(Obligatory intro text paragraph – feel free to skip down to the non-italic text one if you’ve already been reading these posts.)

This is the seventh of twelve essays I’m writing (we’re more than halfway!), one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. 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 on Twitter, also one per day leading up to the release of 12 starting at 7 PM EST – 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.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

Issue 7 was a huge challenge for me. I’m not sure why, exactly. I knew I wanted to do a one-shot, and I had the plan to do the Hank Pym story pretty early, but getting it all to gel took me a number of drafts. I suspect that was related to a few factors – one, I was coming back into writing for Javier Pulido after a few issues writing for Ron Wimberly, which meant a switching of mental gears. Second, I was maybe a little focused on plot as opposed to what the issue would really be about. You can think up all the goofy bits with shrunken superheroes you want, but if the characters’ engines aren’t humming along properly, it’s just a bunch of goofy bits about shrunken superheroes.

I finally cracked it when I realized that this was a perfect issue to bring the Patsy/Jen partnership/friendship to the fore. The surface story has two business partners in a spat because they can’t seem to agree about how to go about their business – and that’s paralleled by what happens with Hellcat and She-Hulk here.

FightIt seemed pretty plausible to me that Patsy Walker could have a bit of an inferiority complex about her superheroing gig. She doesn’t have powers, really – she can detect magic use, but in a world where people can blast mountains apart, that’s not really all that much to speak of. Basically, she’s an incredible acrobat and hand-to-hand fighter, and she has one hell of a lot of pizzazz. That’s it.

I knew this was a thread I’d want to play out eventually, so I started hitting it early. We see it in her first beats in Issue 2, when she wants to go (drunkenly) beat up AIM, and the AIM agents straight up say she’s “powerless.” We see it again in Issue 6, when she’s trying to figure out what happened with Tigra.

Powerless is a pretty strong word for a woman like Patsy Walker, though. I don’t see her as powerless – not even a tiny bit. She might not have the most impressive superpowers, but that’s not the only way you can kick some ass.

As we see in this issue.

Jen, being Jen, realizes this towards the end of the issue.   – but I also wanted to make it clear that She-Hulk isn’t stepping aside to give Hellcat a chance to prove her worth. As this panel shows, she trusts her with her life.

Trust(I’m sure you all got this, too, but Patsy spends most of the issue trying to figure out how to use Ant-Man’s ant-commanding helmet – she’s trying to get superpowers, to measure up the way she thinks Jen and other superheroes feel she should. But when it comes down to it, how does she save the day?)

Hellcat

With moxy and a sharp stick. Sometimes that’s all you need.

Anyway, that was pretty much the deal. Everyone learns some valuable lessons, the contract gets signed, etc. A few fun facts about this issue – the first page was a fun tease of the big storyline to come in issues 8-10, and a deliberate contrast to the aged version of Captain America we see on the last page.

AdorableYes, sparks were starting to fly between Patsy and Rufus, the adorably business-minded inventor down the hall. We’ll see if we can’t get back to that.

As scripted, the sparrow that Ant-Man befriends off-screen in the issue was supposed to be flitting around the conference room in panel 1 of page 19, just to suggest that they’d become real buddies. I have no idea why Javier didn’t include it – sometimes things just disappear between script and panel. The trick with stuff like that is not to be too precious. You pick your battles. Artists aren’t robots, they’re collaborative partners, and you aren’t always going to see things the same way.

And finally, I was in Hong Kong when I wrote this. Hong Kong is a very vertical city – everything building is a hi-rise. My hotel was no exception, and it had a little bar near the roof, completely empty in the mornings, where I would go sit and write while I had a cup of coffee.  This was the view:

BlOF1AOCcAAKHEy

Pretty amazing. I know. I love Hong Kong. While you can’t see any people in that shot, if you could, I bet they’d look like… ants. I was clearly writing the right issue for that particular view.

