The Savage She-Hulk Marvel Masterworks volume 1 


By Stan Lee, David Anthony Kraft, John Buscema, Mike Vosburg, Chic Stone, Frank Springer & various (Marvel) 
ISBN: 978-1-3029-0354-1 (HB/Digital edition) 

Until comparatively recently, American comics – especially Marvel – had very little in the way of strong female role models and almost no viable solo stars. Although there was a woman starring in the very first comic of the Marvel Age, Invisible Girl Susan Storm took years to become a potent and independent character in her own right. She didn’t even become Invisible WOMAN until the 1980s… 

The company’s very first starring heroine was Black Fury, a leather-clad, whip-wielding crimebuster lifted from a newspaper strip created by Tarpe Mills in April 1941. The slinky vigilante was repackaged as a resized reprint for Timely’s funnybooks and renamed Miss Fury: enjoying a 4-year run between 1942 and 1946, with her tabloid incarnation surviving until 1952. 

Miss Fury was actually pre-dated by the Silver Scorpion who debuted in Daring Mystery Comics #7 (April 1941), but was always relegated to a minor position in the book’s line-up. She enjoyed a very short shelf-life. 

Miss America first appeared in anthological Marvel Mystery Comics #49 (November 1943), created by Otto Binder and artist Al Gabriele. After a flurry of appearances, she won her own title in early 1944. Miss America Comics lasted but the costumed cutie didn’t, as with the second issue (November 1944) the format abruptly altered, becoming a combination of teen comedy, fashion feature and domestic tips magazine. Feisty take-charge super-heroics were steadily squeezed out and the publication is most famous now for introducing virginal evergreen teen ideal Patsy Walker. 

A few more woman warriors appeared immediately after WWII, many as spin-offs and sidekicks of established male stars, like female Sub-Mariner Namora (debuting in Marvel Mystery Comics #82, May 1947 and graduating to her own 3-issue series in 1948). She was followed by the Human Torch’s secretary Mary Mitchell who, as Sun Girl, starred in her own 3-issue 1948 series before becoming a wandering sidekick and guest star in Sub-Mariner and Captain America Comics. 

Decked out in mask and ball-gown, detective Blonde Phantom was created by Stan Lee & Syd Shores for All Select Comics #11 (Fall 1946), and (sort-of) goddess Venus debuted in her own title in August 1948, becoming the gender’s biggest Timely/Atlas/Marvel success… until the advent of the Jungle Girl fad of the mid-1950s. This was mostly by dint of the superb stories and art from the incredible Bill Everett, and by ruthlessly shifting genres from crime to romance to horror every five minutes… 

Jann of the Jungle (by Don Rico & Jay Scott Pike) was just part of an anthology line-up in Jungle Tales #1 (September 1954), but she took over the title with the eighth issue (November 1955). Jann of the Jungle then ran until June 1957 (issue #17), spawning a host of in-company imitators like Leopard Girl, Lorna the Jungle Queen ad nauseum… 

During the costumed hero boom of the 1960s, Marvel dallied with a title shot for Madame Medusa in Marvel Super-Heroes (#15, July 1968) and a solo series starring the Black Widow (Amazing Adventures #1-8; August 1970-September 1971). Both were sexy, reformed villainesses, not wholesome girl-next-door heroines… and neither lasted alone for long. 

When the costumed crazies craze started to subside in the 1970s, Stan Lee & Roy Thomas looked into founding a girl-friendly boutique of heroines written by women. Opening shots in this mini-liberation war were Claws of the Cat by Linda Fite, Marie Severin & Wally Wood and Night Nurse by Jean Thomas & Win Mortimer (both #1’s cover-dated November 1972). Modern jungle goddess Shanna the She-Devil #1 – by Carole Seuling & George Tuska – debuted in December 1972; but despite impressive creative teams, none of these fascinating experiments lasted beyond a fifth issue. 

