After years of hoping, speculating and waiting out a confusing movie rights situation with Universal, She-Hulk will finally make her way to screens in the form of a Marvel Studios-produced television series on the Disney+ streaming service.
But with a few other Marvel Cinematic Universe shows for Disney+ having been announced at D23 -- not to mention the already stacked lineup previously revealed at Comic-Con International -- what can She-Hulk do to stand out? Well, the answer may lie in some of the character's most iconic comics.
Created by Stan Lee and John Buscema, Jennifer Walters -- esteemed lawyer and cousin to Bruce Banner/Hulk -- was introduced in 1980's Savage She-Hulk #1 as the titular green rage monster.
However, the character would be reinvented by John Byrne in 1989 through the creator's work on Sensational She-Hulk. It was these hilarious comics that established Shulkie as a sarcastic, self-aware hero who would frequently break the fourth wall, offering commentary on her adventures and speaking directly to the readers, her writer and Marvel Comics editorial. In other words, She-Hulk was Deadpool before Deadpool.
This portrayal of the character has been a point of contention among subsequent creators, with some opting to eschew it entirely, whereas others have chosen to embrace it. With that in mind, Marvel Studios seriously needs to consider going with the latter. And there are multiple reasons as to why.
For starters -- as previously alluded to -- it is in Marvel's best interest to make sure She-Hulk stands out from the rest of its Disney+ projects, as well as the rest of its MCU lineup in general. Making the series a full-blown meta action-comedy would help achieve this in numerous ways, the first -- and most obvious -- being the fact that the studio has yet to tackle something of this nature before.
Marvel movies have had their tongue-in-cheek moments, sure, but nothing quite on the same level as what comic book fans have come to expect from Shulkie. So, right off the bat, Disney+'s She-Hulk would have a unique hook if this route is taken. Furthermore, making the MCU's Jen Walters self-aware would give her a unique identity all her own, something she definitely needs if Marvel doesn't want casual viewers who may be unfamiliar with the character's history and nuances to think she's just Bruce Banner Hulk 2.0.
Interestingly enough, on the flipside of that, Mark Ruffalo's Banner has already set a precedent that could make such a departure from the Marvel norm on She-Hulk's part more easily digestible for the longtime viewers. Specifically, the fact Avengers: Endgame established that one could be in "Hulk mode" while still maintaining their own consciousness and personality.
Thus, She-Hulk won't have to dwell on its explanation for how Jen is able to partake in banter and wisecracking even after the gamma radiation takes hold. So, by taking what the MCU has already done with Hulk, while also making sure Jen's personality is profoundly different from Bruce's and the character is memorable, Marvel Studios can have its cake and eat it too with She-Hulk.
The new series could also potentially afford Marvel a unique opportunity to address things it has previously been unable to. After all, while Marvel prides itself on the franchise's cohesiveness, real life does sometimes get in the way.
Recastings, actors playing dual Marvel roles and issues regarding character rights are always going in the back of fans' minds. By utilizing Shulkie to her full potential, however, Marvel can outwardly laugh these things off in a way that is cognizant, but also doesn't compromise the integrity of the MCU.
After all, if She-Hulk were to call out these elephants in the room, it would be 100 percent in-character for her. In turn, it would be more or less harmless to the suspension of disbelief as far as continuity is concerned, so long as the other, non-self-aware characters uphold their end and play it straight. (See also: Deadpool's place in the X-Men film series.) Plus, you can't say it wouldn't be funny to see Jen call out her cousin's apparent regeneration from Edward Norton to Mark Ruffalo.
Speaking of elephants in the room, let's talk about the aforementioned Deadpool himself. Following Disney's acquisition of Fox, Marvel Studios is now free to use the Merc with a Mouth in its films. And Disney previously assured fans Fox's Deadpool film series would continue under its banner in some form or another.
So, why should Marvel make Jen Walters its resident fourth wall-breaker when Wade Wilson is apparently on the way? Well, a few reasons, actually.
First off, while She-Hulk appears to be very early in development, it's on its way nonetheless. Meanwhile, Marvel has yet to announce anything regarding when its newly-acquired Fox properties will be brought into the fold.
In fact, the studio has revealed much -- if not all -- of its slate all the way through late 2021, and the X-Men and Fantastic Four are nowhere to be seen. Marvel could always surprise us, but for the time being, it looks like it's going to be awhile before we see Deadpool again.
Additionally, even when it does come time for Wade to once again grace our screens, there's no guarantee he'll be exactly the same as he was before. Marvel Studios has made it clear it doesn't like to ride other studios' coattails when it comes to building its world (not even its own television branch).
In turn, She-Hulk offers Marvel a clean slate to put its very own spin on cinematic superhero metafiction. Besides, Shulkie broke the fourth wall in the comics years before Deadpool did. It only seems fitting that she leads the charge for this brand of humor in the MCU as well. (Who knows? Maybe we'll get to see the two battle for self-referential dominance at some point down the road.)
The future of the MCU is shaping up to be significantly different from the first three phases, as Marvel is apparently looking to step out of its comfort zone and put the focus on more esoteric properties. While this is certainly an exciting next step, it does come with the need to find new ways to hook viewers.
And there is arguably no better way for Disney+'s She-Hulk to strike a chord with its audience than fully embracing the off-the-wall, unabashedly meta-creative approach that has made the character's comic books such a joy over the years.