Favorite panel: SparrowPoor Ant-Man! As a character, Hank Pym more or less can’t catch a break – and I didn’t want to break that streak here. He’s one of the Marvel Universe’s greatest geniuses, but for whatever reason, he’s typically shown as flawed in one way or another. The point of this scene was to remove the “expert” from the equation – with Hank gone, She-Hulk and Hellcat were stuck on their own without any way to get big again unless they found the missing inventor they were looking for. And I didn’t punk Hank too hard, really – after all, in the space of one issue, he tames that sparrow and makes the business deal he was looking for. I like Ant-Man.

And how about that sparrow? Artists blow my mind. If I tried to draw a sparrow, it would look like a marshmallow peep. If I was lucky.

Favorite character: You know, I think it’s probably Rufus. While I don’t think it’s stated in the issue, his full name is Rufus Randall, and his partner’s name is Reza Rahmani – that’s why their company is named R&R&R&R. Nothing like some good old comic book alliteration. I’d love to do more with these two someday.

Tomorrow – the start of by far the hardest story arc in this run, the Daredevil/She-Hulk/Cap court case. That one almost broke me in half. See you then!

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.

(Obligatory intro text paragraph – feel free to skip down to the non-italic text one if you’ve already been reading these posts.)

This is the sixth of twelve essays I’m writing, one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. 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 on Twitter, also one per day leading up to the release of 12 starting at 7 PM EST – 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.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

Okay, first off, yes, I ended the last issue (#5) with a literal cliffhanger. Wyatt Wingfoot, Jen’s sometime fella, was hanging off a cliff with a bunch of cub scouts dangling from a safety line below him. We knew by this point that (a) Wyatt Wingfoot was involved with the Blue File (the mysterious legal case Jen’s been investigating in the series) and (b) the moment anyone mentions certain trigger names to people involved in that case, they go berserk, killing those around them and then themselves. When we ended Issue 5, Jen was just about to say one of those trigger words to Wyatt – the expectation being that he would flip out and all those poor cub scouts would pancake down into a bloody mess at the bottom of the cliff, followed shortly by Mr. Wingfoot himself.

Cliffhangers are fun – I try to do them every issue, not just because it’s a really good idea to set the hook and bring people back for the next one, but because I like thinking them up. There are a number of types – there’s the “whoa, I can’t wait to see that…” bit, when you bring in an awesome new character or reveal a setup for the next issue, and then there’s the “no… he wouldn’t…” type, when you set up something so horrible for your beloved characters that the readers can’t help but come back to see how it all pans out. The trick with those is that sometimes you need to fulfill that promise. Sometimes Wyatt does need to fall off the cliff, because if you never follow through on the cliffhanger, then your readers will think you’re bluffing every time. It’s like a game of chicken with the audience.

Cliffhanger

In this case… Wyatt does not fall off the cliff. He loses cell reception just as Jen says the magic death words. But perhaps next time, gentle readers… he will. You never know. YOU JUST NEVER KNOW!

This, also, is Wyatt’s one main appearance in the series so far, despite him being (traditionally) her main romantic interest – her Mary Jane, so to speak. There’s a major element in She-Hulk’s typical storyline that I didn’t address at all in this run, purposefully – her romantic entanglements. You get the idea that she’s dated folks in the past, maybe even a lot of people, but she doesn’t have a boyfriend in these first 12 issues. It doesn’t even come up, really. Now, I like romance – I had a blast with the Superman-Wonder Woman series I did for DC, and I’m doing some stuff with that in the Attilan Rising series I’m working on right now for Marvel. However, I thought it was important here to get away from that, and focus more on Jen’s professional life as she worked to define herself in that way. Jen’s not who she’s dating – really, no one is.

Issue 6 was designed to move the Blue File storyline ahead substantially, while not giving everything away. There were a million plot threads to juggle – first, there was the fact that poor Angie Huang had been shot in the head. Then this happens:

Eep

This was our first strong evidence that something truly bizarre was going on with Angie and Hei Hei. As far as I know, ordinary monkeys cannot bring their dead friends back to life. But what do I know?

