Sensational She-Hulk #1 (1989)

Sensational She-Hulk #1 (May, 1989)
“Second Chance”
Writer/Pencils – John Byrne
Inks – Bob Wiacek
Colors – Glynis Oliver
Letters – John Workman
Edits – Bobbie Chase
Chief – Tom DeFalco
Cover Price: $1.50

I’m not a dude who’s good with change.  At some point yesterday, the good folks at Blogger/Blogspot… whatever we’re calling the place that facilitates my writing stupid stuff each and every day… changed up the creator dashboard!  I just sat here, like a doofus, for the past twenty-minutes trying to figure out how to add a “new post”.

Used to be, that it was a very clear… very obvious “New Post” button… right toward the top-left of the page.  That isn’t the case anymore.  Instead, we have a little circular button with a “+” sign in the bottom right corner!  Man, I felt like a boob sitting here staring at that screen for as long as I did… I even thought, for a split-second, that the blog was “full”… ya know, like… I used up all my pages… and if I wanted to continue, I’d have to delete (or compile) my older stuff.  Yeesh… I’m an idiot.

Anyhoo, just a peek behind the curtain… now, we’re going to watch She-Hulk bust through every wall there is… including the fourth!

We open with She-Hulk getting her workout in… under the circus big-top!  Shulkie is benchin’ elephants!  This is a very cool visual, which lends to a flashback to her cousin Bruce’s time in the circus, all the way back during the opening pages of Avengers #1!  Bruto, her “spotter” tells her he doesn’t keep up with the super-hero mags… but he thought he’d heard rumors that the Hulks were somehow related.

Jen sets the pachyderms down, and goes to exit the tent… only to find herself mind-zapped by… uh, well, this is a circus, so it probably doesn’t take a Masters Degree in Marvel History to guess where this is headed.  It’s the Ringmaster, duh.  She-Hulk is shocked stiff by the Hypnotic Hat.

We learn here that this is a “pay gig” for the Circus of Crime… as in, they’ve been contracted to get She-Hulk for the lofty sum of three million smackers.  But… by who?  Well, it’s here that we shift scenes to the always nebulous “elsewhere”… where a shadowy man is watching this scene play out via his bank of monitors.  A Doctor inquires as to what’s going on… ya see, he’s not happy about employing felons to facilitate whatever it is they’re trying to accomplish.

Back at the Circus, the Ringmaster has She-Hulk sat in a chair… and he begins to interrogate her.  Ya see, this is where we’re going to get the quick and dirty on how She-Hulk became… She-Hulk, dig?  She begins her story with how her cousin Bruce Banner did that li’l ol’ thing during the gamma testing and became the Hulk.  Ringmaster cuts her off, claiming that everybody already knows that story.  Finally, we get to the meat and potatoes, where Jen had that run-in with the mobster who nearly killed her… and how she was only saved via an emergency blood transfusion from… her gamma-irradiated cousin!

Once Jen gets into how she’d gone on to join the Avengers and Fantastic Four, the Ringmaster has clearly grown rather bored of the story.  He stops her, and we move into the next phase.  She-Hulk will have to be tested… physically.  And so, the big-bad calls for his “makeup wizard” to transform the instantly recognizable green gal into… Glamazonia!

Once transformed, the carnies can’t help but to fawn over their newest member… which prompts Zelda, the Python Princess of the Circus to storm in in a jealous rage.  The Ringmaster assures her that Glamazonia is only there temporarily… and that Zelda’s spot is safe.

Later that day, the “greatest show” begins.  Glamazonia is able to show off her ridiculous strength by… lifting up an entire section of the audience!

From here, the Ringmaster employs his “Hypnotic Whammy” to turn the crowd into “zombies”…

… after which, Glamazonia tilts the bleachers to the side, which causes all of the audiences’ valuables to start raining down to the floor below.  Um… ya know… as fun a visual as this is… I gotta wonder.  If the Ringmaster has this ability… why did they need She-Hulk for this… or anything?  Oh well, I suppose we wouldn’t have a story otherwise.

The Ringmaster places a suggestion in the minds of the audience, which tells them that they saw… and enjoyed the show.  Once they’re gone, and we’re left with the carnies… a wagon comes barreling down the way straight for Glamazonia!  She makes very short work of it.

Back in the “elsewhere”, our shadowy friend isn’t happy to see this.  In order to look a bit deeper into the situation, he asks the Doctor to fetch his disguise.  Bingo-bango, our shadowy benefactor changes into a gorilla costume!

Inside one of the circus trailers, allegations are being tossed like crazy… mostly at the very jealous Princess Python.  She swears she had nothing to do with the errant wagon.  At this point, Bruto peers out the window and realizes one of the gorillas has escaped…. before realizing that, uhhh… this circus doesn’t have any gorillas!  Glamazonia busts through the trailer wall and engages in a bit of Donkey Kongin’ with the presumed primate.

After some back ‘n forth, the gorilla leaps over to the Ringmaster and nyoinks the hypno-hat from his head.  He points it at Glamazonia, and reverse the dial… breaking her free of her hypnotic state!

From here, it’s elementary… Glamazonia starts wreckin’ house… and winds up trapping the entire Circus of Crime in the debris.  The Police arrive, and the baddies are taken into custody.

At the station, She-Hulk has washed off all her Glamazonia makeup, and has been given some loaner-clothing.  We learn that it was the Makeup Wizard who was behind the sad li’l wagon attack.  Ya see, he’s in love with Zelda… and tried to “off” the big G on her behalf.