Red Sonja, She-Devil with a Sword, caught every one’s attention in Conan the Barbarian #23 (February 1973), eventually securing her own series whilst The Cat mutated into Tigra, the Were-Woman in Giant-Size Creatures #1 (July 1974), but the general editorial position remained that books starring chicks didn’t sell. 

To be fair, the company kept trying and eventually found the right mix at the right time with Ms. – now Captain – Marvel. She launched in her own title (cover-dated January 1977), to be followed by equally copyright-protecting Spider-Woman in Marvel Spotlight #32 (February 1977, and securing her own title 15 months later).  

Savage She-Hulk #1 came in February 1980, and was followed by music-biz sponsored Dazzler, who premiered in Uncanny X-Men #130 the same month, before graduating to her own book. 

This hulking hardcover volume (or enthralling eBook, if you prefer), collects Savage She-Hulk volume 1 #14, spanning February 1980 to March 1981 and opens with fact-packed, behind the scenes Introduction ‘The Savage Subversive’, courtesy of David Anthony Kraft.  

The new era begins with a publicity-attracting first issue crafted by old guard stars Stan Lee & John Buscema, inked by equally acclaimed veteran Chic Stone. Here, with deliberate tones of the Hulk’s early exploits and in the manner of the mega-hit TV show, we meet crusading Los Angeles lawyer Jennifer Walters, whose latest case is defending minor hoodlum Lou Monkton 

Just as her infamous fugitive cousin hits town, Walters is gunned down by killers working for Monkton’s rival Nick Trask, and saved by a hasty blood transfusion from her kinsman. He is Dr. Bruce Banner and he should have known better… 

Fleeing when the cops arrive, he doesn’t know how the rapidly recovering Jennifer is targeted again in her hospital room or how the stress of the second murder attempt triggers a shocking transformation. Easily thrashing the would-be killers, a gigantic green woman then rampages through the medical facility and the city before reverting to human. However, LA is now fearfully aware that ‘The She-Hulk Lives’ 

The second issue is where the story truly begins as scripter David Anthony Kraft and artists Mike Vosburg & Chic Stone kick off a string of unconventional thrillers slightly askew of standard Marvel Fights ‘n’ Tights fare. Resuming the Monkton case piles on more stress for the recuperating legal eagle, as do smug assistant DA “Buck” Bukowski and her own father Sheriff Morris Walters. Thankfully, iron willpower and strong drugs keep her raging fury at bay until a confrontation with Trask prompts another murder attempt.  

This time though, the mobster’s thugs accidentally snatch her best friend Jill, triggering a second change – just as overly-attentive neighbour Danny “Zapper” Ridge walks by… 

A frantic freeway car chase ensues with the green goliath easily pacing high performance engines, but ends in failure and tragedy at the end of the ‘Deathrace!!’ with a body everyone believes is Jennifer Walters… 

Since Jen had cleared Monkton, her emerald alter ego is now the only thing LA is talking about and ‘She-Hulk Murders Lady Lawyer!’ sees the situation escalate as Trask’s men are assassinated in jail by something with giant green arms that can punch through walls. In hiding and cared for by unwilling confidante Zapper, Walters is traced by Trask’s deadly She-droid (a stolen Stark tech robot painted green and wearing a wig) but proves too much for mere mechanisms. In the aftermath of brutal battle, She-Hulk – savage, super-strong and far smarter than her male counterpart – resolves to deal with Trask once and for all… 

However, as detailed in #4, when ‘The She-Hulk Strikes Back!’ she finds sheriff Walters still believes the monster killed his daughter. Seizing his opportunity, Trask – now revealed as more Bond-villain than local Godfather – offers to join forces with the grief-stricken policeman and provide a superweapon to kill the unsuspecting monster woman… 

Surviving the traumatic family encounter drives She-Hulk to her ‘Breaking Point!’, but her very public terror tantrums simply divert focus as Jennifer Walters quietly re-emerges and resumes her life. Her latest client is Roxxon Oil: suffering inexplicable losses in their storage facilities. When Jennifer investigates, She-Hulk ends up battling Trask’s subterranean theft device and seemingly ends his threat forever. 