We also get a visit from the very cool, very smooth NIGHTWATCH. Nightwatch hadn’t appeared in Marvel Comics for over 20 years, since around 1992. He was originally a Spider-Man character, a hero, who was spun off into his own title for twelve issues. The word is that he was supposed to capitalize on the then-mania for the Image Comics character Spawn by, ah, being Spawn. While I have no specific evidence for this theory, there’s this:

Nightwatch Spawn

It didn’t seem to work as well as Marvel might have hoped, and that was that… until now! This happens all the time – people show up, don’t make the splash their creators and the company are hoping for, and sink back into oblivion. Until they are resurrected decades later by continuity-mining writers hoping to show off how much they know about Marvel Comics history, anyway.

I dig Nightwatch immensely – I think of him as being a perfect Billy Dee Williams character. His inclusion here wasn’t just a stunt, either. I think that when you read the run as a whole, this issue will read very differently than it did the first time around, especially scenes like this:

Reality

Favorite panel:

Sharon Shotgun

How about Sharon King with a shotgun? She’s the best. This scene was also another chance to see what the weird, cool renters at IdeaHive were capable of – and it seems like they are entirely able to fight off an attack by weird demons who all seem strangely focused on Jen Walters.

Favorite character: Nightwatch. I mean, look at this cool cat.

Cool Cat

Tomorrow – Honey I Shrunk the Superheroes!

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.

 

(Obligatory intro text paragraph – feel free to skip down to the non-italic text one if you’ve already been reading these posts.)

This is the fifth of twelve essays I’m writing, one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. 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 on Twitter, also one per day leading up to the release of 12 starting at 7 PM EST – 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.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

As many of you probably noticed (except possibly those who consume their comics as audiobooks, but I suspect that’s a pretty small percentage), the art team changed for Issue 5 of She-Hulk. Javier Pulido and Muntsa Vicente stepped away for Issues 5 and 6, while Ron Wimberly did pencils/inks for #5 alongside colors from Rico Renzi, and Ron did the pencils, inks and colors for issue #6.

Why, you may ask? Well, it’s pretty simple – the demands on artists to produce the level of art that modern comics readers are used to seeing are significant. It’s tough to put out an issue every month and not get behind. So, fill-in teams are used to give the “regular” artists a chance to catch up, maybe even get a little bit ahead. It’s very common these days. If you’re lucky, you also get to work with a consistent rotating team, so the run can build a strong look and feel over time. That’s what I’ve been able to do with Swamp Thing, for example – for most of my run on that book, Jesus Saiz and Javier Pina have been rotating on and off issues, and it’s been pretty seamless (not least because as I understand it, those guys sit next to each other in their studio in Spain, so they can chat about whatever they’re working on.)

So, when Javier and Muntsa took a planned two-issue break for 5-6, the question became about who would take over the reins. Even in just four issues, the aesthetics of She-Hulk had become very firmly defined, which meant whoever came on had some big shoes to fill. I talked with my great editors at Marvel about some possibilities for 5-6, and Ron Wimberly’s work grabbed me right away. If you’re only familiar with him from She-Hulk, do yourself a favor and check out his Prince of Cats or really any of his work. I think he’s phenomenal – in particular, I like the way he plays with perspective, and his sense of color is amazing.

I wanted an artist who would be as idiosyncratic and cool as Javier, but who was not Javier. That was Ron, for sure. It’s funny – the art on this series could be strangely divisive. Not everyone loved JP (crazy!) and not everyone loved RW (crazy!), and some people seemed to love one but hate the other. There were clearly people who loved both, too – but people don’t always take the time to tweet about things they love. I mean, where’s the fun in that?

