If you’re just joining us, this is the second of twelve essays I’m writing, one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12 on February 18, the final issue in the current run of the title. The idea is to look at each issue a bit more in-depth before we get to that last one. I’m doing these in conjunction with a live-tweet using the tag #12daysofshehulk, also one per day leading up to the release of 12 – so you can play along at home! Feel free to @ me (I’m @charlessoule) – I’d love to hear what you think of this issue and all the others, whether it’s a re-read or you’re checking them out for the first time. The first livetweet session (for issue 1) happened last night, and it was pretty great, in my opinion – lots of interesting thoughts from you guys. Thank you to everyone who participated – it’ll go again tonight (Sunday) at 7 PM, as I understand it, with your comments on Issue 2.
Issue #2: “…And?”
In some ways, a second issue is just as important as the first one. You can set the hook with a good #1, but if you can deliver a great (or even better) experience with the second issue, then readers can settle in and know they’re in for the long haul. I haven’t talked with retailers to verify this, but I suspect that books might go on a pull list if buzz is good about the first issue, but they stay on the pull if that second issue delivers.
If Issue 1 gave us the setup – Jen quits her job as a big-firm lawyer and starts her own private practice in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn – then Issue 2 needed to elaborate on that premise and deepen it a bit. In short… she needed a supporting cast! I don’t care how great your character is – if they’re alone all the time, it makes things really difficult. Even the Punisher had Micro. For a while. Until Micro went bad and Frank had to… punish him.
But I digress.
I knew from the start that I wanted two characters to help Jen out with her practice – a paralegal/assistant, and a friend character that she could hang out with after hours. The para became Angie Huang, of course, and the friend ended up being Patsy Walker, aka Hellcat. Let’s talk about Angie first.
She-Hulk was always conceived as a multicultural book. The Marvel Universe is supposed to reflect the “world outside your window.” I live in New York, and I’ve lived a lot of other places as well, all over the world. The world outside my window isn’t just one color. Here’s the description of Angie Huang’s first appearance, from page four of the script:
Jen has now entered a sort of waiting area in the lobby of the building, just a small space with a reception desk, a couch and a few chairs. Waiting in the lobby are five people, and there’s a young woman behind the reception desk. Four of them you can design however you like, but one of them should be a slightly chubby Asian woman, on the younger side. A capuchin monkey is sitting in her lap.
And here’s how Javier Pulido interpreted that:
Pretty great, right? Angie doesn’t look like your typical superhero comic book character, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Of the many things Javier got exactly right in his artwork for this series, Angie’s design is way up there.
I’ve worked with a lot of paralegals over the years in my legal practice, and I was one before I went to law school. It’s a really tough job, and an essential one. Paralegals are responsible for organizing the attorneys, shuffling and analyzing the mounds of documents that come into a firm on pretty much any case, and millions of other tasks and details that allow a law office to function smoothly. I don’t think they get as much credit as they deserve, and so… Angie.
But there’s another elephant in the room, of course. As we see a bit even in this issue, Angie is weird. She has a pet monkey (Hei Hei) who goes with her everywhere (that’s non-negotiable), and she occasionally seems to manifest abilities that perhaps your ordinary paralegal wouldn’t be able to. I know exactly who Angie is – and indeed, if you were to read the script for this issue just past the excerpt above, you’d get a massive hint – but what can I say? You probably won’t get a chance to read that script. There is a hint in Hei Hei’s name, but that’s about all I’ll give you. We’ll talk more about these two as we move forward.
Patsy Walker! The best! Kind of a trainwreck, but a very fun trainwreck. Fiercely loyal to her friends, maybe with a little chip on her shoulder, maybe even a little jealous that some of them have better powers than she does. The idea with Patsy was to give Jen Walters a character that she could almost take care of a little bit. Jen has often been shown as the wild one who needs someone to take care of her – and so flipping that dynamic somewhat seemed like it could generate some good stories. We see that most directly in Issue 7 – but certainly there’s some of that here, as Patsy gets hammered and, against the advice of her legal counsel (Jen) decides to go wreck an A.I.M. base.
I didn’t want to make them perfect, no-conflict super-pals, though. That’s not how close friends really are, in my experience. The closer you are to someone, the easier it is for them to drive you crazy – sometimes inadvertently, sometimes on purpose – and that’s certainly where Jen and Patsy are, in this issue and beyond it.
Another thing that was important to me was to establish the idea that Jen was having trouble getting clients because of her rash actions in Issue 1 (SHE-HULK SMASH TABLE!!) The firm she quit has been calling around, telling people she’s a loose cannon. While that’s definitely a vindictive act on their part (which felt like totally the sort of thing douchebag lawyers might do – we’re not all nice comic book writers, people) it was also something Jen had brought down on herself. I chose to do that because I wanted to ground the story in the idea that Jen would have to deal with real-world consequences as well as the sort of thing you might see in comic book tropes. You break someone’s fancy table, you know, you might have to deal with it later. Same with this beat a bit later in the issue:
In other words… you smash it, you bought it.
This type of story would end up being somewhat typical for one-shots in the run. The world doesn’t get saved, but it’s deeply steeped in character interactions and good times. I actually think that’s pretty consistent through most runs on the title – the John Byrne and Dan Slott runs certainly used that model.
That’s not all, though – Issue 2 has our first real look at the mysterious Blue File, the thread that runs through the first twelve issues. I didn’t want to hit it too hard here yet, but I did want to let readers know that it involved a bunch of other characters from the Marvel Universe, and Jen has been working on it for a while with no success. You have to tease this stuff out, you know?
Last thought about this issue – we get to see the IdeaHive – the office building where Jen sets up her practice. It’s full of random super-powered people trying to monetize their abilities, like a startup incubator for superpowers. It’s run by the damn cool Sharon King (I mean, look at the lady’s hair!)
She used to be a mutant, but now she’s not (thank you very much, M-DAY), and so now she’s a landlord for the IdeaHive. I set up this whole thing with the idea that it could be a fantastic story generator, as Jen started to interact with her new neighbors. We’ve gotten some of that, but I think there’s more to tell. Some weird folks set up shop in that building – including some familiar members of the Marvel Universe… but we’ll get to that.
Favorite character: ooooh, really tough, but I think Angie gets this one, despite Patsy’s bravura work in the issue.
That’s a wrap on Issue 2. Issue 3 tomorrow, with THE SON OF DOOM (aka Jen’s first real case in her new practice.) If you have questions about this issue, or anything at all, you can reach me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/charlessoule) or via the email form at www.charlessoule.com.