’s run would be perfect for a television series, something Talalay has a lot of experience directing. Slott’s entire run on the character is collected in a pair of trade paperbacks.
Which She-Hulk comic book runs from Marvel do you think are best to adapt for the big (or small) screens? Is Rachel Talalay the one to do it? (Yes, is the answer.) Let us know your thoughts down below in the comments.
Images: Marvel Comics/ BBC