Anyway, let’s talk about the issue a little. Issue 5 was our first look at the mystery of the Blue File, the ongoing thread that would run through the full 12-issue arc. You’ll note that the tone changes pretty drastically. I mean, Tigra damn near kills Hellcat, and Angie Huang gets shot in the head at the end of the issue. Not to mention Shocker’s story, which if you think about it, is pretty sad. He’s basically a punch-drunk boxer, or one of those football players with mild brain damage from their skull getting rattled so much. I did this because (as you’ll see), what actually happens with the Blue File isn’t exactly happy-go-lucky. I needed to start setting up a slightly darker tone here so the ending for the arc would work (hmm…)

Also, I wanted to establish that She-Hulk, as a book, wasn’t just one thing. Remember that line from the first issue?

Panel from She-Hulk #1.

No one!

Neither is the series. We can have light, fun one-offs and Giant Dooms all we want, but that’s not all She-Hulk’s life is about.

Angie and Hei Hei were overdue for a solo adventure, where we got to see Angie’s real superpower – FILING!

ParalegalsShe goes to Divide County in North Dakota, which is a real place, a teeny tiny little county way up in the Northwest corner of the state. It’s very, very far away from anything.

Divide
One thing that I had fun with in She-Hulk (and continue to enjoy in other series) was finding real place names that tied in really well with the story I happened to be telling. So, we get Divide here (the reason for that will be clear once you read Issue 12… spoiler.) In Issue 11 we get another cool one like this – but we can talk about that then. That’s also why I set the last issue of Death of Wolverine in Paradise Valley, Nevada. I mean, it just sort of worked.

I tried to get the clerk’s dialogue right – all that Fargo-esque northern Midwest dialect business. It’s always tricky to work with accents in written dialogue. My suggestion, if you’re ever going to try it – use regional slang instead of transliteration of accents. So, you might have a Bostonian refer to a water cooler as a “bubbler” instead of trying something like “I went to the bah in my cah…” As I see it, the first works, the second just drags people out of the story. I don’t think you can ever get it perfectly right unless you actually speak the local dialect in question – but it can be fun to try!

The Hellcat/Tigra meeting was also interesting – fun fact, Patsy’s Hellcat costume originally belonged to Tigra. They’re somewhat linked, continuity-wise. The dialogue alludes to this, but I’m not sure it’s something people talk about much. I certainly didn’t know it until I researched Tigra a bit prior to writing her. You can find out all sorts of cool, weird stuff once you start poking around in the backstories of these characters. Some have been around for such a long time that it’s inevitable that certain bizarre phases in their fictional lives would pop up. Hellcat, for example, was married to the Son of Satan.

The Son.

Of Satan.

Go comics!

Last bit on this issue – writing mysteries is tricky! Figuring out how to dole out the clues, give just enough so that someone could maybe start to put things together… but not too much… it ain’t not simple. I hope it worked well, but the key to mysteries is really the ending, and you guys don’t have that yet. But soon. Too soon!

Favorite panel:

Tigra Fight

Really, it’s the entire fight scene with Patsy and Tigra. I think it really showed what makes Ron’s work special – that twisty, rubbery physicality that makes action sequences stand out from anything else I’ve ever seen. I’d love to see something like this animated – I bet it would be amazing.

Favorite character: Shocker! Such a sad sack. Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s great Superior Foes of Spider-Man was running when I wrote this issue, and I took their characterization of Shocker as a jumping-off point for how I wrote him here. Love that dude – I dig blue collar heroes (and villains) in general.

Also, I want to make a special point to mention the amazing letterer on the whole series, Clayton Cowles. He approached mountains of dialogue and art deviations from script with aplomb, and figured out perfect solutions for tricky lettering problems again and again. For example, there’s this sequence:

Clayton

The flow is awesome, even though it crosses multiple panels and has twenty zillion words. So thank you, Clayton, you are an unsung hero no longer!

Tomorrow – Blue Part Two, the second part of the Blue File mystery.

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.

(Obligatory intro text paragraph – feel free to skip down to the next one if you’ve already been reading these posts.)