‘Enter: The Invincible Iron Man’ sees the Golden Avenger finally hit town to find out who stole his tech, and manoeuvred by Sheriff Walters into going after She-Hulk, even as Jen defends Tony Stark from accusations of criminal collusion with Trask, after which ‘Richard Rory… Winner’ sees Steve Gerber’s everyman loser strike it rich, move to California and – having seen the good side on another green beast – immediately side with the fugitive She-Hulk in her latest clash with the cops. As romance blossoms, Jen returns with Rory to Florida only to stumble, as She-Hulk, into the mystically-tainted swamp that birthed the muck-monster.  

Captured by the last eternally-young occupants of secret retreat La Hacienda – who wish her company forever – She-Hulk’s time ‘Among the Ogres!’ ends in strife when she rejects their bovine passivity and clashes with Rory’s old associate the mossy Man-Thing… 

Danny Bulanadi “and friends” ink #10 as ‘The Power of the Word’ introduces a charismatic preacher/cult leader with vast ambitions and very strange ideas about personal empowerment. College science student Zapper meanwhile, has offered to have Jenifer’s blood secretly tested, and his efforts have brought him to the attention of radical researcher Dr. Michael Morbius 

The Word believes his positive affirmations have unleashed his daughter’s physical and mental potential, but her emotional state is as fragile as any teen and when Ultima mistakes’ Jen Walters’ patient enquiries as a play for her boyfriend it results in brutal battle with the Green Queen and a ‘War of… the Word!’ (inked by Frank Springer) as Jen gets a day in court against the malevolent master of motivation, but – as is increasingly commonplace – loses out to chicanery and her own evermore uncontrollable other self… 

Zapper’s meeting with Morbius revealed a degenerative blood disease in Jen’s sample and that plot thread culminates now ‘In the Shadow of Death!’ as the critically enfeebled gamma transmute collapses and is arrested. At UCLA, Morbius has his own problems. Students have started rioting after learning of his previous life as a blood-drinking “living vampire”. Marked for death by Mr & Mrs LeClerc (parents of one of his victims), the “outed” professor is saved by Zapper in time to treat the recently escaped and almost expired She-Hulk… 

Initially ineffective, the cure eventually resurrects her, but ‘Reason and Rage!’ war uncontrollably within both of her, especially after Jen’s inexplicably hostile father rails at her for representing “mass-murderer” Morbius in court. With nobody satisfied by the eventual verdict, the scientist is released only to be targeted again by the LeClercs who convince philosophically-motivated android Gemini to go after him and Jen in the name of a higher balance. Things go very bad very quickly when She-Hulk tips the scales of justice… 

A long-dangling plot thread is plucked in #13 as Richard Rory’s return completes a romantic triangle with Jen and Zapper, even as trans-dimensional star god Man-Wolf resurfaces and Defenders Hellcat and Valkyrie cameo in ‘Through the Crystal!’  

When the divine wolf’s forces seek to abduct She-Hulk to liberate their leader, the result is a cosmic chain reaction and potential end of existence unless Hellcat Patsy Walker can orchestrate a cleansing clash between wolf and she-beast in ‘Life in the Bloodstream’ 

The fearsomely furious Savage She-Hulk would eventually evolve into a scintillating semi-comedic superstar and tragic paragon but for now these early epics pause with an extras section including original art pages by Buscema & Stone and Vosburg/Stone; original plot ages for #2 and character bio sheet; Vosburg’s pencil thumbnail layouts; unused script pages and a draft for comedic ‘How Dave and Mike Write & Draw the She-Hulk!’ story plus house ads, John Romita’s pencil art and Frank Springer’s inked version for the first ad. 

Lean, mean, and evergreen, these are intriguing and long-overlooked Marvel Masterpieces in need of your attention. Why are you waiting?  
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