Jen tries on the ill-fitting loaner duds… and comments that, with one deep inhale, her book might have to be rebranded under the EPIC line… which, is pretty funny.

She heads down to the cells to chat up the Ringmaster… and is informed that he’s just a spoke in the wheel, and was working on someone else’s behalf.  She-Hulk wonders who this might be… then turns to us… yes, us… to assure the readers that we’ll probably all find out who the big-bad is on the very next page.

And, whattaya know… she’s absolutely correct!  We learn on the next (and final) page that the people pullin’ the strings here are… the Headmen!

This was a really fun issue!

I think the first thing people usually think of when reflecting on this series is the fact that Jen is able to “break the fourth wall”… which, believe it or not, used to be something quite novel (and clever).  These days (as in “current year”), maybe not so much.  This is pre-the Deadpoolization of the comics industry… so, this sort of thing wasn’t quite the (relatively) prolific gimmick as it would eventually become.  I wanna say that it was because of this series that I’d first ever heard that the “fourth wall” was even a “thing”.

As a gimmick… it was done pretty sparingly here.  I only noticed the two times.  First where Jen referred to the EPIC line, and then again when she addressed the readers directly.  I thought both instances were pretty cute… and well done.  It tells us that this series is willing to be silly… but, not at the expense of the actual story, ya know?  Because, we do get an actual story here.  Sure, Jen knows she’s in a comic book… but, that doesn’t stop her from actually playing her role in it.  I guess what I’m trying to say, but taking the extremely scenic route to do so is, Byrne use of the gimmick straddles the line of “overt” and “subtle”… and does so quite well.

Speaking of Byrne and quite well… the art here is pretty great!  I’ve always loved the way he draws She-Hulk… he’s probably one of the better artists to have worked on her.  I feel like artists have a tendency to go too far to one extreme when it comes to Shulkie… either they greatly underplay her physique… or, wildly overplay it.  Byrne’s looks excellent.  Zero complaints.

For the story… I really appreciated the mind-control gimmick as a way to facilitate She-Hulk sharing her origin.  This is a #1 issue… and, as such… it really ought to be as inviting to a “new reader” as possible.  Byrne, as usual, knocks that out of the park.  We get exposition… but, not in a way where it feels unnaturally forced, or like a lecture.  There are plenty of “current year” creators that should take note!  Going all the way back to the Hulk’s time hiding out in the circus (nearly 30 years prior, real-time) was a great way to not only give a nod to Marvel lore… but, to sorta-kinda draw parallels between the greens.

The Headmen as baddies?  Ehh.  Didn’t really “pop” me, but… whattayagonnado?  I had a great time with this up to the reveal… and, sometimes that’s more than what we can ask for, right?  Overall… this issue (and series) is a lot of fun… and I’d recommend checking it out, if you haven’t already!

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8 thoughts on “Sensational She-Hulk #1 (1989)

  • This was a great issue and a great series. No one draws She-Hulk better than John Byrne. It was Byrne's inclusion of She-Hulk in the. FF that made me start reading FF.
    It is great that the majority of the story reads like a standard comic from the day and only veers into the "breaking the fourth wall" at the very end. It doesn't alienate readers who are put off by silly stories. The use of D-list villains shows us that Byrne knows his Marvel history and doesn't want us to really take these stories all that seriously. Just sit back and enjoy these silly stories, aftet all its only a comic book.

    • It's true, Byrne's She-Hulk is the best drawn She-Hulk. I always get a bit nervous when I discuss "aesthetics" of a character, haha… because, those comments are easy to misconstrue… especially by folks who *look* for comments to misconstrue.

      I, too, am glad the fourth-wall breaking was kept to a limit… rather than making it a "funny, ha-ha" like a Deadpool book.

  • Grant Kitchen

    I assume the video is that animated X-Men pilot from the late 80s. I have an early 90s release of that vid for sale on eBay and I also have the graphic novel adaptation of it (which is not for sale).

    • I gotta assume it was PRYDE OF THE X-MEN

  • There is an option for Blogger/BlogSpot (whatever) down on the left side to restore the creator dashboard back to the classic look. Which I had to do to get anything done because the new layout may as well be in Klingon. It's as if the designer for Blogger/BlogSpot (whatever) was given one direction: "You know what the users of Blogger/BlogSpot (whatever) want? A harder to use creator dashboard."

    • THANK YOU! I switched back to the "Classic" motif, which… oof, makes things so much easier. Man, this new format… it's just wayyy too "appy", ya know? It looks like it's trying to be an iPhone app or something. I guess that's just the way of the future!

  • As to the issue for today's post, Sensational She-Hulk was at this point one of the few Marvel titles I was getting at the time. I guess I was following John Byrne back to Marvel after he left the Superman titles at DC. This issue was a lot of fun. She-Hulk's "comic" awareness is played just right, enough to be funny but not overbearing.

    The reveal of the Headmen as the big bad was very appropriate for the tone of this comic. The Headmen were so hapless over in the Defenders with their delusions of super villain glory often betrayed by their incompetence. Of course the gorilla Headman would think a gorilla would be good disguise in a circus without a gorilla.

    Thanks for posting about this issue, Chris. Glad you figured out Blogger/BlogSpot (whatever) enough to get it done.

    • It's definitely what I keep coming back to… Byrne is able to walk that line between classic comics and self-aware meta commentary so much better than most. The overt AND subtle way he does this… man, it really ought to be *studied* by anyone who gets a gig writing Deadpool these days!


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