This is the fourth of twelve essays I’m writing, one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. 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 on Twitter, 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.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

Sometimes you just can’t let a case go. Not every case has a positive resolution (although you better hope that most of them do, or you’ll be out of business pretty damn quick as a solo practitioner.) The ones that end well you just sort of chalk up to “of course it worked out – I know what I’m doing.” But the ones that don’t… you don’t ever forget about those. You wonder if it was somehow your fault, even if the negative outcome was clearly due to something outside your control.

That’s Jen in Issue 4. In the previous issue, she attempted to gain political asylum for Kristoff Vernard, the son of Doctor Doom. An incredibly difficult challenge – but she did it! She faced Doombots a-plenty, a blasé, mostly unhelpful client and a skeptical judge… and won! But then, the thing that was outside her control – her client’s megalomaniacal, dictator father smashed into the courtroom and yanked him back to Latveria.

Really, there was nothing she could do – Doombots are one thing, Victor Von Doom is another. Even more importantly, her client told her to stand down. It’s ethically tough as a lawyer to go against your client’s express wishes, even if it’s not in their best interests. Jennifer knows all of that, but she can’t let it go.

Fortunately, she is not just a lawyer – she is also the She-Hulk, a super kickass superhero, and so she has options not available to your typical attorney.

This issue really has two discrete sections – one’s the visit to see Daredevil in San Francisco, and the other is Jen’s trip to Latveria. Jen goes to see DD, as opposed to just calling him, in part because I loved the idea of her going to a new location (and I wanted to see Javier draw it), but also because I wanted to actually get Matt into the issue and maybe give them a chance to have a little adventure.

Daredevil has been one of my favorite characters forever. FOREVER. I’ve had this thing ever since I started writing Big 2 comics (comics for Marvel and DC) – if I have a chance to sneak a character I love into a storyline, even if it’s not “their” book, then I’ll do it. There’s always a chance all of this could vanish tomorrow, and so I want to take opportunities to write Daredevil, (or Constantine, or Superman, or any of the other characters I’ve done this with). Look at the early issues of any of my runs – you’ll see cameos popping in, and it’s all because of this particular theory.

At this point in the run, we were already talking about doing a court case where She-Hulk faced Daredevil, but it was pretty tentative. There were a lot of question marks surrounding that idea that needed to be addressed before we could move forward. I was hopeful, though, and that’s why I put in this little tease:

See You In Court

I couldn’t believe that DD and Shulkie had never had a case against each other, and I really wanted to do it, no matter how tricky it would be. So, was this whole sequence possibly a little self-generated audition to show that I could successfully write Daredevil in a future She-Hulk storyline? Maybe, in sort of a backhand way.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun.

But so was Latveria!

This script went through a few drafts – one earlier version had a scene involving a squad of SHIELD agents who materialize around Jen just before she attacks Doom’s castle, and tell her she can’t do what she’s doing, because it could cause an international incident, even a war, if she steals Doom’s son from him. They made the same assumption that Doom does – that she’s there to try to take Kristoff to America – as opposed to the actual reason she came, which is just to get them to have some father-son bonding time.

The SHIELD scene was cut because it seemed to add a weird digression to a story that already had a few – all for the best, though, because it meant I could fit in more scenes of Jen smashing poor, hapless Doombots. As we learned yesterday…

Bottin' ain't easy.

Bottin’ ain’t easy.

Favorite panel – oh come on, like you don’t already know:

GIANT DOOM!!!

GIANT DOOM!!!

This one not only has what remains one of my favorite lines from the whole run, it also has Kristoff’s little Sky-Vespa! Touches like that made working with Javier a particular joy. That was exactly the right (precious, particular) vehicle for a guy like Kristoff Vernard to drive around.

Favorite character – I can’t say the Giant Doom again, so Matt Murdock, Esq. gets it.

Matty

Tomorrow: The debut of Ron Wimberly on art duties! Our first real look at the mystery of the Blue File! Some very fun cameos! 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.

 

 

(Obligatory intro text paragraph – feel free to skip down to the next one if you’ve already been reading these posts.) Here we are with the third of twelve essays I’m writing, one per day as we lead up to the release of She-Hulk #12, the final issue in the current run of the title, on February 18. 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 on Twitter, 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.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

Issue #3: “The Man Who Wouldn’t Be King”

With Issue 3, all of the pieces were in place to start Jen’s solo law practice in earnest. She had an office, a paralegal/assistant and an investigator. What she did not have, however, was a client. We addressed that here with her first case – an asylum filing on behalf of Kristoff Vernard, the son of Victor Von Doom, PhD. (Doom must have a doctorate, right? Probably lots of doctorates. I know he went to school with Reed, but did we ever see him graduate? Could you imagine if “Dr.” is just a title he gave himself, like those esteemed practitioners J and Dre? Fabulous.)

ANYWAY.

The reason I chose this particular type of legal case is because immigration law has been a significant part of my own practice for many years. I knew from the start that I wanted to get the law side of things in She-Hulk as correct as possible – being a lawyer, I suspected I would be raked across the coals a bit by other attorneys if I got things wrong. I was correct about that, but we’ll get to that more with Issues 8-10. I thought I was pretty safe with immigration, though, since I’ve been doing it so long. While I certainly took some liberties, most of the points you see here are the way asylum actually works in the US.

Not to turn this into a law school class, but in a nutshell, to successfully claim asylum in the States, you have to be able to prove that you’ve been persecuted in your home country because of your membership in a particular race or class (religious group, etc.), that the persecution was connected to the government, and that it would be likely to recur if you were shipped back home. That posed some tricky questions for me, because Kristoff has mostly been shown to be Doom’s hand-picked heir to the throne of Latveria. They’ve had their differences over the years, but it was pretty consistent that he stood to inherit an entire country if and when Doom died. Hardly “persecution.”

Unless… Kristoff wasn’t sure that’s what he actually wanted. Once I came up with that central idea – that Kristoff was a kid who had been groomed for something all his life, but he was realizing he might want to at least see what else was out there… I had a story.

Ultimately, this little tale (which concludes in Issue 4) is about fathers and sons. You’ll see that the legal stories I told in this run of She-Hulk tend to another, more potent emotional throughline than just a simple contract dispute or something like that. There’s always another angle – which hopefully makes them easier to connect with as a reader.

Why did I make Kristoff read as spoiled Eurotrash? Easy – I thought it would be funny, especially the way it would contribute Jen’s increasing exasperation as she deals with him. As an attorney, you don’t like every client, but you have to do your best for them whether you like them or not. That’s part of the obligation of being a lawyer (and a physician, and any other profession with a “duty of care.”) Hopefully, though, by the end you guys connected with him a bit (as does Jen.) Kristoff has had a bizarre, fairly awful upbringing, and it’s hard to hold that against him. Too much.

Super Power

Favorite panel – this one is very tough. I loved a lot of what Javier did in this issue. So, I will pick several!

Solid Work(This gag was related to the idea that Hei Hei doesn’t seem like your average monkey. He’s taking notes! Wait, can he read and write? And then you get the scribbles… “solid work, Hei Hei.”)

Coffee Shop(I just love that everyone is on their phones. That’s pretty typical of the fun stuff Javier would add. He also sometimes vehemently disagreed with scripted ideas – I originally had this whole idea of putting in maps of Brooklyn and Queens to help convey the layout of where they were traveling in the issue, just to lock in the geography, but he thought he could get it done without them. Every issue is a discussion.)

Fantasticar

(look at the swirls from the engines!)

Favorite character – it has to be the ill-fated Ernst. I bet being a Doombot is probably a pretty tough gig. I’d wager that of all the many types of mechanical automatons in the Marvel universe, we’ve seen more Doombots destroyed than any of the others. Oh well.

No one ever said ‘bottin was easy.

Ernst

Tomorrow: Latveria! And Daredevil! 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.

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.

If you haven’t read She-Hulk, but you’d like to, you can get the trade for issues 1-6 here, buy all the issues digitally here or hit up your local comic shop.

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.

So…

No Pressure

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:

Angie and Hei Hei

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.

Drunk Logic

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:

All Right

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?

Blue File

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!)

Sharon King

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 panel:

PatsySort of says it all, I think.

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.

Welcome to the first of what I sincerely hope will be twelve essays, each discussing a different issue of my about-to-be-completed run on She-Hulk for Marvel Comics.

Assuming all goes as planned, one writeup will be posted each day leading up to February 18, 2015, the day the final issue of the run (#12) will hit shelves. I’m doing these in conjunction with a live-tweet on Twitter 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. It should go without saying that these will be spoiler-filled posts. I’ll be talking about story points and all of that. I won’t assume that people have read the full run published to date (1-11), but I will figure that if you’re going to read a post on a given issue, then you’ve read at least that one.

So, with that in mind, if you haven’t read She-Hulk #1 yet, available here as part of the Volume 1 trade, or here as a digital single from Comixology… consider yourself fairly warned!

I got a call from Jeanine Schaefer on September 10, 2013 about doing a new She-Hulk book for Marvel. Jeanine is the amazing editor who worked on most of the series (alongside Tom Brennan). We were lucky to have both of them, as well as the many other editorial/production/PR people who worked on the series. I suspect that editing this book was an interesting challenge. I had a very specific sense of what I wanted to do, as did Javier Pulido (the artist who created the majority of the artwork for the series alongside colorist Muntsa Vicente.) I knew from the start that I wanted this to be a talky legal book as opposed to a traditional superhero punch-em-up. That concept could have gone terribly wrong (by which I mean it could have been hideously boring) – and I think editorial guidance is  significant part of why it went right.

Anyway, let’s talk a bit about the issue itself.

SHE-HULK #1: “Motion”

The idea here was to introduce both Jennifer Walters and the setup I was planning to use for the series – She-Hulk starting her own private practice out in Brooklyn, dealing with all sorts of weird/cool clients from the Marvel Universe. I figured that Jen knows pretty much everyone in the MU by this point (she’s been on a billion teams), and I know from experience that if you’re the only person your friends know who works in the law, then they call you for every legal problem they experience, even if it has nothing to do with your specialty. Lawyers are generally hyper-focused on one practice area or another, just like a person with a medical degree might specialize in brain surgery or podiatry or whatever. For whatever reason, though, many folks don’t seem to make the same distinction with attorneys. Applying that logic to She-Hulk, it just made sense to me that if she hung out a shingle, she’d be getting calls from all over the place. Seemed like a nice engine for a series.

I should mention at this point that I’m an attorney myself, for anyone reading this who doesn’t already know. I used to never mention my legal work when I was breaking in – call it paranoia, maybe, but I felt then that lawyering was seen as a fundamentally uncreative profession. Or even more, I thought that people’s reaction to my being an attorney who was also trying to write comics was unpredictable. Breaking in is hard, and I wanted to control as many variables as I could. If was going to be judged about anything, I wanted it to be the work, nothing else.

But by the time I got the call for She-Hulk, I had already broken in. I was well into a run on Swamp Thing for DC that still continues today (barely – I think I have two issues left to hit shelves as I write this), I was writing Red Lanterns for them, and I was just about to start my run on Superman/Wonder Woman. I had also been writing Thunderbolts for Marvel for a while. So, I was no longer an unknown quantity, and my editors knew about my “day job.” It’s a good thing, too, because I know for a fact that I got the call to write She-Hulk in part because I have a law degree.

That’s also why I took the gig. I did exactly what we see She-Hulk doing in Issue 1. I left a job at what’s called a “white-shoe” (fancy office, big clients, somewhat to extremely soulless) firm in midtown Manhattan to start my own practice. That happened a little over ten years ago. Starting a practice is not easy, no matter how many Tony Starks and Reed Richards you happen to know. It’s a huge leap of faith. You’re turning away from (relative) short-term certainty as far as income, benefits and security in favor of (hoped-for) increases in long-term income and freedom. It’s really that last one that’s important both for me and Jen Walters. I am fairly sure that if I hadn’t left that big firm so long ago, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today. It was a big deal, and I wanted to write a series that captured some of the constant tug of war between unexpected setbacks and little triumphs that characterized my first few years as a solo practitioner.

That’s also why this issue is called “Motion” – it’s a lot of change happening in a short period of time for the Jade Giantess (and of course, since you file motions with the court to try to get them to do things for you… it works on that level too.)

The discussion Jen has with the partners when she’s having her bonus meeting – I had that conversation (more or less – definitely less table smashing.)

Three Thousand
Jen’s office in Brooklyn is in the building where I still have my office today (I’m sitting in it right now, in fact.) The beats in subsequent issues about rent and insurance and finding clients – all drawn directly from my own experiences.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though, because we’re still just supposed to be talking about Issue 1. The story was designed to emphasize the idea that Jen has a million contacts in the MU (that’s why Tony Stark appears), to establish the dramedic tone (jokes!) and present a semi-realistic legal problem that she resolves in a more-or-less lawyerly fashion. I did three drafts of this one, with revisions mostly focused around getting Tony Stark’s tone right. A lot of time was spent massaging the way he would react to learning about the idea that one of his many shell companies was responsible for, er, borrowing technology from a now-deceased supervillain inventor. In my first draft, he was a bit more callous – his attitude was more like “ideas belong to no one, it’s implementation that conveys ownership.” While I thought that was a pretty legit attitude for a tech CEO to have (see also Edison, Jobs, etc. etc.), it wasn’t the right attitude for Tony Stark to have. One of the real tricks in this series (and we’ll talk about this more when we get to issues 8-10) was writing the heroes as definitively heroic despite morally grey situations they might get into. Also, that’s just a thing about writing in general – you don’t always get there on your first try, but you almost have to get it wrong first before you can see your way to the right answer.

I also originally included this page, which I love, but had to cut for space:

Unused Page SH1Anyway, we got there eventually. I re-read this issue whenever I’m writing an Issue 1 for a series, and yes I know how that sounds. But first issues are tough, and I figure that if I could get it close to right once, then maybe it’s worth using it as a model from time to time. The tone locks right in from the start, and you can feel it ramping up towards future adventures. You know what you’re going to get, and what you’re going to get will be fun.

For each of these posts, I’ll talk a bit about my favorite panel and favorite character from the issue – always tough to choose, especially when you’re talking about the art in this series – but I’ll do my best.

Favorite panel:

Holo-Twins
Stark’s holographic twin receptionists! The script called for these ladies to glitch out a bit as they realized that Jen Walters was there for a law-related purpose, as if another level of programming was kicking in. I think Javier and Muntsa nailed this so well. We ended up doing a number of little beats related to Tony Stark’s various AI assistants – you’ll see another one in Issue 8.

Favorite character (Legal).

LegalI really wanted to go back to Legal – I think he is a character with endless possibilities – but I couldn’t find time in these twelve issues. If I write more She-Hulk in the future, though, Legal will definitely return. Law can be a very surreal field at times, and Javier Pulido did an excellent job capturing that. (Fun fact – Javier’s first take on Legal was as more of an impish figure, like a little pixie – it was interesting, but it didn’t totally work with what I was trying to suggest. Legal’s dour nature was designed to be a counterpoint to Jen’s upbeat attitude. Too much sugar would have ruined the cake – stories are recipes, and you need a bunch of flavors to make it all work.)

So that’s Issue 1. I could write much more, but if I’m going to have a hope of getting through these in time, I need to pace myself. 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.

See you tomorrow, for some chit-chat about Patsy Walker and the enigmatic Angie Huang!

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